Think it’s possible to cook once and eat all week long? Or all month long? You can it’s called ‘freezer cooking’ or ‘once a month cooking. People, like you and me utilizing their freezer to eat healthier, cheaper meals at home and save time.
Freezer cooking or once a month cooking (OAMC) is making/preparing several meals at one time and freezing them for cooking on a later date. Normal, everyday cooking is coming home and starting from scratch (or a box…). You and I both know that making home cooked meals every single day can really squeeze into the time you have to spend with your family in the evening. When you do OAMC or freezer cooking, all you have to do when you get in for the evening is grab a container from the freezer and pop it in the oven.
When you make it yourself, you can control what goes into the meal. Have someone watching fats? Someone cutting carbs? Someone sensitive to certain ingredients? Time a factor? You can even call home before you get there…. have someone preheat the oven and grab the pre-made meal and stick it in the oven. Such a time saver!
Freezer Cooking Benefits
Sure, it may sound a little bit time-consuming initially but there are lots of benefits, which to me, outweigh the time spent pre-making the meals. Imagine all the time you’ll save, time you can spend with your family. Plus you save money AND you’ll be eating better!
Do you have a favorite recipe? You can save time by making multiples of that favorite recipe. It doesn’t take that much longer to make TWO (or 3) chicken enchilada’ casseroles than it does to make one. It just takes extra freezer containers. The time you spend preparing the freezer meal will be returned to you when you can just pull one out of the freezer next time.
Freezer cooking (or OAMC) saves money too. You buy your ingredients in bulk (saving moula). You won’t need to go to the store as often which means less impulse buys. I mean how often have you run to the store for some hamburger meat and buns only to come out with a couple bags full of food?!! Your supermarket runs will become less as you’ll only need to shop one time for the month and then weekly for milk/bread/eggs and the like.
We’ve all had those days when the day was so long that you thought your only option was a drive thru meal or pizza delivery. Those are filling sure, but are they really all that healthy? Those days you can have the first person home to grab a dish from the freezer and stick it in the oven so that dinner can proceed when everyone’s home. Like many TV commercials…. you might even loose a little weight! Why? Less impulse purchases at the drive thru.
Extra folks show up? The kid’s friends staying over? Grab an entree from the freezer, add a side and dinner’s done!
There are some obstacles though. You need to know what foods freeze well and what foods don’t. Some casserole or entrees might freeze better than others. For instance, potato dishes like potatoes au gratin need to be pre-cooked before freezing as freezing the dish in it’s uncooked form changes the texture. This also applies to other foods, particularly foods you might want to eat fresh. You can’t freeze a salad, but you can freeze spinach, or diced tomatoes…
Many foods don’t freeze well in their original form and some do.
Basil (instead freeze in an ice cube)
Celery (Chop and bag)
Cheese (turns out crumbly)
Chives (freeze in an ice cube)
Cream Cheese (Doable but changes consistency)
Eggs in the Shells
Fried Food (freeze on sheets then transfer to a bag)
Grapes (OK if you will eat them frozen or to add to a smoothie)
Onions (chop, freeze on sheets, then transfer to a bag)
Parsley (freeze in an ice cube)
Rice & Potatoes can be frozen in casseroles and dishes, but it does change their texture a bit. You cannot freeze them raw; you must precook and then freeze.
Pasta – Pasta can be frozen but can become mushy when reheating. Many frozen lasagnas will call for uncooked pasta so that it cooks when the dish is cooked and therefore doesn’t become mushy.
Before doing any freezer cooking, make certain that you have ROOM in the freeze or that you have a separate stand-alone freezer that has ROOM in it for several casseroles. (Several can mean a weeks worth or a months worth.) You should also check that your freezer is maintaining a steady zero temp.
More freezer cooking tips
Be Prepared. This isn’t just a Scout motto or a prepper’s motto. It’s best to think ahead no matter the situation. You’ll be doubling or tripling your favorite dishes and feeding the freezer. It helps to have all the ingredients purchased and ready along with storage containers allowing you to make the dishes assembly line style.
Some folks start out with a ‘girl’s weekend’ where they get together and make several of each family’s favorite dishes, sharing in the costs of ingredients and freezer containers and at the end each goes home with different dishes, all ready to cook.
So while you might be cooking with the girls, this is not the time for pearls and heels. Get comfy. Buy some fun aprons. Wear comfy shoes.
Plan out your favorite meals for a week, or two (or your allotted time frame but don’t go over a month… it’s just too much), create a shopping list and pre-clean the kitchen so you have room to work. BUY freezer containers that can go straight into the oven. Grab some extra measuring cups so that you don’t have to keep washing them during the making.
LABEL everything. Label everything with the name of the dish, any specific instructions, such as 350 degrees for one hour, as well as the date of preparation.
Remember to let your dishes cool before putting them in the freezer.
Freezer Cooking Tools
You probably already have most everything you need to make a few freezer meals. However if you’re doing many you may want multiples. For instance, if you fill up the pan you use for lasagna and you only have one pan…. …..
First off, if you’re doing freezer cooking you probably should have a big stand-alone freezer. That little freezer in your refrigerator just flat out isn’t big enough.
Get some big bowls. If you’re making a double or triple batch of… say meatballs, would your biggest bowl be big enough? Shoot for a big 32 cup mixing bowl. Same for pans. Would a double recipe fit into your biggest pan? Consider at least one really large pan.
Load up on wooden spoons. Get multiples of measuring spoons and measuring cups. Grab some freezer bags, add some extra baking dishes, grab a sharpie, and most importantly some lidded aluminum baking pans.
Create your action plan, write down the steps, and do it. If you feel overwhelmed then start small by simply doubling a favorite recipe. You’ll save time, money and feed your family a sit down meal.