Adapted from Secrets of a Busy Cook by Lynn Nelson, used by permission
Level I: Freezer Cooking
Cooking for the freezer is the biggest time-saving technique for Busy Cooks, so it is the base of the pyramid. Experienced cooks know that dinner in the freezer is like money in the bank. Some cookbooks even refer to this technique as “investment cooking”.
Here’s what I do to make freezer cooking easy and painless. Once a week, usually during the weekend, I find the time to make a triple amount of a recipe that freezes well. It doesn’t take that much longer to make a double or triple amount of a dish, than a single amount. Two of the three are frozen for the future, and the third I refrigerate for weekday enjoyment. This weekend cooking doesn’t take much time. It may be as little as 15 minutes (for something like Pork Barbecue made in the crockpot) or as much as 1 hour and 15 minutes (for Lasagna), for 3 main dish meals. I add two main dish meals to my freezer each week, so I can pull two different, previously made main dish meals from my freezer each week. For this one bout of cooking, I get three different ready weekday meals! That’s a great return on the investment! Each weekend I focus on a different major ingredient, rotating through poultry, beef, meatless, seafood, etc. This gives me a nice selection of ready made meals in my freezer at all times.
It will initially take you 4 – 6 weeks of this weekly cooking to stock your freezer with a good variety of meals. Then, as long as you continue to make one tripled recipe a week for freezing, you will always have a supply of ready-made main dishes on hand. I always have 30 – 40 in my freezer at any one time. And all it takes is about an hour a week!
The Busy Mom Menu plans bulk cooking into your dinner menus so you don’t even have to think about it. Just… Print. Shop. Cook.
This is one of my go to recipes for delicious chicken. We’ve been making it for years but recently discovered by way of the Six Sisters website that it’s a great freezer dish as well. [Read More...]
Homemade pie crusts are healthier than their commercial alternatives but are time-consuming to make. By making several at a time and freezing the dough, you can have the convenience of prepared crusts without the time investment each time you need one. Freshly ground whole wheat flour may be used in this recipe instead of white flour. [Read More...]
Using dried beans instead of canned beans is an easy way to save money. Cooking dried beans takes several hours but only requires checking on them a couple of times, so using a slow cooker is the easiest way to cook them without being physically present. For our menus, you can cook a bag (or two if your pot is large enough) of dried beans and freeze the beans in their own juice. These bags of frozen beans, which are far less expensive, can be used in place of canned beans. Pinto beans cooked with chopped onion (1-1/2 onions per ... [Read More...]
One of the basics of Menus4Moms menus is having food prep already done before dinner time. One way we accomplish this is by bulk cooking meat and freezing it in meal-sized portions. Here is a wonderful recipe for cooking chicken in bulk. Have grilled chicken for dinner the night you cook it, then chop and freeze the leftovers in dated freezer bags. The longer the chicken marinates in this mixture, the more flavorful it will be. [Read More...]
For Lisa Donatelli of Cuyahoga Falls, nirvana is not a day at a spa, but dinner in the freezer. Donatelli spent one evening last week making dinner with four of her friends. They made 80 meals — enough to stock their refrigerators and freezers with 16 dinners each. The women did not make the dinners in one of those new meal-assembly shops. They made them in my kitchen, in a do-it-yourself session with recipes developed for the project. Not only did they save money, they had a ball. [Read More...]
List member Christy recently wrote to me . . . “I am looking for a cookbook or ideas on making meals for a month (or at least a week) and freezing them. I know they have cookbooks that you can do this for a month. Has anyone used one and which would you suggest? Thanks for any help.” . . . And then the very next day, I happened to get an email from my dear friend Ann Marie on this very topic: [Read More...]
It’s 5 pm and the kids are hungry. You rummage through the refrigerator looking for leftovers – no such luck. You hastily attempt to prepare a simple Spaghetti Bolognese and realize that you’re out of pasta. We’re all aware of the chaos that a lack of organization around mealtime can bring! Instead of dinner being a time when the family comes together, it can be a time of frustration. For Kathy Cottrell, a schooling mother of two teenage sons who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, part of the solution has been planning and preparing meals in advance. [Read More...]
I’m a bulk cooker and one of the types of sessions I do is potatoes. Many people are surprised by this because they assume that potatoes don’t freeze successfully. I assumed the same thing at first but after years of experimenting I’ve found that they are one of the easiest and most versatile foods in my repertoire. When they go on sale I buy at least 20#, frequently 60# or more. I never buy potatoes unless they are on sale and I never have to deal with watching them slowly go bad in the dark recesses of my pantry because I ... [Read More...]
Here is my “Ham Plan”. I am finding it easier and more economical to have bulk cooking plans for when meats and veggies are on sale or in season. I do a big cooking that lasts a few months (Hopefully! I am still new at this) so I don’t have to cook that particular meat again for a while. I am hoping my chicken will last a while so I can focus on other meats. Here are some of the recipes I made around Easter (next time I will make a big ham or a few medium ones, last time ... [Read More...]
Here is the first plan I wrote, out of necessity! I couldn’t figure out how to deal with so many different parts of the chickens I was doing unless I had everything written down and the recipes gathered together… My Strategy – When dealing with meats that have different parts, you need to think about how you will use each to get the maximum amount of food for your dollar. Here is how I handled chicken (the same approach can be used for turkey and many of these recipes will work for turkey). [Read More...]
Here is my “Hamburger Plan”, probably one of my most used so far. I love having all of my favorite recipes in one place, and I find myself referring back to it often… Here are many ideas pertaining to hamburger, “master recipes” are on the left, “secondary recipes” are indented – you assemble these from the master recipes. You can also freeze the portion of the master recipe that is required in the secondary recipe and assemble the secondary recipe on the day you want to eat it. I do this a lot when trying and/or learning new recipes. [Read More...]
It’s been at least six years since I balanced working outside the home almost full-time and having two kids. Friends were always amazed that I managed homemade meals on the table each night. Becoming a stay home mom with three kids made meal planning a bit easier because I was home, BUT several of the lessons I learned as a work outside the home mom still apply. I’ll give you a sample menu for one week to show how I would pull all these easy lessons together. [Read More...]
Okay, I admit it. I’m a Once-A-Month-Cooking drop-out. I tried to make a month’s worth of meals for the freezer, but I couldn’t come up with enough time or enough meals. Next I tried to make 2 weeks of meals for the freezer and stopped because I ran out of dishes, freezer bags, and patience. I had good intentions, but I’m just not that organized. Even though I flunked OAMC, my freezer is not empty. I do have a few tricks up my sleeve that I’d like to share. [Read More...]
Making chicken broth doesn’t have to be an arduous process. It does take a little more time than opening up a can of store-bought broth. But, I look at it as a gift I’m giving my friends and family. A homemade chicken broth is the cornerstone of any great homemade soup. The time it takes to make the broth is only to bring out the wonderful essence and wholesome flavor that’s characteristic of a great broth. Below are my favorite 12 soup cooking tips for making that happen. [Read More...]
When ground beef is deeply discounted, we buy large quantities and prepare both browned ground beef for the freezer and bulk meatballs for the freezer. This recipe calls for baking the meatballs instead of frying them, creating less mess. [Read More...]
Cheesy Spirals is from the Menus4Moms e-book, Bulk Cooking for the Freezer: Ground Beef and is also featured in the Busy Mom Menu. It is a good recipe to prepare when you buy bulk ground beef. You can brown your beef, use 2 lbs. for the Cheesy Spirals and freeze the rest in 1 lb. portions. The Cheesy Spirals recipe makes 2 pans, one for dinner and one for the freezer. If you have a smaller family and prefer to cook in smaller batches, you can probably get 3- 8"x8" pans out of this recipes instead of 1- 9"x12" pan ... [Read More...]
One of the most common questions I hear from people who are interested in freezer-meal cooking is: “How do I know what will freeze well, and what won’t?”If you’re unsure of how well something will freeze, freeze a single serving when you prepare the dish for a regular family meal. This way you can check on how well the item holds up to freezing and reheating. The following lists should give you a good start at identifying potential freezing problems with various food items. [Read More...]