Update to the Freezer Cooking!

 

 

Wowzers… I truly wasn’t expecting that kind of feedback from my post on freezer meals!!

One thing I want to get out of the way nice and early here, is that I’m not some kind of ultra-organized, sale-hounding, high-energy type of person.  Seriously.  I’m pretty embarrassed by some of the comments and the attention, because the whole point of me doing these freezer meals, is that I can be pretty darn lazy.

I regularly don’t start thinking about dinner until close to 5:00.  It’s not unusual to have dishes still in the sink the next morning.  I am always amazed when I hear people say they have a certain day of the week that they always do their grocery shopping.  That is just not me.  I go to the store when we need food.  It’s very rarely before noon, because sleeping in is fun.  Yes, I clip coupons and watch for sales… but not to any extreme at all.

And this is why freezer meals are so awesome!  Because they let me be me.  I can have a lazy afternoon and not worry, because at least dinner is ready.  I can completely skip going to the store for 3 weeks (except for milk and produce runs), because I have enough food to last us for months.  Dishes aren’t a concern, because we just need to throw plates and cups in the dishwasher since there aren’t really bowls or pans.

And then when I do have that day where I have a burst of energy, I run to the store to grab my meat and I get cookin’!!  And, while I’m at it… a little clarification here… because I made 46 meals does NOT mean I made 46 recipes!!  I’m going to take a guess here and say I made about 7-10 recipes that day!  Remember, one batch of teriyaki marinade made 8 meals in about 15 minutes.  One batch of taco meat made about 4 or 5 meals.  My stockpot of chicken probably got me 7 or 8 bags of shredded chicken for meals.  And you use all these “meals” in different ways so it never feels like you’re having the same thing over and over again!

So I’ll attempt to answer some of your questions, but I really am NOT an expert… just cookin’ for my little old family so I thought I would share the way we do things!

Q: Can you share the recipes you use?
A:  The reason I didn’t post specific recipes (other than the teriyaki marinade and taco meat), is because I get them from published cookbooks, specifically Don’t Panic- Dinner’s In the Freezer, and since I’m not all up on the legality of this type of stuff, I thought it best if I didn’t post it!  If you plan on doing this, I really do recommend this book! It’s awesome and I just noticed it’s down to $8!! You can’t beat that! And you know, those authors spent a lot of time and effort getting their book published, so it would kinda be pretty crappy to just post them for free on here.

Q: I’m wondering logistically how to do you make use of all these freezer meals — do you need to think to thaw them out the day before. Are there some recipes that can go straight from the freezer to the oven/microwave etc.? How do you know? Any other tips for making use of all of your labors? 
A:  And this is what I mean when I say I’m not organized!! I would never give this a lot of thought!  I set things out the day before and let them thaw in the refrigerator overnight. I suppose you could transfer it to a microwave-safe container and thaw it in the microwave but I wouldn’t recommend that for marinated meats.  Letting the meat marinate as it thaws really helps it become more flavorful and tender.  You absolutely could microwave-thaw the bags of pre-cooked ground beef, taco meat and shredded chicken.   I re-heat my taco meat in the microwave all the time and it still tastes great!  When you’re thawing a soup, it can still be pretty slushy/icy when you put it in the pot to re-heat.  If I forgot to set something out the night before, I often will take a bag of tomato basil soup and put it in a pot of cold water to thaw. Then use the same pot to re-heat it.  Then I make 3 grilled cheese sandwiches (for all 4 of us), cut them into croutons and sprinkle on top of the soup.  There’s a picture in this post of what I’m talking about.  My kids LOVE it and if we’re having a bowl of soup, we really don’t all need a whole sandwich!  I started doing it because I was low on bread and now it’s the only way we eat it!

Q: Do you have a generator?
A: Nope!  We really don’t live in an area that has a lot of outages and when we do, they don’t last long. I’ve been known to say to my husband, “Did the power just go off or did I blink too long?”.  It’s just not an issue around here, but if it ever did go off for long, well, yes… I would be crying.

Q: How did you get your meat so cheap?
A: The only real “trick” is that I know what day my grocery store marks their meat down!  Yes, it’s meat that is about 2-3 days from the “sell by date”.  It’s very rarely ever the same day that it expires and I’ve often put those packages back even if they are cheap. I just go to regular, chain grocery stores. My one store is significantly cheaper than the other one, but I’m able to find deals like this pretty much every Wednesday (if I decide to go that week).  A couple weeks ago they had their 1 lb. packages of ground chicken marked down to $1, so I picked up 4 packs of that. I try not to clear the shelves, because it tickles me to think that somebody else gets to come along and see that great price too! I don’t show up at any special time, usually I wander over sometime in the afternoon and see what’s left.  And, yes, I realize these are great prices and not all stores go that low (not even all of mine do), but most stores do have a specific day for markdowns if you just ask your butcher. My sister lives in a different state and she’s able to find great deals on her meat too, just because she checked on her store’s day.

Q: Do you have a deep freezer?
A: No, we just have a refrigerator in our kitchen and one in our basement. Both are the top/bottom style, so I have 2 “top freezers”.

Q: I’ve always been told that potatoes don’t freeze well?
A: I’ve found that to be true for many dishes that contain potatoes.  I once made 3 batches of scalloped potatoes and ham casseroles that smelled heavenly and looked delicious and I made the mistake of freezing them.  It was a disaster and it all got thrown away!  They were runny and the potatoes were brown and it was just plain yucky!  Since then I only make one batch of a new recipe before trying it out in the freezer!  But for some reason, the double-stuffed potatoes freeze beautifully!  They taste like you just made them fresh and the potatoes don’t brown at all!  I really don’t know why it works for some dishes and not others, but I’ve had great luck with the stuffed potatoes (plus I got the recipe from that cookbook, so they’ve been tested many times by many different people!)

Q: Where do you live?
A: Central PA, and that’s about as specific as I’d like to get!

Q: Will you come to CA and cook for me, niece?
A: Yes, Unc… gladly!  Get that wine chilling, I like cheap stuff! : )

Hopefully I answered your questions!  And what are we having tonight, you ask??  I’m about to pop 4 potatoes in foil in my oven (setting the delayed-timer is a great thing!) and I have taco meat thawed in the refrigerator.  We’re having Taco baked potatoes with a side salad!

If you’re interested in reading the original post, the cookbooks I used are mentioned at the bottom!  Thanks!

 

 

 

Natalie

Natalie

Hi, I'm Natalie and I like to move slowly (like a turtle, if you will)! I daydream about minivans, painting walls and eating fudge with a spoon. Welcome to my little computer home where I share my family's adventures as we live life from the slow lane!
Natalie
Natalie
Natalie

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Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    What a great post! Thanks for answering so many questions. I really respect that you don’t publish the recipes or “tweak” them a bit and call them your own as some bloggers do. I’m sure the orginal cookbook authors appreciate that, too!

  2. I didn’t get to comment on your last post yet, but must tell you, I am thrilled that you shared this info. I know you feel like you are not doing anything special, but let me tell you, mothers all over are looking for this type of help! So, I plan on doing my bulk shopping and cooking this weekend! Can’t wait!

  3. Anonymous says:

    I just stumbled upon your site via a link from somewhere else, and I am seriously inspired! I’m 7 months pregnant now and have been fretting about putting up meals for after the baby is born (the same week my eldest starts kindergarten, eek!).

    FWIW, I also really admire your honesty in deciding not to post recipes online that you found in a cookbook. It bugs the heck out of me when some of my (otherwise) favorite sites unashamedly copy recipes, even if they attribute them.

  4. Okay, you’ve inspired me! I am 25 weeks pregnant with me second and having 46 meals in my freezer when baby boy comes sounds like a dream. I think I see the book you recommend and possibly a second freezer in future purchases! Thank you for all the great tips and advice!!

  5. Great original and follow-up posts! I was so inspired that I went out and ordered the book on Amazon (hopefully I’l receive it tomorrow). I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to prepare so much food in one afternoon, but at least tonight I prepared some shredded chicken and froze it and am going to make refried beans tomorrow and freeze (they actually freeze well). At least they are baby steps – I actually don’t care to cook everyday (I mostly cook complicated dishes when I do) and have been struggling with the whole “what will I make for dinner tonight” saga since I got married two years ago. I’m hoping that this will motivate me to think ahead a bit and simplify things! THANKS!

  6. I do something similar as in cooking one month and reheating the next month. When I lived back in Norway I would have a huge chest freezer full of meals and can’t wait to go back to this when I move back there next year.
    I will however do a little more prepping here dinnerwise inspired by you when I get home from Norway in August.
    Thanks for sharing this.

  7. Thanks for the posts! I have Don’t Panic, Dinner’s in the Freezer and also love it. I did get some great new tips from you, though – like adding carrots to your meat mix. Love it!

  8. I am linking to this post at somedaycrafts.blogspot.com.

  9. Thank you for sharing, I am ordering this book.

  10. I would love to do something like this, even if it was only cooking for a week (as I have a very small freezer full of the top of my wedding cake). The problem is that I don’t cook meat. Any suggestions on vegetarian freezer cookbooks?

  11. Thank you SO MUCH for letting me know that twice baked potatoes can be made ahead and frozen. They’re the Mr.’s favorite. I’m blogging things I’m cooking from a book but not posting the recipes either. If it’s a recipe that’s already posted online then I’ll link to it, but I won’t put up something that the author hasn’t already published online.

  12. Ok, you’ve inspired me to try this again in a new way! After I get through my current “must get done” to-do list :D Thanks for posting this and I’m happy I stumbled upon it.

  13. I just stumbled onto your post this morning and absolutely loved it. Not only are your ideas great, but your narrative style is fantastic. You have a real talent for making your readers feel as though they are sitting down having a conversation with you over coffee, as though the post were personalized for just them. Hope you don’t mind, but I fully intend on directing my readers to your blog–it’s simply too good for them to miss!

    Also, thank you for the heads up on that book. I plan on getting one for myself and one for my sister-in-law, who not only has to feed 5 on a nightly basis (all boys and all big eaters!!!), but is also lucky enough to own a deep freezer!

  14. Natalie — I’m Natalie, too! I just wanted to tell you, I’m originally from Idaho, and I think the potatoes freeze well when they’re cooked or covered in sauce. I’ve tried a frozen scalloped potato recipe and it seemed to be okay as long as I had enough sauce, but if it didn’t the potatoes were totally brown. Also, another thing that’s so yummy is to saute some grated potato with your taco meat. It adds a little texture, so it may take some getting used to, but I LOVE it and it can extend your taco meat by almost HALF!

  15. wow. I just read the original, and then this post (linked over from consumerist) and i love it! I always want to try this, but my husband does most of the cooking. But this seems like it would be such a life saver!!!! it would be great to have meals in the freezer that woudl help with the “i’m tired, no one wants to cook” moments… which inevitably turn into pizza days…

  16. You should set up an amazon account and get money from everyone who purchases the books you recommended

  17. Thanks for the great tips!

  18. Anonymous says:

    you are awesome! i’m going to give freezing another try. bought the book from your link!

  19. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the great tips! I love freezer meals (essential for busy parents IMO), but mostly make them in winter. This has inspired me to try them in summer too. I live in a small apt in a big city and made room for a little deep freeze in my kitchen (it’s good counter space too). Please don’t let the haters get you down. As if someone who orders in 3 nights a week can say something about “too many” plastic bags or the quality of the meat they didn’t cook!

  20. Anonymous says:

    ps Bless your integrity for not posting slightly tweaked recipes and claiming them as your own or “adapted from.” I’m sure you’re selling a lot of Don’t Panic books!

  21. Stumbled onto your post & you have helped me solve my “I don’t feel like making dinner but still want to eat” problem that I seem to develop every summer. Thank you. I’ll grab the book that you mentioned & give it a go!

  22. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I immediately purchased the book on Amazon and am excited to try out the recipes. I recently went back to work (we have a four month old and a four year old) so this will help tons!

  23. I think the fact that you aren’t one of those ultra-organized people is part of why this post has caught so many people’s eye. This seems like something those of us who aren’t organized can do! And I got a good laugh out of your reason for inventing grilled-cheese croutons. They sound great, I can’t wait to try them.

    Also, kudos to you for giving credit to the authors of a book you enjoy, rather than just stealing their work as so many are wont to do. I second the previous comment that says you should start an account with Amazon to get credit for anyone who links from your site to buy that book. I’m on my way to Amazon to look at it right now! :-)

  24. I remember you mentioning in a subsequent post to this one that you wash and re-use some of your plastic freezer bags. Do you think you could elaborate on your system for that? I’m so paranoid about reusing them, especially meat ones, but it would be a huge trash-reducer and $$$-saver!

  25. Jennifer says:

    I just bought the book! I am so inspired by your blog post. How did you get your carrots and onions so shredded? Did you use a food processor? Thanks!

  26. Thanks for this post. I’ve been trying to do this off and on for a while now. You’ve answered some of my questions to get me really kick-started. Thanks!

  27. Now I just need to figure out meals without meat!

  28. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for your posts about this – I’ve been meaning to try this because I have a crazy work schedule…but I never was sure what recipes would freeze well. Based on your suggestion I bought the first “Don’t Panic…” book. I’ve earmarked 5-10 recipes to try so far! They all look great…thanks again!

  29. Jessica Anderson says:

    Found your blog from another site…Oh My Goodness! I know this should have been a no-brainer idea, but I’ve never thought of it before. I explained it all to my husband and he is totally on board to try as many of the recipes in the book as possible and we are looking into buying a deep freezer. I’m a mother of 2 (5 and 3) and my husband is a disabled vet from Iraq. I also need to go to work for the 1st time in our marriage to help with bills since we are on a retired military (fixed income) pay at 30. What a blessing this will be! Thanks so much!!

  30. I am also currently in Central, PA and I see that you shop at Giant. Any suggestion on when to shop there for reduce priced items? If you don’t want to disclose, I also understand.

  31. I love those books. There’s a new one coming out too, but it’s mainly non-freezer meals…can’t wait. It’s so funny, I did a post like aweek after you on the same thing/same books. Glad to know there are others of us out there. :) (Course your post is much much better and more detailed than mine.)
    Cheers!

  32. Natalie, Just wanted to add my kudo’s to you for the fantastic ideas. I’m a working, single mom of four and come home every night wondering what to do for dinner and not having the energy to do much. Like many here, I also bought the cookbook. Thank you!

  33. Tonight was one of those…we are in town at 7pm… we live 25 miles away… it’s 30 min..do we spend 25$ to eat fast food or go home? Fast food won because of course nothing is thawed out. Well…now that I know how to prepare things that are tasty, this will be a much easier choice and save us money! :) Thanks!!

  34. Anonymous says:

    Wow. I love your post! I want to feel super efficent so I will try this out next pay check! Plus, lately I feel like I make the same meals over and over again. You have posted for the summer months, but it is now January. Do you do anything different in the winter months?

  35. I am very sporadic in freezer cooking myself and this reminds me to plan a day and get cooking. I am opening my own business in March and time is of the essence right now…that way my family will still have great home cooked healthy meals and not frozen pizza or fast food.

    thanks for inspiring me once again!

    Natalie M
    Little Prairie Girl

  36. I just stumbled onto your blog today. Love it! Thanks so much for the tips on freezing. I am so going to try the baked potatoes, taco meat and shredded chicken. I already make chili, chicken noodles and chicken noodle soup to freeze, now I’m looking to branch out.
    Again thanks for the great tips! I’m gonna put them to good use.
    Oh and about the people giving you a hard time about plastic bags and too muc. Meat etc. Etc. Just ignore it. Your blog is great and those that think differently can just go read someone elses blog. I get crap like that all the time. Lol :o)

  37. I just stumbled onto your blog today. Love it! Thanks so much for the tips on freezing. I am so going to try the baked potatoes, taco meat and shredded chicken. I already make chili, chicken noodles and chicken noodle soup to freeze, now I’m looking to branch out.
    Again thanks for the great tips! I’m gonna put them to good use.
    Oh and about the people giving you a hard time about plastic bags and too muc. Meat etc. Etc. Just ignore it. Your blog is great and those that think differently can just go read someone elses blog. I get crap like that all the time. Lol :o)

  38. I heard about your blog on One Good Thing when she featured your grown up grilled cheese sandwiches. The name of your blog tickles me greatly! Anyway, I love the way you make this look so easy! I used your link and just purchased the cookbook. Can’t wait to try it!

  39. Thank you so much for sharing! I found a vegetarian freezer meals website that you can share next time people start “hating”! http://www.everythingmom.com/diet/make-ahead-meal-inspiration-freezer-meal-recipes.html?utm_source=crowdignite.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=crowdignite.com

  40. Hi Natalie! LOVE your blog. I’m trying your twice stuffed potatoes but I have a question about the plastic wrap. How much wrap do you use around each pototo? I wrapped them once around but it doesn’t look like they are wrapped as well as yours. Just want to make sure I am storing them correctly. Thanks for blogging – I’m really enjoying yours :)
    Kim

  41. Hello,
    My daughter & neice made freezer meals a couple weeks AGO.. Yum.. I made sweet & sour pork chops.. just threw it all in a freezer bag.. lasagna & others made meatballs.. turkey soup & enchiladas :-)
    One thing that helps Pot. freeze better , is PRE cooking or blancheing them in a bit of salt water.. mine always turn out great for hashbrowns anyway..

  42. Anonymous says:

    Hi, I found you from another site ( with all the upset comments on the freezer bags used ) I think your idea is great. I need to do more freezer meals myself. I borrowed the book you recommended from the library, I also got the More Freezer Meals, they are great. I will be purchasing at least one of them, still trying to decide which one. Thanks for the inspiration!

  43. Natalie, I found the link to you on a friend’s Pinterest page. I am a nearing 50 something mom and my children are grown and about to be gone. I have been doing freezer meals from the time that they were in grade school. I cannot tell you the times that it has saved my bottom as well! I now use two, gallon bags when I freeze meals because my son, age 19 eats like a man. My freezer gets really full. When he went off to school last year I sent a cooler filled with his favorites.So I knew he was eating healthy. I also live in Central PA.I too shop at Weis market. My question is did you just as to talk to the meat dept. mgr. or just a butcher about the “sale dates”? I would love to fall across a few sales like you did. I agree with how you handle requests for recipes. If all the world were as honest…oh what a “wonderful world” it might be. I look forward to reading more from you.

  44. @AnonymousWhen you make a twice baked potato it’s already split in half and stuffed. To reheat it on the day I’m eating it, I just place each half, skin side down, on a cookie sheet and then reheat until it’s hot the whole way through.

  45. Anonymous says:

    Hey, I just wanted to know, when you reheat the twice baked potatoes, you obviously unwrap them, but do you split them in half on the cookie sheet? or keep them in the potato shape? I don’t want them to get dried out! I got the book you suggested, and I wasn’t too excited about it, but Im also pretty big on tweaking recipes to my own liking anyway, so the descriptions you gave worked for me! Thanks for the inspiration!

  46. Anonymous says:

    Hi there, I just wanted to let you know that I’ve been doing a bunch of hunting online to find out an easy way to do exactly what you describe in your above post. The thing is, most people seem absolutely neurotic about it, which kind of turns me off to the whole idea. I love how casual and real your approach is, and look forward to giving it a try. I also added that cookbook to my Christmas list :)

    Thanks for being you!
    Kylie

  47. I love it! I just clicked on the link and purchased the book, which is what we should do! thank you for your integrity! I am also inspired!

  48. Anonymous says:

    Im going to the store this week and am going to try you methods. See how well they apply to our house:) And Im a central PA girl too:) And i saw in the circular the potatoes and onions were BOGO so i think this is a good time to start. :) ill repost and let you know how it turned out:)

  49. Anonymous says:

    I found your blog post on Pinterest and am inspired to do some bulk freezer cooking! You make is seem so simple, wow. I have “Don’t Panic..” and really like it too, especially the chicken pot pie recipe! :)

  50. Do you also freeze side dishes or are these mostly one pot meals? Or do you make the sides fresh?

  51. There are so many comments, etc. to wade through ~ and perhaps I missed the Q&A (apologies if this is duplicated). Your photos show Ziplock-type freezer bags. Do you get freezer burn? I’m a huge Food Saver fan – have you tried that method and found better results?

  52. I very much appreciate your freezer meal post and that you don’t give out the recipes from the book! I do the same thing (or rather, refrain from the same thing) on my own blog with a cake cookbook. It can be hard to stick to your guns when so many people ask for recipes so good for you. :)
    I’m excited to purchase one of these books! It is available on the iBooks store as well as on Amazon/Kindle for those of you who prefer iBooks because of your Apple products (like me).

  53. Hi, I noticed how you put dates on your bags before you freeze them. How long do these usually keep before you throw them out (if you don’t get to them all)?
    Thanks.

  54. I did not have time to read all your comments so do not know if any one else told you this. To make the potato and ham casserole I cook the potatoes partially in the microwave. It came out wonderful. Just micro till half done in a micro safe bowl with some water and lid. Cook in micro for 2-3 minutes on high and then check to see how they are doing. Continue microwaving with 1 minute increments till half cooked. You can kind of tell by the look of them. Then drain and let cool a little. Add your sauce and ham and freeze.

  55. Great post Natalie. I got to here from the lifehacker website and must say this will definitely be coming in handy. I love the crockpot and have always made my meals for the day fresh for it. I never considered frozen ahead of time crockpot meals. Thanks.

  56. I had a question about the marinades. I love the idea of putting the bag in the blender (sans blade), but I’m confused as to how you freeze or store it. It sounds like you store the marinade separate from the meat (prolly in the fridge?) and then add the meat as it thaws? The end result sounds great, but I don’t wanna ruin anything needlessly! lol. Thanks a ton for this post! I found it on lifehacker.com and bought the book at half-price books for 7.50! Now I’m in the process of making my first freezer meals! Honey Pecan Chicken, White River cornbread, twice baked potatoes and your shredded chicken! Yum yum! :)

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