Here are the four “baby steps” I took to make my 1st attempt at freezer cooking enjoyable.
First of all, I want to apologize that the picture is not of all the freezer food I made over the past 4 days. Both my food photography skills and the lighting in my kitchen are atrocious. So, although I took pictures of everything I made, the pictures did not all turn out well. The wonderful colors of the foods have disappeared in most of my pictures and very few are even in focus. So, I’m showing you the big salad I made, the hot dogs and chicken I grilled, the bread I baked and a spoonful of soup I pulled out of the pot to taste. Onto freezer cooking…
I’ve wanted to do if for some time but was afraid – of the amount of time needed, the cost of buying all that food at once, the kitchen being such a disaster that I would run from the house, screaming. See, I had this idea in my head that Freezer cooking meant cooking all the meals your family would eat for an entire month, all in one setting. That was the wrong impression I got from all the articles and books out there from people who spend time, one day a month, freezer cooking. I equated “freezer cooking once a month” to “cooking everything my family will eat for the next 30 days”. It’s not so. Phew!
I decided to start small on Thursday but it wasn’t small enough for this scatterbrain, because I didn’t cook everything I thought I would. I didn’t get upset, though, and did a little more on Friday. I did well, so I did some more Saturday and today, too. Although I don’t have every meal, not even every dinner, my family will eat this week, I have some meals and a some meal elements in my freezer that I can go to on those days when life gets away from me. Those days when I didn’t plan ahead or I just don’t feel like cooking. I enjoyed it because I took baby steps and I’d like to do this regularly to keep my head above water in the kitchen.
BABY STEP #1: Doubling Up. I made Salisbury Steak, mashed potatoes and roasted green beans for dinner on Thursday. While I had the ingredients out and my hands were in raw meat, I decided to make enough steak for two dinners. Just the Salisbury Steak, mind you, I didn’t make extra potatoes nor green beans. But the protein is always the hardest part of meal planning, for me; throwing sides together are easy. So the extra portion of Salisbury Steak is in the freezer.
On Friday, I decided to make a fake-lasagna bake for lunch, so I doubled the recipe. I dislike making lasagna. The noodles are a pain to cook, they peel apart while I’m trying to put the lasagna together and all the layering is messy. So now I just heat all the lasagna ingredients in a skillet, along with whatever shaped pasta I have on hand (B’s fav is Rotini), pour into a baking dish, top with some more cheese and bake until the top gets some color on it. The extra one went into a baking dish and received cheese on top, but went to the freezer before baking.
BABY STEP #2: Cook My Protein. I had 6 frozen chicken breasts left in the 10 lb bag I buy from Costco. I thawed them all, tossed them with some Italian dressing and grilled them yesterday. It was a beautiful day to be grilling! I usually grill all year long, but I have not done it much over the past year. That is going to change. I sliced up all cooked chicken, used two of them on a big salad for dinner last night and divided the rest into two freezer bags. That way, if I’ve completely forgotten about dinner one day until B says at 5pm, “I’m hungry. What’s for Dinner?” he won’t have to wait for me to thaw something nor will I throw up my hands and grab fast food.
BABY STEP #3: Make Soup. Soup is so easy to make and a great way to use up leftovers in your fridge! I had lots of veggies in the house, including kale (not the most popular vegetable on the planet), and it all got thrown in the pot with some chicken stock I’d made earlier in the week from the remnants of a Costco rotisserie chicken. Put it all together and it all tastes wonderful, even the kale. ;o) Although I made a vegetable soup, you can use up leftover proteins in soup, too. Here are my recipes for Chicken Noodle Soup and Steak Soup.
I had three loaves worth of bread dough in the fridge that needed to be baked, so I did that today and froze them. Each loaf was sliced and double bagged before going into the freezer. By slicing the loaves first, I can just take out a a few slices as needed, instead of thawing a whole loaf.
With the rest of the homemade chicken stock and remaining meat that came off that Costco chicken, I made a chicken pot pie to freeze, as well. Pot pies are another great way to use up leftovers!
BABY STEP #4: Use the slow cooker. I am not a big fan of the slow cooker. Lots of people I read about online as well as those I know have scads of slow cooker recipes they love. I’ve probably found less than five. It’s a waste of food and money if a slow cooker recipes does not turn out to our liking. I’ve learned to never cook on low anymore; it takes so long to cook the meat it dries out, IMO. I only cook on high. I took a chance on this Slow Cooker Pork Ragu from Moneywise Moms today and was pleasantly surprised. Even the hubs liked it! I doubled the recipe, made some ingredient adjustments based on what I had on hand and had to add some garlic salt to the finished product. Now I have enough for dinner tomorrow night and I’m freezing the rest in multiple portions for other dinners.
I’m very happy with what I’ve accomplished and I look forward to discovering more great freezer recipes!