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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Freezer Cooking Tips from the FREEZE-o-RAMA Mama

As I am gearing up for my FREEZE-o-RAMA this week, I thought I'd share some freezer or OAMC (once a month cooking) tips from the FREEZE-o-RAMA Mama ;)

First time/Scared to freeze?
  • If you aren't sure that you want to chill, baby--don't freeze for a month your first time. Instead, do a trial run by making a double batch of your dinner dish each night for one week. Eat one batch for dinner and freeze the other batch for later in the month.
  • Freeze with a girlfriend for added confidence and lots of fun!
  • Nervous about when to freeze and what to freeze? Get a freezer cookbook to help you freeze with confidence.

Storage Tips/Limited Freezer Space?
  • Opt for freezing "steps" of recipes such as seasoned ground beef, chopped onions, chopped peppers in small freezer bags to save on time and freezer space.
  • Freeze individual portions for quick work lunch prep in the mornings.
  • Freeze multiple soups in individual portions for a "pick your own soup" family dinner night.
  • Prepare freezer bags of marinades for last minute grill treats and extra flavorful meats.
  • Picky eaters don't like left-overs? Freeze large casseroles in multiple smaller portions that fit easily into your freezer and are ate in one meal sitting.
  • Love side dish potluck casseroles but the recipes are too big for a single family? Divvy them up for meal size portions.
  • My freezer is my favorite appliance hands down. Small deep freezers are relatively inexpensive ($125-$150). Given all the money you'll save from OAMC, you should be able to pay for it within the first few months!
Planning and Shopping Overwhelming You?
  • When planning for a freezer cooking day, create two lists. 1) Recipes you would like to make organized by meat category. 2) Ingredients only list with hash marks of quantities for quick shopping.
  • Check larger size containers for better deals when cooking in mass quantity. If your recipe only calls for 10 oz, but you have another recipe that calls for 10 oz of the same ingredient, purchasing a 20 oz can may save you money and space.
  • Purchase meats while on sale or at Aldis/other discount stores for additional savings. 
  • Want to change up your menu a bit and save on meat at the same time? Purchase a whole turkey and substitute turkey for chicken dishes one month.
Day Before Prep?
  • Chop veggies and prep garlic the night before and pop in the fridge for a quick start the next day.
  • Have cooking utensils and freezing supplies set out and ready.
  • Set up a work station with additional tables (if possible) to make plenty of room for your work day.
Day of Game Plan? 
  • Start with a clean kitchen and end with a clean kitchen.
  • Cook meals within the same meat groups at the same time. I typically start the day with beef and end with poultry.
  • Prepare a soup as your first meal to feed folks for lunch and freeze leftovers in individual portions for lunches. 
  • Cool foods completely before placing into your freezer.
  • Cover foods with press and seal (removing all air), cover with foil and don't forget to label.
  • Be careful stacking unfrozen food in the freezer or dishes/baggies may stick together.
  • Place multiple packages of frozen chopped veggies, marinades, cooked meats in large baggies according to contents for quick identification and organization.
Thawing Got You Confused?
  • Raw meats should be thawed in water baths until ready to cook.
  • Frozen casseroles (with cooked meats) can be thawed on the counter until thawed but still cool. 
  • All casseroles can be thawed in the fridge if that is your preference.
  • Some casseroles may have longer baking times after the freezing process. Use foil to cover cheeses or other toppings to prevent unwanted browning.
Well that is it for tonight. I am sure there are many more tips to be added... but this is a GOODe start ;)


4 GOODe Thoughts:

Yes, I'm a freezer cooking newbie! Your list may just give me confidence to have a go at freezer cooking. I'm going to try the turkey noodle soup, chicken nuggets and pot lasagna! Thanks for sharing!

I did the big batch thing several times, but it works better for me to freeze a portion of whatever I have to be cooking...extra soup, burritos, casseroles, etc. :)

I like the idea of making a double batch. That seems a little less intimidating. but finishing with a clean kitchen...... by the time I'm done, I'm way to tired to clean. :)

Yes, I'm a freezer cooking newbie! Your list may just give me confidence to have a go at freezer cooking. I'm going to try the turkey noodle soup, chicken nuggets and pot lasagna! Thanks for sharing!

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