Thursday, January 8, 2009

Cooking with the Freezer

I've had this blog post on my to do list for months but I've not had the time to just sit down and write out all my thoughts, so today, as part of my efforts to get things done, I'm doing it.

A year after I moved in with Dave, we had 3 boys (7, 11 & 15) to feed. Dave had a nice big freezer out in the garage and not much in it. As I was learning about things to cook I found a Yahoogroup about freezing. It was great. I learned you could freeze all kinds of things. Fast forward 7 years later and there is only 1 boy at home, but food prices have gone crazy and time is always limited to spend in the kitchen and shopping. So, I use my freezer for tons of stuff. I pre-make Fix, Freeze & Feast meals and I also pre-do a lot of ingredients that go into meals. Here are some of the things I freeze:

cream (1 cup batches)
homemade cream of mushroom soup (1 sandwich size bag full)
chopped onions
chopped bell peppers
cooked in the crockpot black and pinto beans
rice (brown jasmine, jasmine and long grain brown)
Spaghetti sauce (made in a 2 1/2 gallon batch)
pineapple juice
meat (ground beef, ground turkey, pork chops, stew meat, chicken, ham & sausage)
sliced carrots
chopped celery
homemade beef broth/stock
Pre-cooked ground beef with onions
Tomato sauce & diced tomatoes (packaged in 2 cup portions from a #10 can)
Leftover soups, stews & chilli
Meatloafs - batch of 3
Mashed potatoes (make 20 lbs and flash freeze ice cream scoop portions, then bag)
Meatballs (using 8 lbs of meat)
Lasagnas (using pre-made spaghetti sauce & precooked ground beef from another day)
meals made with SIL in 1 day cooking sessions (usually 20-30 meals @ <$5 each)

Having all these items handy in the freezers does a lot for me. It saves me money for sure. I'm able to buy things when they are on sale and buy larger portions (always check your prices, larger isn't always cheaper!) and re-package into smaller sizes. I only have to go to the grocery store every 2-3 weeks. This saves me time, money and stress. It also allows me a lot of flexibiltiy of what I can make at any given time. Between my freezer and pantry, I can make almost anything. If I do want to make something that requires a special item, I put it on my grocery list and get it the next time I go. I love to see how long I can last between trips to the store. I don't mind grocery shopping, but it's certainly not how I like to spend my time. I also do a lot of meal planning and recipe searching. I use MasterCook to organize all my recipes and I subscribe to quite a few cooking blogs for new ideas. I also use my crockpot at least once a week. I also keep a typed list on the front of the freezer door with the contents of each shelf listed, that way I don't forget about stuff I have in there and forget to use it before it gets freezer burned. I have a Foodsaver, but you'd be amazed how well things last in freezer zip lock bags or tupperware.

Think about what you can do to make your life easier in preparing homecooked, healthy meals for your family, it's really a lot of fun. Email me with any questions, I'd love to share recipes or tips and tricks!