Freezer Friendly Favorites

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. raspberry

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. wink

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! grin
     
  • 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. 

LInked with: Frugal Friday, Weekend Potluck, Sorta Crunchy

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Elise | May 10, 2012, 7:46 AM

Okay, I love that idea! Will definitely be trying it next time around. Thanks!

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anita | May 9, 2012, 8:36 PM

I do the meatloaf fully cooked.

I make 4-8 mini loaves…in resuable small loaf pans,

sweet ketchup/bbq sause top and all.


cool overnight in the fridge…they pop right out of the

small loaf pans.


seal a meal them one at a time.

to thaw,  i place an unopened baggie in hot tap water

for 15 minutes….cut open….place on a cookie sheet and

presto!!!  home made meatloaf…FAST!!!

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Bugs | Apr 21, 2012, 3:24 AM

Love freezer cooking here too. I’ll have to try the meatballs recipe.

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The Old-Fashioned Housewife | Apr 20, 2012, 6:05 PM

Elise,

im sorry, i should have said that yes she was fine… it was our first run-in with croup and it was so scary… we had never seen it before and she woke up from her nap unable to breathe, wheezing terribly, etc.  It was Easter Sunday so we just went right to the ER.  But after they told us what it was and gave her some anti-inflammatory medicine she was OK. smile  thanks. smile

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Elise New | Apr 20, 2012, 4:04 PM

Thank you! I think I still would have wanted to stop for pizza… but I’m pretty much a pizza freak raspberry You’re right though, having food in the freezer keeps me from having an excuse to eat out.
I hope your daughter is alright!

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The Old-Fashioned Housewife | Apr 20, 2012, 1:27 PM

Hi there!  Just found your blog through Frugal Fridays and its super cute and helpful (And I love the name! smile ).  I love all your ideas here, I’ve really been trying lately to make everything I cook times two and put the other half in the freezer.  You are so right that it helps cut down on the temptation to buy food out… two weeks ago we had to go to the ER with my daughter in the afternoon and by the time we got home at 8 we were all starving and in the past I would have said, “well, gotta get a pizza” or something to that affect.  But I knew I had some frozen beef stew in an easily-defrostable container ready to go in the freezer, and we were eating in 10 minutes. 

Thanks for the inspiration. smile

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femmefrugality | Apr 20, 2012, 10:11 AM

I keep hearing about this and NEED to do it!  Your recipes look delish, and I’m glad to hear it’s been a success!

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Jen | Apr 20, 2012, 7:33 AM

If I can ever get organized enough to do this, it is great!  I think I just need to send a week with the crockpot going everyday.  Fortunately its just the two of us so we often have leftovers that I freeze.  (If it’s any good). smile

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Elise New | Apr 19, 2012, 2:40 PM

Yes! just having some ground beef and chicken are extremely helpful. So glad ya’ll like the pizza crust!

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Shari | Apr 19, 2012, 12:47 PM

Thanks for the tips. I think I’ll give freezing the crusts a try to save me some time at least on the day we eat the pizza! ;D I had to double the recipe to get two pizzas for my family of five. My almost four year old asked me this morning if we were going to have pizza again soon! So far my only “go to” freeze ahead items have been browned ground beef and cooked, shredded chicken. These are helpful for those that have small freezers like I currently do.

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Elise New | Apr 19, 2012, 9:31 AM

Yes, definitely! I hate heating up the kitchen with the stove on the one hand and trying to cool the house with the A/C on the other.

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Carrie | Apr 19, 2012, 9:24 AM

It takes me awhile to get in the “mood” for a freezer cooking day as well. grin However, I’m tentatively planning one in May. I figured that with the summer heat I’d rather heat the kitchen up one day and then be able to thaw something and cook/reheat it in the crockpot or stove top. I’m hoping this saves me time, money and keeps me from heating my home up each night. grin

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Elise New | Apr 18, 2012, 6:24 PM

*Strokes

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Elise New | Apr 18, 2012, 6:21 PM

I’m so glad you liked the crust!
I’ve never frozen the uncooked dough, but I’ve both frozen complete pizzas and cooked crusts. The last time I made pizza, I just triple the batch of crust, which is as much as my oven can hold at one time. I then put all but one in gallon zip-top bags and froze them.
The only thing I do that saves a step (and it’s just a little step) is to let the crust rise in the oven, and not bother taking it out when I turn the oven on to bake. I haven’t noticed a difference in how it turns out.
Also, using a wet, angled spatula to spread the crust on the pan helps keep it from sticking to the dough. I re-wet my spatula every two or three stokes. HTH

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Shari | Apr 18, 2012, 3:13 PM

You freeze your already cooked pizza, just the dough, or precooked crust only? I just made your recipe for gf pizza crust last night and we all enjoyed it. However, I’ve never frozen homemade pizza before and its rather time consuming with three toddlers underfoot. So any tips would be helpful! Thanks!

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Elise New | Apr 18, 2012, 12:17 PM

Yes! Definitely love the crock-pot! In fact, I’ve got chili slow cooking for supper tonight right now. smile  Like I said though, planning ahead is not my strong suit, which is why I love the freezer cooking!

@Janet, that’s a great idea! I’ll definitely try freezing them on cookie sheets!

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Janet @ Frugal & Focused | Apr 18, 2012, 11:17 AM

I love freezer cooking and took the time to add some foods to my freezer this past weekend. I made breakfast burritos for the first time this weekend. After I made them I placed them on a cookie sheet and put them in the freezer to freeze. Then I removed them, wrapped then individually in parchment paper and then placed them all in a gallon size freezer bag and put them back in the freezer. We ate a couple this a.m. Just pulled two individually wrapped burritos from the bag and heated them in the microwave still in the parchment paper.

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Gina | Apr 18, 2012, 9:51 AM

I use the slow cooker all the time! And I love being able to take something half-prepped from the freezer (like chicken breasts in marinade) and throw them—still frozen—into the crockpot for later.

Also, I’ve had the same problem with breakfast burritos! I don’t want to waste all that foil and paper towels (I don’t even use paper towels), and in the past when I’ve made them the family has eaten them all so there was nothing to freeze anyway. smile

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Roxie | Apr 18, 2012, 9:33 AM

Do you cook with a crock pot?  On really busy days my crockpots are my best friend.  I own 3 of them.  They are different sizes.  Our favorite meal is by far a pot roast with all the fixings.  Cooked on low all day it is wonderful to eat that night for supper. Left overs make great lunch.
I often make baked potatoes in the crock pot. A ‘potato bar’ meal is another favorite.  Left over chili, cheese, etc. make a baked potato a whole meal.
Another thing I love is that I don’t have to heat up my whole kitchen to get a meal on the table quickly.