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A Beginner’s Guide to Freezer Cooking

I really don’t enjoy cooking.  I feel like maybe I should, but I don’t.  I’m a stay at home mom, but with four kids, homeschooling, and a new business, I really don’t have much time (or energy) to cook.  One of the ways that I save myself time and money in the kitchen is by freezer cooking.  If you’re looking for another way to save time and money in the kitchen, I highly suggest freezer cooking.

Freezer cooking is great for those days when you just don’t want to cook or don’t have time to cook, but you still want to serve a delicious hot meal to your family at dinner time.  Freezer cooking is also a great tool to use when you are about to have a baby.  Stocking your freezer full of ready-to-cook meals before a baby arrives means that you can still get your family a nice meal, even when you’re exhausted!

If you’ve never done a freezer cooking session before, the thought of preparing 20-30 meals at a time might seem overwhelming.  The thing to keep in mind, though, is to start small.  This post is going to give all you beginners an easy starting point.  I’ll include a small menu, with the meals each doubled (this saves you time since you are doing some repeating), the recipe directions, and a master shopping list at the end.  It’s important to note: I am using jarred and canned items below, but if you have the time, I save more money by preparing my own beans or pasta sauces ahead of time.

The following will make 10 meals, many with leftovers for lunch the next day.  Assuming you already have olive oil, salt, pepper, and italian seasoning, and that these items are at their average price at Walmart, these 10 meals will cost you under $60 to make.  That’s $6/meal, and like I said, some meals (like the soup) make plenty of leftovers, even for my family of 6.  Since I like to keep my meals around $5 per night, I will make my own beans, and also stock up on meat when it gets marked out at the grocery store.

Another note: Some of these recipes will need to be DOUBLED to make 2 meals, others can actually be SPLIT to make 2 meals…I’ve noted each next to the recipe.

Meal List:

Stuffed bell peppers-tex mex style x2

Taco soup x2

Teriyaki chicken x2

Smokey chicken and black bean soup x2

Black bean & salsa chicken x2

Stuffed Bell Peppers (halve this into two bags)

1 lb ground beef

2 jars pasta sauce

1 cup cooked rice

1 can black beans

1 can corn

chopped cilantro

diced onion

olive oil

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella

Saute onions in olive oil in a pan over medium heat.  Add in ground beef and cook until done.  Mix in rice, pasta sauce, beans, corn, and cilantro.  Divide between 2 ziploc bags, lay flat to freeze.  Freeze shredded mozzarella in a separate bag.  NOTE:  You CAN put these into bell peppers, wrap them each in saran wrap, and then freeze in a ziploc bag.  However, bell peppers do lose some of their firmness when frozen.  We choose to buy fresh bell peppers when we’re ready for this meal.  When ready to eat, thaw a bag, fill into bell peppers, cook at 350 for 45 minutes or until desired tenderness.  Top with mozzarella cheese during the last 5-10 minutes of cooking.

Taco Soup (halve this into two bags)

1 lb cooked ground beef

2 cans diced tomatoes

2 cans corn, undrained

2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 can white beans, drained and rinsed

1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch

1 packet taco seasoning

Optional toppings: shredded cheese, sour cream, chips

Pour all ingredients into a ziploc bag and lay flat to freeze.  To cook, pour all ingredients into a crock pot, cook on low 6-8 hours.  Serve warm and top with shredded cheese, sour cream, and crushed chips.  Another side option: cornbread!

Teriyaki Chicken (x2)

1 lb raw chicken breasts, chopped

1/2 cup teriyaki sauce

1 can chopped pineapple, with juice

5 large carrots, chopped

1/2 purple onion, chopped into large chunks

Pour all ingredients into a ziploc bag.  Lay flat to freeze.  To cook: thaw in the fridge overnight.  Pour into a skillet and cook until chicken in thoroughly cooked.  Serve over rice.

Smokey Chicken and Black Bean Soup  (x2)

1 lb chicken or turkey breast

4 cups chicken broth

1 can corn, drained

2 cans diced tomatoes, not drained

2 cans black beans

1 TBS Franks Red Hot

1 1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 tsp hickory liquid smoke

1/2 diced onion

1/2 bag frozen spinach, or 1-2 cups fresh spinach

Pour all ingredients into a ziploc bag and lay flat to freeze.  When ready to eat, thaw in fridge overnight.  Place in crock pot and cook on low 6-8 hours.  When done, shred chicken/turkey with a fork.

Black Bean & Salsa Chicken (x2)

1 lb chicken

1 can black beans

1 cup salsa

Pour all ingredients into a ziploc baggie and lay flat to freeze.  When ready to cook, thaw overnight.  Place in crock pot on low 6 hours.  Shred chicken with a fork and serve as tacos or over rice.  Add a little extra salsa if you will be gone longer than 6 hours to avoid the chicken burning in the crock pot.

Some basic beginner tips:

1.  Choose like-ingredient meals.  You’ll notice that this small menu utilizes chicken and ground beef, or that several of them utilize black beans.  The more you can buy in “bulk”, the more you’ll save overall.

2.  When freezing your meals, ALWAYS label the bags with the recipe name, date, and cooking instructions.

3.  To freeze meals prepared in ziploc bags, lay them completely flat.  This might mean doing some rearranging in your freezer, but overall, this will save you space.  Once the meals are frozen, you can place them “file folder” style anywhere in your freezer.  If you can store them upright in a pull out drawer in the freezer, this makes it easier to find your meals, too.

4.  When assembling your meals, use a juice pitcher to help hold up your ziploc bags and prevent spills by inserting the bag into the pitcher, and then folding the top edge of the bag out around the top of your pitcher.

I try to add one or two new meals to my rotation each month.  We obviously have our favorites, and I do doubles of many recipes, but it is still totally possible to have lots of variety when freezer cooking.  Some of my favorite places to find freezer meals:  Once a Month Meals (this site is really dedicated to freezer cooking, and it’s awesome)CrockPot 365 (many of these meals can easily be prepped and frozen and crock pot cooked later), Money Saving Mom, and of course a simple Pinterest search always yields plenty of variety!

 

Master shopping list (Everything should be under $60)

2 lbs ground beef

6 lbs chicken

2 jars pasta sauce

1 bag rice

8 cans black beans

1 can kidney beans

1 can white beans

8 cups chicken broth

5 cans corn

1 bunch cilantro

2 white onion

1 purple onion

1 bag frozen spinach or 2 cups fresh spinach

olive oil

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

6 cans diced tomatoes

1 packet Hidden Valley seasoning

1 packet Taco Seasoning

1 cup teriyaki sauce

2 cans pineapple chunks

1 small bag of carrots

1 TBS Franks Red Hot

1 1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning

1 tsp liquid hickory smoke

salt

pepper

Gallon sized ziploc bags

Take that master shopping list, cross off anything you already have at home, and get shopping!  Remember, this is a super simple “getting started” plan.  If you like it, then you can begin to expand your freezer cooking sessions to include more variety and more meals total.

If you’re looking for more ways to save time and money in the kitchen, be sure to check out Meagan’s post here for some more ideas!

 

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About Jessica Locke

Jessica Locke
Jessica Locke is a wife and stay-at-home mom of four children ages 5 and under. She is a new homeschooling mom who swore she’d NEVER ever even possibly consider homeschooling her children. She loves finding creative ways to stretch her small budget, drinking chai, writing, and eating anything with a peanut butter and chocolate combination. You can check out her latest thoughts on life as a mom, creative tutorials, activities for kids, and easy recipes on her blog, “Mothering With Creativity.”

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