Monday, March 5

Cooking a Little Extra

I found a picture of a gorgeously organized freezer on Pinterest the other day, and drooled. And then I repinned it for inspiration.

This is not that picture, this is my freezer. It's not nearly as pretty, but it definitely works for us. See that box marked "premade" - the former amazon box? That is my lifesaver.

Someone commented on my gorgeous inspiration freezer photo - that a friend of theirs couldn't afford to buy ahead that much. A valid thought - not too many can just fork out enough money in one chunk for a month's worth of meals. But...just about everyone CAN afford to do modified freezer cooking. This is not to say that everyone HAS to, but it is very, very helpful for any busy mom.

The first time I did freezer cooking, for real, was when Cadence's delivery was pending - I had a goal to get it all done by 37 weeks of pregnancy. I wanted at least a months' worth of main dishes, and I got it done, praise the Lord. I mentioned in the post that I spent $150 on the food, but in reality it was a little more than that, if you figure in what I already had on hand (included ground beef I had in the freezer.) I can't tell you how awesome it was to have dinner ready to go. I got used to how easy it is. And now we do modified freezer cooking.

So, if you can't afford to buy a whole months' worth of food in one week and cook it up, you don't have to! If you don't have space for a whole months' worth of food for your freezer, that's fine! This photo here (the one with the processed meal in it?) has main dish items - or parts of main dish items - for 9 meals in those little quart size freezer bags. It's totally do-able.

Anyone can benefit from the ease of having a meal or two in the freezer (the type of meal that isn't a frozen pizza). My favorite items are precooked meats. This type of thing means that I can get a dinner together in less time than it would take to go pick up fast food. Which is KEY when the troops are hungry!

Below, from left to right - meatballs (36) 3 meal-size amounts of chicken taco filling, 2 cups of cooked and chopped chicken in a bag.

Bear with me - I'm going to tell you what I do. Last week, chicken was on sale for $1.69/lb at a local meat/fruit market - so I bought 10 lbs of chicken for $17 – this equals meat for 9 meals for 4 eaters (2 adults and 2 hungry boys)

Chicken Tacos 3 lbs = 3 meals + leftovers -Chicken ($5) + Salsa ($2- 1½ cup) + taco seasonings (cumin, chili powder, seasoned salt -a few cents) a total of around $7 for 3 meals. I divided the meat up into 3 qt size ziploc bags, squished out the air, and froze them flat.

2 lbs cut up chicken pieces frozen raw (1 inch cubes) for tikka masala or stir fry (3.38) in ziplocs frozen flat. For stir fry, I use wheat-free soy sauce, onion or onion powder, garlic or garlic powder, and sesame oil and whatever veggies I have. My family really likes broccoli slaw in stir fry. For Tikka Masala, I use a modified recipe that is a little complicated, but I freeze the chicken IN the marinade to cut down on time.

The remaining 5 lbs, I baked and cut into chunks for casseroles, soups, wraps, chicken salad, etc. ($8.45) Divided into 4 bags (a little over 2 cups per bag) also in ziplocks frozen flat.

We'll eat a couple chicken based meals this week, and still have enough for the next week, when I'll cook extra beef and make a couple bags of beef taco filling for the freezer, or a double batch of meatballs, or double the amount of burgers for the grill (I like to season the meat for patties with worchestershire sauce, Mrs. Dash Steak blend, and salt), freeze them and use later.

The next week, I might have a couple chicken meals left, so it's time for pork - I might buy a pork loin if it's on sale and cook 1/2 of it in the crock pot with garlic and onion, then shred it up and have pulled pork for BBQ sandwiches, or BBQ pizza, two or three meals' worth - then cook the other 1/2 with mild banana pepper rings and garlic and onion and have a Qdoba-like shredded meat we serve with rice and beans for a delicious meal - and I'll have two or three meals' worth, frozen in bags.

So each week when I shop, I just buy the meat that is on sale. I do enjoy cooking, so on the days when I have the extra time, I make a meal that doesn't involve anything pre-cooked. Or some days I'll do a crock pot meal and skip the freezer meals. So it's not a freezer meal every day.

I've been meaning to do the same with baking - make a double batch of muffins and freeze some for quick breakfasts, etc. but I just haven't made the time.

That, and my kids smell muffins and they're pretty much already gone.

And this is how excited I am when I don't have to wonder (or work very hard) at what is for supper.



Shannon said...

Jenny, this is a FABULOUS post. You've inspired me. We've been on the lookout for an extra freezer for this exact purpose. You gave me the push to do it. Thank you!!

Alicia said...

Great tips, Jenny! And thanks for sharing exactly what you make with the freezed meat -- super helpful.

NewEveryMorning said...

Jenny, There is a pampered chef consultant out here that does themed parties based on "Cooking Ahead". She uses her own recipes, that she shares with everyone at the party and gives each attendee a page of notes of how to do it. She has one for soups, one for meat, and one for cookies (she makes all the cookies for the year at once and stacks them with christmas cookies on the bottom, and Easter cookies on the top, and takes them out for each holiday) and deserts. I know she is one of the top-sellers in the area - might be a strength you can capitalize on as well.

Mom and Dad Muth said...

Way to go Jenny! That was really nice that you shared that on your blog. Mary does a little freezer planning like that by cooking up chicken and putting it in bags and by fixing up butter balls to freeze for future "chicken, noodle, and butterball" meals for later. She also cuts up precooked ham to use for different meals or salads.
Anyway, I'm glad you shared.
Love you,
Mom Muth

Laura Railing said...

I just pinned this :) ;-) I love it! I wanted to make some meals ahead of time for when Adrian comes, and now you've inspired me even more to get on it (well, not yet. maybe in a few months ;-) )