If you’re new to the idea of cooking meals ahead of time and freezing them until you’re ready to serve, you might be wondering why anyone would do such a thing. Who has time to cook ahead? And why would you want your meals to be frozen instead of served fresh? I wondered the same things myself. Here are some of the answers I’ve discovered along the way.
It helps you avoid the “witching hour”.
I know, the term witching hour has it’s roots in things far less innocent than dinner. But it’s often used to describe that time of day when the kids are suddenly restless, agitated, and whiney. And it usually hits right about the time you need to be getting dinner on the table. So there you are with a toddler on your hip, trying to make dinner with one hand, begging your toddler to stop trying to pain the cat.
It doesn’t have to be this way. You can avoid a lot of dinner- hour headaches by cooking ahead and freezing either complete meals or parts of meal. I don’t do a lot of whole meals, but we’ll get to the specifics later.
It saves time.
How many times each month do you currently do the following tasks:
- cut chicken
- brown ground beef
- make biscuits
- shred cheese
You get the idea.
How much time would it save you to do each of these only once?
You can save a lot of time by doing large batches of many different types of foods and freezing them and then using just what you need for a meal.
In most cases, even the prep time isn’t greatly increased because it doesn’t take any longer to make a large batch of something, like browned ground beef, than it does to make a small batch. You’ll also gain ground by only doing the prep work like gathering the ingredients, and the cleaning, once.
The kitchen stays cleaner.
Because you’ve done a bulk of the cooking ahead of time, you’ve also done the cleaning. Instead of having multiple prep bowls, a cutting board, food scraps, and multiple pots and pans to clean after dinner, you’ll only have a pan or two. Also, when you freeze a whole meal like a casserole, you’re often using the disposable pan you froze it in, so, you will have no prep clean up and no sticky casserole dishes to wash. It makes clean up so much easier and quicker, so you can get back to being with your family.
You have something for those days when;
- One of your children is sick and you’re busy taking care of them.
- You’re not feeling well.
- You’re extra busy.
- A friend needs a meal.
- You just don’t feel like cooking.
You can cook when you want to instead of on demand.
I believe we all have a productivity style. I personally do better if I’m working on one big project instead of skipping from task to task. I find it much easier to just clear out a Saturday morning on my calendar and spend it making a whole bunch of food than to have to cook every. single. evening. (And because I homeschool, add breakfast and lunch to that too, and you have me cooking all day, every day. I don’t think so!)
It helps you cater to different dietary needs.
It seems like food allergies are becoming more and more common. Add to that the many people who are choosing diets that avoid certain foods like grains or sugar. It can be difficult if your whole family can’t eat the same foods. Freezer cooking can help with that. You can cook up a bunch of meals for either the person with the restrictions and then cook as-needed for the rest of the family, or visa versa. That way you’re not cooking two meals every time you cook.
It makes hospitality easier.
Whether inviting a family to dinner, a friend to lunch, or bringing food to someone in need, it’s easier if you’ve at least got something to start with in the freezer.
It’s convenience food, only healthier (and tastes better).
Because you made it at home you control the ingredients. That means you make it exactly how you like it. Don’t like green peppers? Leave them out. Wish for more cheese? Go ahead, add more cheese! It’s convenience food, your way.
Perhaps more importantly, you can use healthy ingredients and eliminate things like MSG, HFCS, and artificial sweeteners, and control the levels of salt and sugar.
Because you have choices in your freezer, you can always make a quick meal instead of turning to fast food.
A real life example:
Today was a busy day. Both of my children had activities that took place at the time I would normally be making dinner. I was busy earlier in the day and didn’t have much for a crock pot meal anyway. So, what to do?
I took a trip out to the freezer and came in with chili and corn muffins. Dinner is made. When we were done eating all I had to do was clean the one small pot I heated the chili in. Had I made that meal from scratch today, I would have spent a lot of time in the kitchen and had lots of pots and pans to wash. Just for the chili I would have dirtied a cutting board and knife, the food processor, frying pan, a large pot and some measuring spoons. For the muffins; the mixing bowl, spoons and cups, and the muffin pans. I’d way rather wash one small pan. And because I made enough of each of these for several meals, I only had to wash all of those pots and pans once instead of several times!
So, not only did I have a go-to meal that only required reheating and saved us from eating out, but I had very little cleaning to do. Sounds like a good deal to me!
Maybe freezer cooking is for you.
If you’re ever short on time in the evening, if you don’t like the idea of cooking every single night, or if you just want to know you have a “plan B” you should give freezer cooking a try. Follow along in this series as we look into more of your questions and work out a strategy that will work for you. Next up; What about the cost?