Cooking for the Freezer
You'll Need Casseroles
Once-a-Month Cooking: A Month of Dinners!
I discovered the idea of once-a-month cooking when I was a young mother with just two little children. Mimi Wilson, author of Once-A-Month Cooking was a guest on Dr. James Dobson's Focus on the Family radio program. Because I had a degree in industrial engineering, I immediately saw the sense in grouping similar food preparation tasks together to create an inventory of suppers for my family. Even if I had to get a sitter on cooking day, it would be worth it to minimize the suppertime madness that is familiar to any mother of preschoolers.
I hope this introduction to bulk cooking will be a help to other busy people. It certainly blessed my life during a very busy season!
Image from wikimedia commons
Cookbooks for Bulk Cooking - Best Resources I Have Found
This was the first book I ever used for freezer meals. It is still the best book on the subject for beginners.
Who Can Benefit from This Method?
A Cooking Plan for Anyone
- someone who wants to make sure an aging parent is eating well;
- busy professionals who want to enjoy home-cooked meals after a long commute;
- families with evening activities who need quick meals;
- families who want to cut costs by buying in bulk and reducing food waste;
- good neighbors who want to always have some casseroles ready for a friend in need; or
- anybody who loves to cook, but hates to plan meals.
The book Once-A-Month Cooking includes several meal plans: a 2-week plan for those with a small freezer, a low-fat plan, and a couple of different 30-meal plans. It includes shopping lists, recipes, and a complete cooking day schedule for each plan. I recommend you use one of these plans the first time you try bulk cooking. Once you have done it a few times, feel free to create your own plans instead.
Just yesterday I did a two-week plan. At the kids' request, I substituted our favorite sweet and sour meatballs for the Balkan meatball recipe and opted for meatloaf rather than chili burgers while otherwise using the list from the Once a Month Cooking book. Only a few alterations were needed to the shopping list provided in the book.
While the meals in the book are billed as dinner entrees, there is no reason they could not also be healthy lunches for the kids while parents are at work. Teens can heat and eat or a caregiver can spend time playing with young children while lunch is in the oven.
What Happens on Cooking Day?
How do I get all that food cooked?
Choose your meal plan. Look over the shopping list and make substitutions (e.g. ground turkey for ground beef) if desired. Check off any items already in your pantry, like spices. Plan shopping day for the day before cooking day. Make sure you have enough pots, pans, freezer bags, and casseroles (or foil pans) for the recipes in your plan. Be sure to have permanent markers for labeling meals--many things look alike after they are frozen!
The Night Before
Clear countertops and get out needed appliances such as a food processor and mixer. Your cooking plan should tell you what needs to be done before cooking day. For example, dry beans can be soaked overnight and cooked first thing on cooking day. Whole chickens can be boiled and deboned, too, to save time on cooking day.
Follow your cooking and assembly order from your plan. Chop all vegetables first, brown ground meat, and get spices, cheese and canned goods ready. Most plans will group your work by type of food, e.g. do all the chicken recipes with your pre-cooked chicken (from the night before) while the ground meat browns. Get those dishes in the freezer, drain the meat, and move on to ground meat recipes while spaghetti sauce simmers, etc.
Keep a sink full of soapy water to collect mixing bowls, pots, and pans as you finish with them. When the last meal goes in the freezer, put away any leftovers (or toss some in the crock pot to make soup overnight.) Load the dishwasher, hand wash any big pots, and treat yourself to delivery or carry-out. You've worked hard and saved enough money to warrant a treat!
Can I Create My Own 30-Meal Plan? - Yes, You Can!
Step-by-step to a custom monthly meal plan:
- Collect enough recipes for a month of entrees. I like to simplify things by choosing 15 recipes and doubling them so we have each dish twice in a month.
- Write down all the ingredients from the recipes. Consolidate like items, e.g. 2 cups rice plus 1 cup rice becomes simply "one small bag rice."
- Check the pantry for staples before making a shopping list. Be sure to add freezer bags and/or plastic wrap to the list.
- Plan the cooking day by grouping like tasks, e.g. brown all the ground beef for all recipes at once.
- Make note of the number of casserole dishes, large pots, and appliances needed for cooking and/or freezing.
- Shop and cook as you would for a ready-made plan from a book.
What do you think?
Will you try once-a-month cooking?
My Spanish Rice Recipe
This is a great side dish. With the addition of chicken, it becomes an entrée. It freezes well, too.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
- 2 cups dry white rice
- 2 cups water or chicken broth
- 3 cups tomato juice or V-8 juice
- 1/4 cup dry minced onion
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 3 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 cup cooked, chopped chicken (optional)
- Combine all ingredients in large saucepan.
- Bring to boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for twenty minutes.
- Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for five minutes.
- Fluff and serve with your favorite Mexican dishes.
More Tasty Ideas, Resources and Recipes
- Taste of Home
Search recipes for your favorite desserts, appetizers, main dish recipes, and more. Find an array of easy recipes as well as home cooking tips, kitchen design insights and diet and nutrition information at Taste of Home Magazine.