After deciding that this wasn’t the season of life for me to be doing big marathon freezer cooking sessions, I’ve been trying to figure out what might work for me and how I can streamline cooking and dinners around here.
I love having stuff in the freezer to pull out and use. I love not having to worry about making dinner every night of the week. And I love not having to do as many dishes. But I don’t love the upheaval the mega freezer cooking sessions were creating nor the massive mess and exhaustion that always seemed to result now that I have three children underfoot.
So I’m experimenting with another alternative… something I’m calling “Freezer Cooking in an Hour”. Basically, I’m going to set aside one hour one afternoon a week during Silas’ nap time to do as much cooking ahead as I can. And I’m bringing you all along on the ride with me to see how this goes. 🙂
Here’s what I did in an hour (plus a little extra!) yesterday:
3:00 — Start mixing up Pumpkin Waffle Batter. I “cheated” and used a mix I’d gotten for Christmas. I had set out some frozen milk the night before to use.
3:10 — Waffle batter finished and started waffles on the waffle iron. Realized I still had a few cups of milk left. Decided to make some French Toast Casseroles with the clearanced bread I’d gotten at Aldi plus the extra milk.
3:30 — Three French Bread Casseroles made and stuck in the oven, the pile of waffles continued to grow and I moved onto making the Marinated Chicken.
Uh-oh, Silas is up from his nap. I set the children all around the table with my laptop to watch Mary Poppins and dive back into freezer cooking.
3:45 — Chicken is finished and in the freezer, waffle batter is all cooked up, time to start on the Whole-Wheat Chocolate Chip cookies. But wait, someone needs a drink. And a snack. Silas needs a diaper change…
4:00 — So much for finishing in an hour! The children are back to their places at the table. I mix the cookie dough and roll it into balls.
4:20 — Finally finished! Well, except for the kitchen. I tidy up, have the children go out to play and survey my accomplishments:
3 pans of French Toast Casserole
4 meals’ worth of Marinated Chicken
3 dozen Whole-Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls
Double batch of waffles (Half were eaten for snack. Sigh. How much are these children going to eat when they get a little bigger?!)
Not bad for an hour and 20 minutes!
And truth be told, I think giving myself a shorter time frame encouraged me to really focus and be efficient and productive. I’m looking forward to testing this theory out during my Freezer Cooking in an Hour segments over the next few weeks. Perhaps this method of cooking ahead might be the perfect solution for this time in our lives! We’ll see…
The Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip cookies are our new favorites! I am planning on doubling the recipe this week. Thank you so much for giving the thawing directions in the recipe.
Hey, I am a Pampered Chef consultant and we have power cooking chicken recipes and power cooking beef recipes. Have you ever heard of that or tried them? They both take either beef or chicken to make ahead and then there are like 5 recipes you can choose to make with it when you take it out of the freezer, and with what you make ahead it makes three recipes. So if you did both beef and chicken, you would have 6 meals made ahead in the freezer. They are yummy! Let me know if you would like the recipes!
Your comment about how much your kids will eat when they got bigger made me laugh. I love your blog and others on how to save money grocery shopping but I’d love to find a site where they are feeding 3 adult size kids vs. toddlers. My baby is 5’10” and 156 lbs! Any ideas?
So glad to see this idea and looking forward to seeing the recipes you try in upcoming weeks! I did a big freezer cooking day last summer with my sister, her hubby and a friend. We worked hard all day and haven’t done it again since – though we say we should. One hour seems really doable and not so overwhelming.
I do smaller cooking sessions like that and I call it “Leftovers On Purpose”. It’s been working for me!
When my 10-yo was little, she always loved to help me cook and clean. Even though I could do things much faster without her “help,” I tried to be patient and let her participate, believing that soon enough there would come a day when she wouldn’t be so willing. Now, at 10, she still enjoys cooking (cleaning not so much anymore, but she does like to do yard work).
I know it’s hard to let your kids help in the kitchen when they are little, especially if you have more than one young child to supervise, but I think there are a lot of benefits to allowing them do so if they are interested. There are lots of ways little ones can help. My daughter started rolling ground beef into meatballs when she was 2. To keep them somewhat uniform in size so that they would cook, we used an ice-cream scoop. Lopsided balls perhaps, we had fun together, and they were good. Now that she’s older, we have some good conversations while cooking together. Another plus: my daughter is typical in that she can be picky about eating foods set in front of her, but she never turned her nose up at eating something that she helped prepare.
I realize some readers would cringe at having even more cleanup and having it take longer, but I didn’t mind. I’m a single mom with a full-time outside the home job, and I have precious little time to spend with my child. If we can hang out together and cook, that time counts! If I shoo her outside to play or sit her in front of the TV while I do household chores, not only do we not have time together, she’s learning by example that mom does all the work.
Like others have said, there’s no way I’ll ever tackle a full-day of freezer cooking. But I do make extra to freeze. It takes no more effort to make two pans of something than one. And it saves a ton of time during the week to have pre-cooked meats ready to go.
I love having the children cook and clean with me, too, and we make so many precious memories doing so. Plus, I love that it teaches them the value of hard work — something we’re trying to instill in them from a young age!
I’ve found it’s much easier to do one-on-one or or one-on-two, though. Three littles “helping” mom cook usually gets a little crazy! 🙂
Carey Rivers says
This is AWESOME!! A friend refered me to your blog about 2 months ago and just let me say I LOVE it! Thank you so much for ALL you wonderful ideas! As a Mom of 3 who works part-time you have really helped make life easier!!! Thank you!!!!!!!!!
Annie Kate says
I love your question about freezer cooking when the kids get older. I have 5 children, three of them teens, and we almost always finish whatever we make. (Usually we can also get enough out of the pans before we start eating to pack my husband a lunch for the next day.) If I make more, they eat more.
The only case in which we can plan left-overs is if we make more than 8 batches of pancakes, or if I make gallons of soup in a HUGE stock pot; that will last two days and a lunch or two….
So don’t count on freezer meals when the kids are older…but you can count on them helping you cook if you just assign that chore matter-of-factly and give them autonomy in the kitchen.
Kendra Fletcher says
Not bad at all, Crystal! Good for you!
And don’t feel bad about the waffles. Every time we make dough balls for the freezer, it seems half never make it there…
Thank you so much for sharing that easy chicken recipe. I would love more recipes like that to keep our family from going out to eat. I love freezer cooking but I can sometimes get overwhelmed by all of the time it takes to do it. This seems so doable! I love the cookie idea too . Thanks so much for all your work and great posts!!
Great work – it’s more like what I tend to do – sessions
another thought – the dough balls take time, but I don’t like slice and bake either – now I do what I do when I make tons of meatballs – I simply press the dough into a uniform thickness and use a big knife to cut it into cubes – for meatballs I bake them off and cut again and freeze, cookie dough I just freeze and bag – so much quicker than scooping
I am so excited you are doing this post, especially with the nicer weather getting more frequent! I’m always in a pinch at dinner time trying to come up with something healthy and quick because we spend so much time outside when it’s nice. I keep saying I am going to do the freezer cooking but I know how time consuming it can be and just never have the time. I do have a 2yo that naps though, so this I should be able to do! Thank you!!!!
I love this! I always wanted to do big batch cooking but my husband’s job in such that I am responsible for the children 100% of the time but I could put them in front of the tv for a while to get this done and make things run more smoothly. Thanks!
Someone else may have said this already (I did not read the 104 comments–LOL). I am unable to do freezer cooking days too. I work full-time and have 2 children home on the weekends while dad is usually working. When I make casseroles (which is usually at least one a weekend or whenever I am off), I make 2—if I am already going to make one, I may as well make 2 and I freeze one for later. Or if I am going to cook chicken for grilled chicken salads, I will marinate and cook twice as much as I need and freeze half.
Does anyone freeze leftovers or should I freeze them right after I’m done cooking them? I made a peanut chicken dish last night that my husband loved, but it was way too much for the 2 of us. My two-year-old only wanted the rice that we put the chicken dish on. I’m trying to decide if I should freeze the leftovers (it’s a busy weekend with graduations, so we likely won’t eat it this weekend) or take it to church potluck on Sunday.
Amy @ MomsToolbox says
I did some freezer cooking in an hour yesterday, too!
I got a ton of meals prepped and in the freezer and feel great about having a head start on next week… without having to invest a whole day to meal prep.
The whole day concept is just too intimidating for me to undertake. An hour, I can do!
Jennifer @ yardsalemommy.blogspot.com says
This is a fabulous idea. Thanks for sharing! Especially the breakfast foods–will be great for when I am out yard sailing on Saturday mornings for my husband!
Carolynn @ mylittlebitoflife.com says
We are still eating out of my Impromptu Freezer Cooking Day! http://mylittlebitoflife.com/?p=1030
Love this idea of an hour freezer cooking time! Those full day plans always sound SO daunting! But an hour? I can do that – I spend that much time cruising blogs while my LO naps…
My favorite tool for making meatballs and cookie dough balls is my ice cream scooper. So much neater than having to touch the raw materials, and uniformly sized scoops! I lay the scoops out on a sheet, freeze, then pop into a ziploc. For cookies, it’s the best way to keep from eating the whole batch as they come out of the oven 😉
Oh you had me at the title! I do this I think out of the necessity of shortened tim.e, attention span, energy, whatever but am SO EXCITED to see some ideas, plans and recipes that fit with this kind of time frame and the taste of little ones! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!!
Bridgette @ Blessings Multiplied says
Way to go on accomplishing all those recipes in just over an hour. I love having items in the freezer I can pull out too. If we have company, last minute guests, someone in the church needs a meal or it’s just a busy day these meals come in handy. I will often cook two or more casseroles as I am making dinner and freeze the extra ones to help save time in the future. Plus it cuts down on the mess especially if I have people coming over for dinner!
Thanks for sharing. I am interested in learning how the French Toast Casserole turned out!
What an achievement! Awesome idea to do the one hour weekly version of freezer cooking.
I did a “Some for now, Some for later” cooking time earlier this week. I was pretty excited to get a few dozen meatballs, a loaf of french bread, double batch of pancakes and a batch of chocolate oatmeal cookies made in just over an hour! All while my new two week old napped in the bouncer at my feet! (The truth is I had to come up with some time to do some cooking as we were all quite tired of sanwhiches! 😉
I am hoping to come up with a new schedule for a cooking ahead/freezer cooking plan when things are a little more settled with the new baby. With a 5yr old, 3 1/2yr old, 2yr old, and newborn, you just have to seize the oppertunity whenever it comes!
PS. Thank so much for all the recipes lately Crystal! 🙂
You’re welcome — and way to go on your cooking accomplishments!
I love this and will be looking forward to the future segments. I have 3 little ones – 4, 2 1/2, and 3 months, so I can totally relate to all the distractions. And I often wonder how we’ll be able to feed everyone when they are older. The 2 1/2 year old boy already eats more than I do!!!
Daniele @ Domestic Serenity says
I too think this works well if you can’t or don’t want to do all day cooking. After child #3 (we have 5)…this is how I’ve been planning ahead for meals. Sometimes I double a meal that I’m making as well, such as soup in the winter and freeze the 2nd portion. Here a little, there a little….
I only have one child (a boy Silas’ age) but this is pretty much the only way I can get any freezer cooking done since he doesn’t give me big blocks of time. Plus I just don’t have the patience to devote a large amount of time! So I work in short bursts like this or just double/trip meals and meal components. I always have at least a couple meals and several baked goods in the freezer!
Yay for one-hour freezer cooking! This is a FANTASTIC way to save money and time. I try to make big batches of recipes when their ingredients are cheap. Today I’m cooking a huge batch of homemade spaghetti sauce in my slow cooker since mushrooms and onions are super cheap at Aldi this week. I’ll be able to freeze about four extra meal portions. Instead of having jars of spaghetti sauce in my pantry, I have bags of frozen sauce in my freezer that are healthier and tastier! Just heat and enjoy!
Candice, I would love to have a copy of your recipe for spaghetti sauce in the slow cooker, if you are willing to share! 😉
I usually make mine on the stove, but I am sure it would be so much easier in the slow cooker!
I am so glad you are posting freezer cooking recipes, but what I like even more is that the time frame of an hour ( or so ). I am definitely going to try this out.
Thank you for putting these up!
I am looking forward to my own attempt at this is weekend while my 2 year old is with my mother, but here’s a quick question for any mothers of picky eaters, I want to make sure whatever I’m making she will eat, but I can hardly convince her to eat the basics, sometimes mac-n-cheese is a task to get down! Anyone have any ideas on meals I can make and freeze that may appeal more to a two year old… I know each child is different, but I’m tired of making her chicken nuggets after spending an hour cooking for the rest of the family! Thanks!! Crystal, as always, amazing!
Were you at my house yesterday? I was blown away two nights ago, when my mom made a baked ziti type meal and my 3yo ACTUALLY ATE IT! She likes meatball (sometimes) and fish sticks (sometimes), but mostly it’s all about chicken nuggets!
My 2yo asks for yogurt for every meal! I can skip it on breakfast and lunch but she will not budge at dinner, SO she gets some grrek yogurt with fruit to start and then she will eat anything!
My 2yo calls yogurt “ice.” She gets spoiled with ice cream when my parents watch her, so we were thrilled that she thinks yogurt is “ice” too. It’s a cheap dessert for her each night. If she eats hardly anything all day, I know that she’s getting something healthy at night.
I made a peanut chicken dish last night for my husband and me. I gave my two-year-old a small portion along with the rice that we put the chicken dish on. She only ate the rice, but I didn’t have to make something separate for her.
I run a daycare, and each day seems to be different with small children. All my “kids” are 2-3, so they’re all picky eaters. Their favorite foods are spaghetti (I make my own sauce), meatballs, mac n cheese, flavored rice, ground beef/turkey. I usually don’t mix the meat in with the pasta/bread items because they won’t eat it if I do.
I find that it’s all about experimenting with their tastes. I’ll come up with random dishes, such as spaghetti/tuna/cheese casserole. I created this one day by just adding spaghetti (with the sauce) and tuna into a casserole dish. I added chicken stock to it to take away some of the tuna flavor (they’re not all tuna fans). Then I shredded cheese on top and baked for about 15 minutes. The kids devour this dish!
Heather Harman says
Most kids like pasta, and baked spaghetti, ziti, or lasagna type dishes freeze well.
Otherwise, don’t buy anymore chicken nuggets, as scary as that may sound! She won’t starve.
Although it is only my husband and I at home now, I have been making more things for the freezer since I started following your blog. I love your whole wheat waffles and have made several batches of those for freezing. The real blessing came though when a few weeks ago I had to have an unanticipated surgery with only four days notice. What a blessing to have food in the freezer that we could just pull out and reheat for dinner and breakfast. No dishes. No work. Just resting like the doctor ordered. Thank you and I can’t wait to try the FTC.
I pray that God continues to bless you and your family richly as you continue to be a help to others and a witness for Him.
I have a question related to freezer cooking! A friend and I have talked about doing this, getting together for a day and making a bunch of food, splitting the stuff we make. What we’re trying to figure out is the best way to split ingredients so it’s fair. Who should bring what? Anyone else have experience with this?
I always cook in advance, but I don’t cook quite so much at once. I will usually cook 3-4 meals on Sunday and then, when you consider leftovers, we are set for the week. I cook on Friday and Saturday nights and I usually reserve those nights for meals that are not as good reheated. I don’t freeze the meals because I just store them in the refrigerator.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE this new version of freezer cooking! I usually skip over this segment on your blog, bc I’m a “Work Outside The Home Mom” and could never even dream of spending one of my weekend days in the kitchen all day, no matter how much time it would save during the week! That time is owned by two adorable little girls!
However, and hour (even two) could be done during their nap time and my 3 yo could definately get into helping!
All these recipes look good…I’m with a few other posters, I’m a novice cook, so if you could add some of your tips on how to freeze and then thaw and cook (like you did on the Marinated Children (LOL) recipe) that would be REALLY SUPER HELPFUL!! That was another big wall to me was not knowing the proper way to store, thaw and cook for best results. This is great!!! Thank you as usual! This is really my favorite blog!
Me too! I used to do more freezer cooking but now with an almost 11 month old and WOH I just don’t have time but I love the idea of coming up with a plan for just an hour – I can find an hour!
I did a “segmented” freezer cooking session last weekend. On Saturday morning I got up and cooked up ground beef, chicken breasts and sausage. Threw it all in the fridge and that was it for Saturday’s session. On Sunday I took all of my prepared meat and made 2 of each – lasagna, rigatoni w/diced chicken, enchilada casserole and breakfast burritos. I think it is much easier to break everything up in to smaller sessions. Plus the cleanup is easier when you look at a smaller pile of dishes in the sink!
Amy K says
I love this idea! I’ve been doubling recipes and freezing half of what I made because of time/kid constraints. I don’t know that I’ll be able to try it this week, but definitely sometime this month.
Looking forward to seeing what else you try (and how the french toast casserole turns out).
this is the only way i freezer cook. i take an hour or 2 on the weekend and put away a lot. i think the marathon sessions end up taking more time in planning, coordination, and exhaustion. last saturday we put away 5 lbs of beef as burgers, did 2.5 lbs turkey meatloaf, 2.5 lbs turkey meatballs (cooked). i also picked up a ton of eggplant on clearance, so we ovenfried the eggplant, made a marinara, and assembled eggplant parm casseroles. the eggplant parm freezes bizarrely well!
Michelle Hunt says
Great idea! I’m going to try this today! Thank you!!! I was looking for ways to simplify things after reading an article yesterday. It suggested men might be less stressed than women because they are fine with “good enough” while we seek perfection. All day freezer cooking was too much with me, with my little ones, so now I’m thinking an hour or so of made ahead meals is MORE than good enough! (: Thanks again!
This is sort of what I do too, especially for things like breakfast food or snacks, but for dinners I will make one and freeze 2-3. It really doesn’t take too long, and it sure helps out a lot. I also will buy whole chickens and boil them right when I get home from the store and then dice and freeze the meat in bags for casseroles and for chicken salad or soup. And then with ground beef I will cook it as soon as I get home from the store while I am putting the other groceries away. Then I’ll have it for casseroles, tacos, spaghetti, etc. It’s great to do freezer cooking in little segments, especially if you’re already in the kitchen doing something else.
Is there a secret to getting foods to keep their flavor after being frozen? I tried cooking in advance and I wasn’t happy with the bland results. For example I made a chicken/bacon wrap bake and it was soooo yummy fresh, after just a week in the freezer it totally lost all flavor and was tough. I have been using freezer bags and plastic storage containers. Didn’t know if there was a secret or something.
It’s likely just the nature of the recipes you’re choosing. Stick with tried and true freezer-friendly recipe when first starting out to prevent this.
I bet Silas woke up because he smelled breakfast cooking and thought it was time to get up!
Yep, he can smell food a mile away!
I batch cook in short bursts, too. I can’t wrap my mind around-nor devote the time to once a month cooking. I especially try to do breakfast foods-breakfast pockets (so good, I’ll share the recipe soon with you), cinnamon rolls, breads, etc. Also, do you just pour the dressing over the frozen chicken and put it back in the freezer? I buy the frozen chicken tenders-boneless/skinless-because I don’t like how thick chicken breast halves are. Anyway, I have marinated my chicken in dressing for as long as I can remember, but I always thaw it first, marinate it, and then cook it that evening for dinner. My mom buys hers fresh, puts the dressing on, then freezes it that way…but I didn’t know you could marinate them frozen. How do they turn out? Do they stick together?
Thanks for posting all the recipes… these look great! I also have little time to do a long day in the kitchen. My 6 children are ages 13 to 3… I am excited to make these recipes and fill up the freezer!!!
Geez. I could never get all of that done in an hour! For better or for worse, my kids think any time the kitchen is open it’s for a cooking lesson!
Alison Armstrong says
what seems to work well for me is to about 1 day a week I make a quadruple batch of something. So when I am making lasagna for supper I will make 4. We eat 1 for supper that day and I freeze the rest. It really doesn’t take much more time and I get 3 extra meals in the freezer ready to go.
Kelly Irene says
My first thought after reading this post was, “I can do that!” And that is a first in terms of freezer cooking! I think limiting yourself (myself!) to one hour or one and half makes it so food can still be prepped, but even someone who works outside the home 30 hours a week wouldn’t feel totally overwhelmed by it. I usually double or triple cookie batches when I have to make them so I can freeze bags of dough balls for later use. It’s so handy to pull out exactly what I need and satisfying to know the cookies are still made from scratch without all kinds of questionable ingredients! I would love to know more about the marinated chicken. I’ve never frozen it in the marinade (though I usually separate chicken into smaller bags so I’m not defrosting a bulk pack for one dinner!). Thanks for posting this.
I’m hopeful that this will be doable for those who have really busy lives and could never find a way to fit in a full-fledged freezer cooking day.
Linda in FL says
I too found that when I had 3 little ones I could not do a major cooking day. So, I started just cooking a meal for dinner and then tripling (or whatever) that recipe. So, I’d have dinner for one night and 2-3 in the freezer. After doing that a couple of times a week for a month, I had a nice stash of meals.
I also have a suggestion for freezing your cookie dough. I came up with this one Christmas when I was going to make a freeze a bunch of cookie dough. I was watching something on TV and saw a commercial for the premade cookie dough in a tray. Inspiration! I now put my cookie dough in a layer on a jelly-roll pan, stick it in the fridge for awhile then cut it into squares with a pizza cutter. Freeze it as is, then break the pieces apart and put them in a ziploc bag. Much quicker than rolling all the balls, and you can’t believe what perfectly round cookies those little squares make!
Thanks for the great idea on the cookie dough!
that is a great idea!!
I also do this. I try really hard to mostly keep cooked food in my freezer. This makes my life so much easier.
I have 6 children and 3 of those are teenage boys. I think that the way the eat is normal, but I have friends who mostly have girls and they are always amazed at the sheer quantity of food they consume.
I laughed one time when you said you used 3/4 of a box of spaghetti for your family. We make 2 pounds at a time and sometimes they are still hungry! So yeah, when they are teenagers, esp. Silas, they will eat an amazing amount of food!
The Prudent Homemaker says
Right now I have 6 children under 9 years old, and we make 2 pounds of spaghetti at a time so that we can have leftovers. I know there will come a time when I’m cooking 3 pounds at a time and there won’t be any leftovers!
My husband says that when he was a teenager, he could come home with a bunch of friends, and bake 10 pounds of potatoes for a snack for them. I think filling a bunch of teenaged boys for $1 in potatoes and .50 in margarine (I buy the 3 pound tub for $2.44) is a pretty cheap snack!
Yea, we rarely have leftovers! We also go through alot of potatoes – about 15 pounds a week. I’ve never seen them for $1 for 10 pounds, that’s amazing!
Heather Harman says
That was my thought too. $1!!
my teen girls can eat as much as some teen boys do! they don’t do it very often, though, as our food budget is very limited, but on the rare occasion we go out for breakfast (cheaper than lunch or dinner, and we only budget $10/month for eating out for the five of us), my girls eat their money’s worth and more!
Martha Artyomenko says
It must depend where you live! We can buy them usually for pretty cheap at different times of the year, but in the fall we get them for $20 for a truckload from a local potato farm. We keep them in a cool room off our basement and they last us all winter!
wow! I stock up if they go on sale for $2 for 10lbs. That only happens a couple of times a year.
We actually planted potatoes in our garden on a whim this year. We planted 10lbs it will be interesting to see how many pounds we harvest.
Yes! I am so excited to see these posts are starting!! I also love freezer cooking and its advantages, but with an 8 month old (who does not like to nap consistently) and being 5 months pregnant I do not have the time nor the energy to do massive sessions. About an hour is all I can manage. I have been doing something similar to this when my daughter is in bed. So looking forward to them and some new ideas!
I’m SO glad you posted this. I have been wanting to try a freezer cooking day for a while but was intimidated by the time/energy/what to do with the kids factor! I think this weekend I am going to try setting a timer for an hour and seeing what I can do! My favorite things to make are waffles made with applesauce and flax, then top them with frozen blueberries. The kids think they are getting a “treat” — but SO much healthier than store-bought frozen waffles!
I’d love the recipe for your waffles!
Good job, and great idea!
PS. Mary Poppins is my favorite Disney movie so I totally approve 😉
I have three kids: 6,4, and 2. I know what you mean about them eating so much. I will decide to do a baking afternoon, only to realize the next day that half of what I made is already eaten. All I have left to show for it is dishes! =)
Girl, you have just described the blow by blow I go through ANYTIME I try to accomplish anything in the kitchen! You just have to laugh sometimes and roll with the punches. Glad you managed to finish your list! My littles are 3, 2, and 6 months, and there’s always either someone who needs a snack/drink or more often than not, a fight to referee 🙂
This was very inspiring. An hour a week I can do, an all day marathon I can’t. My Silas and Samuel will be three next month and tend to interrupt dinner preparations a good bit. This would really help. Now, if I could only figure out how to get them to nap. I have cooked up a turkey on day 1, picked it and boiled carcass on day 2, prepared meals on day 3. That made it so easy. I froze gravy drippings, made soup, froze broth, picked enough meat for a main turkey dinner and some for turkey a la king, shredded meat for turkey salad and made a casserole of the extra meat, vegetables and potatoes left from the main turkey dinner meal.
I have just re-entered freezer cooking and it has been a tremdous blessing to me. Just last week, on a Friday night while my DH & DD were finally enjoying some swingset time in between rain storms, I got 28 breakfast burritos made, 2 bags of lemonade chicken & 2 bags of elegant chicken marinated, 5 lbs of ground beef browned, divided between 4 bags for tacos & spaghetti. Then on Monday, a friend of mine and I made an additional 10 meals each for the freezer in about 4 hours. With a husband who is a CPA, and I, who works just 2 days a week outside the home, having these meals prepared in advance is a HUGE time saver for us and we have eaten out way less! In fact, today I am making a large batch of breakfast cookies & apple oat muffins for more of a variety for breakfast! Thanks for the inspiration Crystal!
What is lemonade chicken?:)
Yes, Melissa, please share…what is lemonade chicken?
I’m blessed to have a hubby who likes to cook. He does a weekly cooking session almost every week to make 5 dinners that I can use during the week. It makes things so much easier, even if I end up washing a lot of dishes afterward. I’ve thought of doing the same thing for breakfasts/lunches especially in the summer when everyone is home from school.
I’ve been doing the mini-sessions lately myself. A day-long session is just too much for me. I did a mini-session last Friday while visiting with my 85 y.o. mom and DD21 was making a dress a dress at the kitchen table: 5 lbs of burger made meatballs and taco meat; prepped marinated chicken; hoppin’ john soup; brown rice; chopped onions; and corn muffins. Ended up with 18 meals split between DD21, my mom and my family. Not bad for a few hours of work and visiting too.
I’ve never been able to do the marathon days. Those just don’t fit into my schedule. I have been doing what I consider “batch” cooking for years. Making 100 meatballs, 3 doz muffins, frozen cookie dough, marinating meat, etc. I usually plan out my baking day for the 1x/every 2 weeks and process the meat as soon as I get home from the grocery (marinate it, form into patties, etc.). It so much easier to have those on hand. When my garden starts coming in, I have sauce days, when I process the tomatoes into homemade sauce about 1x/week, enough to last us the entire year! You’ll get the hang of it & find what fits for you.
When you freeze the foil-covered items, are those just pans or casserole dishes with foil on top? I just didn’t know how well the foil would stay on.
I do, but I make sure the foil is very securely on and I only do this on items I know I’ll be using in the next few weeks.
This is very similar to the method in the “Don’t Panic, Dinner’s in the Freezer” books.
I have recently realized the marathon thing doesn’t work as well for me anymore with 2 toddlers and baby on the way. I have been devoting 1 day a week to a specific type of food. Yesterday I did lasagna, spaghetti, and then threw in some oatmeal raisin cookies by doubling the batch I made for company. I have also found making an extra of whatever we are having for dinner helps too! I love having stuff in the freezer!
Lee Privette says
I am the same way with my freezer cooking – although I try not to do it during nap time, because sometimes I just need to be alone and read a book or catch up on my favorite tv episode 🙂 I usually do 1-2 hr segments a couple times a month. I do my beef recipes together – my baking together – and my chicken together 🙂
I also do about two hour sessions of beef recipes together, making several of each… tator tot hot dish, pasta bake, bbq, taco meat, etc. all put in casserole dishes or the bbq (for bbq sandwiches) or the taco meat in tupperware containers to freeze.
I also do baking on a different two hour session, similar oatmeal cookie recipe listed above, except with M&Ms :), bar recipes, muffins, etc. and freezing what I know won’t get eaten in two days time.
Nice to have the mess just one time vs. every night 🙂
This is some what simmilar to what Iam currently doing with my freezer meals. All I can say is its working for me, Thanks for the recipes.
You have inspired me to start freezer cooking! I love the idea of an hour a week! I want to have some delicious meals ready for those nights when I just don’t have time (or want) to cook. I will be trying all of these recipes! Thanks for all you do! Keep those recipes coming!
Quick question: Which waffle maker would you recommend? You are such an expert making them all the time. Thanks in advance 🙂
Busy Mama says
My absolute favorite is the CuisineArt. I am able to make 4 square waffles at once in less than 2 minutes, so it is pretty efficient. The waffles have the larger Belgian style squares, not the teeny-tiny ones. My husband bought it for me from Kohls several years ago, and although a bit more pricey (probably not a bad deal now with 30% code, Kohls Cash, and free shipping code) it has been well worth the investment for a weekly waffle household. In addition, the quality has been great and we’ve had no problems, whereas we had replaced several of the $25 variety because they simply didn’t hold up.
Thank you SO MUCH Busy Mama you are very helpful on your review.
Heather@Family Friendly Frugality says
There is a Cuisinart waffle maker on rue la la today for $39. If you have that $20 credit from joining a few weeks ago, you can get it fairly cheap!
Cheryl Raymond says
I got mine on sale at Target. I love my Cuisinart waffle maker!
I love this idea! I am super excited to see how this works for you. You have inspired me to set my timer and get cooking!
I have been trying to do mini-freezer sessions all throughout the week. I REALLY like the idea of just setting an hour a week to it. I think I will join you next week. 🙂
I’ve never done freezer cooking, partly because I only have the small freezer on my fridge, and partly because I only make meals that take 30 minutes of prep or less (with Saturdays being the possible exception to this rule).
One thing that I do to save time, though, is to bake the entire package of chicken breasts (I buy the big package with 8-9 in it) right away. I can then wrap them individually in a little plastic wrap, stick them in a freezer bag, and freeze them. I usually cook enough at a time to last us close to a month, which is great because I hate messing with raw chicken!
This works well for me because I make a lot of casserole-type dishes that call for cooked chicken, so now I have it already cooked, and I just have to dice it or shred it and toss it in!
I’ve been marinating and freezing chicken for years now. My husband is a big chicken breast eater, but he hates the veins, cartilage, tendons, and “blue skin” that is sometimes still attached. To make my like easier, I bulk buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts when they are on sale, and then steam through about 10 lbs at a time. I end up with about a months worth of chicken all cleaned, cut up and marinated so all I have to do is pull it out of the freezer in the am and throw it in a pan at dinner time. Best part is, dinner only takes 10-15 minutes to cook! I used to pre-build, and freeze lasagnas and spaghetti meat sauce as well, but we hadn’t been eating those meals as much until recently. Read: I got lazy while I was pregnant and now that I have a 9 month old I’m trying to get back in the groove, lol.
Michelle @ Simplify, Live, Love says
Nice! I am very intrigued by the French Toast casserole. I make a very easy breakfast called German pancakes (similar to a Dutch baby), but it’s not something I could make ahead and freeze. The recipe is here, if you’re curious:
I also like meals in my freezer but don’t like to do it all in one setting. My solution has been to make extra of certain meals each week and freeze those. I’ve found it’s not much extra work two make two lasagnas, for instance, than it is to make one.
I’ve never done cookies for the freezer – will have to give that a shot! Thanks for the great ideas!
Milk Donor Mama says
This sounds right up my alley. I am going to try this soon!
I love this idea! I am going to try it next week.
“Uh-oh, Silas is up from his nap. I set the children all around the table with my laptop to watch Mary Poppins and dive back into freezer cooking.”
I had to read this three times because I kept reading “chicken” where it said children…
Oh, did you not know we keep live chickens in our kitchen? They love watching DVDs. 😉
Oh, my! This made me laugh so hard that I cried! Then my hubby came over to see what was so funny and didn’t get it AT ALL, which made me laugh just that much harder! Thanks for helping me burn a few calories tonight! 😉
charity crawford says
just imagine if you would have read children in place of chicken….can you imagine reading marinated children!
Allyson @ A Heart for Home says
Okay, I did the same thing the first time I read through the post 🙂
I also read chicken the first time through but stopped at laptop at first and was trying to figure out why you needed to put your chicken around your laptop. Then kept reading and as soon as I read Mary Poppins I figured out my mistake.
I’m guilty too – i read chicken as well… I had to re-read it a couple of times before i finally realized it said Children… LOL
Crystal, you are a VERY motivated and structured person. I’m so inspired by your hard work. You’re a proverbs 31 woman for sure!
I do something similar to this but I double a few meals throughout the week to freeze…. right now I’m freezing everything for my inlaws and I take it over every two weeks. Last trip I had doubled and froze almost 30 meals for them.
I do the same as Heather. Last week I made 3 lasagnas for dinner (1 for that night, 2 to freeze). Yesterday I made 3 lbs of ground venison for Sloppy Joes (again freezing 2/3). I do the same with stew, chili, roast, a whole chicken (I will dice and shred chicken to pull out and thaw for burritos or chicken salad).
Thanks for your ideas!
Sandra Lee says
Impressive! I love to have things in the freezer to pull out on a minutes notice. I make oatmeal raisin cookie dough, form balls and freeze individually on a cookie sheet. After frozen, I place them in a plastic container and pull out as many as I need, whenever I want them. I make the Quaker Oats Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookie recipe and add 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves. Super delish, pretty healthy too.
That recipe is one of our favorites! Super yummy! 🙂
Sandra Lee says
I know! I think the cloves adds a great taste, really nice coloring and the house smells great! I’ve even eaten them for breakfast. LOL!
Allison M. says
Question about the french toast casserole..do you bake it and then freeze? That’s what it sounded like from your post, but wanted to make sure you didn’t put it all together and freeze before cooking. I’d like to try this–have the bread etc. and might try it tomorrow! Thanks for the recipe.
Mrs Kish says
I have the same question. And if you do bake them first, than do you just pop it back in oven to warm it up? And for how long and what temp?
I baked it, then froze it. I’ve not made these before, so I’m hoping that works well.
Crystal, Please let us know how this turns out. It sounds like there are a lot of people interested in freezing the french toast casserole. Thanks!
I would love to hear how it works out, often times we can get bread so cheap and I have lots of friends giving me eggs lately so this would be a great way to use it all up!
I love the French Toast Casserole – looks really easy and is not bad on calories either. What would you recommend for re-heating time and oven temp? Thanks!
I’ll probably just thaw and reheat at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
Heather@Family Friendly Frugality says
I do the timer method for getting stuff done throughout the day. Inevitably right in the last 10-15 minutes or so a diaper has to be changed or a drink needs to be poured, LOL.
You got a lot accomplished!
Sandra Lee says
I do the timer thing too! At night, I do the clean on commercial thing. Works for me!
I love the clean on commercial thing, it helps me stay motivated and I actually get a lot done!!!
I do this too, it’s pretty impressive what you can get done whilst watching TV.
Sandra Lee says
Sometimes I use a timer. If I’m completely unmotivated or just plain tired but have a lot of things to do, I’ll put 15 minutes on the timer and crank out a ton of little stuff, which actually makes a difference. 15 minutes doesn’t really seem like alot and I’m always glad I did it when all is said and done.
I like cleaning on commercial breaks as well!
I laugh at this because I TIVO through commercials!! Maybe I’d get more done if I didn’t!! LOL
How does the FTC freeze? Have you done it before? Did you completely make it (baking and all) before freezing it?How do you reheat it?
I’ve not done it before, but I think it should freeze alright. We’ll see!
Carolynn @ mylittlebitoflife.com says
If it doesn’t freeze well, try freezing it before you bake it. We did something similar to this when I worked at Dream Dinners and it was very good!! 🙂
Milk Donor Mama says
I was curious too. I wondered if it would get freezer burn? I’ve never tried to freeze something in a pan like that, I always use freezer bags which limits what I can freeze ahead of time.
I’ve frozen panned items by cooling them or semi-freezing and then cutting into portions. Those are then frozen in Foodsaver bags or ziplocs.
If you want to freeze the whole casserole, line the pan with foil or parchment paper in advance. Then semi-freeze and lift the whole thing out of the pan. Wrap in foil or Foodsaver bag. You can then put it back in the pan to reheat later.
When you freeze the french toast casserole do you just pull it out from frozen and put it in the oven to re-heat?