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Do you know how to put your freezer to work? If not, day six in the Living Well & Spending Zero Challenge is an opportunity to learn how.
Freezer cooking does take some time, but with a busy family like mine, I can attest to the numerous times that the meals I have in my freezer have saved me vast amounts of stress and money since I didn’t need to grab some type of convenience food or pick up a quick pizza on the cheap. Actually, it takes three pizzas to feed a bunch of my size!
There are countless meals that can be prepared to a certain point and then frozen, and with access to anything and everything on the Internet, you can find a wealth of recipes to please any kind of pallet or to meet any type of dietary needs or preferences. If you have not gone to today’s challenge on LivingWellSpendingLess.com, you will want to. Ruth has linked to countless recipes and information that will make this whole process so streamlined.
The idea behind freezer cooking, at least in my life, is that I prepare meals to have on hand in my freezer for those days when there is no time to make anything. I always make sure that my freezer is stocked going into baseball season in the spring, before marching band season in the summer, before football and swim season in the fall, and then also when we are expecting a new baby. I love going into these busy seasons of life knowing that my freezer is doing the work for me.
Freezer cooking with a group, like we talked about in the meal swap challenge, is also a way to stock your freezer while having some fun and in an even easier way.
If you’re thinking that freezer cooking sounds like too much work, I hear you. I thought that for many years, too. However, once I tried it, I was completely hooked.
How you do it really is up to you. With a family that is as busy as mine, I don’t really have more than a couple of hours to devote to it at any one time. Although I do take an afternoon or morning and really get some progress made, I find that the bulk of my freezer cooking gets done much more informally.
Let me show you what I mean.
As often as I can, I make double or triple of whatever I am cooking to stock my freezers with the leftovers. Similar to the concept of meal swapping, it really isn’t that difficult to make three batches of lasagna rather than just the one I actually need, but those extra two lasagnas that I can then throw in my freezer really add up over time. If I make various soups, chili, twice baked potatoes, various pasta dishes, and even pork or beef roast, I almost always make at least enough for two extra meals. If you’re doing this a couple of times a week, you can really see how these will add up!
Have you read my post on freezer staples? This lays out how I will always make sure that I have browned ground beef, taco meat, shredded chicken, grilled chicken, chicken seasoned with taco seasoning, and so much more. Although not complete meals, you can have things like tacos in a flash, make a complete meal out of a salad when you throw some grilled chicken and black beans from your freezer on it, or put a dump type soup together after opening a couple of cans of veggies in addition to either the beef or chicken in your freezer.
When the interruptions come, which we all know they do, with a freezer full of meals you don’t have to feel the stress of what’s for dinner. Just today I ended up getting on the wrong highway coming home from picking apples, which took us on a 20 minute detour. Those precious 20 minutes were the only time I had to throw a meal together, and then they were gone. Thankfully, the taco meat in my freezer took only two minutes in the microwave, and the kids had everything they needed for their meal since I prepped lettuce, green pepper, and tomato for my weekend prep this past Sunday.
There are so many things beyond meals that you can stock your freezer with, too. Here are things that I commonly freeze, again just by making extra when I make them in the first place:
- breakfast items like egg sandwiches, muffins, pancakes, and waffles
- lunch items like tortilla pizzas and bean and cheese burritos
- dessert items like cookies, almond bars, key lime bars, and cupcakes
- other random items like banana bread, honeycake, pizza dough, and diced onion ready to throw into recipes as needed.
Having a freezer full of meals, treats, and other things are a life saver and totally worth whatever time you put into making them. Whether you devote a Saturday to stocking your freezer or just do it little by little as I do, I can guarantee that it will be time well spent – and I was a skeptic in the beginning, remember?
I would love to hear in the comments, do you guys freezer cook? If so, what are some of your favorite meals?