Back to the basics: batch cooking

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by Tsh

Tsh is the founder of this blog and lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.


Photo by Martin Kingsley

Quite a few of you mentioned that you’d like the topic of freezer meals and batch cooking covered in our Back to the Basics series. I’m definitely not an expert in this field, but it’s something I want to incorporate more in my own home management, so this is a refresher post for me as well.

Cooking in advance has the serious advantage of saving time and money. You’ll waste less food (especially the perishables), and you’ll save money by doubling up your efforts on the spoils brought home from the store.

It’s also healthier, because you won’t need to buy convenience foods that are chock full of MSG, preservatives, sodium, and other unpronounceable chemicals.

There are a few methods of batch cooking, but essentially, it involves cooking a lot of food in advance. You can cook enough food to warrant freezing and stockpiling, and you can prepare scratch ingredients, helping you to cook without the fake ingredients found in so many store-bought items.

Here are a few tips for the different methods of cooking ahead of time.

Freezer Meals

Freezer meals are entire meals prepped in advance, and then frozen for later use. They can ether be completely cooked, so that all they need is thawing and reheating, or you can prepare most of the steps in advance, so that all that’s left is cooking the meal.

Advantages:

This is a great time saver. You can stockpile loads of meals for future use, such as when you’re expecting a newborn in your life. Or you can simply have a few meals on hand, so that when life is a bit busy, all you need to do is shop your freezer.

Disadvantage:

You need the space. If you want to do freezer meals hard-core, you might want to check your local Craigslist to find a used deep freezer for your garage. I have a simple second freezer in the kitchen (it’s the size of a compact fridge that’s popular in college dorms). It provides some extra space, but not a ton.

Helpful Tools:

Plenty of freezable dishes, such as those foil casserole dishes you can find in your grocery store. I prefer large resealable plastic bags because they take up less space. Vacuum sealers are great, too, though I don’t have one.

Good Freezer Meal Recipes

Chicken Nuggets
Fannie Farmer’s Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese
• Beef Stew
• Chicken Tetrazzini with Caramelized Onions (make the alfredo sauce from scratch – it’s very easy)
• End of Summer Vegetable & Fresh Herb Casserole
• One Skillet Lasagna
• Chicken Enchiladas
• Spinach Black Bean Lasagna
• Ground Beef and Tomato Manicotti
• Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

You can also search the freezable meals at My Recipes or the make ahead recipes at Whole Foods.

Once A Month Cooking

Some families cook all their meals for the month in one day. I haven’t personally done this, but I hear it works well when you plan in advance and you have extra hands to help.

You can create a two-week menu plan, then buy all your ingredients on one shopping day. Get your perishables and produce at the farmer’s market, and everything else at the grocery store.

Make sure you double all the amounts for each recipe, so that you have enough for the month. You could even quadruple the recipes and have plenty for lunch.

Then you clear an entire day early in the month, and cook, cook, cook. It’s a tough day, but then you’re done for the month! Freeze the meals, label and date them well, and all you have to do is thaw, reheat, and serve.

Cooking & Freezing Staples from Scratch


Photo by thebittenword.com

Even if you don’t like the idea of freezing entire meals in advance, you can still batch cook and freeze staple ingredients.

• Once or twice a month, roast a whole chicken, then cube the meat and store it in half cup or whole cup quantities in resealable bags. Label the quantity and date — you might think you’ll remember, but believe me, you won’t.

• Now, you’ve also got plenty of chicken broth to freeze. Also store this in whole cup quantities, and label it well.

• I also like to match batches of homemade cream of chicken soup, and freeze for recipes later. The stuff in boxes and cans are chock full of fake ingredients and sodium.

• Brown and drain ground beef the day you buy it at the market, and you can also store this by the cup for freezing. This way, you’ll also use less meat per meal, because it’ll be an ingredient instead of the main feature.

• I also like to throw dried pinto beans into the Crock Pot to make a simple side dish that will last us about two weeks. You can mash them into refried beans, too.

• We’ll get to canning later, which will cover lots of veggies and sauces. But you can also make basic marinara sauce, pizza sauce, and salsa in bulk, and freeze them for later. Jump on these things now, while tomatoes are abundant, fresh, in season, and cheap!

It can feel overwhelming if you try to jump on all these ideas at once, so just pick one or two, and gradually add more freezer meals to your agenda. For me, I’ll be freezing my chicken ingredients, ground beef, and a few meals for the next few months.

What do you like to cook in advance and freeze? What are your batch cooking tips?

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Comments

  1. avatar
    Rebecca says:

    Hi! I stumbled across your blog recently and I’m really enjoying your posts. I just wanted to add that another resource for freezer cooking is http://www.onceamonthmom.com. I found them a few months ago and they have tons of recipes and good information!

  2. I love freezing cooked chicken, turkey or beef for use in burritos or casseroles. I try to just cook double or the entire amount I buy for a meal so I have leftovers for freezing. The other thing I’ve done is throw chicken in a crockpot when I get home from the store in the morning and forget about it until later in the day. Then I shred all that chicken into a freezer bag for future meals. It is amazing how that one little step can save tons of time and the need to “go out” because you can’t find anything to fix in a hurry!

    Great tips again today!

    melissa @ the inspired room´s last blog post…A Room with A View

  3. I am always SO glad AFTER I’ve done a big cooking bash. It’s work, but the rewards are huge. I love to do lasagnas and queso fundido. Those freeze well and they are family favorites.

    Here’s my string of freezer cooking posts with recipes and tips that I’ve found helpful: http://www.lifeasmom.com/search/label/OAMC

  4. Great tips!!

    Samantha @ Mama Notes´s last blog post…Body After Baby: Tools for Success

  5. I have yet to do a big session of batch cooking, though lately I am finding that a few things that I do throughout the week make meals come together simply. So…

    *When we get our weekly csa I chop, wash and dry a few heads of lettuce at a time, giving me greens at my fingertip all week.
    *I’ll make a pint of homemade salad dressing that will last through the week for the above greens.
    *When I brown up the grass-fed meat that comes in 3 lb. packages I do it all at once and either freeze or refrigerate the rest, making for quick meals or salads.
    *Homemade kefir or yogurt go into the blender with fruit and we have breakfast.
    *Homemade chicken stock on hand means a 10 minute meal any night of the week when combined with garden veggies and precooked meat.

    I just realized recently that all of these homemade convenience foods that take minutes of my time can save me stress and hours in the kitchen on a busy day.

    Shannon´s last blog post…The Benefits of Fermented Food: Dairy

  6. Those of you who know me, know that I’m not much of a cook, but I do cook and freeze my son’s food. I cook enough portions for 10 days or so and freeze. I freeze stock and steamed vegetables separately so that he could have 3 kinds of soup during the same week.

    For example I would steam and mix broccoli with pumpkin, zucchini with carrots and yams with cauliflower and freeze portions of that. 5 minutes before his dinner time I would defrost the stock and the veggies in the microwave, mix them and his soup is ready, he loves it.

    I guess the best tip for freezing ready food is to divide it into portions first and then freeze, that will help avoid throwing away food, you will only heat what you’ll eat.

    My cooking tips are here: http://www.baby-log.com/life-before-baby/how-to-get-away-with-cooking-once-a-week-for-your-baby/

    Emma @ Baby-log.com´s last blog post…Toys That Last – Tiny Love Fruity Pals

  7. These are great suggestions. I would love to try the once a month plan cooking day. Just not sure how to fit that in with toddlers.

    A few of my friends and I have tried a supper co op. If you’d like to read more about it, the post is here. http://burningbushes.org/?p=129

    Thanks again Tsh!

    Nicole´s last blog post…Christians Can NOT do NOTHING

  8. I always use to freeze the homemade baby food I made my little ones. I haven’t had much success with freezing whole meals – it must have something to do with the recipes I pick (seems to go mushy). Will have to give it another try!

    Jamie

    steadymom´s last blog post…Let’s Try That Again

  9. Great post packed with ideas as usual!!! A couple of weeks ago a friend asked me what to do with the extra vegetables that came in our vegi box. Not to mention when I see something on sale sometimes it just feels right and frugal to buy bulk when you see it! I wrote a post you are welcome to look at: http://www.se7en.org.za/2009/06/26/se7en-recipes-and-tips-for-bulk-frugal-vegetable-shopping

    se7en´s last blog post…Sunday Snippet: Sundays Are Special Days… A GiveAway…

  10. Thanks for the great info about freezer cooking. I started freezer cooking about 6 months ago and we have been eating better ever since. I started out slow testing a recipe before putting several in the freezer. I routinely try a new freezer recipe then if we like it I add it to my master list of feezer meals that we like. I keep a list of recipes and their ingredients on my computer for easy printing.

  11. avatar
    Jennifer says:

    I’ve found that when I make stir-fry, all the vegetables end up being too much for my husband and I, so I freeze half of the vegetables, already chopped up. Then it makes for a really easy dinner, I just thaw the vegetables, stir-fry in sauce, and make some brown rice to go with it.

    I have also successfully frozen curry sauce, sweet corn, cookie dough, muffins, leftover roast beef or roast chicken, chopped ham for casseroles, bacon, shredded cheese, flour, and bread. It is so easy to pull these already made items from the freezer, and it really reduces prep time.

  12. I make freezer jam (canning scares me). I freeze all of my summer fruits (raspberries, strawberries, peaches, blackberries, and blueberries). I shred and freeze zucchini. I freeze overripe bananas for smoothies. I like to make lasagna, marinara sauce, burritos and cinnamon rolls to put in the freezer. When I make pizza dough, I try to double it and put one in the freezer too. I would like to make more things to put in the freezer. We have a large freezer in the garage because we buy 1/4 beef in the fall.

  13. Freezer meals are wonderful! Right before my youngest was born I made enough meals for a month and a half (ended up lasting over 3 because I didn’t figure on how “little” my young family would eat!). Honestly, I think about doing it again All the time…but that was 5 years ago!!!

    One huge hint is instead of buying or taking up valuable pans for freezer use, line the pan with foil first (one long piece lengthwise and two across the width)…once the item is frozen it can easily be popped out and wrapped again (I wrapped in th original foil, then in plastic wrap and again in foil…over zealous, but nothing was freezer burned!).

  14. …Oops….forgot to add to make sure you either always use the same pan when freezing or mark on the foil which one it came out of…it will save you a lot of time playing find that pan!

  15. I do this frequently – just remember to rotate things in the freezer so they don’t get freezer burn. I’ve also had problems with rice-based casseroles and some vegetarian dishes (succotash does NOT freeze well), but the majority of hearty things do just fine!

  16. Great post.
    I’m not sure if I should cook dishes like casseroles and lasagnas in the oven before and after they are frozen, or only cook them once when you are ready to eat them? What is the best way to do it?

  17. …Oops….forgot to add to make sure you either always use the same pan when freezing or mark on the foil which one it came out of…it will save you a lot of time playing find that pan! This also saves a TON of freezer space because your “bricks” can be stacked! To use them just unwrap a frozen brick put it back in the pan…defrost if you want…or if you’re lazy like me, just cook it longer!

  18. I’m a big fan of cooking once a month! I pick out the last Saturday of the month and make sure there are no conflicts. My husband has sole duty of the kids until I get it done. It saves so much time during the rest of the month b/c there is no last minute rush to make dinner. I check the calendar for the menu and pull out what needs to be thawed.

    One great tip, even if you don’t want to do the OAMC, is to freeze your meats in the marinade. It makes it more flavorful and eliminates a step!

    Lindsey´s last blog post…making more dish towels

  19. I do OAMC, it was the only way that we had meals to eat after my second son was born. I did spend a lot of time in the kitchen but it freed up so much of my time in the evening and during the day which got to be spent with my kiddies.

    LaToya´s last blog post…Quick Note

  20. I haven’t managed to ever freeze anything ahead. We don’t have a ton of space in the freezer, and we rarely have left-overs from dinner (my husband seems to eat a LOT of food in one sitting), so it’s hard to just make extra (seriously, what looks like a ton only feeds 2 here).

    Off to search for some things that don’t have meat (husband absolutely refuses to eat “birds”), and no melted cheese (i can’t stand stringy stuff)!

  21. Chille!

  22. I am so excited that I stumpled on this website! I have never enjoyed a site as much as this one. I’ve learned many things, and at a time when I needed it, I really simplified life.

    I hadn’t really been a meal planner, and boy looking back, I wasted a lot of time, energy and money. Just last week, I worked off a menu. It worked so well!!! Like Lindsey said, I just check the calendar, and pull out the supplies. It’s been wonderful!

    I made a spreadsheet in excel, and below my meal, I list anything I need to purchase. Now that I’m planning ahead, I’m not needing to purchase much, since I’m trying to use what I already have. Just like you suggest. When I think of a meal, I write it down on the bottom, so when I make the next plan, I can incorporate the meal.

    Thanks for all the time you’ve spent to put this site together, and make it as simple and uncomplicated as possible. I would have to say this is the only website I continue to come back to on a regular basis!

  23. Once a month cooking is great. I do this when I know we have a lot going on in the month or if I’m doing volunteer work. I plan on doing this for my sister and stocking her freezer when her baby comes this winter.

    Rana´s last blog post…Menu Plan Monday

  24. I like to freeze ground beef type dishes ahead. They seem to reheat the best. Things like chili, taco meat, bbq’s, calico beans, hamburger stroganoff, spaghetti sauce, pizza burgers, meatloaf & meatballs (uncooked), hamburger patties, etc. I’ve also premade (uncooked) tator tot casseroles. I’ve found that other casseroles with rice or pasta don’t freeze too well. It’s great to come home from work and have a homecooked meal just waiting to be heated up.

  25. Thanks for the great post. This is something I have been wanting to try and have not yet. Maybe when school starts I can freeze some meals for later.

  26. Great list of ideas! I’m one of those people who only grocery shop every two weeks and no one believes me!

    Kristen´s last blog post…Monday Mama Musings

  27. I had great success with Pioneer Woman’s Bolognese Sauce from my freezer. It was very encouraging to spend all day out of the house and come home tired and still put a yummy meal on the table. I go back to school in a couple of weeks and definately plan on doing some bulk freezing next week. Love the ideas others posted too!

  28. Freeze food is great, even when you live on your own. Or maybe even more then. I just cook a lot a few times a month and then I eat that for the rest of the time.

    If I did not do that I would properly end up eating just sandwich and yoghurt all the time…

  29. I’m a novice and reading all the comments makes me feel very overwhelmed.
    Are you making the entire recipe and then freezing? How long do you have to defrost and do you do that in the refrigerator or in the microwave? If I cook a chicken in the crock pot and shred the chicken and then freeze that, how do you defrost it?

    I’m learning that I have a fear of defrosting food, apparently!

    Sorry for all the questions!

    • Hi Teresa,

      If you’re doing something like lasagna or a casserole, you assemble the whole thing and either cook it prior to freezing or just pop it in the freezer uncooked. Either way, be sure to note whether it needs to be cooked before eating or simply re-heated.

      And as far as defrosting goes, there are a few ways you can do it. You can use a microwave…just make sure you freeze your meal in something that’s microwave safe. I personally prefer to just pull the meal out of the freezer in the morning (assuming it’s a dinner) and let it thaw on my counter. Put a tray underneath if you need to protect your counter from condesation. You can thaw it in the refrigerator, but it’s going to take longer; you’ll need to take it out of the freezer and pop it into the refrigerator like 24 hours before you need to re-heat/cook it. 24 hours may be more time than you need…I’m not sure ’cause I usually just thaw my stuff on the counter. You might have to experiment, but my advice would be plan longer than you think it’ll take when you thaw in the refrigerator.

      Same thing for defrosting your chicken…just set it on your counter or transfer it to your refrigerator ahead of time so it’s thawed by the time you’re ready to use it.

      Hope that was helpful! :)

  30. I have to agree with the first poster about http://www.onceamonthmom.com There are a ton of recipes to use, plus they basically set everything up for you. They have a monthly post with all the recipes and ingredients all set up in a google doc (excel sheet) so all you have to do is gather the ingredients and cook. Its made so that there are two families involved (two cooks in the kitchen) and each gets half of the meals. It works great because you dont have to do the work all by yourself (unless you want to that is). There’s even recipes for baby food. If you are interested in cooking once a month then this is the site to go to.

  31. Just to embrace the fact that I have no idea about freezing, I’m going to ask one more question.
    You listed Whole Foods as a resource for make ahead meals so I clicked on the pineapple salsa recipe (I happen to have picked it up in the store this morning and would love to make my own and save money!). If I make that recipe, I can freeze it? Here is the url:
    http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/recipe.php?recipeId=2118

    I realize I am totally clueless but help! If I can make that and freeze, how do I defrost it? I hate to admit that I’m almost 40 years old and have no idea about any of this!

  32. Thank you so much for this post! I am a stay at home mom by day and part time in ministry, so our nights are packed. I am trying to get more organized with make ahead meals. We recieved a small deep freezer and I’m about to do the freezer meals. I think this will make my husband much happier!

    I’ve never really known what full meals are safe to freeze.

    Steph @ Dirt Won’t Hurt´s last blog post…Big Savings!

  33. Great post!!

    My husband and I like to make a double batch of most dinners we make (because you’re already making it, it doesn’t usually take any more time) and then we freeze bread loaf pans full. Once they’re frozen, we take it out and run the pan under hot water until the food breaks loose and then we put it in food saver bags and food saver them and label and date them. One bread pan full is usually enough for 2 people and a few kiddies for dinner and we always have stuff on hand for those days where you are temped to just drive through somewhere!

    Shayla´s last blog post…Project: 365 July 5-15

  34. I have three children, ages almost 3 years, 19 months and 2 months. You don’t need to feel sorry for me…we wanted each of them and would love to have more. But our place is indeed busy and I’m always on the lookout for ways to SIMPLIFY. So I absolutely love this site! :)

    I started experimenting with once-a-month cooking a while ago and for the past several months have been doing it successfully. It saves a lot of time on a day-to-day basis, allowing me to do things that I wouldn’t be able to otherwise. One tip I will share…

    If you can, try to get help from a friend or relative on your once-a-month cooking day, ESPECIALLY if you have little children. I live very close to my younger sisters and they’re great to have around on this day! They help out with everything from kitchen clean-up to entertaining the little ones to answering the phone when I’m in the middle of cleaning a chicken. If you know another gal who’s doing once-a-month cooking, you might consider helping her on her cooking day in exchange for her helping you on your cooking day. Or you could even combine days and do it together. One way or another, I highly recommend having a kitchen helper on that day! :)

  35. Or, send your kiddos to Grandma’s house! :)

  36. I didn’t read all of the comments, so hopefully these aren’t repeats! I make extra when we make smoothies and pour them into Popsicle molds for quick summer desserts. I also sneak pureed veggies into everything possible, so I try to spend an hour every other week or so pureeing vegetables that we’re low on and freezing them in 1/2 cup portions. They’re easy to thaw and add to a casserole or to throw directly into a soup or sauce on the stove.

    I also freeze the heels of our bread and make my own breadcrumbs a couple times a month. Food Processors make that job quick and easy, then just dry them out in the oven before portioning out and refreezing.

    Intentionally Katie´s last blog post…Meal Plan – 7/20/09

  37. I just recently started making my own pancake mix and saving it in a bulk container. I taped the recipe to the container. Now on the weekends I take two cups of the dry mix, add the wet ingredients and we have whole wheat pancakes on Sundays. Even my 2 year old son helped me measure and mix for the bulk mix. I actually got the inspiration from a previous post on saving money. So for those of you hesitant to start cooking in bulk, this is a great baby step.

  38. Oh. My. Goodness. I think that you are a God Send! This is just what I needed to get my meal planning organized! I have never been much of a cook. But I’ve decided that I better get with it since I have a house full of boys. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  39. Thanks for these tips– very fitting for families trying to stretch their food budget these days. I have always been reluctant to freeze entire meals, but you just may have convinced me to give it a go- thanks!

  40. I’ve found that it’s easier for me to make a double batch of any time intensive meal. For example if I’m going to make my lasagna sauce, I double it so next time we want it I just have to mix cheese and cook noodles or if I’m going to make pizza dough and sauce I double those so all I have to do is assemble and bake next time. I also make extra when I make waffles or pancakes.

    Kim´s last blog post…Good Visit

  41. I always freeze thicker soups like black bean soup and chili flat in quart zip-loc bags. With rolls and a salad, we’ve got dinner for two!! Great post, great ideas

    Anna´s last blog post…Knocking it off: inspired by vs. ripped off

  42. avatar
    krickledoo says:

    When I was a little girl my parents, a pastor and a home-schooling pastors wife, were featured in the National Enquirer for Once-a-Month Cooking. Although it was their most embarrassing moment they truly rock at once in a while cooking. My mom used to travel around teaching classes on grinding your own wheat for bread baking and storing her freezer to the brim to feed a busy family. I thought I’d share one of my favorite of their tips. Brown your ground meat and prepare with taco seasoning and add a can of your favorite beans. Line a muffin tin with plastic wrap and fill each section with a scoop or two of the meat mix. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze partially for about 1 hour. Once your meat mix has set toss all of your “meat muffins” into a freezer safe zip-lock. You’ll be moments away from nachos or a taco salad to feed 1 or 5. :-)
    Check out my amazing mom at http://www.womanofjoy.com.

  43. Hi, I’m so glad that you blogged about this because I just found out that I am pregnant (shh, only 5 weeks! ;)) and I’m trying to eat much healthier the second go around. Last time I gained WAY too much weight for a petite 5’+ frame!! I have always done batch cooking for homemade baby food, but this is a way that I can minimize stress, mess, and time and eat healthy throughout the week. As always, thanks, Tsh!!

    aimeesmom´s last blog post…sample-5.jpg

  44. Thank you for a great post and all the wonderful comments. I have only successfully frozen seasonal fruits. This year we were looking into freezers and trying to figure out what size we need. I would love to be able to turn to a home cooked frozen meal when pressed for time, sure beats the cheese quesadillas we have been turning to.

    shelle´s last blog post…before and after the storm

  45. I love freezer meals and have quite a few things available for those “what’s for dinner” moments. When I go to the store and buy chicken or pork, I will also purchase Italian dressing or other marinades and just package them with the marinade in the bag. As they freeze and thaw they are developing flavors.

    My garden exploded with tomatoes this year which is highly unusual so I made almost a gallon of spaghetti sauce that is now sitting frozen in my freezer in 1 cup cubes.

    Sams has bulk cheese in blocks that I will pick up once a month, shred myself and freeze in 1 c. size. I don’t like it for fresh stuff like sprinkling on salads because it loses texture but it is great for anything that is getting cooked.

    I currently have 2 bricks of lasagna in the freezer that I made the last time I put one together. I also have 3 bricks of stroganoff sauce (roast beef, cream of…soup (homemade), sour cream, milk and spices). Just cook the noodles while the sauce is thawing, mix and serve. There is shredded chicken, turkey, cooked ground beef and frozen veges. These are all lifesavers, especially since my son is in band and marching season is getting ready to start.

    One other tip, take your left over veges from dinner – 1/2c. green beans, cup of peas, corn whatever, drain and put into a resealable bag in the freezer. When it is full, make soup. You will likely get a lot of soup broth and can freeze half. Just remember – don’t add the noodles to the part you are freezing until you are ready to serve.

    Tracie´s last blog post…Battle of the Creative Teams Week 1 Layout

  46. We are trying to eat EXTREMELY healthy, so I have not found that freezer meals work with our diet. So I usually do a once a week batch cooking of our grains that we use to make salads. (Quinoa, Millet, Bulgar, brown/wild rice, etc) Then to the grains I add whatever fresh vegetables are on sale that week. We also always have a green salad mix ready minus the vegetables that would make it go bad quickly. It has worked great and there are so many different ways we can make these grains taste great.
    Also my question to those that precook their meat before freezing it, what do you do when usually you flavor your meat to go with the meal? Are you able to get away with adding it when you warm it up?

    Jena´s last blog post…Adona vs. Giana

  47. How timely! I really need to get some meals in the freezer fast because my husband and I just agreed to foster a newborn baby boy who will arrive at our house sometime later this week. That will give us 4 kids ages 3 and under and I’ll need all the help I can get!

    I’m still learning the art of batch cooking, but one of my favorite things to do is precook a big batch of ground beef (mixed with ground turkey) with pureed celery, carrots, and onions. This stretches the meat and makes it more nutritious. I then divide it up and freeze to use in tacos, shepherd’s pie, etc. The idea is from Michelle at Leaving Excess and you can read about it here: http://www.leavingexcess.com/2008/11/cooking-and-freezing-ground-beef-make.html

    Thanks for the great ideas!

  48. Many years ago, my MIL gave me a Seal-A-Meal machine. I am currently on my 3rd one, and will never be without one! I typically cook extra, vacuum seal and then freeze the leftovers. It’s so nice to be able to just drop the bag of frozen food into a pot of simmering water and within 15-20 minutes, dinner is on the table. If I freeze single portions, I can just cut the corner off the bag and pop the whole thing into the microwave.

    I definately will try roasting my own chicken. I haven’t really tried it because my DH is not a big fan, but if I shred the chicken for other meals and make stock from the carcass, it would really be helpful on those days I just don’t want to cook or have a lot of time.

  49. Thank you for this great information!
    What I do that is not freezing but when I make cookies I mix packs of flour, baking soda and salt and put them into baggies and do the same with sugar and brown sugar so when it is time to make more cookies there is no need for pulling out all the ingredients just the bags that are already measured.

  50. I like to make big batches of meatballs, pancakes, various types of muffins, then freeze for later. The best way is to flash freeze. For example, after the meatballs are cooked, I put them on a cookie sheet (not touching each other) and put them in the freezer. I let them freeze entirely, then put them in a zippy bag and back into the freezer. The great thing about it is I can take as many out as I need, because they are individually frozen, and not a big frozen blob. I also do this with fruit or vegetables that is in season.

  51. I always cook rice in double-batches so I have it on hand for a quick meal. Brown rice takes 30 minutes to make and for a quick meal I don’t want to wait that long, especially if it’s a piece of a bigger meal (like a casserole). I always keep quart-sized bags of cooked frozen rice in the freezer.

  52. I like doing this, but I have to post a list of the staples on the front of the freezer. Otherwise I forget about them!
    .-= Valerie@CookingSharp´s last blog ..Slice those tomatoes thin, thin, thin! =-.

  53. Very useful post with some really great tips — thanks! That “One Skillet Lasagna” sounds like a winner!
    .-= TheRoosterChick´s last blog ..Save Time In The Kitchen & Get Dinner On The Table In A Hurry! – Part 3 of 7 =-.

  54. Thanks for the tips! I have a newborn due early December and so I’m starting to make a game plan for meals, especially since I have to have a c-section and won’t be cooking for a while. Batch cooking overwhelms me though, I have to admit. One thing my mom told me, which I haven’t tried yet – she’s used those big foil casserole pans, sprayed them really well with nonstick spray and then assembled and froze the casserole. Once it was frozen it would pop right out of the pan and she’s put them in those 2-gallon ziplock bags. They stack well that way in the freezer. I haven’t tried it out but at least I could pass it on!

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