We've been really busy lately. That's pretty typical of Spring time on the farm. Planning, Preparing to plant, actually planting, weeding (already!), mulching, lambing, calving, and the list goes on. I've found supper time approaching on more than one occasion when I was totally unprepared for it. Fortunately, we did a mega freezer cooking day a while ago and I've been able to pull a meal out of the freezer on a moments notice and have supper ready in a jiffy.
The “freezer meal” shelf is almost empty!
All this got me to thinking about how freezer cooking has saved us money by cutting down on the temptation of buying more convenient prepared food.
Cooking from scratch is cheaper, because ingredients are cheaper than prepared food. Another thing to think about is that food prices go up over time. Sadly, the cheese I bought to put in my casseroles a month ago, was cheaper than the cheese I bought last week. So a big batch of freezer cooking kind of insulated us from rising food prices for a month or so. Of course, we have to re-supply eventually, and when we do, we'll be paying the higher prices, but again, we'll pay a lower price (in general) today, than we would a few weeks from now when we'll be eating from our freezer. Make sense?
It's also healthier, because the basic ingredients don't contain preservatives, etc. I'm sure after the recipe I just posted a few days ago you're wondering what I care about health. )
Of course, it can be daunting to take on such a huge task. Believe me, I know! It took a lot of hem-hawing around on my part before finally taking the plunge, but I'm so glad I did! It's been a sanity saver for me not having to come up with a meal for every single lunch and dinner every single day.
It took me a while to build up a repertoire of recipes that I knew would freeze well, so I wanted to share them with you and hopefully, save you some experimenting.
In no particular order, here are some of our favorites:
BBQ meatballs over rice
Barbecued Meatballs. These are so easy! They can be pulled from the freezer and be hot and ready to eat within ten minutes I kid you not. As a plus, they're really great if you already have meatloaf on your freezer cooking menu. You can mix the meat for both at the same time killing two birds with one stone.
Meatloaf. Thus far, I've always mixed it up, shaped it into loaves and frozen it raw, but I'm thinking about baking first next time because it takes f-o-r-e-v-e-r to thaw out and cook, which requires me to think ahead. My think aheader seems to be broken.
Beef stroganoff. I like to freeze stroganoff flat in quart sized freezer bags. I can pull it out of the freezer, break it up so it comes out of the bag, dump it in a skillet with a little water and have it hot by the time the noodles or rice it's being served over is ready. I found that the sour cream/mushroom soup separated while thawing, but came back together as it heated up. Weird huh?
Sausage-rice casserole. (I like this recipe, but use broccoli instead of green beans). This one can be really frugal if, for instance, you make your own soup. At least, it makes me feel frugal because it's pretty light on the meat.
Chicken pot pie. We love chicken pot pie. it's up there close to pizza on my food list. It's a little time consuming to make, but I can't bring myself to scratch it off the list. One thing I do to save time (call me crazy, but…) I don't put a crust in the bottom of my pie dish. Just a top crust.
Pizza! It freezes very well, and re-heats easily. Oh, and it tastes good! Need I say more? We skipped this dish in our last cooking session because our cow was dry, making mozzarella cheese (or any other cheese for that matter) not so much of an economical choice. But guess what! Our cow's back in milk!
- Mongolian Beef. Like the meatballs, this can be taken out of the freezer and served within fifteen minutes. I like this recipe. You may however, want to reduce the sugar (or use some molasses instead). I also found that it's better not to dredge the beef in cornstarch for freezing purposes. It seems to turn kind of gummy when it's been frozen and thawed.
We're planning to do another mega cooking session again soon and once again, I'm on the hunt for recipes to add some variety to our dinners. I'd love to try breakfast burritos, but I'm a little stumped on how to package them economically. If I use a paper towel and foil wrapper around each one as the recipe suggests, I'd end up using more of those things than I have in the past year. Maybe we can try it as a casserole.
I'm also hoping to use more chicken in this next freezer cooking session. I shouldn't have a shortage of recipes thanks to this awesome list.
The main thing I found is that dishes with excessive breading didn't freeze well for any length of time. For instance, the breading on popover pizza got a little mealy after a while.