Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Freezer Cooking: Getting Started

I will just begin this post with this fact: I really don't enjoy preparing supper on a nightly basis anymore. Now don't get me wrong, I love having a delicious meal prepared when my hubby gets home from work each night, but when it comes down to actually deciding each day what I would like to make and taking the time to make it, I really don't enjoy it. By the time I spend 1 1/2 to 2 hours at the gym each evening, do other house work, mow when it needs it, take care of other outside things, and do my "projects" (which I have to do to keep my sanity), supper is the last thing that I want to focus on. I'm not making excuses here and I almost always cook supper anyway, I'm just saying, there has to be a better way to manage my time and help me enjoy my evenings a little more. Enter Freezer Cooking!

I have spent several hours the last few days researching freezer cooking (or once-a-month cooking, batch cooking, or whatever else you want to call it) and have decided that I would like to give it a whirl.

Obviously time is the main factor that draws me to trying freezer cooking. You will spend a large amount of time doing your planning, shopping, and cooking up front, but each evening (when time is so precious) you will basically just heat up the meal and eat. Freezer cooking can also be a money saving tool. If you plan your meals that you will cook based on items that are on sale when you are doing your shopping, you will spend less than if you just thought, hey, steak sounds good for supper and run to the store and buy steak. It might not be on sale that night, so you are spending more than if you would have planned ahead. You will spend a significant amount on your large shopping day (once or twice a month depending on if you are attempting once-a-month cooking or two week cooking) but then you will only need to go back a few times for perishable items such as milk and produce. I don't know about you but I always buy more than just what was on my list when I go to the grocery store, so the less I go, the more I will save! Freezer cooking can also help you save money because you have an easy to serve meal at your finger tips when you are crunched for time. I know with us when we don't have a lot of time or it is last minute and I haven't thought of anything, we go out to eat. We spend more money and don't eat as healthy when we eat out!

So after deciding that freezer cooking may work for us, I now need to come up with a plan! Different techniques work for different people. Here is how I have decided to go about trying it this first time!

-Research! As I said I have spent several hours researching how to make this work rather than just running to the store and buying a cart full of stuff and not knowing what to do with it. Google "freezer cooking" or "batch cooking" and you will find several helpful links. I also found a book at the library called "Once-a-Month Cooking" by Mary Lagerborg and Mimi Wilson and it is awesome!! They give intro tips, then actual 2 week or 1 month meal plans with all of the shopping, prep, and cooking instructions. There are a ton of yummy sounding recipes so I went to Amazon and purchased the book today for $2.18!!

-Plan your recipes. I decided to start pretty small so I picked out about 4 or 5 recipes that sound good to try. Some of them will make enough servings for 2 meals for Nick and I so I will end up with about 2 weeks worth of meals with a couple of days of our favorites thrown in that won't work so well in the freezer.

-Prepare your grocery list. I went thru my recipes and wrote down all of the items I will need to buy. If I need multiples of one item, I just put a tally mark next to it so I know how many to buy.

-Shopping day! From everything I read, it is best to devote a separate day for shopping and cooking. If you try to shop, prep, and cook all in one day I think it would be very overwhelming! Don't forget to include things like freezer bags, freezer paper, aluminum foil, tupperware containers, masking tape, and a sharpie if you do not have enough!

-Prep. This can be the same day as your shopping day if you wish. This may be thawing stuff out, chopping or grating ingredients, or preparing all of your utensils.

-Cooking Day!! It sounds like you should plan about 4 hours for a two week cooking plan or 8 to 9 hours for a one month cooking session. Sounds like a lot, but think of all the meals you are making!

You should also spend some time researching different freezing tips and tricks as different items freeze better than others!

My plan is to do my shopping and prep work tonight and my cooking tomorrow night! I will be sure to update you and let you know how it goes. Hopefully it won't be a complete disaster for me!

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