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Cooking for the Freezer

Last post Sun, Jan 27 2013 2:59 PM by Anna Marie. 24 replies.
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  • Wed, Oct 19 2011 1:33 PM

    • Brandy
    • Top 10 Contributor
    • Joined on Wed, Mar 28 2007
    • Saving in South Mississippi
    • Posts 25,145

    Cooking for the Freezer

    Cooking ahead is a great way to make food when you have time and heat up to eat later. It also can make use of buying when on sale so meals cost less.

    What does it take to get started with filling the freezer with prepared meals? Do you plan this way; what do you do for a successful plan?

     

    The Dollar Stretcher Community Manager



  • Wed, Oct 19 2011 7:24 PM In reply to

    Re: Cooking for the Freezer

    I go through recipes that I know freeze well, decide what I want to make, and then make sure I have everything I need - there's nothing worse than being 90% done and realizing you're missing a key ingredient.  I generally make several items a weekend for several weeks, then stop until I have room in the freezer again.
  • Wed, Oct 19 2011 7:47 PM In reply to

    Re: Cooking for the Freezer

    we do that allot to also save on food instead of going out if no coupon is around at a resturant then we hit the freezer for like meat loaf or a pie or the altamit double trouble thing I make dough ahead of time that is cookie dough and make cookies if I find out a certain niece is here she gets a lemon cookie or peanut butter cookie she does not like chocolet chip much but she likes those cream cookies so we make some dough ahead like a sugar cookie or butter cookie and put a topping to it from the freezer and muffins are made and froze.

  • Wed, Oct 19 2011 9:51 PM In reply to

    Re: Cooking for the Freezer

    I bulk shop (my days off only) when I find great deals on items example if find boneless chicken breasts on clearance I will by $20 worth and crockpot asap and divide it up for use in various meal. If I find say ground turkey I will repackage into 1 pound ziploc package as well as plan out what I want use the meat for example Spaghetti sauce- for  pizza sauce into containers as well as I will make lasagna & baked ziti as well as leaving some for tacos or southwestern eggrolls.If I happen across meat deals on my work days then I will break it down into useable portions and freeze..

    I also only cook foods we like I did a trial and error tests about 5 years ago on what we like the other changes I have made that I prefer single servings so I break down our meal and freeze single servngs as we (family of 2 with different tastes) does alot better I can cook Chicken Parmesan for me and southweestern eggroll for DD..:O)

     

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  • Wed, Oct 19 2011 9:55 PM In reply to

    Re: Cooking for the Freezer

    I think it's also important to know what your family will and will not eat. There are times when I followed those Once-A-Month cooking plans that I'd see in magazines and such to the letter, mostly because they're structured so you can dovetail the recipes together and save yourself time and energy. But there'd always be one or two dishes that my family didn't like, and they didn't enjoy having to eat them. Those dishes would stay in the freezer the longest before finally being eaten, which meant that they'd be the most freezer burnt and least edible (which didn't help with anyone's enjoyment).
    Mama to a teen and a preschooler KINDERGARTENER!! -- oh, the fun! Also co-parenting 3 other awesome kids. :)
  • Wed, Oct 19 2011 10:30 PM In reply to

    Re: Cooking for the Freezer

    I have recently discovered the joy of leftover crock pot soup, cooked on low for 10-12 or more hours, put in the freezer. I prefer everything FRESH but leftover crockpot soup tastes even BETTER frozen and reheated. It has encouraged me to feel okay about leftovers and pratice no waste as well as save money. I am encouraged to cook-to-freeze some odds and ends like chicken for quick reheat to toss in salads... pasta dishes... etc and also things like grains, legumes and other misc. odds and ends I can cook in bulk and package to freeze. I can then add them to fresh meals which will cut out some prep and cooking time. I feel I need more of that right now - less cooking time, more rest time. I am on a major no waste kick so whatever I can use as is or resort to having to freeze then the better. Tonight I used up the rest of the leftover Asian soup I had made in bulk last week and froze. It was so much better tonight than last week when I cooked it!

    "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." ~Chinese Proverb~
  • Thu, Oct 20 2011 12:37 AM In reply to

    Re: Cooking for the Freezer

    I've also found that the most useful way for me to cook for the freezer is to brown several pounds of ground beef at once and divide into meal sized portions.  It doesn't lock me into having a particular meal, but saves me the time of thawing meat, browning it, draining the fat, etc. when I'm in a hurry and need to get dinner on the table.  I can pull out the packet of already browned ground beef along with a package of frozen veggies, add them to a pot with some broth, stock or tomato juice, and have a quick pot of soup.  I can add the ground beef to a jarred pasta sauce and let them heat up together while pasta and/or veggies cook.  On nights when I'm not home, the family can make their own cheeseburger macaroni dish by adding the ground beef to boxed macaroni & cheese.  I can even throw the ground beef in a skillet with some stir fry veggies, add some soy sauce, garlic, ginger... another quick dinner!

    I will also roast several whole chickens or chicken leg quarters at once (whichever was the better buy at the time) and strip the meat from the bones for the freezer.  All of the things that I can do with ground beef can also be done with the cooked chicken.

    I also save the drippings and bones from the chicken for making chicken stock.  Once I have a few freezer bags accumulated, I toss them all into my big Nesco-style electric roaster along with some bags of veggie scraps (I put all my carrot, onion, and celery trimmings in freezer bags for just this purpose), add a little apple cider vinegar to pull the calcium from the bones, cover with water, and let the whole thing simmer overnight.  The next day I strain the bones and scraps from the stock, put the stock in covered bowls in the refrigerator to cool, remove the fat after it hardens, and then put the stock in freezer containers until I need to use some.  I rarely buy canned chicken broth anymore.  (I got this idea originally from Pat, who used to moderate these forums, back when she had her column on another site).

    Mama to a teen and a preschooler KINDERGARTENER!! -- oh, the fun! Also co-parenting 3 other awesome kids. :)
  • Thu, Oct 20 2011 9:41 AM In reply to

    • Brandy
    • Top 10 Contributor
    • Joined on Wed, Mar 28 2007
    • Saving in South Mississippi
    • Posts 25,145

    Re: Cooking for the Freezer

    spiderdust:
    got this idea originally from Pat

    Pat was excellent with good money saving ideas and doing things yourself instead of relying on cans and boxes.

     

    The Dollar Stretcher Community Manager



  • Thu, Oct 20 2011 11:20 AM In reply to

    • hjdeth
    • Top 500 Contributor
      Female
    • Joined on Mon, Aug 22 2011
    • Atlanta, GA
    • Posts 72

    Re: Cooking for the Freezer

    Cooking ahead is a planned family activity at our house and we do it a couple of weekends a year.  Everyone works...even the 6yo who has trash detail.

    Typically in a weekend we will start with making 60-80lbs of master hamburger mix (browned with onions & garlic) and cooking/deboning 20 whole chickens.  The electric roasters (4) & crockpots (3) start Friday night with 10 of the chickens plus onions, diced carrots, celery & basic seasonings.  Plus we do all of the dicing and chopping for the planned cooking.  Saturday morning first thing the chicken meat is deboned and put in 3cup portions in the freezer.  Stock is drained, put in the fridge to chill, fat removed and then put in the square 4c freezer containers.  Not a ton because it is really concentrated by then. 

    Then the 16qt & 8qt roasters become hamburger browning devices while the others receive another round of chicken & veggies.  1/2 of the hb mix is ziplocked in 3c bags for the freezer...fast meals and takes up less space in the freezer than uncooked hb.  Last fall I was lucky enough to have 2 deer given to me so we used one of them for a fall hb mix cook.  Anyway, then I get out the 1/2 size deep aluminum steam table pans and start putting together casseroles.  The casserole goes into a gallon ziplock and then is laid in a pan and frozen.  That way the casseroles are guaranteed to fit in the pans when the come out of the freezer and they stack nicely in the freezer.  The only thing that is put directly in pans in the freezer is the lasagna.  None of the casseroles are pre-baked and I don't use "no bake" pasta...just add extra sauce.  they go from the freezer, add 2 cups water and bake for 2 hours.  Doesn't sound like much of a time savings, but trust me, with active teens it is easy for someone to pop in the oven right after school and we come home, eat and go.

    Here are the casseroles we usually make with the hb mix:  6 lasagna, 6 hb/pasta/cheese/red sauce, 3 hb/pasta/peas/cream of chicken, 3 hb/pasta/mushrooms/cream of mushroom.

    As soon as the hb is browned, the last 5 chickens go into the roasters.  Usually they are about 3 hours behind the morning's batch.  As these last 10 chickens finish, they are deboned and the stock dealt with.  the chicken meat is put in a big tub in the fridge until after church Sunday.  then we put together the chicken casseroles:  3 lasagna, 6 chk/pasta/cheese/red sauce, 3 chk/pasta/peas/cream of chicken, 3 chk/pasta/mushrooms/cream of mushroom.

    At the end of the weekend, we usually have 10 lasagna and about 24 other casseroles plus about 20 3c bags of hb mix and 20 bags chicken meat.  Paired with a salad and crusty bread, each casserole will make a hearty family dinner plus a couple of lunches. 

    Needless to say, everyone is exhausted and sleeps very well Sunday night!

  • Thu, Oct 20 2011 11:30 PM In reply to

    Re: Cooking for the Freezer

    hjdeth, your weekend cooking adventures make mine look like nothing!  Surprise  I bow to your masterful skill!

    How many are in your family?

    Mama to a teen and a preschooler KINDERGARTENER!! -- oh, the fun! Also co-parenting 3 other awesome kids. :)
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