Day 3: Cooking & Freezing
Cooking, Packaging, Freezing, Cleaning
The day has finally arrived, cooking day! I love this day! I love to turn on my favorite music or podcast, grab a good cup of coffee or hot tea and find my happy place! I should preface that this cook day was not like my typical cook day. This was one of my more challenging ones. I didn’t post on FB but on this day I had my entire HVAC system being replaced (I can’t wait to blog about how we did that paying cash). I had contractors in and out, two different friends stop by to visit, and James had two friends come over and play. I would NOT recommend doing your C&F day this way. It all worked out and I still got done what I needed to get done in the time frame I planned. However, I don’t think I will do it that way ever again. I thought doing it the day the HVAC stuff took place and James having a friend over would help. It didn’t. You live and learn and do it different next time, right?!
I started with the red meat dishes. I put the hamburger & chopped onions on the stove.While the meat was cooking (an occasional stir here and there) I grabbed the roasts and cut them into family size portions. I then assembled two freezer bags with french dip. and took the rest of roast and chopped it up for beef stew. After I finished the stew meat, my hamburger meat was cooked, cooled, and ready to be drained and put it into labeled bags for taco meat. I took what was left of the cooked hamburger and added more ingredients to make meals like quesidillas and taco soup. Before I knew it, VIOLA, I had 8 meals done in about 30 minutes!
I then moved on to the meatballs. This time around I used prepackaged meatballs. Most times I make my own, but when there isn’t time this is a great short cut! I threw a family size portion in each bag along with it’s accompanying sauce (I did make all those from scratch) zipped the bags closed, labeled, and viola I had meatballs ready for the stove top or crock pot.
Just like that I had all the red meat done! I quickly cleaned up the kitchen and was ready to move onto the chicken meals and I already had 13 meals(made in one hour) in the freezer!
Now it was time to move onto chicken! I pulled out my ingredients for all the chicken dishes and I started with the easiest dishes to assemble! (I enlisted my daughter at this point to open all the cans of beans … I hate that part.) I started with enchiladas. Again, I used a short cut using jarred enchilada sauce and pre shredded cheese. I also used the precooked chicken that I cooked the night before (see my previous blog post about Step 2) This made it a cinch to assemble. I then labeled the pans and they were in the freezer by the time my daughter had opened 15 cans of beans for me. (Have I mentioned how much I hate opening cans 🙂
I then moved onto the soups ….. I began to sweat the already chopped veggies (you want the onions to look translucent) and then I literally dumped the rest of the ingredients including the broth I had from the chicken I cooked the night before. Using the broth from my fryer chicken not only saved me money but it was healthier too! After the broth and other ingredients, I threw in some shredded chicken from the whole fryer and finished the soups with spices! All of the soups I made required the same spices so it was easy peasy. I had those simmering within 1o minutes or so.
Now it was time to assemble the Chicken Cordon Bleu. For something so fancy it was a cinch to make! This is a new recipe so I’m anxious to try it! (**Update: We tried it and everyone in my family loved it!)
Now it was time to start the raw chicken breast dishes for the crock pot. I threw chicken breast (portioned for my family) in prelabeled freezer bags and dumped in prepackaged bbq sauce (you can make your own if you want) and it was done! I did the same for the hawaiin chicken and sweet and sour chicken, I made those sauces myself. (Again similar ingredients makes it quick and easy). I then moved onto the chicken taco meat. This literally took me 5 minutes (if even that) to assemble. Before I knew it I had 18 more meals in the freezer!
I was in the homestretch ……
Last on the list: Veggie Lasagna and Broccoli Cheese Soup. I saved these for the finale because they required a little bit more of my time and attention. The cheese can burn easily in this soup dish so I needed to watch it a little more carefully. Once I had everything assembled and cooking I watched the soup and stirred it while I put away the last of my supplies and cleaned the kitchen. Remember I had been cleaning all along the way so this didn’t take long. It took me about 10-15 minutes to clean which luckily was about how long it took the cheese in the soup to fully melt. (I once again asked my daughter to help me by sweeping!)
Just like that, I had 34 meals in the freezer! I also had a clean kitchen and a hot pot of soup on the stove ready for dinner! My rule on C&F day is whatever is the last meal to be cooked is what we have for dinner. I came up with this rule because once I accidentally froze everything and ended up having to cook dinner that night! OOPS! I never made that mistake again!
While the soup cooled, we ate a delicious meal as a family. Once everyone had nice, warm soup bellies, I bagged the rest of what’s left over and threw it in the freezer for another meal in the future. It was that easy!!
This whole process from start to finish (planning to executing) took me 7.5 hours and by the end I had my entire freezer stocked with food! One hour for planning, 1.5 for grocery shopping, and 5 hours for prepping and assembly. By the end I had 34 meals (FULL meals).
So you tell me …. do you think cooking and freezing is beneficial? I know I couldn’t live with out it!
Remember …. start slow and build. Don’t take on a month’s worth of meals when you’re first getting started. Start out just planning a few days worth or a weeks worth and double all the recipes. Remember to use foods with similar ingredients and spices because it makes the whole thing go faster and more efficiently. Once you have it down then it’s time to branch out and get more adventurous in your meals.
Use the short cut method when needed. It is still healthier than eating out or buying premade food at the grocery store.
So, are you ready? I know you can do it! Remember it may seem tough at times but you always have a support system here at SOS!
One more tip before you leave ……..
I always keep frozen veggies on hand and quick rices and sides in the pantry to make a meal quickly. My goal on the nights I work is to be in my kitchen 30 minutes or less. I generally average 15-20 minutes.
Thank you again for taking time to read my September C&F blog series. I hope it has helped encourage you in implementing Cooking & Freezing into your life.