In my last segment, I talked about two of the methods of freezer cooking along with some book resources to check out for potential recipes. If you missed it, you can read it HERE.
This time, I want to get into how to get started on a long-cooking session and some of the things you’ll want to have in place. One of the worst things you can do is to jump right into it without any planning. Without proper planning, you’ll be going in seven different directions, the sessions will take longer than they should and you’ll possibly not finish your goals. There are basically four stages to freezer cooking: Plan, Shop, Prep and Cook. This segment’s focus is going to be on part of the planning process.
Supplies You’ll Need
Now while I try to keep up with dishes as I cook, when it comes to long freezer cooking sessions, you might just be better off having some spare kitchen equipment handy. When I first started, I had only one set of measuring cups and spoons and it was an absolute nightmare. I spent so much time washing and rewashing that I really lost some time-saving ground throughout the day. Here are a few items that I recommend you have:
Multiple Measuring Cup Sets
Multiple Measuring Spoons
Multiple Cutting Boards–at least one for raw meat and one for veggies
Whisks, Tongs, Spatulas
Sharp Pairing Knives
Glass Dishes, if freezing casseroles
Several Cookie Sheets
Oven Mitts/Pot Holders
Sauce Pans/Skillets, preferably at least one with a lid
Some type of Roasting Pan or equivalent
Crockpot for slow-cooker recipes
Storage Containers – Ziploc, Food Saver, etc.
Sharpie Marker for dating all your food
Extra Kitchen Timers, if you don’t have a few already (Microwave, Oven)
Most of these items you probably have on hand. And if you don’t, I’m not recommending that you rush out and buy up everything in one shopping spree if you don’t have it. But as you see things on a good deal, add it to your collection to help you on future sessions. The multiple measuring cups and spoons are the ones I use the most and you can pick those up at most dollar stores if you need extras.
Recipe Choices & Planning Ahead
Everyone is different in how they plan their sessions. Like I said earlier, I usually just double recipes lately. But when I do decide to get in a freezer cooking session, I usually try to utilize every heating element I have, such as Crockpot, Stovetop, Griddle, Bread Machine and Oven. I have found that this is the best way for me to get the most recipes done in a shorter time. So, this is how I’ll choose my recipes, too, picking one for each area.
Since the Crockpot ones take the longest, I’ll start there. Then move on to the Bread Machine. Followed by the Oven, Griddle and Stovetop. I guess I just started doing it this way because I got tired of waiting for one recipe to finish before I could start the next. I can have a soup going in the crockpot, bread in the bread machine, a casserole dish on the stovetop, a turkey/chicken cooking in the oven while I’m making pancakes on the griddle. Yes, multi-tasking is key to getting it all done! During downtimes, I’ll bag/mark the previous recipe or make up mixes, such as a pancake mix, etc. until I can proceed with another oven or stovetop recipe.
When I go to choose my recipes, I keep in mind that I’d like to use all of these elements and pick them accordingly. Also, I try to find recipes that use similar ingredients but will still taste unique. For example, if I’m buying a bag of carrots, maybe I’ll make a soup in the crockpot and then a potpie in the oven and use up as many carrots as I can. This also comes in handy during “prep time” when I can peel and chop carrots all at once and have ingredients set to go for multiple recipes. The same goes for meats. For example, if you have a lot of chicken on hand, you can cook up several chicken pieces at once and then use them in various recipes. You can even cook some chicken strips/cubes to freeze separately to have on hand to throw into pastas, salads or casseroles.
The best way to make the most of your money is to try to make recipes around what you already have on-hand along with what’s on sale for that week. Now if you plan your session weeks in advance, you can keep your eye out for deals to fulfill those recipes that you want, too. Also, by using what you have on hand will help to free up some of the extra freezer space that you may need. You may find out that several of your current recipes will even freeze well. So don’t just stick to recipe books when making your choices.
I highly recommend that before you start a long freezer cooking session, that you test out your recipes first. Can you imagine making 5 meals of something you find out later that you don’t even like? When it comes time to do your first large session, you’ll still want to start yourself off with just a few recipes until you get the hang of everything. I took on too much my first time around and had to force myself into a second long cooking day to finish. Timing is everything so allow yourself a chance to learn how to time things properly.
Another great way to get several meals in a short session is to swap with friends. You can eat make one or two meals with enough food for each participant and then swap. This is a great way to try out and learn new recipes, too!
So up to this point, you have heard about the two methods you can choose from, resources to find recipes, supplies you’ll want to try to have on hand and what to consider when picking your recipe choices. Next time, I’ll talk about getting your shopping trip planned and prep work you’ll want to do before the big cooking day. So, stay tuned!