Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Freezer Cooking

Over the summer, my friend Melissa and I got together and decided to do some freezer cooking to bless our families and streamline our dinner times. We each came up with a list and got to work! It's been over a month since then and now I've just completed a second freezer cooking day to replenish our freezer so I thought I'd post some meals here that work good for freezing.

Photos are completely unrelated but from a fun free visit to a semi-nearby art museum recently.

Month One Freezer Cooking:
Banana Bread x 2
Cookie Dough - scooped into balls and frozen on a cookie sheet before putting in a Ziploc
Peanut Butter Brownies
Chicken Spaghetti x 2
Twice Baked Potatoes x 2
Ranch Chicken x 2 {chicken and marinade ready to thaw and cook}
BBQ Chicken x 2 {chicken and sauce ready to dump in Crock Pot!}
Crispy Wraps {filling ready to thaw and assemble}
Oven Sandwiches x 2
Broccoli Rice Casserole x 2
Quiche x 2 {bake before freezing; I use skim milk instead of cream and cheddar instead of swiss}
Chicken Pot Pie x 2 {do not bake before freezing!}

All of these worked great and I found that it was a lovely blessing to have food on hand when the need arose to take a meal to someone I could just pull out an entree and put a couple of sides with it and quickly deliver. Also when I note a "x2" that usually means I took one full 9x13 recipe and divided into two 8x8 size pans thus getting two dinners from it.

Second Month Freezer Cooking - these things are in my freezer now. I tried a few new things including some Crock Pot ready things that are assembled and ready to dump into the Crock Pot on a busy day.

Broccoli Chicken Lasagna
Oven Sandwiches x 2
Ham/Broccoli Calzones
Enchilada Wraps {can't find a link! It is shredded chicken, cheese, rice, corn and enchilada sauce}
Chicken Pot Pie Soup
Lasagna Soup
Cube Steak and Gravy
Garlic Herb Chicken
Banana Bread
Sunday Night Stew

Other thoughts so far - it takes most of an entire day to do this amount of cooking. So far, I have found it worth cancelling school for the day to get this done as it is such a blessing on busy evenings. The first month I felt so good with all of that in my freezer that I didn't want to use them as it was just such a good feeling and I didn't want to undo all of that work! But, of course we did eat the meals and give a few as well. We usually do a freezer meal twice a week, sometimes more often but mixed in with other things we like such as tacos, salad bar, etc... that either can't or don't need to be frozen. It is also nice to make the mess all in one day and do all of the chopping one day instead of getting it out a couple of times a week and cleaning up numerous times.

So for now, it is working great and we're enjoying the blessing of the investment of time. I'm opening the comments today to hear your freezer cooking ideas and questions!


Anonymous said...

Hi Monica! I do a type of freezer cooking where I buy ground meat and chicken in bulk. Once I'm home, I cook some of the meat and chicken (that which will be used in soups, casseroles, and the like), cool it and store it in ziplocs in the freezer. Some of it I leave as is, for meatloaf and baked chicken. This way, I've cut at least a half hour off the final recipe time. If I change my mind last minute about what to make, I haven't wasted anything. I'm all for saving time in the kitchen...


Monica Wilkinson said...

Hi Chrissy! I do that too! :) Love having options quick and ready to pull out!

Jen said...

Thank you for sharing! I am ALWAYS looking for freezer meal options. These are yummy and I look forward to trying them!

Wendi said...

I love freezer cooking! I don't make complete meals often but I will cook parts of the meal. Such as a pork roast, make spaghetti sauce, taco meat and then divide it up into meal size portions. I can then throw it into the crock pot on the day I need it. I also make up packets of meat and chopped veggies that can be thrown into a pot to quickly start a soup or stew. Really helpful to have a head start for chicken soup on those days when I am under the weather. Homemade soup when I don't have the energy to chop veggies! Did I mentions that I love freezer cooking... :)!

angie said...

I have been operating on last minute plans all summer. Now that school and soccer season are in full swing, I really need to be more prepared! Thanks for the inspiration to set aside a day to cook up a storm. I'm going to poll my family for some meal ideas. I may try a couple of your recipes, but chicken isn't an option for my allergic husband. :( Do you have multiple dishes cooking at once? Or do you do one at at time from start to finish? I think I would do all of the chopping first, but not sure what my next step would be. Definitely worth a try!

Christy Stanton said...

Hi Monica,

I decided to try out freezer cooking before we are blessed with the new addition to our home, so that we'll have some meals to pull out. Like you, it is such a great feeling to have those meals ready to prepare! I was so motivated to do this that we even went and bought a new freezer! I'm glad we did!: )

Also, I'm getting some great ideas from Pinterest and here is a website that I was able to get the shopping list along with the recipes. My husband loves the food I've prepared with these.

Shelby said...

Love this Monica, it saves so much time and just this morning I was thinking what I'm going to make for dinner. I love to do the meatloaf x2, ziti x2,I marinate chicken in freezer bags so they are easy to pull out as well as steak, banana nut bread, muffins, pie shells, ham loaf, meatballs, I can't think of anything else at the moment, but I'm excited to try your recipes:)

*carrie* said...

Wow, Mo, so ambitious! I don't really ever do this for supper, but I love making in bulk and freezing the kids' main item for school lunch. I also usually make a double batch of breakfast baked items like muffins, which is a huge timesaver.

Glad your hard work is paying off!

Monica Wilkinson said...

Hi Wendi! Anything we can do to help a future day out is a success right?! You make a good point about days we may not be feeling well or that the day gets busier than we anticipated - freezer food to the rescue :)

Monica Wilkinson said...

Hi Angie,

Wow, allergic to chicken?! That would be a hard one for me :)

I try to be as efficient as possible. For example, if something is in the oven I am working on the next thing. Several of the recipes don't need baking before freezing though so you can assemble a meal in less than 10 minutes and move on to the next one and get several done while one thing {like quiche} is baking.

Monica Wilkinson said...

Hi Christy - yes, plenty of freezer space is definitely helpful! Thanks for the link I will check that out!

Monica Wilkinson said...

Yay Shelby - hope you find something new that is yummy and easy!

Monica Wilkinson said...

Good ideas, Carrie for lunch/breakfast items. It seems that no matter how much I make for breakfast - we end up eating it in the next day or two. I need to be more purposeful about putting extras in the freezer immediately! My kids love muffins and such to snack on which is a good snack option so I usually let them :)

Lauren (in Savannah) said...

Since we have been waiting for a foster baby I marinated some chicken and cooked some ground beef and felt so satisfied. But alas......we ate it. I want to try the ranch chicken and twice baked potatoes. Also, a year or so ago I was pondering whether to make up some freezer cookie dough. Do you find it saves money versus the slice and bake kind? Our pay is usually lower in the fall/winter so I would like to start stocking up early. Also.....which recipes do your kids love most out of the ones you listed?

Anonymous said...

I would love to know how you do freezer cooking "together" with someone! Did you get together at someone's house? Did you do it separately, but just did it on the same day or use the same recipes? Also, when you give the meal to someone else -- do you give it frozen and tell them how to defrost it, or do you thaw it and/or bake it first and then give it? Thanks!

Monica Wilkinson said...

Anonymous: Hi :) When I cooked together with a friend, we both got together at my house. We each were in charge of our own recipes {though some did overlap} and ingredients and we cooked together while our children played together.

So far, when I have given a freezer meal, I've given it for a future day and said to either freeze or bake the next night. I included directions for baking from frozen!

Monica Wilkinson said...

Hi Lauren, we don't really like store bought cookie dough so I confess I have not price compared :) My homemade recipe makes about five dozen so it is a large amount and I love being able to pull out a few at a time!

My kids favorites? Of the first month menu - they actually eat all of those really well. They especially like the broccoli rice ham and chicken spaghetti. We had the lasagna soup in the Crock Pot tonight and we all enjoyed it! Several of my month two recipes are new to us so we'll see how they go!

Elise said...

I was in a freezer meal club with some friends from MOPS, but quit due to it not working out for my family size. Some of my fellow large family friends are going to start up our own soon. I love the idea of having meals to pull out! I used to do what Chrissy up top does and need to get back into it. One of my favorite things to do that isn't necessarily freezer-meal related, but could be, is to make French dip one night, then use the meat and juice the next night. I use the leftovers and mix with cream of mushroom soup and serve over rice.

Mary Ann said...

As you already know, I love me some freezer cooking! In our current season of life, planning ahead is what keeps wholesome meals on the table.

I do a lot of crockpot freezer meals. Just mix ingredients in the bag and freeze. I noticed you do a few of those as well. Some of our favorites are: Meatloaf(wasn't sure this would come out as well in the crockpot but it does), Honey Mustard Chicken, Sour Cream Salsa Chicken(uses only 2 chicken breasts and feeds 6-8 so good for company), Thai Chicken with peanut sauce, Sausages with Peppers and Onions and General Tso's Chicken.

I've recently started using an hour or two each Sunday afternoon for prepping food ahead for the week. This is mainly for lunches and breakfast but I organize my dinner menu at that time as well so it is time well-spent and I end up with baggies of things prepared to grab and go as well as some meats thawed and cooked and so on.

Lauren (in Savannah) said...

Monica, I saw your comments about making thrifty gifts. I have been brainstorming Christmas ideas. I found some cute Christmas cupcake liners at Michaels and decided to make someone a cupcake in a box kit. I am wondering if I find a cake mix at Publix on sale or B1G1 how can I repackage it to look cute? I have scoured pinterest and all I see are cookie mixes. Any ideas?