It’s a question I’m asked frequently. Especially from women who: a) are new at working to feed their families a healthy diet…or b) don’t enjoy cooking at all.
Does eating a healthy diet mean that I am now going to be a slave to my kitchen?!!
It’s a fear that makes complete sense if you’re transitioning toward eating more whole foods. Do I have to make EVERYTHING from scratch? Isn’t there ANYTHING convenient about eating healthy? How am I supposed to find the extra time in my already full schedule to make healthy meals and snacks? And what if I hate cooking?
I addressed this topic quite a while ago in this post entitled Getting it All Done. In that post, I discuss the importance of menu planning, keeping food simple, cleaning the kitchen as you go, making breakfast while you’re making dinner and a few other helpful tips.
Today, I’d like to talk more about freezer cooking as a way to get ahead and save yourself some precious time in the kitchen. And, to answer the original question, nope…I’m not in the kitchen all the time. I do happen to be one of those people who loves to cook…so I may spend more time cooking and baking than the average person. But that’s just my choice. I love to feed my family, and I love to feed extras. I could spend less time in the kitchen and still feed my family a healthy diet…I just choose to tinker with recipes and hang out with my bowls, spoons and grain mill a little more than others. It’s my hobby.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to fill my fridge and freezer with healthy convenience foods. I spent a few extra hours in the kitchen over the course of three days. The result of my efforts? All kinds of healthy, grab and go foods! Hours of time saved! Dirty dish messes out of the way!
Did it take a few extra hours of time during those three days? Sure. I was in the kitchen a lot during those days. But now all I have to do is go snag something out of the freezer and re-warm it for a quick meal. I LOVE it!
Here are the results from my last “cooking ahead” days and the time it took me to prepare each item…
I baked up several pounds of potatoes one night (10 minutes of scrubbing), then chopped them and froze them overnight for future fried potatoes (following this Frozen Hashbrown method). The next day, I mixed up a double batch of cornbread and made Corn Dog Muffins and Sloppy Corn Muffins (20 mintues). Both went into ziplock freezer bags. Somewhere in there, I also mixed up and baked some Chocolate Chip Cookies (15 minutes, not including bake time). It seems like we always have events that I need to take cookies along. Having some already made in my freezer is so helpful!
The next day, I made a big double batch of Whole Wheat Tortillas so that I could grab them out for an easy lunch of quesadillas or tostadas. I also baked a double batch of Orange Muffins and a bunch of Porcupine Meatballs (the recipe for which I will share as soon as I perfect it). It just took me a little over an hour to do all of this (not including baking time)…and look at all the time it saved me for later!
The next day I made about four pounds of Venison Sausage – using this Turkey Sausage recipe (15 minutes, not including cook time). Because it takes so many different spices to make the Turkey Sausage, I love making it ahead like this. I froze it in about six small baggies to pull out for a fast breakfast casserole, or for biscuits and gravy. This pre-cooked Sausage is a great combo with the pre-made Frozen Hashbrowns, by the way!
Later that afternoon, I decided to make some Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns to freeze and have on hand. (about 30 minutes of work time) Those will last us for about two meals worth of Hamburgers or Sloppy Joes.
Last but not least, I made some homemade peanut butter (3 minutes)…
And used it to make a pan of Chewy Granola Bars to have in the fridge. (10 minutes)
It was fun. It was productive. I was exhausted. :) But the few extra hours I put in preparing the extra food has saved me more than a few hours of work during the past few weeks.
What are some of your favorite foods to prepare ahead of time?