Revamping My Freezer Cooking Methods

As I’ve mentioned in the past few months, I’ve been simplifying and streamlining a lot of areas in my life so that I can focus on the most important priorities, not overload my plate and have time to “stop and smell the roses” instead of feeling like I’m barely staying afloat.

One area that I’ve felt needs some revamping is my method of Freezer Cooking. When I had one and two small children, it was pretty simple to pull off a six-hour Freezer Cooking Marathon if I did a few hours in the morning while the girls played or helped me and a few hours in the afternoon during naptime.

Now that I have three children and a big chunk of our day is dedicated to homeschooling, I’m finding that fitting in a Freezer Cooking Marathon is just not, well, fitting in. In addition, we haven’t been eating casseroles and instead are mostly eating simple dinners of meat, veggies and either fruit and/or mashed potatoes, rice or bread. These meals don’t require a lot of prep work ahead of time, unlike the meals I used to make on Freezer Cooking Days.

The past month, I’ve been experimenting with doing a 30-minute batch-cooking session once or twice each week — marinating four meal’s worth of chicken breasts, quadrupling a batch of meatballs, making up a quadruple batch of pancakes or cooking a roast in the crockpot and then shredding it and turning it into a few meal’s worth of barbecued beef. I usually tack this onto our regular dinner prep in the late afternoon and I’m discovering if I do this once or twice each week, we consistently have at least a week’s worth of meals in the freezer at all times.

I was feeling guilty about doing Freezer Cooking this way as it just didn’t seem “right” compared with how I’ve always done it. When I was talking with FishMama about the guilt I was struggling with in admitting to you all that having a Freezer Cooking Marathon is just not working for us right now, she reminded me that there is no right way to “do” Freezer Cooking.

It’s not about trying to copy what works for someone else or trying to mimic what once worked for us. Being a successful homemaker, wife, mother and home economist is about finding what works for you and your family and doing that — and having freedom from guilt about what others do or don’t do.

So, I’m going revamp my previous Freezer Cooking methods and do what works for us right now — which is just having a mini freezer cooking session once or twice a week. I might not stay as far ahead or have my freezer quite as stocked, but it will still save us a great deal of time. And I really don’t think it will end up taking any extra time and my kitchen won’t get so utterly destroyed all at once (though I might end up washing a few extra dishes by breaking it up like this).

I’ll still be posting an occasional freezer-friendly recipe, but I’m handing off the hosting of the monthly Freezer Cooking Day link-ups to FishMama for now (she so generously offered to take over the shouldering of it for me!). I may pick it back up again in the future, but for now, I’m going to guiltlessly enjoy doing what is working for our family.

photo from Shutterstock

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Comments

  1. Emily says

    I totally understand- this is how I’ve had to do it too. I also have 3 little ones and am homeschooling, and have very busy weekends, so I have found it nearly impossible to manage a huge freezer cooking day. Instead, every time I make something, if it freezes well, I will make double or more so I at least have some stuff stashed away (things like muffins, pancakes/waffles, burritos, mashed potatoes, pasta dishes, meatloaf etc). This goes against my natural tendency to not want to do any project unless I have a huge block of time to do it all- but it has been good for me to instead do a little here and there as I have time. I call it “the value of a job half done.” In other words, its better to get a little done when you can than to not do anything at all. :)

  2. Lee says

    With 3 kids (2 I homeschool and 1 an infant) I have always wondered how you managed a whole day of cooking! I have always done extra on meals to freeze. Like yesterday when I made alphabete ministrone soup and put away 2 more dinners or lunch worth. I learned a long time ago that every family has their own style and way of doing things!

  3. Rebecca says

    I do the same with freezer cooking. I don’t have kids, but I am a teacher with several extra jobs (my husband is in seminary), and I don’t have a lot of time for a “big” freezer cooking day. But whenever I do have some time, I will cook a huge pot of beans and freeze them in meal-sized portions in zip-top bags, or brown several pounds of ground chicken/turkey/beef (the healthiest, cheapest option at the time– I have been finding ground chicken at a local store for $1.69/lb, so it has been that) and freezing that in meal sized portions. Then, a meal just consists of putting together the frozen items… for instance, our current low-carb favorite is a mexican “goulashe” with ground chicken, beans, tomatoes, taco seasoning, onions, chayote squash(super cheap at our local market) and cheese. It takes about 10 minutes to throw together, since most of the items are already cooked in the freezer.

  4. kellie says

    It’s funny I read your post and I often say to myself..oh yea I remember the days when I could do a month of cooking or only spend 6o a week on groceries ect….I laugh and think to myself her season will change and I wonder if she will admit it to anyone. Life is all about seasons and something might work in one season but as you add kids, or they grow up and eat more (as young kids do) or life hands you hurdles to jump what you do and how you do it will change too. Embracing each season as a new adventure and gift and not cling on to the “I use too” keeps you happy and healthy.

    I say all this as a homeschooling mom of six (graduated 3…3 to go) and a son who is physically challenged due to an accident and have gone through a variety of seasons. Thanks for always being humble and honest with your post.

  5. says

    This is exactly how I do freezer cooking, Crystal! The marathon thing was NOT working for me either and made me frazzled and cranky. Now, I just make extra food here and there whenever I can and have a continuous stock of freezer foods going in and coming out all the time. It is SO nice!!! On busy days (which are most days) I just love grabbing something out for a meal and warming it up!

  6. says

    Freezer cooking for dinners has never worked that great for us. Honestly my husband walks in the door around 3:30, so I don’t often need help at dinner time. I prefer to do batch cooking and will frequently double or triple recipes and freeze those for the random crazy night. I concentrate more on making ahead breakfasts and easy to grab and go lunches since I am packing 5 lunches a day. It works for me and you have to do whatever works for you.

  7. says

    Crystal, I’m totally with ya here. I’ve found that the “just double or triple what I’m making” method works great for us, too. I’ve definitely appreciated what you’ve taught us here!

  8. Charity says

    Crystal,
    I find this post very encouraging. The mega freezer cooking hasn’t worked for me for a while. I have three little ones (born in three years) and another on the way, and have found it nearly impossible to be able to cook for any length of time without a meltdown (on my end ;) )
    My girls (4yrs/3yrs) help with some meal prep, but at their ages I’m not comfortable with them being around a hot stove and such, and my 18month old little boy is literally underfoot…he likes to lay on my feel while I’m standing at the stove cooking, and although I think it is precious that he wants to be that close to me, I am always tripping over him and afraid he is going to get hurt.

    For now, I do doubles of meals while I’m cooking for that night and I do a little prep work and some baking while the children are down for naps. I have felt like I have been missing the mark because my freezer isn’t full of meals but now I feel encouraged just to know there are other moms right there where I am. Before the baby is born I hope to be able to carve out some time to do a few mega freezer cooking setions so we can have plenty of meals on hand for those first few weeks when I’m learning to walk normally and nursing practically all day ;)

    Thank you again Crystal for being such an encouragement!

  9. Michelle K says

    Crystal – I think a lot of us are mommies who work outside the home and really can’t devote a full day of our time to marathon freezer cooking. I’ve been doing what you mention in your post for a few months now and it’s amazing and so helpful. It feels great to have something prepared as opposed to nothing! CARRY ON, SISTER!

  10. says

    I don’t love huge freezer cooking days either. I like the cooking but hate the mess. I prefer to just make 1 or 2 things for the next week or so and repeat. Seems less stressful to me! Also, I feel like things get lost in our freezer if it becomes too overloaded. Waste is not thrift!

  11. Jennifer C. says

    I have been reading your blog for years and love it more & more. I admire your ability to accomplish so much, but also your honesty in admitting you can’t always do it all, and the guilt you feel. I have been struggling tremendously with guilt these last couple weeks, because with working full time and a 14 month old, we were eating out way too much, since either I didn’t feel like cooking after a long day or didn’t have anything on hand that was simple enough to make. I do try to do the freezer cooking you have described, just making extra with one meal, and that has helped a lot. Thanks so much for all that you do!

  12. says

    This is why I keep coming back to you Crystal, you speak your heart and I love it. You should know by now we all accept your decisions you choose because it is ultimately what is best you and your family.

    Now on changing up the freezer cooking meals I’m right there with you on not doing the mass cooking days. If you get a change Google ‘5 Dinners 1 Hour’ and there are several people out there doing that method of freezer cooking. I’ve tried it and it took me a bit longer but then I’m not very domesticated when it comes to my kitchen. (Hubby is the cook in the family.) :) Anyways, it seemed really easy and not so overwhelming or time consuming.

  13. Ami says

    That’s what we do! I love freezer cooking, but we don’t eat casseroles. I’ve been doing the small-batch investment cooking for a couple years, constantly stashing food in the freezer. I tried the full-blown freezer cooking once and it just didn’t work for us, especially with the type of food we eat.

  14. Rhonda R. says

    My freezer cooking is basically browning a lot of ground chuck when I find it on sale and then freezing in 1 lb portions. I can start spaghetti, sloppy joe, enchilladas, tacos, etc. from this in minutes. Then I make up hamburger patties & cook on my Forman grill. I freeze in baggies with wax paper between. My husband pops them in the microwave & says they taste fresh cooked. I also boil chicken & freeze some cubed & shredded. For me just getting a head start on the meat saves me so much time. I think everyone just takes the idea & fits to their own needs. I personally thank you for sharing the idea of freezer cooking with us.

  15. Meredith says

    I find all if this interesting. I love to cook. I could never devote an entire day to freeze cooking. I would end up spending too much money on other days wanting to bake or fixing something different. The only time I make multiple meals are when I do things like buy too much ground beef and I will make two meatloafs, cook one and freeze the other. Or if I score some cheap tortillas, make two batches of enchiladas and freeze them. Or, if I make a lasagna…I think they are too pricey but the fam requests it from time to time, I won’t make a huge pan. I’ll make two small ones. Again, I have to cook every day. This is actually how I stop and smell the roses!

  16. Amanda says

    This is how I do my freezer cooking. I have four little children (6, 4, 3, 1, and another one on the way). When the weather is pretty, they will play outside in the backyard while I cook up a double batch of meatballs or whatever. Other times they sit at the table and draw or use watercolors while I work in the kitchen. Having a stocked freezer helps me out on crazy days and allows us to stay true to our debt-repayment schedule!

  17. Erin says

    Good for you! I really don’t understand how you did it anyway! :) Plus, daily fresh veggies are so much healthier than most casseroles, which are so often starch based!

  18. Rachael says

    This is pretty much what I do, too, but I have found it tremendously helpful to make many, many freezer meals prior to having a baby. It takes me about 2 months before I have time to cook anything. I have also found it helpful to stock the freezer with super-easy dinners, such as frozen pizzas, so we don’t even have to worry about buying groceries post-baby.

  19. Aimee says

    No guilt!! I really don’t believe God’s desire for us is to fret and feel guilt all the time, especially about something like freezer cooking! :-)

    The reason you’ve needed to adapt is really the reason I never took up freezer cooking. We try to stick with a protein and fresh vegetables/fruit sides with a carb so freezer cooking doesn’t really help much. I do try to freeze things like extra muffins or if I make a casserole, halving it and freezing the other half.

    My one exception to this was when I was expecting and shortly after…I did our local Let’s Dish and it was a real lifesaver!

  20. Stacie says

    That is exactly how I do freezer cooking! I always have about a weeks worth of meals in the freezer but it is not from marathon of cooking! I too have three small kiddos and can’t swing a cooking marathon. The other thing is that I don’t love the idea of eating the same meals every week for a month. We also like to eat fresh and simple but great quality meals. I have found that if you at least double each recipe you are making (be it, casseroles, marinating meat, chicken parmigiana, stir fry, waffles, muffins…)

    I can have plenty in the freezer for my family that way. I have also found that since I love taking a meal to someone in need this freezer meal method works great! I am way more able and likely to take a meal to a friend whenever they need it if I am not doing tons of extra work for it! What a treat for me to get to pull a meal out and be blessed by being able to give it away!

  21. says

    I am the same way with freezer cooking, I just don’t have the time or endurance for a huge day of it. I prefer to just cook extra once or twice a week and then freeze. It keeps my freezer full and me from pulling my hair out.

  22. Melanie says

    This type of freezer cooking works much better for me, too, since I rarely have more than a couple hours of help with our three kids on a Saturday…and rarely more than about an hour and a half of time during the week when the two youngest are napping. (Our oldest is in school.) Might implement freezer cooking marathons when they’re all older, but it just doesn’t work for me right now. A couple things that work for me:
    1) Cooking a whole chicken, shredding the meat and freezing it in portions to take out for casseroles, stir fry’s or whatever.
    2) Browning 3-5 pounds of ground beef and freezing it in portions, too.
    3) Halving my casserole/lasagna type meals so I can bake one and stick the second in the freezer…or doubling any good freezable recipe and doing the same thing.
    It’s my very scaled down version of freezer cooking, but it works for me for now!

  23. shelly says

    Would love your recipes/”how to” for your marinated chicken, meatballs, fish, barbecued beef, & roast!!

  24. says

    I have both been where you are and am sort of still there, but sort of coming back out of it. My kids are 2, 3, 8 and 9. The older 2 help prepare meals as part of their “domestic arts” curriculum. This gives me 2 extra sets of hands helping me to prepare the daily meals and allows us to put up more food than I was able to do in the last few years. Of course, the littlest one still makes it difficult and he has recently stopped his afternoon nap on most days. Some days I am happy to just get the meals for that day prepared, but I know that in another few years, this too will have passed. Then I will have 5 of us able to help in the meal prep and I am sure we will have LOTS of frozen meals. There is a time for every season and that is nothing to feel guilty about. This season will pass and you will re-assess your plans at that time and determine again what works best for your family.

  25. Lorie says

    This is what I do, too. The other day I made 2.5lbs of ground beef into meatballs. We used some for dinner that night and the rest are in the freezer. I first freeze them on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper then I transfer them to a baggie. This way they’re individually frozen and I can take out the number we need. Tonight we had chicken. I divided the bag of chicken into 3 portion, 1 for tonight, 1 I made into chicken tacos and froze, and the 3rd is in the fridge marinating in a greek marinade. I didn’t have time to cook it tonight so I’ll probably cook it tomorrow and freeze. I hope to be able to cook up another batch of ground beef to freeze. All this along with some other meals will last us several weeks. I also have some muffins and bananas in the freezer and have slowly but surely built up a small stockpile of homemade baby food for my 8mo DS.

  26. says

    I have 5 small kids (age 7 and under) and also homeschool, and although I LOVE having meals in the freezer for those crazy days, doing a month’s worth of freezer cooking has never worked well for me either. I usually do what you do–there are a few recipes that I can easily make extra of and freeze some for another “fallback” meal later in the month. It works well for me! It also means I often have meals in the freezer that I can share with others (new moms, etc).

    I also just joined a freezer meal swap group. There are 10 of us, so we first meet and decide on recipes, then go home and make 10 of one meal (Shredded BBQ Chicken x10, for example), keep one, and give one to everyone else. They each make a different meal (just the entree) and we swap. You come home with 9 other meals, so with your own, you have 10 different meals in the freezer for the month. This way, you only have to make one recipe–and you can either do it all at once or spread it through the month if you want to, freezing a few meals at a time until it is time to swap. We’ve only swapped once so far, but so far I love the idea! Tonight we had someone else’s homemade chicken noodle soup for dinner! :-)

  27. Sarah says

    I thought of you on the weekend, when I discovered that our basement fridge had been unplugged for about a day! I had to add stewing four packages of chicken, marinating a roast for the next day, and crockpotting ribs and pork chops to my already busy day. On the other hand, I have all that meat cooked up in the freezer, ready to go. :~)

  28. Dawn says

    One lesson that has helped so much through the years is to realize that there are different “seasons of life.” There are times when you must acclimate to that particular stage of life, whether caring for a loved one or adjusting to a new baby. This has helped in dealing with guilt feelings – realize you’re in that particular season; it will pass soon enough, but while you’re in that state, adjust your life to most effectively handle the circumstances. It’s just a season!

  29. says

    I did 30 days freezer meals when the kids were teens.Went to 7 day freezer meals when they were moving out, in and back out.Now do a couple extra servings of what ever most nights until I have about 10-14 meals in the freezer.Gives us lunches when there is no plan overs or if I end up working out of state.

  30. Angie says

    I am relieved to hear this. When I first heard about freezer cooking, the idea of spending an entire day cooking one-month’s worth of meals seemed overwhelming. And I only have 2 small children and don’t homeschool. But I do work 25 hours a week so I guess that takes some of my time.

    I’ve never actually tried the cook-for-the-entire-month method, but I have tried to double, triple, quadruple method when I made dinners – making one meal for that night and freezing the rest for later. This method works better for me. Really, who wants to spend an entire day cooking, even if it is only once a month. I don’t think the once a month method really even saves time, but rather concentrates meal prep time all into one day. I find it less stressfull to spread out the cooking.

    I do find it helps to have a weekly meal plan in place to avoid that 5 o’clock dinner panick hour.