How to Freeze Green Beans

One of the things in season right now, or soon to be for your area, are green beans. I had a plethora of them in my garden this week so I thought I’d take some and freeze them for when prices on green beans go up.

Freezing green beans is fairly easy. You need to cook them in a process called “blanching” and then put them in ice cold water afterwards to stop them from cooking more. The times cooking and soaking in the water should be equal. Green beans should take about 3 minutes for each step. (Information according to pickyourown.org)

If you don’t grow your own, several farmer’s markets will sell them, typically in large quantities for a good price. I didn’t grow any last year but bought a bunch at the markets and had farm-fresh tasting green beans during the winter months. While you might be able to get regular frozen vegetables in the store fairly cheap, there’s nothing quite like ones straight from a farm or your garden.

1) The first thing you need to do is wash your green beans and then pick over the green beans and pull out any that are blemished. Some of those you might be able to cut off parts to still keep. Cut the ends off your green beans. Next you cut them in 1″ pieces or you can keep them longer for things such as stir-fry recipes.

2) You’ll need a big pot of water to boil. Be sure you have enough water for the green beans to cook easily. Once it gets to a rolling boil, carefully place the green beans in, put the lid on and bring it back to a boil. Begin the timer for the blanching time as soon as you drop them in. Green beans should take about 3 minutes of blanching time.

3) As soon as the time is up, carefully drain the green beans and then submerge them in a bowl of ice cold water. Let them cool for 3 minutes.

4) Once the time is up, you’ll drain them and put them in Ziploc bags. I usually try to dry them off with a clean towel first, as I’ve found it helps them from clumping together or getting freezer burn.

5) Don’t forget to label your bag. It may seem obvious what’s in there but you want to keep track of the date so you know when to use them by.

This entire process is fairly simple. A lot of times, I blanch vegetables when I’m already in the kitchen getting supper ready and waiting on our dinner to cook.

I hope that you try to take advantage of Seasonal Savings and get some farm/garden fresh green beans in your freezer for when prices go up. It’s a great way to save on your grocery budget–and get some Organic veggies on your table.

Freezer Cooking February: Breakfast Burritos and Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins Recipes (Guest Post)


I hope that you have enjoyed my Freezer Cooking February Series this month. I will continue to share Freezer Cooking info. and recipes with you but I did want to wrap-up the series. I have one last guest posting to share with you. This one comes from Tanya of The Domestic Contessa. She shares great recipes for breakfast burritos and banana chocolate chip muffins! Yum!! And here’s Tanya:

For me, breakfast is the hardest meal to plan for. I was finding that we were getting stuck in a rut – always the same thing. Cold cereal, hot cereal, eggs… repeat. Then, when I started working to keep our grocery budget at a lower number, the cold cereal was no longer an option. Between actually buying the cold cereal and then paying for the milk needed, it’s quite a budget drainer.

So that left us with hot cereal, eggs…repeat.

I started doing some research and brainstorming for easy ways to add variety to our breakfasts. Getting up early to spend a lot of time making something extravagant was not an option. Not to mention, I still had the budget thing to consider.

I finally found the solution to my dilemma – using my freezer! I try to plan for a day or two each month to cook batches of breakfast foods. I then wrap individual servings separately and freeze them. Then, in the morning, I just grab the amount of food we need from the freezer, thaw, and we eat!

I have found muffins are easy to make and freeze very well for at least a month. With the muffins, I wait until they are fully cooled and then place each muffin in its own sandwich baggie (the kind without the zipper). I then put all the muffin into a large freezer bag. When I need a muffin for breakfast, I take it out of the freezer bag, unwrap it from the sandwich baggie and put it in the microwave on defrost for about a minute. If we have yogurt, I’ll serve a muffin with that – or, it’s a nice thing to serve with a fried egg to add some variety.

Here are a couple of breakfast freezer foods that are a hit around our house:

Easy Freezer Burritos
I once made about 100 of these for a ladies brunch at our church. I made them up several days in advance and cooked them the morning of the brunch. They were a huge hit – no one would believe me when I said they were frozen!

12 eggs, beaten
2 TBS butter
1 lb. sausage, cooked and drained
½ cup chunky salsa
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
24 flour tortillas

In a large skillet, melt butter. Add beaten eggs and cook in butter, stirring often, until scrambled and set. Add the cooked sausage and salsa; mix gently.

Place ½ cup egg mixture onto each tortilla and sprinkle with cheese. Roll burritos and place on parchment-lined cookie sheets; freeze until solid. Wrap each individually and place in freezer bags. Freeze.

To eat: Unwrap burritos. Loosely wrap in paper towel and microwave on High for 1-3 minutes. Makes 24 burritos

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

1 cup white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1 cup mashed bananas (2 medium)
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
¼ tsp. vanilla flavoring
2 TBS oil
½ cup mini chocolate chips

Grease muffin tins. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all dry ingredients. Combine the wet ingredients separately. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir JUST until mixed – do NOT over mix! Add the chocolate chips. Pour into muffin tin. Bake for 18-19 minutes. Remove to cooling rack. Freeze them as I mentioned above. Makes 12 muffins.

Thank you so much to Tanya of The Domestic Contessa for sharing these fabulous recipes. I can’t wait to try the burritos one! I was wishing I had the sausage on hand this weekend to make them in my last Freezer Cooking Session, but no such luck. It gives me something to look forward to for next time, though! :)

A very big thank you to all of my guest posters this month! I know that it takes awhile to type up information for these and it’s so greatly appreciated. Thank you for sharing your successes, failures and recipes with all of us.

And another big thank you to all of my reader friends for showing your interest in this series with your feedback and excitement. That increased the fun for me to do this! Stay tuned as even though February is over, the recipes are not! I’ll continue to share some with you all and do my best to help save a little time in your kitchen, as well!

Freezer Cooking February: My Latest Freezer Cooking Session



In case some of you were wondering where I’ve been, I’ve basically been in my kitchen ever since my last posting! I’ve been working on my latest freezer cooking session. I took on quite a bit this time since we were out of meals. Right away, I ran into a huge glitch–I cooked my chicken instead of marinating it. What a huge and costly mistake. I had to stop, losing precious time, and dig up another recipe that used cooked chicken. In the end, I switched out Turkey Enchiladas for Chicken, added a Turkey and Noodles recipe and saved the extra chicken to add to pasta dishes. (Even the best planning can go awry sometimes!) Honestly, I’m glad I made that mistake for two reasons: #1: I’ll always check my meats to make sure I’m writing them down correctly on how to “prep” them and #2: I really wanted Turkey and Noodles and got to use up a bag of Homestyle Noodles that was getting close to it’s expiration date. Bonus! So in the end, after hours of cooking, this is what I ended up with:

40 Mini Beef and Bean Burritos
23 Pizza Burgers
16 Chicken Enchiladas
Extra Chicken Enchilada Mix (Had more than I had tortillas for)
Around 50 Whole Wheat Pancakes
4 Tangy Pulled Pork Sandwiches (Taste of Home Feb/March 2010 Issue)
Enough Mix for 4 more Tangy Pulled Pork Sandwiches (wanted to make sure they froze well in the buns)
2 Turkey and Noodle Entrees
2 – 3/4lb bags of Seasoned Hamburger Meat (for quick tacos – used leftover from Burritos recipe)
2 Bags of Cubed Chicken (to add to pasta dishes)
1 Bag of Roasted Turkey (for hot turkey sandwiches)
3 Italian Beef for Sandwiches (I kept one for us for supper tonight)

Tonight, Nathan and I will make up some Banana Bread and some Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream. I also have ingredients for (but enough energy to make) Hot Rolls Mix and Corn Bread Mix that I can use to make pretzels, Swedish rolls, corn bread and corn dogs. I’ll save that for later in the week. :)

I know some of you are leery about trying a freezer cooking session because of limited freezer space, but if you choose the right recipe that you can lay out flat and stack, you can actually get a lot of meals right into your freezer about your fridge. I stacked a few of mine to give you an idea:


Just in this limited space, I have 2 Turkey and Noodle Entrees, Mixes for Pulled Pork and Enchiladas (to quickly add to rolls/tortillas), Seasoned Hamburger (to quickly make tacos) and Cubed Chicken/Turkey to add to pasta dishes, sandwiches, salads, etc.

Just these few things can help save you lots of time in the kitchen. Save them for when you know you’ll have a busy day.

I was actually thinking that for my next freezer cooking session, I would “pretend” I only have a freezer above my fridge and see what meals I can come up with to help you all get some of them stacked and save you some time, too.

And now, time to catch up on a couple postings and then relax!! Thanks for letting me share my day with you.

If you are new to the blog, you can check out the other postings I’ve done on the Freezer Cooking February Series that have tips on how to get started on your own freezer cooking session.

Freezer Cooking February: Pot Pies Recipe (Guest Post)


I hope you all are enjoying the Freezer Cooking February Series this month. I have another Guest Post to share with you today. This one is from Cristi of The King’s Court IV:

While I have only been Freezer Cooking for a few months now, I can truly say that it has changed the way things run in my household. Things run so much smoother! On those crazy days where everyone is going everywhere, for me to just pull out something healthy, pre-made and frozen, saves so much time and money. Most of the time when we are in those situations, the easiest thing to do would be to stop at some local fast-food place and grab a bite to eat, oftentimes to be left broke or feeling like that money could have been best spent elsewhere.
Here are some tips that have helped me so far:

* Try to menu plan around freezer cooking so that you make the most of your ingredients and reduce waste. I’m a little bias towards menu-planning anyway because I found myself several times with an abundance of fresh ingredients going bad, or having too much of an item that I only needed a small amount of!

* MAKE A LIST of what you are going to cook! I try to plan my meals around a few key items for that particular day so that way I’m not spending a lot of extra money buying items that I’ll only use once or twice. For example, for one package of blueberries I can make blueberry pancakes to freeze and use the remainder of them in muffins!

* MAKE A LIST of the groceries that you’ll need!! Nothing is worse than getting ready to “do your thing” in the kitchen only to find out that you are missing an ingredient!

* Remove air from freezer bags to reduce freezer burn.

* Allow foods to cool completely prior to packaging and freezing, to reduce freezer burn. There is nothing worse than a sad bag of meatballs to ruin a spaghetti dinner!

* Always label/date your items.

* Although you can keep things frozen for some time (depending on what you are freezing), I typically try to use up my dishes within 2 months.

Pot Pies Recipe:

This is an easy recipe because it is very flexible yet filling!
*You can substitute this recipe with turkey (great around the holidays) or beef. You may also use whatever veggies you have on hand! I always go heavy on the veggies and tend to use at least 1 cup each (or 1 can each depending on the vegetable), which helps me stretch this into 2 batches.
3 cooked chicken breasts*
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
¼ cup chopped celery
¼ cup chopped carrots
¼ cup chopped onions
Salt & Pepper to taste
¼ cup corn
¼ cup snow peas
2 ½ cups chicken stock
¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
¼ cup cornstarch
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary and thyme

Pastry: (if you increase the amount of vegetables, you’ll need additional puff pastry sheets)
1 sheet puff pastry
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Break chicken breast (or other meat) apart into small pieces then set aside. Heat a medium size pot over medium high heat and coat with olive oil. Add garlic, shallots, celery and carrots, stir. Add onions, corn and peas. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour in chicken stock and ¼ cup heavy cream. Add unsalted butter and stir. Add pieces of chicken and bring to a boil. Mix cornstarch and water to create thickening agent then pour into the pot. Add chopped rosemary and thyme then stir. Stop here if you would like to freeze this. You can divide this mixture up into freezer bags (2-3) and freeze until ready. Just pull a bag out and thaw in the refrigerator when you are ready!

Simply reheat the mixture in a pot while allowing puff pastry to thaw as directed. Depending on the size baking dish you are using, cut the puff pastry sheet accordingly and set aside. Beat the egg to create an egg wash and set aside. Fill the baking dish with the chicken mixture. Cover with puff pastry and then cut off excess around sides. Take a fork and poke a few holes in top of puff pastry and brush egg wash onto puff pastry. Place in the oven and bake until the crust is golden brown.

Optional- When you are ready to bake, I like to use the aluminum tart pans for this, and I’ll make individual/smaller pies for everyone!


*BONUS- I almost always have leftover scraps due to using 2 sheets/tart pans. So with the leftovers I brush melted butter on them and sprinkle with cinnamon & sugar. Then I’ll make a glaze using powdered sugar and milk to pour over them, yummy!

Cristi
The King’s Court IV

A special thank you to Cristi for taking time to share this guest posting with us! I love her bonus tip on how to reuse those scraps of pastry–waste nothing and get a delicious treat, too!

I have another guest posting to share along with my latest freezer cooking session. So stay tuned!

Freezer Cooking February: Planning and Prep Work


In case you are new to this series, so far I’ve covered a few Freezer Cooking Methods, Resources/Books to consider, Supplies to Have on Hand and Tips on Recipe Choices.

In this segment, I’m going to go over a little bit more on planning, shopping and prep work. I’d done a few freezer cooking sessions where I just jumped right into them and they turned into complete disasters. So now, I spend about an hour prior to my sessions putting together a plan for my cooking day. It may seem a little “Type A” but when you’ve had a few chaotic messes, you’ll be thankful for the times you planned in advance.

At this point, I’ve chosen some recipes that I think I’ll use for my big cooking day. But this doesn’t mean these will be the ones I will definitely proceed with. I write down my recipes and then put them in order of heating element. Crockpot #1, Crockpot #2, Griddle, etc. I do this now because in my frantic rush to put together a session, I’ve actually “double-booked” my crockpots and oven! And this just put extra cooking time into my day (or even caused me to skip a recipe entirely before.)

After it looks like everything is going to work out smooth, I then take it one step further and write down my “End Results – Meals” plugging in Breakfasts, Lunches, Entrees and Snacks/Desserts. One time, I did an entire cooking session and had almost all soups and desserts when I was done! So this is why I do this now. I also make sure and jot down my plans for my meals on cooking day. Several times I’ve forgotten to allow for a lunch/supper on cooking day and had to quickly put together something or wait for one of my meals to finish. (which took away from what I could freeze to help me on a later busy day.) This is what my first list looked like when I was done:

Now that I’m sure of my recipes, I create a shopping list. There are several great spreadsheets that you can use. 30 Day Gourmet has some in their book but I just use an “old school” method. I jot down my recipes in order (making a note in the sidebar as the next recipe begins) and then add any duplicate ingredients on the original line. Then I can tally then when I’m done. (Don’t forget to add your freezer containers to your list of things that you’ll need!) I can then cross off any ingredients that I have on-hand. If for some reason I didn’t notice that I picked too many recipes without enough ingredients on hand, I can quickly find a recipe that requires me to not need as many items and switch it out.  This helps me do my best to stay within my budget. This is what that end list looked like (prior to the tally):

Now before setting off on your shopping trip, I highly recommend that you consider doing the following:

*Cleaning out your fridge & freezer. You’ll need room for all of those groceries! Plus you might be surprised and find that a missing ingredient truly was hiding in there.

*If you find you have a lot of veggies on your list to chop, you might want to consider grabbing some frozen ones to speed up the process. One I love to get is chopped onions. Keeps my from crying on freezer cooking day! :)

On the last list that I make, I create my “Cooking Agenda.” I divide this into two areas: Prep Work and Cooking Day. There are several things that I can get done the day before my big cooking session. Prep Work items might include:

*Prior to starting, cleaning all counter tops, emptying the dishwasher and washing any lingering dirty dishes.
*Chopping Veggies that won’t wilt or turn brown
*Browning meats, such as turkey or hamburger
*Cooking Poultry and chopping them into correct sizes, such as strips or cubes, etc.
*Soaking Beans
*Preparing Marinades
*Cooking Pastas (I haven’t tried this yet.)
(These items, except for the beans, would go in the fridge until you need them the next day.)

It’s very important that if you are planning on cooking things such as whole chickens or turkeys that you plan on that extra day or so for them to thaw. You don’t want your day to be ruined by having a turkey that’s still frozen solid!

Now for my “Cooking Day” part of the list, I write up all of my tasks that I won’t complete during my Prep Work. I try to put them in order of how I want to complete them. This task is a good one to complete because sometimes, it’s just not obvious on how much you are about to undertake until it’s all listed. You might be surprised to realize you really planned on taking on too much for a one/two day cooking session. This is what my completed list for that one looked like:

I usually try to complete all of these before I do my shopping trip. That way, I can rearrange my game plan without causing an extra grocery trip or digging any deeper into my grocery budget if I find my original plan wasn’t going to work.

Yes, it all might seem a little extreme but when your cooking day goes a little smoother and you find that you are getting so many meals completed in one day, you’ll be patting yourself on the back for taking a little time to plan ahead – especially weeks later when you get to have those quick meals instead of spending hours in the kitchen!

At this point, I’ve shared with you all the information that you need up until the big cooking day. On cooking day, it all comes down to a little juggling act and hopefully you’ve planned it all out well so it will go smooth. Don’t forget to get plenty of sleep the night before, wear comfortable shoes the day of and drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated! It really is like a work-out in your own kitchen!

Also, I found another resource that I think might help those of you that have never tried a cooking session before. It’s called Frozen Assets: Lite and Easy. They have little “mini-sessions” completely laid out for you. They have detailed shopping lists, prep work and recipes for you. They are lumped by similar things, such as Chicken Mini-Session, Turkey Mini-Session, etc. They also have the nutritional values at the bottom of the recipes, which tend to lean more toward the healthier-side.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to get in a successful freezer cooking session this weekend that I can share with you. I also have some more guest posts to share with you, as well. So stay tuned!

Freezer Cooking February: Cooking Failures and Chili Recipe (Guest Post)


I hope that you are all enjoying the Freezer Cooking February series. Today, I have another Guest Post, this time from Ann of 3 Girls and a Pug. She shares some Freezer Cooking Failures along with a great Chili Recipe. Take it away, Ann:

Freezer Bombs: Tips for Tasting Success With Freezer Meals
By Ann Springer (www.3girlsandapug.com)

From the second I turned on the “Baby Songs” DVD for my two toddler daughters – ages 18 months and 2 ½ at the time – I knew I had exactly 28 minutes to whip up a good meal. No, I wasn’t trying to impress Rachael Ray. Rather, I knew I had a small window of time before the clock figuratively struck midnight and I would again struggle to juggle cooking with one baby on my hip and the other one at my feet crying.

So, when I heard about the concept of freezer-meal cooking I couldn’t wait to test out this ingeniously efficient cooking method in my own kitchen. I made out my menu plan. I carefully crafted my shopping list and tied on my apron. Part way through the process, I decided I was a genius and I declared myself Best Homemaker Ever. Here I was preparing a month’s worth of meals so I could have more time to spend with my children, all while saving money on my food budget.

Later, when one of my many prepared freezer meals for the month thawed, so did my 15 minutes of fame. I lifted open the carefully wrapped tinfoil expecting to find delicious homemade chicken pot pie; instead I discovered a soupy, gray-colored mess. Words can’t describe the disgusting, watery meal before my eyes that I knew I could never allow to pass my lips.

I feared more disasters—like the chicken pot pie—were carefully sealed and labeled in my fridge like mini-bombs ready to ruin my night. Then I relaxed and realized that like all other failures in life, this was a learning experience. It wasn’t the end of a great relationship—it was merely a setback. It also meant we were ordering take out (which isn’t exactly a horrible end to a day either).

With that learning experience behind me, here are three tips from me, a self-proclaimed, freezer meal-diehard.

1. Figure out the quirks. –  I pushed ahead despite my failures and discovered some things don’t freeze well – particularly raw items like potatoes, dough toppings, and items with cooked rice. Some sauces separate when frozen, too. I realized that this was just a matter of trial and error, with successes for some recipes and others I wouldn’t feed to the dog.

2. Be flexible. –  Some recipes could be made up partially, frozen, defrosted, and then finished up the day we ate them. For example, I make one of my mom’s recipes that requires a mashed potato topping. (Mashed potatoes don’t freeze well.) I make the rest of the casserole and freeze it. On the day we eat it I add the potato topping while the casserole heats up. While this does take a bit more time it still saved a lot of time and money in the long run. It’s worth it if it’s a meal your family adores and loves.

3. Take breaks from the ritual. – It does take careful planning and a good chunk of time to commit to creating freezer meals, so it’s good to take a break from it for periods of time. As my kids have grown I’ve discovered freezer meals all over again. I’m able to involve the kids in the cooking process now and there’s nothing better than heating something yummy and healthy up after a long afternoon of soccer practice and piano lessons.

Below I share one of my favorite freezer meals. This meal makes me feel like I’m back in the running again for some sort of mommy accolades. It’s healthy, cheap, and easy to make, so you can’t go wrong.

Chili

1 package of dried beans (15-bean soup mix)
1 pound of ground meat (Turkey is the leanest. Or you can omit the meat if you prefer a vegetarian chili.)
1 medium onion
1 tablespoon garlic
1 small container of fresh salsa (from the refrigerated section)
1 package taco seasoning mix (or 3 tbsp. from a jar)
2 packages ranch dressing Mix
1 small can of corn, drained
1-2 cups of water
1-2 tablespoons of Tapatio or Tabasco hot sauce

1. Soak 1 package of beans overnight. Fill water ¾ of the way full in a large bowl. The beans should swell up and absorb a portion of the water.

2. Brown onion and garlic with meat.

3. Drain the beans and put them in a crock pot with the meat.

4. Add the rest of the ingredients in and stir together.

5. Cook on high for 4 to 6 hours or on low on the stove top for 1 to 2 hours.

Freeze the remainder into serving size, plastic re-sealable bags for lunch, campouts, or for a night when you’re too busy to cook a full meal.

Ann Springer is a published author of many magazine articles. Someday her tombstone will read, “Killer of Plants,” because in her house if you don’t bark or cry you just don’t get fed.

I had to laugh at her closing. I’ve given up on house plants myself right now because I can’t seem to take on the simple task of watering them regularly. Thank you, Ann, for sharing your tips and recipe with us! Make sure you check out her blog at 3 Girls and a Pug. (She has the cutest picture of her girls and pug together!) And stay tuned as I have the next installment of how to get started on freezer cooking coming up soon!

Freezer Cooking February: Supplies & Recipe Choices


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
Slotted Spoons
Whisks, Tongs, Spatulas
Strainer/Colander
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!