What my husband said about me last night: “When it comes to meal planning and cooking, you’re an expert.”
And he was serious.
I don’t know about you, but I absolutely glow when my husband brags on me.
Here’s the thing. Even though learning to wash the dishes daily was equivalent to learning a new language for me, I’ve always been pretty comfortable and creative in the kitchen.
Hearing a speaker talk about freezer cooking years ago had a big impact on me. I didn’t really go for her recipes, but I did start doubling certain things and freezing more.
It started with figuring out that I saved a ton of time on my daily dinner prep by trimming the fat and yucky stuff off of ALL of the chicken breasts I purchased (on sale, of course) at once, and packaging those trimmed breasts in meal-sized portions. This way, I didn’t have to thaw, then trim, then cook the meat for each meal. Cutting out the trimming step also meant that I cut out the obsessive-disinfecting-of-the-kitchen-sink step since the chicken went straight from the bag to the pan.
How I trim and package a LOT of chicken all at once. (There’s a video, too!)
Soon, I figured out that since cooking the meat for a meal was the most time-consuming step, cooking extra meat to freeze for a future meal also saved lots of time.
As additional mini-people joined our family and life got crazier, I decided to take that method even farther and began pre-cooking large amounts of beef and chicken.
I also like to cook beans and rice to freeze. By having pre-cooked ingredients in the freezer, I can literally throw together a home-cooked meal in around fifteen minutes.
(Listen to my Podcast about meal planning and freezer cooking here.)
Meals made with pre-cooked ground beef:
Mexican Casserole (not frozen as a casserole)
Meals made with pre-cooked chicken:
Creamy Chicken and Spinach Enchiladas
Chicken and Black Bean Burritos
Other things that are easy to cook ahead and freeze:
Once I realized how much time I could save in the kitchen by cooking ahead, I started viewing recipes differently.
There are some things that are so perfect for freezing that I now automatically double the recipe every time I make them. I freeze the second portion for a quick meal later. With my roast/brisket, knowing that I will get three (fabulous) meals out of one cooking session (and mess!) is the motivation I need to tackle this more complicated and time-consuming recipe.
The main thing I love about freezer cooking is that it eliminates excuses. Anything I can do to eliminate excuses is a good thing around here. When I decided that my family wasn’t getting enough protein for breakfast . . . I didn’t start setting my alarm clock for earlier because I knew that would just end in guilt. Y’know, when I ignored it.
I took the (non-early-morning) time to make things like sausage biscuits or breakfast pockets that could be microwaved with my eyes closed. Literally.
I also love to have the kids make large amounts of blueberry pancakes or pumpkin pancakes or pumpkin muffins to freeze for breakfasts. It’s family bonding time. Not child labor at all.
Other freezer links:
The World’s Best Fried Okra Recipe (no humility needed, and it’s perfect for freezing)
My goal this year is to start freezer cooking. I have started keeping taco meat and ground hamburger in the freezer and it is such a time saver ~ I love it!
I would love to hear more detail about freezing rice and beans… I mean it sounds pretty straight forward, but you never know… Do you mean “rice & beans” or do you freeze rice that you’ve cooked and beans that you’ve cooked. Is it worth it to freeze rice when there is Minute Rice? thanks 🙂
No, I just freeze cooked rice and cooked beans separately. (I thought I had posts about that but couldn’t find them.)
I’ve never really used Minute Rice, but I do think there’s a texture difference.
The beans I freeze in quart sized freezer bags.
I don’t like making meals in advance but I love the idea of precooking some of the meat! 😀
I do my freezer cooking almost exactly like Nony. I will make a huge pot of pinto beans and then freeze them in 2 cup portions (using freezer bags.). I lay the bags flat to freeze and then stack them when they are hard. You can fit a lot of food in your fridge top freezer if you are careful.
I also cook up a whole turkey and then shred the meat. I freeze the shredded meat into 2 or 4 cup portions, perfect for turkey soup or casseroles. I then make turkey stock from the turkey bones. After the stock is cooked and cooled I freeze it in one cup portions to be used in a wide variety of recipes.
I also will cook ground beef and freeze it in one pound portions (about 2 cups) to use in tacos, spaghetti, chili, etc.
I am glad you are sharing these ideas. I learned about freezer cooking YEARS ago but could not make it work for me. Now that I freeze prepared ingredients, it is a huge help.
This post is tremendously helpful!
I know you’re busy, but if you ever get the urge to write another ebook, I would sure love to see one with your ideas for efficent meal-planning and cooking! It’s something I struggle with every day, and takeout often wins (as our budget and health loses).
Ooooo. Me too! I would love an eBook on kitchen management too!
A few weeks ago i decided to make meatloaf… a favorite around here but not one i get to make often since it requires pre-thawing or not freezing the meat to begin with, about an hour of prep time (bc i saute my vvegetables before mixing with the meat.) and then an hour to cook. So i have to have it planned out all day, plus actually have enough time to make it. Well as it happened, on this particular day, i had 1.5 lbs of beef and 1.5 lbs of ground pork. i only needed a total of 1.5 lbs to make the meatloaf, but rather than split both packages, i just doubled my recipe. formed two loaves but froze the second one without baking it. so for the second meal it was a simple matter of poping it in the oven. Really saved me with all the holiday craziness.
I use chunky salsa as veggies in my “quick” meatloaf.
I started pre cooking and freezing ground beef as a single person whose primary mode of travel is on foot. It was a pleasant walk but not a short one so I would only pick up meat when I knew I was headed straight home or had a ride. Freezing meat was standard procedure dividing it before hand made since. I like cooking it too. But I don’t think it makes as much since to freeze whole meals either. We try to cut back on meat and it is easier to do if its portioned that way. A good s pegged time takes a while to make I want to skip one step. I am 7 months pregnant and next month I am planning a big batch cooking week or so. I am making mostly burritos my husband can just put them in the toaster oven from the freezer and feed himself with out me lifting a finger. He is having that and cereal for a few weeks I think I want smoothies and fresh fruits but I will have burritos too. I am going to make as many as I can my husband thought I was exaggerating when I said 100 but I think that is on the lower end.
Pamela McCall says
I know it’s a little funny to comment on a post that’s a few years old, especially when today isn’t the first time I’ve read it. I want to tell you that out of all the wonderful, positive changes you’ve helped me make, your idea of freezer cooking is the true “game changer”. Having pre-cooked burger and pre-cooked chicken “Dana-style” makes my life SOOO much easier. It’s also made preparing meals for my elderly in-laws a breeze. Darling hubby grills a whole Costco bag of thighs for them (they prefer dark meat, eww!) and a whole Costco bag of breasts for us and then we chop and bag it up. Darling in-laws get luscious grilled meat whenever they want. It’s been years since they could grill out on their own and they love it. I think I’ve made almost every one of your recipes and I keep coming back to them. I share your tips on cooking to my friends and family even more than the organizing tips. Can’t wait until the 8th to get your book. Thanks, thanks, thanks!
Dana White says
I love this! (And loved it when I read it the first time, but somehow didn’t respond!) That is honestly one of the biggest benefits of cooking this way! I can put together meals for others so quickly and easily! Love that you do that for them!