Cook More Real Food: Let the Freezer Cooking Begin!
I hope you’re all as excited as I am to spend conclude this Cook More Real Food Event by spending some concentrated time cooking and baking, in order to fill my freezer up with easy, real food meals and snacks!
Before I share my cooking list and plan for the day with you, here’s a question that I was asked on Facebook yesterday:
…For your monthly freezer cook day, you are going to do it during the week–what do you do with your kiddos? I always have to do mine on the weekend so the hubbie can hold down the fort while I’m in the kitchen– Kristin
Yep, I’m going to do it with my kiddos!
But, no, not really with them. Here’s what I’m planning to do (and for those who don’t know, I have 3 kids ages 5, 3 and 9 mths):
- Get up a bit early on Monday to get a jump start on some things that I can work on before/while the kids eat breakfast.
- Allow them to watch one movie on Monday morning, after basic chores/homeschool is done and while the baby naps, while I work feverishly nearby.
- Take a break in the late morning and for lunchtime.
- Put the little ones down for afternoon naps around 1-2pm and the oldest will either take a quiet time or come help me in the kitchen. I’ll spend another 1-2 really focused hours during this time.
- Stop for the rest of the afternoon and make a simple dinner using some of the foods that I’ve been working on.
- Tuesday morning- start bright and early again to get a head start.
- This is my blog work morning (with a mother’s helper), so no cooking for me! Nose to the computer…
- After lunch, I’ll use naptimes the same as on Monday, as well as coordinate what I make for dinner with the things I’m working on.
- If need be, I’ll finish up by myself on Tuesday night after the kids are in bed.
It’s a bit more challenging to make this work with little ones, but it is by no means impossible! If you’re in the same situation as me, just try to look at your schedule really creatively and see how you can give yourself different pockets of focused time. Be willing to get up extra early or go to bed late. It’s only 1 or 2 days and it will be worth it.
One thing that helps me is to plan more time than I think I’ll really need. If I was able to work on my list completely uninterrupted, I think I could do it in 4-5 hours max. However, I’m planning for more like 6-8 hours because I expect that I will be interrupted and that things won’t flow as smoothly as planned. Life happens!
June Freezer Cooking Plan
Friday, Saturday, Sunday (June4-6th):
- Thaw all meat
- Thaw jars of pumpkin puree
- Soak/cook all beans
- Chicken in crockpot, freeze meat in portions
- Soak oats for granola
- Soak flour for muffins
- Soak flour for bread and pizza dough
Monday, June 7th:
- Make beef and chicken broth (start early and leave simmering until Tuesday)
- Package and freeze all cooked beans
- Hummus x 2
- Bread- GF x 2 and regular x 3
- Soaked Granola x 2
- Pumpkin muffins x 3
- Pizza Dough x 2
- Power Bars (from Healthy Snacks to Go) x 3
- Frozen Hashbrowns
- Make mashed potatoes for Shepherd’s Pie
- Burritos (bean/rice)- 2 dozen
Tuesday, June 8th:
- Seasoned taco meat and beans
- Chicken Apple Sausages x 3
- Shepherd’s Pie x 3
- Samosas (time consuming, but so worth it!) x 2
- Chili (start in crockpot first thing in the morning) – huge pot!
- Pizza Sauce – enough for 4 pizzas
- Put cooled broth in jars to freeze
If you’re still looking for freezer meal recipes, here’s a great resource for a lot of healthier recipes!
I posted this on Saturday to help as a final reminder to prepare for the upcoming Freezer Days on Monday and Tuesday. On Monday morning, I will simply pop in to say hi, and then you will be able to find me throughout the rest of the day on Facebook and Twitter as I do live updates on my cooking progress (so please follow or “Like” me if you haven’t already).
On Monday night, I’ll put up a brief update with where I’m at so far, and then go back to Facebook and Twitter again. I will do my best to get a final photo and end results post up on Tuesday night. Just curious… would you like me to open up a McLinky to allow you to share your Freezer Cooking successes with the rest of us?
I’m really looking forward to bulk cooking on Monday and Tuesday. My plan includes a bunch of turkey sausage (heavenly homemaker’s recipe), English muffins, crackers, marinara sauce, apple pie filling, and dehydrating almonds. There are a few other things on the schedule too, but I haven’t completely decided on those yet 🙂
P.S. I bought your book last night! It is great!
.-= Stacy @ Delighting in the Days´s last blog ..Choosing Joy =-.
I tried a freezer cooking day a few weeks ago. It ended up being really difficult, unfortunately. My oldest (4) really was affected the most. I did let her watch a video (or was it 2, they are about 30 min and we use them sparingly) and she did have her regular quiet time/sometimes naps. But I find this stage really hard to include her in helping, since if she wants to help, then the toddler (16 months) wants to help too. She literally pushes a chair over, gets on up, and wants something to stir and get into! Then I have my oldest trying to help, toddler making a mess, and me trying to do something. The youngest is too little to watch videos, and she is into a non-eating phase…she hardly eats anything so she won’t stay in her high chair long. Its really frustrating. I’d love to hear more about what people do with this situation. The toddler also won’t be in a sling or ergo for very long, and only naps 45 min per day, not at the same time as my oldest. She’s a climber and gets into everything…anyways sorry to be negative but I’d love some advice.
Anyways I did get some things done the other day but then I had to take about 2 days afterwards of very focused attention on the kids so they wouldn’t seem so neglected (their behaviour was really off after the freezer day). One way that I find does work better for me is doubling things as I am making them for dinner.
I’d love to hear more ways to occupy the toddler with a limited attention span who wants to be in the action all the time.
@Nola, The easiest solution for you, in this season of life, might be to just take a couple evenings each month to do it when they’re in bed. Or maybe see if your hubby can watch them to allow you a Saturday morning. It’s just a season, but you don’t have to make yourself crazy or your kids frustrated trying to make it work if it just doesn’t work for you! 🙂
I also think that they way you’re doing it with doubling dinners is great! When I don’t feel like I can pull together a proper freezer cooking day (or days) that’s what I do, and it’s still a big help!
@Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home, OK, thanks…I guess again I am being too hard on myself. Its easy to see other moms do things and think why not me…but they don’t have the same kids, same ages, same activity levels of the kids, etc. I am looking forward to maybe 6 months down the road when my toddler can be a little less into things, but for now I need to enjoy her too 🙂 If anyone else has any ideas, let me know!
One thing I did find worked long enough to whip up a double batch of muffins the other day was to get out the big bin of measuring cups, a pot with lid, a wooden spoon, and a big bowl, and dump some puffed grain into it (like the puffed grain cereal, I know its not the best, but we occasionally have it). That way, she could eat a piece here and there and also dump, stir, measure, etc. to her hearts content. It was super messy, yes, but I just had to sweep it up (and yes I guess it was wasteful in a way but I tried not to put too much in there to start with) I figured it was worth the mess and expense for what it got me. 🙂
@Nola, Great job! I have 4 kiddos and work outside the home, full time, Mon – Thurs. Friday is my day to do freezer cooking without borrowing hubby as a “babysitter” 🙂 My kids are 12, 6, 2, 4 mos. My older 2 are in school when I cook so I’m with the littles. My 2 year old does NOT watch TV. He’s in the kitchen with me, no matter what!
I’ve found that I can let him do water play at the sink (standing on a chair which is backed to the sink, with a towel on the chair and floor). He makes a mess, but hey, it’s only water! Also, at snack time, I can put him into the high chair and keep him there a bit longer than normal with my daughters’ plastic tea set. He enjoys pouring “tea” (water) into cups and making a mess. Here again, it’s just water. On the days we do water in the kitchen, I sweep first. Yes, I’ll spill a bit while cooking, but this makes mopping a breeze – I just need a damp mop and there’s water already on the floor! 🙂
I am in complete agreement with Stephanie. If you have the ability to double meals and/or use evenings to get work done, go for it! Maybe dad helps with bed time and gives you a head start on your prep time. My hubby doesn’t like me in the kitchen in the evenings so I try to get stuff done Saturday morning during dad’s time with the kids (he does morning play with the kids for a break for this mama!).
@Nola, I think that’s a great solution. She had fun (and a little snack) and you got to make muffins. Win-win. 🙂
LOVE THIS!!! Question: For the beans, I assume you use freezer-safe mason jars? Do you freeze just the drained beans or do you add water before freezing? I have a ton of bulk dried beans I want to pre-cook but I’ve been stuck on whether to pressure-can or freeze them.
I’d love to hear from others what some other freeze-ahead favorites are! (Great ideas from Stephanie! English muffins were already in my plans but all the rest of those are great ideas too.)
I plan to cook in bulk and freeze:
– English muffins (sprouted or soaked flour)
– Pesto (possibly frozen in ice cube trays)
– Chickpea curry
– Garlic bread or cheesy garlic bread (I used to buy this at the store… so easy to pop into the oven for 5 minutes on “Italian night”
– Chicken enchiladas
I also want to dehydrate in bulk:
– Sprouted flax crackers
– Whole-grain flat bread/tortillas for wraps
– Homemade fruit roll-ups
– Vegetable chips
– Soaked nuts
@Julia, I actually just use small ziploc bags for the beans. They’re BPA free and I just never put the beans in hot. They’re ideal because they can lay flat and take up much less space than jars would. Plus I like to save my jars for things like broth and spaghetti sauce.
And yes, I drain them and I don’t add any water. I love freezing them because they taste just as good as freshly cooked (in my opinion) and it makes them as convenient as canned beans, without the canning. 🙂
@Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home, sorry – my ignorance is completely showing here … is there a particular brand of plastic bag that is BPA free or are all of them BPA free? I”ve just assumed plastic = BPA so I was trying to cut as much out as possible. It’s good to know that for limited uses like these they are okay! So excited to follow your progress – I’m gearing up for a day or two later this week. I love a stocked freezer!!
@elaine benson, BPA is generally not in pliable plastic, only hard plastic (generally hard plastic will have a number on it — you want to avoid #’s 3, 6, and 7), but ALL plastic does have harmful polymers (just not necessarily BPA). It’s not known how much these leech into foods. I try not to store food in plastic (and definitely never heat food in plastic in a microwave), but a lot of health-conscious homemakers do freeze in Zip-loc bags, so that’s really a personal choice and there’s probably no harm (I just am extra-careful because I am a cancer survivor)!
@elaine benson, I also freeze beans, just like Stephanie does. If I freeze them in jars, I find that the only jars that work well for me are the smaller sizes (putting them in the same as you would a ziploc bag, dry and cooled, I cool them on the counter and then refridgerate and then the next day put them in the freezer). Make sure to leave a space at the top, a few inches. You don’t need as much space as you would with liquid, but still leave some room. I think the reason that ziplocs are sometimes prefered is that they take less room and are not going to break. I’ve had bigger jars break (bigger than 2 cups) especially with liquids so I don’t use them for that anymore. I also have some reusable #5 plastic containers I do use for freezer meals too. Yes its best to avoid all plastic but that is pretty hard- even things in the store you might use as ingredients are often in plastic. Its best to avoid the numbres Julia said, those are known to be the worst. That and #1 if exposed to light and heat. #2 and #5 are “safest”.
@elaine benson, As another commenter said, it is generally hard plastics (not soft) that have BPA in them. I know for certain that the Ziploc brand in BPA free, but most others probably are as well.
It is certainly a good thing to cut out as many plastics as possible! I still use Ziplocs for cold or dry things, never anything warm. They are just so handy for the freezer because they don’t break (like glass jars, though I do often use jars in my freezer) and you can lay things flat in them for easy stacking and space saving.
And I’m glad you’re going to to this in a day or two– it doesn’t matter when you do it, it’s just so nice to have food stocked up! 🙂
I’m done with the majority of my freezer cooking, and can’t wait to see what everyone else turns out! I did most of mine yesterday, because I work full time during the week, but I am finishing up with my homemade tortillas, homemade sausage, and a beef dish tonight. Thanks for the series!
Would you mind sharing how to make your samosas? We LOOOOVVVE samosas but I’ve never tried making them myself. It’s on my ‘wishlist’ of things to have in my freezer before my baby shows up in a few weeks!
Thanks so much!
@Barbara, I use the recipe in Nourishing Traditions. But, I learned how to shape my samosas by watching really cute, older Indian women on YouTube! There are some wonderful tutorials out there!