Freezer Series

Freezer Series: Saving Money Freezing

by Beth Montgomery on September 17, 2009

in Frugal Series

Why am I so into freezing foods and freezer cooking? To be honest, some days I just don’t feel like cooking, so freezing saves me time and it saves me tons of money! And, obviously, saving money is something I’m definitely into.

1.) Instead of heading to a restaurant on days I just don’t feel like cooking, I can pull a ready-made and healthy meal out of my freezer to simply heat up.

2.) You can stock up on foods when they are at rock-bottom prices, and then freeze them to extend their shelf life. It will keep you from ever paying full price for food.

3.) Freezing foods like vegetables and fruits that are past their prime will stop you from throwing out food and wasting your hard earned money.

4.) By freezing fresh herbs from your garden (or even fresh fruits or vegetables), you can have them on hand all year long without paying more than the price of the seeds.

5.) Making your own breads and other baked goods from scratch can save you tons of money. Plus, if you buy the items when they are cheap and have a baking day, you can also save yourself tons of money on breads, pie crusts, cookies, and more by simply freezing them to have on hand.

Check out the entire Freezer Series HERE to see what you missed!

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With the final post coming out next week, we’re wrapping up our Freezer Series with a fun event to help you have many meals on hand quickly.

While many of us have participated in a cookie exchange around Christmas time, the idea of a meal exchange has never crossed our mind. OAMC may sound appealing to you, but the work involved is an absolute turn off. Instead of doing it all yourself, try it with friends.

There are two options for cooking with your friends to split the load. If you have a large enough kitchen, invite your friends over to cook. Each of you prepare 1 or 2 meals for every family involved in the Cooking Party. Each person brings his/her own ingredients and spend the day cooking together. When you leave, grab one of each meal to take home and freeze.

If, like me, you’d never fit that many people in your kitchen or have the room for a Cooking Party, try a simple Meal Exchange. In this scenario, each family involved prepares 1 or 2 meals beforehand, then you meet and swap. It’s simple!

The greatest part of a Meal Exchange or Cooking Party is that you get to enjoy some meals that you wouldn’t necessarily have cooked yourself. It’s a chance for your family to try new things. Plus, it saves you money to buy items in bulk and prepare one meal for several families.

1) Set limits before hand so everyone is on the same page. For example, make sure everyone knows to prepare 2 meals per family participating. Also make sure they know that each meal should cost approximately $5 a meal and include 5 servings. This stops one family from preparing fillet mignon, while another makes sloppy joes, and evens up the costs.

2) Make sure everyone submits their recipe beforehand, so you don’t have two of the same meal. This creates variety.

3) Instead of making 2 different meals, have each family double the servings in a meal to create more food for everyone participating. For larger groups, only make 1 meal per participating family.

4) Make sure each family notifies the others of any allergies beforehand!

5) Keep is simple. If you overdo it or make it too complicated, no one will want to participate.

Check out the entire Freezer Series HERE to see what you missed!

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For those of you who don’t enjoy cooking, OAMC can sound like a nightmare and a lifesaver all tied into one.

What is OAMC? It stands for Once-a-Month Cooking. The theory is that you spend one or two days a month and cook an entire month’s worth of meals, so you don’t have to cook every day.

Freezer cooking is similar, but could mean just cooking one meal to freeze or a week’s worth of meals instead of an entire month’s worth all at once.

The key to making OAMC manageable is organization! The more organized you are beforehand, the less stressful it will be for you.

Though I haven’t attempted OAMC for a while, I did when I worked away from home and it was honestly the greatest thing ever, because no matter how tired I was or how much I didn’t feel like cooking, I always had a delicious homemade meal on hand. Recruit your children to help you out, because it will not only teach them to cook, but also lessen the work for you!

1) Plan your entire menu ahead of time and make sure you have all ingredients on hand.

2) Prepare ahead of time by chopping all your vegetables and making sure all your ingredients are ready to go into each recipe.

3) Multi-task by cooking meals that contain similar ingredients at the same time. For example, cook hamburger in a skillet for a spaghetti meal kit, sloppy joes, and a taco meal kit.

4) Don’t try to take on too much too quickly. If this is your first time, try making a week’s worth of dinners first. Or divide up the tasks to cover a few days – dinner day, side dish day, and baking day.

5) If you don’t want to cook an entire month’s worth of meals, just try cooking one now and then to store in your freezer. When making a casserole, soup, or dish, double up and make two, then freeze one for a later date.

Check out the entire Freezer Series HERE to see what you missed!

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Sometimes, it makes more sense to freeze a meal in parts, instead of freezing an entire meal. For example, pizzas, spaghetti, and tacos freeze better in a kit then after fully prepared.

An example of a taco kit would be:
Pre-cooked seasoned hamburger or chicken
-Taco Shells

You could put each of these items into a separate freezer baggie, then put all of the individual baggies into one large baggie. When you’re ready to enjoy, pull out the kit and assemble. Don’t forget to have your favorite extras on hand like tomatoes, sour cream, and other ingredients that won’t thaw well for a kit.

In addition to meal kits, sometime it’s great to just freeze a single part of a meal, like meatballs. If you tray freeze meatballs and store in a freezer baggie long term, you can pull out a few to toss in spaghetti sauce or to make a meatball sandwich. Or make a partial spaghetti kit by putting sauce in one baggie and meatballs or seasoned cooked hamburger in another, and leaving your pasta in the pantry uncooked.

Meal Kit Ideas:

Spaghetti & Meatballs (or other pasta meals, keep pasta in pantry)
Sloppy Joes (or Pulled Pork/Chicken) & Buns
Stir Fry (keep rice in pantry)

Check out the entire Freezer Series HERE to see what you missed!

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My favorite way to freeze foods is to freeze entire meals. Often, I get in the “I just don’t want to cook” mood. More often than I care to admit! To avoid spending money at a restaurant or feeding my kids something less than stellar, I have a freezer with a few meals prepared just for these days!

Most meals, like casseroles, soups, entrees, and stews freezer perfectly after completely preparing. Just allow them to chill before placing them in the freezer. Remember to seal tightly in freezer baggies or air tight containers for long term storage.

Another pro to freezing entire meals is that it helps my cooking-challenged husband get credit for some delicious meals when I’m not around.

Because I’m not a morning person and since I’m just exhausted by the end of the day, my favorite meals to freeze are breakfasts and dinners, but you can even freeze items for lunch!

Not all meals freeze ideally though. Keep in mind that spices, onions, and other potent foods become more flavorful the longer they are left in the freezer, so add less than your recipe calls for to avoid a too-spicy dish. Also, pastas and rices continue to absorb water while frozen, so undercook them slightly before freezing, so they won’t be mush when served.

Unfortunately, some recipes, such as potato casseroles or Au Gratin, just shouldn’t be frozen. Potatoes become black when frozen (unless mashed) and look completely unappetizing when thawed.

Don’t forget to label each meal throughoughly with the date you made it, date you froze it, anticipated expiration date, and preparation directions.

Even frozen meals go bad, so use the following guide to help you know when to expect your frozen meal to expire:

Casseroles 2-3 mths
Dinners & Entrees 3-4 mths
Soups & Stews: 2-3 mths
Gravy: 2-3 mths

Check out the entire Freezer Series HERE to see what you missed!

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Freezer Series: Extra Hints & Foods

by Beth Montgomery on August 13, 2009

in Frugal Cooking, Frugal Series

1) Homemade baby foods can be frozen easily in individual portions using muffin tins or ice cube trays. Once frozen, remove from the tin or tray and place in a freezer baggie for long term storage. Remove one serving at a time and thaw!

2) Freeze bread crumbs as they gather when you make sandwiches or finish off a bag of croutons or crackers. Toss the crumbs into a freezer bag for recipes that require crumbs and never buy bread crumbs again! Plus, if you toss in seasoned cracker crumbs or crouton crumbs, they’ll already be seasoned for use.

3) Coffee stays fresher when stored in the freezer.

4) You can store brown sugar in the freezer. It will be soft when thawed.

5) Jams and jellies freezer perfectly in store packaging for later use.

6) Marshmallows, dried fruits, and many other foods, are easier to cut when frozen.

7) Freezing oils that have been used for deep frying for reuse prevents it from going bad. Though the color changes when frozen, it clears when thawed.

8) Foods like sauerkraut can be frozen up to 12 months to prevent fermentation.

9) Seafood freezes easily when raw, just like meat, for 9-12 months.

10) Once you open store bought ice cream, cover it in plastic wrap to avoid freezer burn!

Check out the entire Freezer Series HERE to see what you missed!

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