Freezer cooking is something we have been doing for at least half of our meals since my husband went on night shift in 2012. Anyone married to a night shift worker will tell you it ain’t much fun cooking dinner for one, along with the fact that it can be a pain trying to come up with dinner ideas each day for the shift worker.
Team that with the chaos of mum life and running your own home business x 3, yep… freezer cooking can pretty much be the one thing that keeps me sane some weeks!
We began cooking extra large meals on weekends just so we would have a few left over meals to freeze for dinners through the week. Half for my husband to take to work and the other half for me to have after a long day of work… or as things changed, instead of having to run around trying to cook dinner with a baby or toddler to attend to on my own.
Our freezer cooking progressed from here and has become something more structured, both for husband’s work dinners and for the convenience of me now working from home and taking care of the kids. We now set aside an afternoon around once or twice a month to load up the freezer full of dinners. Sometimes less often if we manage to make a couple of leftovers to freeze on the weekends.
It sounds like a pretty time consuming task, creating a whole month of meals. But it really isn’t. And the best part is, you can load your freezer with a month worth of meals for your freezer in a single afternoon!
FREEZER COOKING: 7 TIPS FOR COOKING A MONTH OF MEALS
1. Plan ahead
Meal planning is a great way to save time and money, reducing food waste and making the most of the ingredients you have. At least one day before make a plan of what meals you will be cooking and ensure you have or buy all the ingredients you will need. The last thing you want is to be scrambling around like a loon trying to figure out what to make and realising you haven’t even got half the ingredients on hand. Meal planning can seem a bit daunting for some, but freezer cooking makes meal planning simple.
2. Make extra large servings
The larger the quantities, the more servings you will get. You can save a lot of time by simply making larger bulk lots of each meal. Consider doubling your recipe to make twice as much as usual. By doing this, you may not even need to do monthly cook ups. You can just keep adding to your freezer meal stocks by cooking a large meal once or twice a week. This makes it super easy!
3. Have a mixture of recipe styles
It helps if you can have more than one thing on the go at once, so have the slow cooker on, do one or two quick meals in the wok, have something else cooking in the oven. This cuts down time rather than waiting for one appliance to make all your meals. Although if you’re a Thermomixer, no doubt that’s going to be your go to. We haven’t converted to Thermomix here yet. In fact, I still don’t entirely know how they work!
4. All hands on deck
More hands makes for faster work. My husband and I do the freezer cook up together, each taking on different recipes or duties to get the job done quicker. There are sometimes some moments of frustration (haha) but it makes a big difference compared to when I used to do this alone. If you have older kids, you can get them involved too which not only helps to teach them responsibility, but can also be a great bit of family bonding too!
If you haven’t read it yet, The Barefoot Investor for Families book will tell you the importance of teaching your kids how to cook some simple, inexpensive meals, before they move out of home. It will help them be better prepared for their financial future. Bonus!
5. Consider doing a freezer cooking swap
Make a plan with other friends or family to each do a big cook up of different meals and then exchange half of each meal so you have more variety and no extra time in the kitchen. This is such a brilliant way to increase your meal repertoire and help each other out.
Make sure you have the right kind of storage system that works for you. We are lucky enough to have a free-standing chest freezer and a smaller freezer to fill with meals and because it is easier for hubby to take them to work that way, we use recyclable Chinese takeaway style containers and stack them in the freezer. But if you are short on space, freezer or sandwich bags are a great space saver. Just defrost in advance and stick them in the microwave to warm up.
7. Always think ahead
Every meal has the potential to create left overs so start doubling your serves through the week or on the weekends when you cook too so you can continually be topping up your freezer meals. This means you may space out the time between when you need to do your next big cook up. If you are entertaining, you are hardly likely to pull out last month’s microwave lasagna in single person serves, so on these occasions when you are cooking on the night, don’t be shy to make it a feast with the foods you know that will defrost well.
Freezer cooking is not only a great way to save time, but also helping to save dollars by buying in bulk and by ensuring you maintain a healthy, balanced diet with protein and veggies, even when all you really feel like doing is ordering a pizza.
FREEZER COOKING RECIPES
And here are a couple of recipes to get your freezer cooking started: