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!
I also mixed up a quick batch of Mudballs. Although, since one of my boys can’t have peanut butter…I used sunbutter to make these this time. (about 15 minutes)
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?
I have to agree. I also love to cook and bake and think of it as a hobby but I don’t love to cook dinner every night. I too have spent 3 days in the kitchen this past weekend (and used several of your recipes!) and did a lot of freezer cooking. It saves me so much time over the next month or two. Thank you for tinkering with recipes so that you may share them with us.
I too have discovered the benefits of freezer cooking, especially when we were in the midst of moving recently! It makes things so much easier and I love to follow others freezer cooking days for tips. Love your recipes!
[email protected] says
I also love cooking. I have done one freezer cooking day and loved it. It saves a lot of time later. I tried your hamburger rolls and they were really thick and heavy, more like dinner rolls. I’m not sure if I made them to thick or what. Any suggestions? I love your whole wheat tortilla recipe. I make the breakfast burritos all the time. Yum! Thanks for all the wonderful goodies.
I’m not sure what made them heavy (might have been the flour you used?), but I do roll mine quite thin.
I am encouraged! Thank you! I don’t plan ahead this well which means we have sandwiches on the days I am lazy or really busy. I am definitely gonna give this a try. :) Thanks for the great ideas!
[email protected] says
I wrote a post on freezer cooking today, too! This week I need to make meals for a friend, but I don’t have a huge block of time. So, like you, I am doing a little each day. Whatever I am preparing for dinner, I just double it. I do this a lot with bake mostacolli and pancakes.
becca banana says
You are so encouraging!
For the last month or so, I’ve faithfully meal-planned which is a long streak for me. I find that I have more energy and interest in spending time in the kitchen when there is a plan and some deliciousness on the other side! :)
Cooking and baking is very rewarding and once you get started the process is so much fun!
Are you counting the time it takes to wash the dishes? That is the real killer for me. I love cooking but hate dishes!
No, I was just counting the cook time. Clean up is no fun…but at least this way much of the mess for several meals is done in just a few days!
I love cooking, too. But, I’ve never done freezer cooking to any extent. Might have to try baby steps with that method.
Porcupines are one of our favorites! We make them with beef or turkey and brown rice (I cook the rice ahead of time). Yum!
Starving Student Survivor says
Planning is definitely key. Which reminds me that I have yet to plan meals for this week. I really need to get to that.
Kind of off the subject, but I wanted to thank you for all your recipes. Every time I think of making something from scratch and use a search engine to find a recipe, your site comes up with exactly what I’m looking for. So now I just go straight to you for recipes! Thank you!
How do you store your tortillas? It seems like I can make a bunch ahead of time, but they always get stiff on me instead of staying flexible. I store them in a gallon freezer bag in the refrigerator.
I also love freezer cooking and will often make double of a recipe and freeze one. I’ve only made many recipes at one time and that was to give to a friend who was on bed rest when she was pregnant with her twins. When I was pregnant this last time, I just started a month before the baby was due and froze an extra meal almost every night.
I store them in the fridge in a ziplock baggie. Mine get stiff too, so if I want them soft for tacos, I have to make them fresh. Or, I rewarm them for a few minutes in our toaster oven.
Just gotta say it……I LOVE FOOD PICTURES!!!
Great result for a little hard work! Way to go, Laura!
Erin guerrero says
I must say, currently my small garage freezer is not being used at this time, and I already told my husband that I wanted it cleaned up and ready to use again because I was planning on making premade meals and breads and freezing them and canning premade sauces and salsas. I put some things in “favorites” on the azure standard site yesterday so that I could place an order an get started, I am saving for a grain mill.
I was looking for canning supplies at the flea market (we have a booth there), though I didn’t find any, but I did find a wide mouth can funnel and proceeded back to my booth to get on my laptop and look up ebay prices for one, I was able to buy it for $2 which I thought to be a good deal.
It is all very exciting to me to learn to feed my family in a similar way as you do, Laura. For the longest time we have eaten the Standard American Diet (SAD) of store bought, premade, prepackaged foods, fast food, and chemical filled produce and meats. Since working to lose weight, my husband and I both are intrigued by making our own food. Thank you for the site, and sorry for the long reply!
I’m just wondering what you freeze your food in? Do you use aluminum foil; rubbermaid; tupperware, or ???? What seems to keep the food the freshest?
I have found that when I freeze stuff, it usually comes out freezer burnt, if I put it in anything other than Tupperware. Since Tupperware isn’t always affordable, i would like to find something that is more cost efficient.
Erin guerrero says
ziploc bags seem to be the best and I never have an issue with them, get all the air out of the bag and you are good to go. For freezing fruit, I think how laura does it is the best, I have had frozen balls of stuck together fruit before. Put them on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper and put in the freezer, once frozen, put in a bag and replace in the freezer. I have even used bags for soup. Laura also mentions not using off-brand plastic baggies. Makes since to me since they don’t feel as strong as branded bags.
I avoid aluminum if possible. I use glass pyrex dishes, glass jars or ziplock baggies.
Laura, I really dont know how you do it all! You are an inspiration to me. I’ve done some freezer cooking, mostly just with hamburger meat so far. I want to branch out a little so sometime this year i really want to get a small freezer. I will be cooking up a bunch of hamburger meat today, and freezing it for Mexican dishes, sloppy joes, etc.
Use a ziploc bag and seal it almost completely. Stick a straw in and suck the air out. I learned that at lifeasmom.com.
Erin guerrero says
We got our small chest freezer from sears and it is great. You could always check on your local craigslist listings for one. Before I had the small on that I bought at sears, I got one for $20 from CL and it was old and ugly, but it worked. I am thinking with all my freezing plans, I will grow out of my little freezer, but I sure hope not. I do have a rough plan incase I do. We only have a one car garage and its stuffed with inventory for our business…so its certainly hard to make room…but it must be done :-D
Pizza pockets, corndog muffins, and any quick bread are all great to have in the freezer. p.s.- I’m making a double batch of applesauce bread this week (the quick bread supply is gettin’ low).
When you love something it never seems like a chore! I do a lot of cook-ahead meals. I try to make two of whatever I am cooking and freeze one. I prefer not to freeze my baked goods, so instead I just mix up several batches of the dry ingredients and put them in containers with a note that has the wet ingredients and directions, sort of a DIY box of muffins/cookies/pancakes. Brown rice freezes quite well, so I’ll make up as much as I can and portion it out to freeze. I do beans the same way. I tend to focus on making the basics, so I can change them up later depending on my mood for the day. Just this weekend I made two huge batches of chicken broth. Each week I buy a whole chicken, break it down by hand, saving the backs and bits for broth in a freezer bag, and cooking the legs, thighs, and breasts to use through the week. It took a few times to get the hang of it, but now it takes me less than five minutes to get a whole chicken cut up and into the oven.
Erin guerrero says
I do have a freezing question. Can you freeze any of the dairy items? (ie yogurt, buttermilk, cheese(s), butter etc). I know with storebought you can freeze some of the mentioned, but can you with homemade?
I’ve not tried to freeze any of my homemade dairy products, so i truly don’t know. If it works with store bought products though, I don’t know why it wouldn’t work on the homemade.
Queen of the House says
Wow! I just came across your website via Menu Plan Mondays at orgjunkie.com
I think I will have to be visiting here regularly now! :) Great recipes, and we have a lot in common…I have 3 boys, homeschool, etc. Blessings on you!
Erin guerrero says
Welcome, I just found this site by chance a few days ago too. I was glued to looking through the recipes and other info for the first couple of days. Its a great site! I was homeschooled and would love to do the same for my two daughters (graciela 4 and jasmin 1.5). I am really looking forward to changing our eating habits to mimic the ones found here.
I would love to know how you reheat things that you freeze like the cookies & tortillas.
I just put them into ziplock freezer bags. I wash and reuse them all the time.
Leslie B says
Do you have cast iron cookware? If so, which 2 pieces would you recommend starting with?
I do have some cast iron pieces and I LOVE them. My favorite is a 12 inch skillet with a lid. I’d also recommend a smaller cast iron, or a griddle. I don’t have a griddle but it’s on my wish list!
I can’t wait to try the corn muffin sloppy joes. Making extra for freezing sounds great too. How do you warm them up for a meal after freezing??
I just put them into my oven or toaster oven to reheat for a few minutes.
Awesome! I gotta try that potato thing. I’m inspired!
Greta @ Mom Living Healthy says
Thanks for writing this…I had an overwhelming day of cooking yesterday. You give me hope that it will get easier!
I’m new to freezing stuff. How do you reheat the hamburger buns? Do you thaw them first in refrigerator? Or put them in oven before you eat? If you put them in oven how long for and at what temp?
I usually just leave them in the ziplock bag they were frozen in and thaw them on the countertop. Or I might put them into my toaster oven to thaw and re-heat. I do 350 degrees for just a few minutes (until they’re thawed).