Last week, I used my first day off for my new schedule to execute a freezer cooking day! A freezer cooking day is basically meal prep on steroids (the prepping, not the meals). In the past, I’ve done one hour or an entire afternoon of freezer cooking sessions, but never have I undertaken so much in a single day.
Why do freezer cooking? Here are my top 3 reasons:
- It saves time. Oh no! It’s 4:00 and you haven’t started dinner? No problem. Just pull something out of the freezer, throw it in the oven, make a salad, and you’ve got dinner ready. You can also double or triple batches of certain recipes in the same amount of time it would take to make one!
- It saves money. How many times do we order take-out or go through the drive-thru because it’s easy? Think of how expensive it is for a family of 4 to eat out. Homemade meals can be time consuming to make, but eating at home is a proven way to save hundreds of dollars a month. Many times we’ve had weeks where we’ll “eat from the pantry” in order to stretch our grocery budget. Since I’d been stocking up on pantry essentials for a few weeks now, I was able to plan my freezer cooking menu around what I had on hand. I spent less than $40 on my groceries that day.
- It saves your health. Convenience foods are expensive and terrible for your health. Yes, you can take a frozen pizza and have it ready to eat in 20 minutes. You can microwave Hot Pockets, Lean Cuisine, frozen burritos, etc. and have a hot meal in minutes. Those foods are packed full of preservatives and chemicals that wreak havoc on your body, not to mention how a serving size just isn’t quite enough to fill you up. By preparing homemade meals, you can avoid a large portion of those chemicals and have delicious, filling, and healthy foods available to eat at any moment.
How did I plan my freezer cooking day? I started by scouring Pinterest, cookbooks, and websites for freezer-friendly recipes. Most tutorials on freezer cooking involves making dinner recipes. Since I usually don’t have a problem planning dinners, my main focus was to find recipes that my husband would like to eat for breakfast, lunches, and snacks.
The day before my cooking day. I printed out this freezer cooking planner pack from Money Saving Mom for planning my day (hint – print enough copies of page 2 so you have enough recipe cards for your plan OR just print out each recipe so you have it on hand). I came up with about 30 recipes to try, which is far too many to attempt in one day. After I wrote down all my ideas, I ran them past my husband to see what he actually wanted to eat. This helped me bring my list down to 15 recipes (still a lofty list for one day of cooking by myself). When I settled on my final list, I printed out each recipe individually so I wouldn’t forget any ingredients. I decided to do my cooking day at my mom’s house, mostly because of her larger kitchen (along with the many dishes I would need), but also because she has a dishwasher!
My final recipe selection was (in no particular order):
- Freezer-Friendly breakfast burritos
- Freezer pasta lunches
- Broccoli alfredo sauce
- Homemade pumpkin puree
- Baked chicken breasts
- Tex Mex lasagna
- Easy Baked Ziti
- Chicken Alfredo lasagna (instead of roll ups)
- Homemade Hot Pockets
- Garlic parmesan twist breadsticks
- Pizza dough X4
- Homemade energy bites
- Strawberry freezer jam
- Banana bread X5
- Pumpkin bread X3
The morning of, I started loading up my car at about 7am and headed to her house by 7:30. I had a rough idea of what ingredients I needed, but I hadn’t made a final list. I made a list on the computer, added up like ingredients (i.e. 6 cups of shredded cheddar cheese for the day instead of 3 recipes with 2 cups each), compared that list to what I had on hand, and came up with a final list of what I needed to buy. List in hand, I headed out to Winco to buy my groceries. In case you missed it before, I spent less than $40 because of stocking up ahead of time (I even have extra sugar, flour, and yeast leftover for next time)! I was able to return within an hour to start cooking.
After processing the dishes, I started on my cooking. Now, I didn’t keep an accurate record of what time I started each recipe, but I basically cooked from 10:15am till 9:30pm. I took an hour lunch break around 2pm, ran the dishwasher 4 times, and finally got home at 10:30pm after cleaning everything up. I had a 15-hour day!
Look what I came out with after my long day!
- 22 breakfast burritos
- 22 pasta lunches (each 1 serving of pasta + 1 serving of broccoli alfredo sauce)
- 11 cups homemade pumpkin puree
- 2 lbs shredded chicken taco meat
- 1 lb plain shredded chicken
- 1 Tex Mex lasagna
- 1 Easy Baked Ziti
- 1 Chicken Alfredo lasagna
- 8 homemade bacon & cheese “hot pockets”
- 8 garlic parmesan twist breadsticks
- 6 balls of pizza dough
- 3 1/4 dozen homemade energy bites (2 bites per serving)
- 6 pints strawberry freezer jam
- 3 banana bread loaves (9 servings per loaf)
- 1 iced banana cake
- 2 pumpkin cream cheese swirl bread loaves (9 servings per loaf)
- 18 pumpkin cream cheese muffins (2 muffins per serving)
That’s enough for:
- 22 breakfasts
- 30 lunches
- 17 dinners
- 1 side dish
- 65 snacks
- 1 dessert
That’s 136 meals/sides PLUS:
- 6 cans of pumpkin puree
- 6 jars of jam
If you consider the $38 I spent on groceries, it breaks down to $0.28 per meal NOT including the pumpkin puree and jam. If you count the puree and jam as one “meal” each (making the total 148 meals), it breaks down to $0.27 per meal. Either way, it’s a huge savings!
Phew! This was a long post. Thanks for sticking with me! Have you ever tried freezer cooking? What’s your method?