This last week we had the pleasure of hearing Elynn Housley’s insights on bulk cooking and freezing; solving, and hopefully preventing, the frantic 5 o’clock what’s-for-dinner panic. For those of us that try to do the plan ahead thing, she provided many tips and techniques to save us time and better organize the process (not to mention making the end result enjoyable and not just edible).
The key is to find a strategy that fits your life and your schedule. Some of you may not be able to cook two to four weeks’ worth of meals in one baking, chopping, sautéing, don’t touch or talk to me day: but, you are more than willing to buy 5 pounds of ground beef or chicken when it’s on sale, cook, and then freeze what we aren’t using that night. Or, you could just double your dinner recipe for the night and freeze half of it for next week. Another option would be to join or form a Freezer Meal Group. These groups are intended to share the load of dinner preparation and planning with others. Depending on the group’s style, you could either get together and swap meals or get together and prepare meals. Either way you would be getting together with other moms!!
As for freezing, thawing, packaging, and finding space, Elynn offers over four pages of solid notes of ideas and advice. Some notable excerpts…
-Ziploc freezer bags, disposable tupperware, aluminum pans all make great containers for storing and freezing the prepared meals, but these are not all microwave and oven safe. Elynn’s solution: Gladware Ovenware Pans. They are freezer, microwave, and oven safe; and the best thing is you could wash them out and reuse them.
-If you don’t have the Gladware Ovenware pans, line a baking dish with foil. Put food in pan and freeze. When frozen, remove from the pan to free it up for other use. Wrap the frozen meal in additional seran wrap and foil, place back in the freezer. To eat, make sure to remove any plastic wrap, place back in original pan, thaw, and bake as directed.
-To flash freeze food for individual use. Place food (i.e. cut-up fruit for smoothies, pancakes, breakfast burritos…) on a cookie sheet in freezer. When frozen, put food in a Ziploc freezer bag.
-Label, label, label, and ideally keep a list of all items in the freezer so you don’t end up with an unidentifiable bag of reddish brown ice crystal-ly stuff shoved in the back.
Some other helpful tips from our group…
-If it’s difficult to locate items in your deep freeze, purchase small plastic baskets (you may have to measure the freezer to insure the baskets will fit). Designate each basket for a specific food group. “Beef”, “Chicken”, “Fruit” and stack them in the freezer. That way if you need the frozen ground beef on the bottom, you won’t have to dig.
-For homemade baby food, put that night’s dinner in a blender (a little bit of water may be necessary), blend, place in ice cube trays, freeze, pop out cubes as needed.
-Other items that freeze well: clearance priced bread, seasonal bulk fruit, yogurt cups, apple sauce cups.
For more great ideas and recipes, check out pinterest and onceamonthmom.com. If you’re interested in obtaining a copy of Elynn’s notes, let us know!!!