One bite at a time together: Create a regular monthly budget (project 28)

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About Jeannett

Jeannett Gibson is a mom to four and wife to one who loves color and believes in story. She loves to tell you hers and wants to hear yours, too...because there is really no sense in wasting our suffering or not sharing in each other's joy. She blogs, fund raises, and sometimes even gets her crafty pants on at Life Rearranged.

Are you working through Tsh’s ebook One Bite at a Time yet? I’m tracking my progress through the very practical (and manageable!) tasks monthly through this series. The projects aren’t chronological and you can do them in any order, so feel free to start now! You can buy the book here for just $5!

Budget.

I mean, is there any word less sexy in the English language?

I really really really really really dreaded this month’s task.  I’m not into money.  I don’t like talking about it.  I don’t like thinking about it.  I don’t like having to worry about it.  I just don’t like it.  I do not like it Sam I am.

But here I was, with a task staring me in the face, and this post to hold me accountable to actually doing something about it.

When I sat down to look at our monthly spending, one thing became very apparent: a huge portion of our monthly budget went into food expenses.

Grocery stores.  Warehouse stores.  Fast food.  Restaurants.  Snacks.  Treats.

I like cooking.  I want food to taste good.  Not just good, but really really delicious good.  I want my family to remember me as a great cook.  It’s kinda one of my “mom things”, you know?

Unfortunately, as I peruse Pinterest and google around for new recipes to try, I find that by the time I amass the ingredients to pull something together, I end up dropping as much (or more!) than if we had gone out to dinner.

I’ve long been tempted to try out freezer meals.  You know, when you spend hours cooking, packaging, and then freezing meals so that they are mostly done for you?  I’ve heard that it helps cut down costs tremendously.  Which, is apparently something I need to work on.  And I don’t even know where to start.

While Google is a beautiful, beautiful thing…it can also be an overwhelming, I want to crawl into a hole and curl up into the fetal position and cry thing.  Even a simple search for freezer meals returns 837 results.  That’s 837 different books out there telling me what the best way to cook giant batches is.

Too much information makes me shut down.  Hence the primary reason I’ve never actually tried this method of cooking and cost cutting.

So, at the risk of being overwhelmed by asking the readership for a blog with almost 41,000 subscribers…do you have any go-to resources for freezer meal prep?  I’d like a one stop, it’s all there, kinda thing.  Not a handful of recipes.  And definitely not food that’s just “meh”.

Do you freezer batch cook? Does it save you money?

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Comments

  1. Hang in there, Jeannett. Anytime you learn something new, it has its challenges. Take it slow. I love the Freezer Cooking e-book by Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom. A link to the free e-book is in my website link. Happy experimenting!

  2. I am on the same boat! I just reviewed our monthly expenses and like you said, SO MUCH goes to eating out. It is just so easy to go through the drive thru with two crying babies or have a “decent” meal out. And I also have been looking into crockpot and freezer meals. I’m looking forward to your question :)

  3. We’ve done freezer meals for awhile now and it helps a ton with budgeting. Plus, I hate cooking everyday and this helps to have meals at the ready without resorting to eating out. Although, now I’ve been eating grain and sugar free to help with my migraines so I’m in need of some new ideas.

  4. I don’t freezer batch cook, but I have done a few other things to cut down. One is to plan a few meatless meals each week. Every Fri night is Breakfast-For-Dinner Night — a fun way to kick off the weekend and a cheap dinner.

  5. http://www.onceamonthmom.com is an amazing site for freezer cooking! Check it out. Its the best. My favorite menu is the Traditional Menu from September 2011 :)

  6. Freezer cooking does’nt work for me, because I love fresh ingrediants. So I try to save money with buying less meat and special offerings.

  7. My mom and I did Once a Month Cooking when I was a teenager. For us, it was Once in a Lifetime cooking because it was a long, miserable day and the recipes were mostly bleh. My advice, think of the things that you normally cook and know that you like already. Which of those things would freeze well? Occasionally make a double batch and freeze one for a quick meal later. Other things that help are to prep ingredients to freeze that make cooking fresh faster like boiling chicken and then freezing baggies full of shredded chicken for quick casseroles or chicken salad or quesidillas. Also prepping ground beef, chopping onions, etc. Anything that gives you ready to use ingredients to be able to throw together a quick meal.

    • YES! Freezing the things you already like (that are amenable to freezing; stews; spaghetti sauce; braised/boiled things especially) is a great way to get started.

      If you’re doing it for budget reasons, figuring out where the “waste” is can help with this; is there a favorite meal that requires buying specific ingredients (like fresh herbs) that are then only partly-used? Then double or triple the recipe, pop the “extra” in the freezer, and that’s it. Or is there a favorite cheaper meal that you don’t make so often because it takes longer to cook? Also potentially a good freezer candidate! Doubling recipes often doesn’t take much more time than making a single batch, but that lets you off a dinner the next week. :-)

      I would suggest slow-starting; one dinner doubled each week, one dinner eaten from the freezer per week, maybe on a schedule, since it’s easier to get un-daunted that way and learn how the shift alters your habits (and frozen meals that never get eaten because of habit or because you just plain don’t like them aren’t exactly budget-friendly). Good luck! :-)

    • Completely agree Valerie, that is what i do.

  8. I sort of freezer cook but I think a better word for it would be “freezer prep.” For instances if chicken breasts are on sale I will buy a large amount of them, then take them home and broil them all. Let them cook and then cut them into bit size pieces and place on cookie sheets and freeze for an hour, then place the frozen cubes into freezer bags. Then I can grab those cubes and use them in soup or casseroles or to top pizza or salads. I also do this with pork chops, and ham. For hamburger I fry it all up and add in spices and then freeze it for pizza toppings and spaghetti sauce. Just having the meat of the meal ready cuts down my dinner prep time by 1/2 and it saves money too since I stock up when its on sale.

    • This is the approach that works best for me, too. I like to think of it as having meal components in the freezer rather than meals. I have cooked, shredded or cubed chicken on hand, but cooked ground beef in single-meal sized bags is one of my favorites to have on hand for tacos, chili, or pasta sauce.

    • this is what i do too…batch cook meatballs, taco meat, put the marinade in a bag with chicken pieces so all i have to do is dump in the crockpot, even freeze muffins, pancakes, and cookie dough helps.

  9. Oy I hear you on the budget thing! I recommend getting “back to the basics” with your cooking instead of trying a million different recipes that have things you have to get. You can use your freezer as an aid to save you some time and stash a meal or two away. You don’t have to do all or nothing. In my freezer right now I’ve got shredded zuchinni already portioned out by 1 cup to make bread, add to soups, or to use. I’ve also got about 5 fail proof meals to pull out for the nights when we’re in a hurry. These were built over time by just doubling whatever I was already making for that night. Use sales to stock up on things you already know that you’ll use. For example- my kid loves spaghetti and about once every six weeks the sauce we like the most goes on sale for about $1.00 per jar. Normally it is $3.50, so I buy enough to last us until it goes on sale again. Right there is a savings of fifteen bucks! The other thing I recently noticed was how ridiculous string cheese is priced. I’ve stopped buying it because for the same price I can get twice as much cheese in block form. I just take the extra few minutes to cut and package it myself.

  10. We have an out-of-control food budget too. First, I’d suggest, realize it for what it is. Our food prices have risen, 10-50 cents AN ITEM over the last two years! But our income hasn’t risen at all! We are really trying to make more out of less. Or just sustain ourselves on less.
    I was so like you too…I want delicious, I want fresh, and I don’t usually mind prep and cook for an hour a day… so freezer meals don’t really appeal to me. And, I didn’t know what I am going to want on any given day. It’s the mind-set. And somehow when I started working on my charity drive, it went away. (Temporarily I think. That foodie in me is just resting.)
    I started working on other things that were creative, that drew out my creativity, and required my creative energies, and then cooking, food fascination, and budget blow-outs stopped. Now, we eat to eat. And I am creative elsewhere where it doesn’t cost as much.
    You could try a hybrid…freezer entree, like lasagna, and a fresh side like an endive/radicchio, green apple, blue cheese, and walnut salad. A little splurge and saving at the same time. I thought the once-a-month-cooking book was pretty good, and it has gluten-free recipes.
    Good luck with your quest…let us all know what you find out!

  11. You may be able to find some meals your family enjoys at http://eatathomecooks.com/weekly-menus. This link takes you to the first year worth of menus, with an additional link at the top for the page where she lists another two year’s worth of meals. Some weeks are specifically “Fill the Freezer” type of weeks. She does a number of crockpot suggestions, including her recipe for Easy Slowcooker Pork Carnitas, which is a recipe finalist (winner to be announced soon), in the Mr. Food Ultimate Weeknight Meal contest. http://eatathomecooks.com/2012/08/easy-slow-cooker-pork-carnitas-weeknight-dinner-favorite.html

  12. Is this a round about way of plugging Jessica Fisher’s book? :-)

    If you haven’t already, I highly recommend the Life As Mom and Good Cheap Eats articles about freezer cooking.

    http://goodcheapeats.com/2012/10/the-case-for-freezer-cooking/

    With a few exceptions I’m not a fan of casseroles and such from the freezer (enchiladas and meatloaf work beautifully). What I do like is freezing meal components like ground meat, beans, marinated meat, pasta sauce, etc.. Jessica Fisher talks about this a lot. In my opinion, it’s a much more appetizing way to freezer cook and her recipes are much better than some others.

  13. Saving Dinner! http://savingdinner.com/ LeAnne Ely has a ton of different freezer menus (crock pot,too!) which include shopping lists for everything you need. Several years ago, I got together with a neighbor to do this. We went to a warehouse to buy in bulk where we could, and made about 20 meals each for the freezer. One of us would chop, the other would weigh meat, etc. It took a huge chunk of a day, but was worth it. Really healthy, inexpensive meals. It’s nice to always have it on hand. She also has a weekly menu mailer. I haven’t really tried that because I don’t follow a schedule well. ;) Check it out!

    • avatar
      Tara Detlor says:

      I second the http://www.savingdinner.com. Many menus, something for everyone…diabetic, crock, low carb, paleo, grilling…..etc. All for the freezer. What I loved about it is that the shopping list was included so you didn’t have to flip through every recipe and get the data you need before you head for the store.
      I agree….check it out.
      Tara :-)

      • Let me add my recommendation for Leanne Ely. I have her 20 for the freezer recipes. I love that you get a shopping list and do t have to think too hard. Plus my family loved the meals, even picky 4year old!

    • Ditto, I have used Saving Dinner Menu planner for years. I get a monthly subscription to the Menu Mailer, save them to my computer and go. I LOVE the complete shopping list too, I don’t have to think too much about what to buy and usually have a good handful of the ingredients on hand. The shopping list even includes spices and condiments, with recommendations for side dishes! Super easy to use and we now have favorites we do regularly. It feeds my experimenting with cooking side without all the research! Her new menu’s now include a Paleo one too for more natural eating. Plus you get 4 different types of menus each week sent directly to your email…super convenient!

  14. Two tips:
    1. Freezer cook with a friend! Around here, I make 4 batches of 3 different meals and Ashley makes 4 batches of 3 different meals every two weeks. Then we share! That’s 2 batches of 6 meals in my freezer every two weeks! The costs average out over a month for us, but we try to each do a chicken dish, a pork dish and a beef dish. Also, since it’s just the two of us cooking for our families, it’s easy to make the small changes we need to to accommodate her child’s food allergies (plus, since we trade kids like we trade food, we always know the food in our freezer is okay for her little guy!)
    2. We each bought 1 cookbook. I have “Fix, Freeze, Forget it” and she has “Don’t Panic, Dinner is in the Freezer” . We trade the books back and forth frequently, but have yet to make something we didn’t like.

    Good luck~

  15. A couple of years ago I participated in a meal exchange at church and it was the best thing I ever did for my food budget! You make a bunch of freezer meals and then go swap with everyone else. I don’t like to cook, so making one meal and getting 8-10 different meals in exchange was great! As a non-cook, my go-to book was and is Fix, Freeze, Feast by Kati Neville and Lindsay Tkacsik. I’ve made about 25 recipes from that book and every single one has been something I would gladly make again. Moreover, my kids have said they would like me to make it again. Good luck!

  16. Jessica Fisher (Life As Mom / Good Cheap Eats) has some great freezer cooking recipes on her blogs, and she’s got a book on freezer cooking that’s releasing later this month.

    I’ve tried a couple of her recipes and really liked them, and am looking forward to using her book. I like how she has different ways of using the freezer (full meals, prepped ingredients, etc.) I also like how she doesn’t simply have long freezer cooking plans that require a marathon session in the kitchen, because right now that would not happen for me.

    I also like how Crystal Paine / Money Saving Mom has the freezer cooking in an hour posts – that’s doable for me, anything much more than an hour or two isn’t.

    • I was going to mention her new cookbook too–I’m sure it’s going to be fabulous! All the recipes I’ve tried from her sites have been good, and I know she put effort into making her cookbook full of recipes that taste good too. And I hear there are planning pages in the front of the book, too :)

  17. I do freeze a lot in advance. I mostly find nice ideas on Pinterest but I mostly take our favorite meals and just prepare them for the freezer. i have a soup-archive. I cook all our favorite soups (mostly cream soups, all veggies through a blender) in a huge batch and then freeze them in small portions flat in an freezer bag. Then we have individual portions for when I come back home exhausted and I even can offer tomato, pumpkin, mushroom, lentil, pea or something soup in individual servings.And it looks so nice in the freezer when they all look like in a soup archives, standing flat next to each other like files in different colors.
    I also prepare huge batches of pasta bakes like lasagna or pasta and sauce topped with cheese. I prepare one large pot of tomato sauce and then make individual sauces from this basic: I add tuna or mediterranean veggies or beans to make pasta bake. Just cook the pasta, layer it with the sauce and top it with cheese and in the freezer it goes. Then you have deep frozen meals in the freezer that are homemade and much healthier and priceworthy than all the stuff you get at the supermarket.
    I have always peppered potato gratin frozen. I put it in the oven and it is ready without me having to peel and chop all these potatoes. It works so good with Tartes and quiches and also pizza. I prepare always much more than it is eaten and put some unbaked in the freezer. Such a happy thing to come back home and knowing your freezer is full of the things your family loves. So no more problem with unexpected guests or more people than planned…
    And it saves so much time and money!
    Yvonne

  18. Another option for freezer cooking where you don’t have to invest time and money in another book or process is to just take your favorite recipes, cook twice as much and freeze the other half for another meal. Things like casseroles, italian, rice, ground beef, chicken, etc can all be done in double batches and frozen and then are ready for when you want another meal. That is what I do and it saves so much time and I don’t have to have a long day of cooking, I just add to my stash as I go.

  19. avatar
    Bobbi Sue says:

    Think small…I always have my hamburger, chicken, turkey and beef cubes cooked and frozen. That way I have the main ingredient and can just toss it in the recipe. Why don’t you just double or triple a recipe that you’re making for the day? Have one for dinner and freeze the other for a later time? That way you can buy on sale and don’t have to worry about all day cooking.

  20. Tonight! ……Treble the recipe of a family favorite, cook. Serve family, and at same time fill up plastic containers. After dinner when cool .. freeze. If it tastes good when you defrost it … do it again! If it doesn’t, don’t.
    Only slightly tongue in cheek from fellow procrastinator …and seriously, I love the above ideas, especially Yvonne’s “soup archives” … thank you!

  21. I love the ideas above. I freeze soups leftovers in lunch-sized portions. & make & freeze triple batches of pita bread, buns, & muffins. I’ll be checking out the links you all have shared as I have what seems like a most basic question (and the heart of reason I don’t freeze entire meals)… what do you freeze them in? If I freeze a casserole in a plastic container, I will then have to thaw & transfer to a baking dish – chances of remembering to thaw are slim, since I’m looking for back-up for those hectic crazy nights!

  22. Check out the book, “Fix, Freeze, Feast”. There is a kindle version.

  23. I just double whatever I’m cooking that night and put the freezer meal in a foil disposable pan. Then the pan goes into a freezer ziplock bag (8×8 pan size fits). This way I can thaw and cook and there are no dishes to clean!

  24. avatar
    Hanna DeMaster says:

    Check out Once a Month Mom – it’s a great resource and you can search recipes by what you might already have or what’s in season. Also, I am part of a frozen dinner coop. We meet once a month and swap meals. There are nine people in the group, each person makes enough of one meal to feed nine families of six (adult size portions). So I might make enough taco soup to feed 55 people, package it up and take it to the meeting. In return , I take home that many DIFFERENT meals. That’s enough for two freezer meals a month. It works great for us and we love the variety we get from other families.

  25. I do a big cook usually once a week but rarely does it make it into the freezer. I bake/grill a couple chickens, bake bread, roast veggies, blanche etc. And then we eat the results in different renditions for 3 days afterwards.
    I also do freeze lots of soups in the winter and whenever I cook dinner I make enough for at least two night’s dinner. And often I have a freezer portion or two as well.
    Marathon freezer days hasn’t worked for me (yet!) but I still try to bulk up my cooking. It saves not only on food bills but energy costs since once I get the oven going or the fire on the grill, I do a lot of cooking.

  26. I’m with some of the other posters. You are already a good cook. You don’t need to find new recipes, you need to find ways to freeze the food you already love. I scale up my recipes. I cook 4x as much of anything casserole-y or saucy. I use 6 cup pyrex pans with lids to store everything because they go from the freezer, to the fridge to thaw overnight to the oven. The trick for me is to chill things properly, then cool things in the fridge with the lid on overnight. In the morning, wipe off any condensation on the lid. Then cover the SURFACE OF THE FOOD with cling wrap, and then replace the lid before freezing. This minimizes the possibility of freezer burn. I do major cooking once a week this way and I am able to shop at Whole Foods for a family of 4 for $100/week. I’m in the long process of working on my own e-book about it. To me, the freezing technique and the getting organized to layer cooking multiple recipes at once is the trickiest part.

  27. Not only has freezer cooking help me save money it is one of my go to strategies for losing weight. I have lost a total of 40lbs by prepping and freezing meals ahead of time.

    Just to give you a little background about me – I work full-time out of the home, have 2 kids under 7, a needy hubby, and run my blog Skinny Mom’s Kitchen (which BTW has a lot of freezer cooking recipes and info :)) So with that said my time is VERY limited.

    My freezer cooking strategy usually consists of spending a few hours every other week stocking the freezer. Then usually during the week I will try to make extra while I am already preparing dinner. I try to fit it into my schedule naturally. I typically do not cook complete meals. Sometimes I do like chicken parm and mac n cheese. But mostly I create lots of freezer meal starters. These help tremendously with getting meals put together quickly during the week. Basically what I do is look at a recipe and think to myself “hmmm what part of this can I make and freeze ahead of time?” sometimes you can do the whole thing other times just parts of the recipe.

    Some of my favorites meal starters are:
    Turkey meatballs – can be used for subs, pizzas, spaghetti sauce, etc
    Shredded chicken
    breaded raw chicken
    baked chicken
    marinated chicken
    brown rice
    seasoned cooked ground beef
    prepared taco meat
    pizza dough
    pizza sauce
    spaghetti sauce
    cookie dough

    Prepared meals I like:
    breakfast burritos and sandwiches
    muffins
    complete homemade frozen pizzas
    chili
    red clam sauce
    bean and cheese burritios

    I also LOVE putting together slow cooker freezer kits. That is when you prep the slow cooker recipe ahead of time then it is ready for when you want to put it in the slow cooker. You do need to thaw ahead of time so it must be taken out the day before. However, during the week this saves a ton of time.

    Sorry if this is all over the place. Freezer cooking makes the life a busy mom so much easier and I highly recommend everyone give it a shot. Make it work for you! If cooking for hours on a Saturday is not your thing then don’t do it that way. Find what works for your lifestyle and schedule.

    I also recommend Jessica Fisher’s new cookbook Not Your Mama’s Make Ahead and Freeze Cook book. It is fantastic and gives tons of tips and family friendly recipes.

  28. We realized that we were spending tons on food to when we started budgeting closely again a few months ago. I’ve tried freezer cooking and it is very helpful. My by far best resource is Once A Month Mom.

    Also, what has really saved me the most money in the food category is staying out of the store. I have a master grocery list and do a once a month huge shop, and two more quick runs for perishables later in the month. This alone has shaved a few hundred off our monthly food expense. I’m using up what we have on hand and doing more advanced planning too.

  29. I have done some freezer meals when I had a bigger freezer. The resource that helped me the most was a website called heavenlyhomemakers.com. She has books and videos and blogs about her monthly batch cooking days. Was a BIG help to me!

  30. a friend and I blog about batch cooking for the freezer – with REAL FOOD. We do major marathon days (with a week preparation, almost.) It is more fun with a friend.

    http://realfoodlittlerock.blogspot.com/search/label/batch%20cooking

  31. We don’t do a lot of freezer cooking because we just don’t like food from the freezer. However, if I was going to do it, I wouldn’t need a book or even on-line resources. I’d just go through my own recipes and put together a plan. Some of the meals would be completely prepared and frozen. Some would be parts – like taco meat and a bag of cheese. Or chicken frozen in its marinade. It’s not really that hard.

  32. I do a weekly dinner swap. Every week myself and two friends cook for each other. On your night to cook you cook three times the amount of food and my two friends can pick it up anytime after five. this means two nights of the week I don’t cook and I just drive by and pick up my dinner, hot and ready. I have done this for 7 years and it has changed my life. I love to cook so this lets me focus a great meal on my night to cook and enjoy others cooking two other nights.

  33. Please post the solution if you ever find one. All of the freezer recipes that I have tried have been “meh”

  34. I’ve pinned this, but haven’t tried it. The author has taken some time to find recipes that overlap ingredients. Hope this is helpful.

    http://kojo-designs.com/2012/04/getting-organized-a-whole-months-worth-of-meals-via-crockpot-freezer-cooking/

  35. Since school started 6 weeks ago, I have approached cooking in a slightly different manner. I plan my menu & grocery list on Wednesday for the Thursday-Wednesday coming up. I shop on Thursday, and that night when I prepare the meal, I triple or quadruple the ingredients. We eat the dinner and then I freeze the remaining meals. I usually end up with 4 or 5 meals for the freezer. I even buy whatever I can to freeze and go with the meals. So for tacos I even buy extra shredded cheese & freeze the cheese next to the taco meat. I make Tsh’s homemade pizza sauce in a huge batch and freeze it along with pizza cheese and pepperoni so that I have pizza kits in the freezer – just have to make dough pizza meal morning.

    I make the meals I would normally make, but am not really cooking any more than I typically would. Now, 6 weeks into this I have a nice variety of meals to choose from and can plan a few meals out of the freezer each week (the nights we have activities) to save time. Buying the food for the freezer meal in club packs does keep the grocery bill slightly lower. Some weeks when I really want to try a new recipe with loads of ingredients I might pull from the freezer 3 or 4 nights to keep the weekly grocery bill down so I can buy the extra ingredients for the new recipe! And if it is just a rough week and I can’t get to the store, there is plenty of food!

  36. avatar
    Bethany Peters says:

    I didn’t read through the comments so this might have been mentioned, but I think spending an ENTIRE day making freezer meals is too daunting and with a 3 year old and a 1 year old, not very doable for me. A better idea is using recipes you already use and love that are also freezable–lasagna, most soup (leave out the milk or cream before you freeze), chicken enchiladas, casseroles, waffles, spaghetti sauce, raw meatloaf, frozen cookie dough balls–and doubling the recipe whenever you make them–eat one for dinner and freeze the other one for later that month. So basically no more extra work and after you do that for awhile, your freezer will be stocked!

  37. You’ve received a lot of advice and websites here. I do hope you find one that will help you out. The one I have found that works best for me is Saving Dinner by Leanne Ely.

    http://savingdinnershop.com/menus/freezer-menus/twenty-for-the-freezer/

    That takes you to the page where you order the books that I have and use. Each one has 20 different dinners and the shopping list for the ingredients to put them all together all at once. They imitate the dinner assembly franchises that have popped up lately. Each and every one of the dinners was interesting and most of the recipes are ones we use over and over and over. I have 3 of the 4 books and adore them.

    Good luck with this challenge!

  38. There’s a 31 Days series going on right now about getting started with freezer cooking! It’s just getting started, but could be a nice, smooth intro. MoneySavingMom and Tammy’s Recipes also have some good freezer cooking recipes – including things like snacks and breakfasts. I’ve also used the book called Fix It and Forget It before, but that was for more of freezing an entire month’s worth of food and right now I need a smaller scale (I’m just one grown-up and a baby these days).

  39. Congrats on taking the plunge into both managing your grocery budget AND freezer cooking. While I’ve worked tremendously hard at trimming my grocery budget and sticking to a meal plan freezer cooking is still relatively new to me. That being said I can already see the difference both in how its helping our budget AND keeping my family fed and healthy. I have two itty bitty kids so I don’t spend a whole day cooking like some do (although I would love to) but I do double up batches of recipes (like meat sauce and chili) and have started to do some freezer baking. Someone mentioned Money Saving Mom in a comment (I ♥ that site as well). I have some starter recipes on my blog as well http://kawarthabargains.blogspot.com (the muffins are my fav. so far!)
    Good luck! Hope you will share your conquests with us!

  40. I had a similar problem, but instead of freezer cooking (I do that only sometimes), I decided on a simple master pantry list and I only buy those things and cook from them. It’s helped eliminate food waste and expensive ingredients for only one-time recipes. I write about this way of cooking on my blog if you’re interested.

  41. There are already a million comments, not even sure you’ll make it this far, but if you do, Cook’s Illustrated’s “Best Make-Ahead Recipes” has good freezer meals and good “make a bunch of meals from one base” ideas (like cook a bunch of turkey a certain way, then use it five different ways…)
    http://www.amazon.com/Make-Ahead-Recipe-Cooks-Illustrated-Magazine/dp/1933615141/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1349499908&sr=8-1&keywords=the+best+make+ahead

  42. I make and freeze just the things that are loved. Other things are worth making fresh. I am not into casseroles persay so…yuck! I will do soup, whole chicken in crockpot, after the meal take the leftovers and make soup, then freeze in bags. Pizza dough, chili, pasta sauce, chopped fruit, shredded cheese, refried and baked beans. I buy in bulk, then make big batches of all of the above. All of these things take HOURS to make, so by making big batches you end up with lots of meals, then just add what you need to. I buy big blocks of cheese, shred and bag it in 2 cup portions. Amazing how much you end up with and how long you will have great options.

  43. I like to cook a roast (or pork or chicken) in the crockpot, shred it, and freeze it for future meals. Then you can season it for whatever fresh ingredients you’re serving it with … BBQ sandwiches, tacos, teriyaki rice bowls.

  44. I did a day of cooking for freezer meals for the first time last weekend! It was a lot of work but fun too (I enlisted a friend to join me)! I did a lot of searching on the internet and decided that http://www.onceamonthmom.com was the best thing out there for me. For less than $10 a month you can a full month of recipes (breakfast, lunch and dinner), they provide you with a grocery list, recipe cards etc that are all fully editable (to adjust for serving sizes). There are also various menu options – traditional, whole foods, diet etc! The recipes I’ve tried so far have been great and it is certainly a time/money saver!

  45. Great comments. One site I have not seen mentioned is http://www.30daygourmet.com. I love their cookbooks! I’ve even given them as wedding gifts!

    I precook ground beef and chicken often…just bought a 10 lb log last night of ground beef. I plan to make some meatloaf with it (love the 30 day gourmet recipe for this!) and cook a bunch of 1 pound bags too. As far as freezing, I’ve used the freezer bags and also just bought some extra pyrex glass pans, 9×9 and 9×13.

    We have one who is gluten free now in the family, so I need to check out some of these other sites you all have mentioned..our grocery budget has shot way up and I need to rethink some things! Thanks!

  46. Hi. I also have struggled with my mom-thing of being an imaginative cook, baker etc. I recently, like two weeks ago, started to write out menus for each day that I was going to prepare our meals. Even things like what we were going to have for breakfast, snacks, the whole 9 yards. That way I seem to have cut out the evil extras when you are cruising around the shops… And therefore I have also seen a reduction in our shopping bills. Yay. BUT I also don’t like this to bee too regimented, so if something’s on offer or there is a special deal, I will stock up and maybe cook extra and freeze the rest, much like a lot of people here seem to do.
    So I would say that cooking for a whole day is possibly never going to happen, but with careful planning I have managed to control (so far) my weekly budget a lot better and as an added bonus I seem to not waste my energy on the endless, what shall we eat today drama.

  47. I have had good success with freezer cooking…until I eliminated a lot of canned and processed foods from our diet. Now I have had better luck with freezing food that makes parts of meals or when I can doubled a dinners or bake an extra loaf of bread. Saves a ton of time, especially rolls and breadsticks. :)

  48. I don’t really do freezer meals; instead I find budget recipes online. One really good collection is Simply Recipes: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/budget/

  49. Oh my … ask and you shall receive! Look at all of these recipes!

    My tried-and-true freezer friendly recipes are shelved here :: http://food.naomihattaway.com/category/freezer-friendly/

  50. I started Freezer Batch cooking to save myself time during the week. To my surprise I found that it saved us tons of money too (less eating out)! There are so many great resources online on how to start out if you’re wanting to try.

  51. It’s kinda one of my “mom things”, you know?

  52. I’ve heard that it helps cut down costs tremendously. Which, is apparently something I need to work on. And I don’t even know where to start.

  53. I want my family to remember me as a great cook.

  54. I just don’t like it. I do not like it Sam I am.

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