This is a guest post by Melissa, a stay at home mom to three little ones. She blogs at Mom's Plans where she shares how she and her family are learning to live a fulfilling life on less. She also shares her adventures in freezer cooking on a monthly basis.
When I had my second child two years ago, my husband and I got serious about finding ways to save money. We realized our budget had a huge leak in the food category. Because we were busy with a newborn and a four year old, we did not always plan our dinners. As a result, we often picked up food or ate expensive precooked freezer foods from the grocery store. Our lack of planning was costing us several hundred dollars a month.
I had heard about freezer cooking as a method to save money and time, but I thought the whole idea sounded like pure torture. Who wants to spend an entire day cooking ALL day, and then, when you are wiped out, spend the evening cleaning up the mess? No thanks, not for me.
My husband didn’t want to do it either because he was worried the food wouldn’t taste fresh. Neither one of us wanted to eat endless casseroles (which is what we both thought of with freezer cooking).
The Freezer Cooking Turn Around
You may be surprised to find out that now, two years and one more child later, I LOVE freezer cooking. In fact, I can’t imagine that we ever did without it. Everything I heard about it was true. We save a bundle of money every month. Our days are even busier now that we have three children and my oldest is in first grade and involved in three extracurricular activities. However, we rarely rely on take out; instead, we just pull a home cooked meal from the freezer.
What about taste? Well, as long as I pick recipes designed to be used as freezer meals, they come out great. And while I did freeze some casseroles in the early days of my freezer cooking, we don’t any more. Within the last year we discovered that neither my daughter nor I can eat dairy, and there aren’t many casseroles without dairy. However, we still find plenty of tasty things to freeze such as homemade meatballs, meatloaf, soups and stews, muffins, pancakes, breakfast burritos, etc.
Getting Started With Freezer Cooking
I am not going to lie. Cooking all of your meals in one day is not fun. If the whole idea overwhelms you, start out slowly. Find a recipe you like and cook it for dinner. When you are cooking, double the recipe and put one serving in the freezer. Tomorrow night, do the same thing. Do that for a week, and you will have a week’s worth of meals ready and waiting in the freezer for those hectic nights.
If you want to invest a little more time, take an afternoon to make a big batch of something versatile. We make meatballs almost every month. We use them for spaghetti and meatballs, sweet and sour meatball stir fry with red peppers and rice, BBQ meatball subs. Take maybe 1.5 hours and cook up a big batch of them. You now have the core ingredient for several meals during the month.
There really is no investment for freezer cooking beyond buying freezer bags for storage. My favourite free resource is Food.com. Simply enter the term “OAMC” (once a month cooking) and over 600 recipes will appear. Some are as simple as “dump chicken” where you dump raw chicken in a freezer bag with your sauce of choice. On the day you plan to cook it, put it still frozen in a baking pan and bake. About an hour later, you have a tasty main course.
Don’t be intimidated by freezer cooking. It can be as easy or as hard as you make it. If you just simply double your recipes when you are cooking your dinner, you will have a stocked freezer and more money in the bank, before you know it.