He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress and for his children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Freezer cooking

So a few weeks ago I posted about my new stand alone freezer and my first attempts at freezer cooking.          So far, so good!  I've been so pleased with everything I've tried.  Jury's still out on how it's helping our budget but that's an issue for another day..  Wanted to share what I've tried, what I like, and how I'm making it work for us.

First, I'll say, that I don't think I'm going to do the whole cook one day for a whole month deal.  The logistics of buying that many groceries at once are challenging here, plus the likelihood of me having an entire day free and then desiring to spend said day in the kitchen are is very, VERY slim...

So.  I've been trying to figure out ways to work freezer cooking into our already busy schedule.  We have entered that crazy phase of life with the ages of our girls and the activities they're involved in- even overseas and with limiting them to one extracurricular.  It makes for some crazy afternoons with band pick-up, basketball practice, ballet class etc.  I want to have healthy meals for our family and not find myself at 5 o'clock wondering what in the world I'm going to cook.  So what seems to be working for me is doing a little here, a little there and gradually building up our stock of healthy food on hand.

Breakfast is a biggie for me as far as desiring to simplify.  And don't tell me to buy cereal.  It is CRAZY expensive here.  I will buy it occasionally but I try to have something hot for most days even if it's just scrambled eggs and toast.  I love these spinach/egg cups and they freeze well and are quick to throw together.  I'm trying to get in the habit of throwing together something like this while I'm in the process of fixing dinner.  Or if I bake something like muffins of some sort or a loaf bread for breakfast (I usually do that also while fixing dinner or sometimes right after the girls go to bed before I collapse for the night), I am doubling the recipe to put at least one portion in the freezer.  When fresh fruit is in season (like peaches or strawberries)- we live in a place where you usually can't get something if it's not in season, then I buy A LOT and freeze it in quart size ziploc bags and use it for smoothies.

Some other things I've started freezing that I'm hoping will both simplify the cooking process and help the budget:

  • buy kilo bags of dried beans (I do red, black and white)and cook all at once and freeze in 2 cup portions- overall much cheaper than canned and better for you!
  • cook whole pumpkin (I use Pioneer Woman's tips here) and freeze in 1 3/4 cup portion (same amount as canned)
  • cook 2-3 whole chickens overnight in the crockpot, then shred and freeze in 2 cup portions- great for casseroles, chicken salad etc
  • haven't done it yet but I'm looking for good whole wheat pizza crust and bread recipes to freeze
  • this is my new fave pie crust recipe.  I followed one reader's suggestion and make 3 crusts out of it instead of 4, so I have at least 1 to freeze for later, sometimes 2
  • soup, soup, soup!!  We love soup in the fall/winter because it's yummy and because it's budget friendly.   Check out my cooking blog here for some favorites like chicken tortilla soup (SO easy!), and corn and zucchini queso chowder to name a few
Moving on to crockpot freezer cooking.  I have found several websites that have kind of become my "go to" on this topic, but they are basically the same idea.  You prepare your ingredients and freeze and gallon size ziploc bags and put in the crockpot the day of.  Some have additional instructions like adding broth or additional seasonings or garnishes right before serving.  I ordered this ecookbook from the mama and baby love website for $9.99 and it has been fabulous.  So far every recipe I've tried has been great.  She uses all fresh ingredients which I love.  Ironically, she has a disclaimer at the beginning that you need to be prepared to spend a little more money on fresh ingredients but here overseas the fresh produce is actually less expensive than all the processed stuff- score!  Her recipes do have A LOT of meat (at least in my opinion).  I have reduced the amount of meat in most of the things I've done and have had great results.  

Here are some of the other websites I've come across that have had some great tips and recipes:

Super helpful blog!  She goes through and gives step by step for getting several meals in the freezer at once.  She groups meals together that can be done in about 2 hours tops.  Today I prepped cilantro lime chicken (from this blog), thai chicken (from mama and baby love above), and made moroccan chicken stew (my recipe that I'll share eventually) all in the first hour of Anabelle's nap.  

I love this resource!  It's a long list of all different types of freezer meals.  Haven't tried much but I think it will be a great resource!

Here is another great resource.  I've found that a lot of these blogs link together and have similar ideas especially as far as the crockpot meals.  Seems you can kind of interchange ingredients to suit your own tastes.  

I've had fun exploring this topic and I hope I'll be able to share more ideas with you!  Would love to hear from anyone who has more tips on this topic!  

1 comment:

kellie j. said...

So so impressed. my biggest struggle with crockpot recipes is that there's so much meat and it's so expensive! I just need to halve it, maybe? We're just not eating much meat at home these days to try to get our grocery spending under control. I found a great lentil bulgher chili recipe, that maybe i could do in the crockpot? also, i found a wonderful moroccon stew that i served over cous cous that uses lamb--which i don't usually like, but in this case, it is Delish, let me know if you want it. thoughts on breakfast: i've heard of doing some kind of oatmeal overnight in your crockpot. i don't know if it only works with steel cut oats, which i'm not sure you'd be able to find. do you liked baked oatmeal? i've made it in muffin liners, with different toppings (coconut, nuts, fruit pieces, chocolate chips, etc.), then froze it--SO easy to have personal servings to pop in the micro and yum. i've read a suggestion of making up a bunch of bfast burritos ahead of time and freezing-do the girls like bfast burritos w/ eggs, salsa, veggies (it seems like you could hide some veggies in there-spinach?). what about making a quiche the night before when you have an extra crust? Kendra has an awesome pancake recipe that makes a ton, so i always have a stack of pancakes in the freezer and you can use half whole wheat flour. What about something like those sliders you made for someone's bday that you had in the fridge the last time we stayed w/ you? they were YUM and you can individually wrap/freeze them and have them for breakfast (i want the recipe by the way). Do you have a microwave egg cooker, or a biscuit cutter that you could cook an egg in, then slap the perfectly sized egg into a biscuit sandwich (make the biscuits while you're making dinner the night before, or use the make ahead and keep in your freezer dough from the name cookbook)? Can you tell i love breakfast?! Wish we could eat it for every meal b/c i feel like I know how to cook breakfast better than other meals! on the pancakes, try fruit instead of syrup, or some pb for the protein, or even nutella or kiri cheese and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar (especially good if you're trying to avoid the high fructose corn syrup). i'll fb you any other ideas i come up with. oh yeah, make applesauce in your crockpot overnight then enjoy warm applesauce for breakfast. also, put some of that pumpkin in your oatmeal and add some pumpkin pie spice. . .