If you’ve been on Pinterest, you’ve heard about freezer cooking. It’s all the rage amongst busy mamas across the country. The pins make it look ridiculously easy and you can’t help but be captivated by the idea of only cooking one day but eating for two weeks! Now this certainly isn’t a new concept and people have been doing this for years. But all the pins and posts about it make it seem like the latest sanity saving phenomenon.
Considering I’ve been nesting like a madwoman, expecting my 4th any day now, and can’t possibly see myself cooking every single day postpartum, I decided to dive into the freezer cooking world. Don’t get me wrong, I could totally go for Afghan food take out every. single. day. but the hubs could only fork over so much cash for kabobs before he says ‘enough!” I want to say I planned it out to a T and that everything was super organized, except I would be lying through my teeth. You see, I’ve “liked” pins, but never committed to actually pinning anything. Once you pin it, you’re serious, ya know?
One day, out of the blue, as these nesting urges often happen, I got serious. I looked through all the pins I liked and started writing down everything I would need. Meats, veggies, ziplock bags, etc. Then my list kinda sat there for a two days. Then I realized our fridge was looking a little bare and decided that it was probably a good time to head out and get the groceries on the list. We hit up the markets and came home with a trunk full of food. Seriously, how blessed are we to have such a luxury? Alhamdulilah, all praise is due to God!
I didn’t cook that day. I shoved everything into the fridge and the overflow went into our mini fridge in the garage. The next day I had my sister come out to distract my kids while I got to work.
While I had a general idea and list of what I wanted to make, I actually went back and forth a few times between recipes. I would switch to a different recipe at one point or double another recipe that appealed to me as I assembled it.
I pulled together a mix of meals that would either need to be cooked in the slow cooker, thawed and baked in the oven, and ready made needing to be reheated. I also picked up a big pack of salmon burgers that would provide me with 3 nights worth of dinner with zero prep.
Here are the recipes I made:
For the slow cooker:
- Hearty Beef Stew (2)
- Beef and Butternut Squash Stew (1)
- Chicken Noodle Soup (2)
- Marinated Whole Chicken (1)
- Marinated Beef Roast (2) (needs to be thawed, seared, then tossed in the slow cooker)
- Beef Chili, personal recipe (1)
- Chicken Tacos (didn’t really follow the recipe. Used a can of diced tomatoes with chilies and added taco seasoning) (1)
- Hoisin Beef (again, didn’t follow the recipe exactly) (1)
To be thawed and baked:
- Lemon Pepper Chicken Thighs (2)
- Lemon Herbed Chicken Thighs, personal recipe (2)
- Arabic Spiced Chicken Breast and Veggies
- Marinated Turkey Breast (1)
- Pioneer Woman Sloppy Joes (1)
- Beef Lasagna, personal recipe (1) (needs to be thawed and baked)
- Chicken Enchilada Mix (2) (needs to be thawed, rolled, baked)
Boom! 20+ meals in 4 hours.
This was a total learning experience. I could have done certain things more efficiently and somethings I felt I did really well. Of course the true test of whether this was a success or not will come when it’s time to cook and taste the foods. I’ll have to post an update for sure.
Here are my general tips:
- Make space! You can’t cook up a bunch of meals if you don’t have anywhere to put them. I had a giant turkey taking up space that I took out and made for my dad as a “thank you” for helping me with all the various odd jobs around the house that I couldn’t do for myself.
- Find your recipes. There isn’t one single pin/post that will have you making every single thing listed. Click through quite a few and save your favorites.
- Write out your shopping list. Those handy dandy printable shopping lists that come with those huge freezer meals posts are only good if you plan on making everything they’ve listed. Instead, write out exactly what you need for the recipes you’ve chosen. Make sure to cross reference with things you already have in the pantry and fridge.
- Shop for your groceries. Obviously the most expensive items on your list will be the meat. If you only buy Halal, see if you can work out a deal with your local butcher. If you have access to a restaurant supply store, some carry Halal meats in huge amounts. Split the price and the box with a friend. As for veggies and canned goods, just hit up your favorite grocery store. You really don’t need more than you would normally buy unless you’re quadrupling every recipe.
- Get help. Someone needs to watch the kids or they’ll be eating up all your washed and chopped veggies. Also, if you hate cooking, that much cooking will overwhelm you and make you hate cooking even more. Ask a friend to come by for the day to help you with the prep work. My awesome little sister played babysitter and sous chef that day.
- Recipe, set, go! Have the recipes ready, either printed or open in tabs on your computer, to reference. I started with my beef recipes first. I would write out the name of the meal, what needed to be added (if anything) and cook time. Then I portioned out the meat into the correct bags and proceeded from there. Once meals were all ready, I’d remove as much air as possible, flatten and pop into the freezer.
- Keep it clean. Start with a clean kitchen! It makes all the difference in the world. Cleaning as you go makes it a more manageable task versus cleaning everything at once in the end when you’re exhausted. Don’t think you’ll use every dish in the house to make this happen. I used two cutting boards, one for meat one for veggies; two large mixing bowls, 1 pot, 1 large saucepan, various knives, and mixing spoons. I would wash each one after each use before proceeded to the next recipe. It sounds more overwhelming that it really was. Trust me! I did this 9 months pregnant, you can do this too! But then again I do have that nesting magic power…
- Don’t forget the extras. My sloppy joes and enchiladas will be useless if I don’t have buns and tortillas! Make sure to keep the necessary items to complete the meal in the freezer too. Some of my recipes will require me to add canned beans that I didn’t want to open and put in the freezer, so I’ve kept them towards the back of my pantry as to not accidentally use them for another meal. Also, fresh veggies on the side are ideal but not always possible when groceries are running low and I’m not in the mood for a dash to the market. I had some frozen veggie mixes to cook up and add as sides. I also have some tortellini packs and frozen samosas.
Ummm, I think that’s it.
Oh, and I froze blueberry muffins because, why not?
Aaaaaaaaaaaaand I made smoothie packs:
Like I said, the whole success of this experiment lies with the taste! I’ll let you know how it goes next month. If you see lot’s of Afghani food pics in my instagram feed postpartum, you’ll know the results…