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Friday, January 20, 2012

Freezer Cooking My Way

If you've wandered around this site much you know that I have my hands in many many things and many balls balancing through the air. I am no expert in any of these arenas but I also don't want to sacrifice any of them--slowly figuring out what works for us.

I don't enjoy cooking. I am super cheap. I'm not very good at it. There just isn't the budget to eat like we'd like to. There are many dietary limitations around here. So many emotions involved in food.

I like the idea of OAMC but it has never worked out for us: I don't have an "extra" day to shop or cook. We don't have the money to put up front (even though I know it would save money)

People seem to freeze a lot of casseroles. We don't eat many casseroles in our dietary restricted home. We didn't seem to eat the foods that many of the cookbooks were bulk cooking:(

I read in Family Fun magazine about a family who modified the system to work for them: having a once a month day where the whole family helps. I have had grandiose dreams of warping this for our family: us making meatloaf one month (I'm thinking 10-12 of them) using the food processor to chop that many onions etc and then lining them all up in our freezer nicely labeled.

Then another month we make a chicken dish and freeze those. Then....We have never actually gotten around to it.

Kim Wright. LOVE LOVE LOVE her. I remember reading about her family having many many crockpots and one day they'd cook a bunch of chickens all day and make a few batches of sauces. Then into the freezer would go chicken meat and sauces. Then another day she'd cook beef. Etc.

When meat goes on sale: I buy enough for the week and some"extra" for meatloafs. Then one night's dinner I make 4-5 meatloafs. I take all but one out 20 minutes early. Let it cool while we eat dinner and then during dinner clean up I freeze them.

When I soak dry beans and cook them I double or triple:  Dinner one night, burritos for lunch that week and freeze some for later.

I have also doubled black beans when soaking and made twice as much rice. Then I add some cheese and assemble into burritos and flash freeze. ALOT cheaper and healthier than buying frozen burritos.

Even though I don't follow the conventional freeze ahead cooking or OAMC plans, our freezer has been a huge asset to our family. Getting here was a process and a labor of love.

A lady I was working for offered it to me and then ended up charging me for it (maybe a blessing in disguise because I wouldnt have bought it otherwise.) A freind with a truck and strong sons drove a half hour away and picked it up for me. He refused payment or reimbursement for gas. I may have cried.

It sat in the garagde for awhile and I collected empty containers. I didnt want to turn it on and pay to freeze an empty box of air but didnt have the money to fill it yet. It's all a process:) RIGHT after I had our 5th baby a friend, her husband and older boys came over and moved the freezer into place and plugged it in. Doesnt sound like a big deal but it was something I had been trying to get to for months. I was just "recovering" and I wandered out to the garage to see what was going on and my friend sent me back to bed. (wise woman)
This friend has 10 children and more than one garage freezer. They knew the help it would be to us more than I did.

I mentioned that I freeze extra meals. I also stock up on sales. Not just the normal grocery store rotation but those once in a while things like when our local Fresh and Easy clearanced their grass fed, organic beef down to $1.00 a pound. I bought them all.

I have  another friend in a prayer group with a delivery man from a gourmet bread store. Periodically she'll bring me huge trash size bags of bread. Bread was a major expense for us and making it everyday isnt practical for us at this point. It is amazing what a huge blessing it is for us.

I also buy frozen vegettables. Like whenever I am out of town and see a great deal on meat or frozen products, I buy bags of frozen vegetables to use as ice packs in my thermal bag:)

I know that alot of people "lose" food in a big freezer. I go through ours periodically out of neccessity.
It is important to be organized and intentional though. I have seen people use dry erase boards (or write on the outside of the freezer) to keep track of what's inside.

Here is how one very organized person stores her frozen meat:

I do something similiar to this  but we use 2 lbs of meat per meal:) I buy diapers on Amazon and use those big boxes. I use a full sheet of paper to make a label that says "ground beef" "ground turkey" "chicken breasts" then stack the frozed bags like books on a shelf in the box. Then I use the box like a drawer in the freezer. Does that make ANY sense?

Ive thought it might be cool to have cute platic baskets but Im not sure if those would freeze well. I also dont always have the same things in there. When I do get labels down I think I will laminate them and change them out.

For now, I have started transitioning to  plastic boxes and havent nailed down my labeling system yet...just in the essence of keeping it real and because I have no pretty pictures for you..Wanna see inside my freezer, right now, unprepared?

Here she is in all her unprepared glory. She could use outside primping huh?
 here you see top row bread and rolls
next row chicken, beef, frozen fruits (like browning bannanas for muffins later or fruit that I didnt get around to making jam with but will at some point:)

 here a little closer:

right now there aren't many empty containers filled with water and frozen because I just defrosted.
Here is the under utilized door:

 There was an amazing sale on butter recently and that fourth shelf down was full but is dwindling quickly.

I have a standing freezer. Here,  Inspiration For Moms shares how she organizes a chest freezer. I'm really liking her Dollar Store baskets. I use those same labels elsewhere and they look so nice in the freezer hmmmm....

I'd love to hear how you organize your freezer or how it saves you time or money! Also if you have any freeze ahead meals that work for your family. Please share!