A Fledgling Freezer Cook Takes Flight

March 9th, 2011

I’m new to freezer cooking. I was vaguely aware of the concept, but the words “freezer cooking” evoked images of row after row of condensed-soup casseroles stacked neatly in the freezer. This did not fill my heart with joy.

It wasn’t until I started regularly reading a mommy blog that I learned about the idea of freezing meal “building blocks” rather than exclusively trying to make and freeze entire meals. At last, it clicked. Having an arsenal of meal components (especially meat) socked away in my freezer made all the sense in the world. I was already a “meal planner” and it was natural to add freezer cooking to my meal planning efforts.

In advance of Buggie’s arrival, I stowed away a number of meals and was pleased with the results, but today I embarked on my first concerted freezer cooking endeavor. I took a day off work and packed the kids off to day care so that I could work my magic in the kitchen without interruption.

But I knew that an undertaking of this magnitude would require backup, so I called in the big guns: my mother. My mum and I have been cooking together my entire life (there are great pictures of me up to my armpits in biscuit dough at the age of about two). And she is the undisputed queen of kitchen multitasking – skills she has honed from decades of hosting an elaborate Christmas party for 80 of her closest friends featuring at minimum a dozen different home-made appetizers and finger-food dainties.

We made our list, marshaled our recipes, bought our ingredients, and choreographed the step-by-step order of operations. Then we got to work. We chopped. We stirred. We marinated. We baked. We laughed, talked, and danced to ABBA. Throughout it all, my dad tirelessly served as kitchen pit crew. He washed a lot of dishes and even made an emergency run to the store when we ran out of quart-size freezer bags.

And eight hours later, we had a lot to show for our efforts. Neatly stowed in my freezer are:

  • 2 bags (1/2 pound each) of marinated ready-to-cook Dijon Chicken Breasts
  • 5 bags (1/2 pound each) of marinated ready-to-cook Spicy Southwest Chicken Breasts
  • 7 ½ cup portions of bagged chopped raw onion to be used in future recipes
  • Five pounds cooked ground beef, divided into one-pound bags for use in future pasta dishes, taco salads, or sloppy joe adventures
  • 3 meatloaves (super healthy with lots of green veggies, thanks to a recipe from the Sneaky Chef!)
  • 12 large and 18 mini Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins (sporting wheat germ, whole wheat flour, and pureed vegetables ala Sneaky Chef)
  • 4 servings of Parmesan Twice Baked Potatoes (eight potato halves)
  • 4 pounds Carolina Pulled Pork, divided into one pound bags
  • Just over a gallon of Pasta Sauce
  • 2 ready-to-cook Beef Stew in a Bag packets

The top shelf of the freezer was empty this morning.

The only item left incomplete are two trays of fruit leather – one mango, one mixed fruit – that are currently still dehydrating in my oven. The jury’s still out on those, but everything else came together swimmingly.

With the exception of the muffins (which I feed Miss Mouse and take to work as a late-afternoon pick-me-up) and the fruit leather (which was mainly an excuse to use up a mountain of miscellaneous frozen fruit), everything we made is a dinner-time building block. Whether it’s grilling some Southwest chicken breasts to toss into fajitas, flinging beef stew into the crock-pot as I race out the door in the morning, or throwing together pulled-pork sandwiches, a well-stocked freezer will help me get dinner on the table in a flash, while allowing more time for what’s really important in the evening: reading stories, bathing babies, and catching up with my hubby.

7 responses to “A Fledgling Freezer Cook Takes Flight”

  1. G'Mom says:

    I fear my throne is threatened. You learned well, daughter of mine. Once again I have to say – you are awesome!

  2. I have zero children and I can't manage to do what you just did. I'm working on meal planning and the idea of freezer building blocks is just awesome!

  3. Kate says:

    Building blocks are the way to go. It's easy enough to find cheap and quick side dishes (I'm not above eating Rice-A-Roni) so being able to pull out ready-to-eat main dishes from the freezer makes dinner preparation so painless!

  4. Isa says:

    Wow! You guys got a LOT OF FOOD MADE! Also, you both look adorable next to that freezer–I would have preferred pictures of how you got all of those goodies wedged in there, though…

  5. Kate says:

    Isa, we totally cheated. I have a chest freezer in the garage. Not everything fit in our inside freezer! Although I will say that freezing things flat makes a BIG difference. Once things like the bags of pasta sauce and ground beef are solid, you can stack them beautifully.

  6. Momma L says:

    what a wonderful, fabulous idea! i may have to steal this fabulous idea! =)

  7. Kate says:

    @Momma L — You totally should! It'll change your life. If a whole day of freezer cooking is intimidating (or you don't have room in your freezer for that kind of quantity), start small. Even something as simple as making a double batch of lasagna or an extra meatloaf to pop into the freezer is totally worth it.

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