Friday, September 8, 2017

Freeze Along with Me: What’s All This?

    After our second child was born and I went back to work, I had a very hard time adapting to the exponentially greater demands placed on my time. I was working full time, running a 5 year old to and from after school extracurricular activities, caring for a newborn, and trying to keep the house from falling down. Jeff was in school full time with mostly evening classes. I’d get home from work and he’d be leaving for school shortly after. We’ve always placed a priority on eating dinner together as a family every night but there just wasn’t time to cook and eat in between. Jeff is a decent cook and he certainly tries, but he’s not what I’d call “creative” in the kitchen. Every day, he’d ask me “What should I make for dinner?” while I was at work. Then I’d have to try to think about what I had in the pantry and fridge from memory and make suggestions (while trying to do my actual job at the same time). We found ourselves eating a lot of meat with some kind of brown sauce and a starch or a “hamburger helper” type meal almost every night of the week. On top of that, his cooking always resulted in using half of the kitchen pans and cutlery every night. Life was stressful, messy and out of control. We needed to make a change. Enter freezer cooking.

What is freezer cooking?

Freezer cooking is the process of preparing meals in advance to a certain point of the cooking and then stopping and freezing the meal to be thawed, finished and eaten at later date. It is also sometimes called once a month cooking (OAMC), bulk cooking or batch cooking.

Why freezer cooking?

There are so many reasons that people choose freezer cooking!

Save Time!

When you combine all of your cooking in to one weekend a month, you save a vast amount of time planning, preparing and cleaning up every single day. If you spend 30 minutes a day cooking dinner and another 20-30 minutes cleaning up, that’s about 30 hours a month. Cooking once a month takes one full day (~10-12 hours) plus an additional 2-6 hours of prep on the day before cooking day.

Save Money!

When you can buy in bulk, you save money. We have a membership at BJ’s Wholesale Club and get most of our bulk items there. We can also do things like buy a 40lb box of chicken breast at deep discount ($0.99- 1.49/lb) and freeze it for use over several months. It doesn’t eliminate the need to shop in between cooking day shopping trips, but it does reduce the weekly bill a lot! Some people like to freezer cook for all meals. I do an entirely dinner menu every month (16 recipes/ 32 meals), so we eat each meal twice. I also do a mini menu of 5 recipes of lunch main dishes for the kids every 4-5 months. On a cooking day shopping trip for our family of four, I usually spend between 300-400 dollars. Weekly fill in trips are usually less than 100 dollars for food expenses.

Save Sanity!

Removing the stress of “what’s for dinner?” is AMAZING! All you have to do is take a meal out to thaw the night before (or even the morning of) and cook it when it’s time. It’s so easy! Preparation makes my life possible. I would absolutely not be able to do the things that I do if I had to plan, cook and clean up dinner every night.

Eat Healthier!

Planning ahead makes it easy to eat as healthfully as you want. When you get home after a long day, it’s hard to muster up the energy to get a healthy dish together. It’s fast and easy to pop a convenience meal in the microwave or order fast food. And while I live by the motto “Everything is fine in moderation”- most convenience meals and fast foods are too calorically dense to be considered “moderate”. Having prepared freezer meals eliminates the extra work and makes them just as convenient as the alternative. You can also create your menu to suit your dietary needs. The website I use has monthly menus for every kind of diet: traditional, diet, vegetarian, vegan, gluten free/ dairy free, whole30, etc. You can completely customize your menu to whatever diet you’re trying to follow.

Wait a minute…

I know what you’re thinking- this sounds amazing! Too good to be true! What’s the catch?

There are a couple of cons:
  1. Cooking day is tiring. It does take an entire day to do a full month of freezer dinners. Over time, you’ll get better and faster and learn tricks that make it easier, but it’s still a lot of work condensed in to one day.
  2. If the number of people you cook for varies frequently, it can be difficult to plan, although not impossible.
  3. You need freezer space. For most people, this means having a separate chest freezer. It’s not impossible to do with just a standard refrigerator/freezer combo, but it is very tight.
That’s really about it! If you’re looking for a change, a way to give yourself more time, a way to save money or eat healthier- freezer cooking just may be your answer. Stay tuned for more how to’s and tips and tricks to come in future posts!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Shit and The Asshole

  I was recently listening to a podcast, Science Vs. (which is great, BTW) about organic food. In the evaluation of the evidence for organic food they brought up the point that manure is “organic” as fertilizer but the animal that made the manure may not be. The narrator said “That is drawing the line between the shit and the asshole”. Meaning that, the line being drawn is completely arbitrary.

  This point is applicable in so many arguments. Think about another popular debate- “processed” food vs “real” food. Where are we drawing the line? And why are we drawing that line? If I pick a tomato from my garden and process it by dicing it, packing it in a mason jar and canning it at home- how is that any different than buying a can at the store? For that matter, how is it any different than dicing it and put it directly in to my recipe and cooking it? It’s not. It’s a completely arbitrary line that makes no meaningful distinction in the end result. It’s a line between the shit and the asshole.

  How about using “natural” sugars over cane sugar? The difference between cane sugar and beet sugar is nonexistent. They are chemically the same thing. Yet people demonize cane sugar far more. Similarly, the chemical differences between cane sugar, brown sugar, honey, agave nectar and HFCS are small and don’t have any impact on why you’re fat. Sugar is sugar and too much will make you gain weight, regardless of the source. Stop making a distinction between the shit and the asshole.

  It’s also applicable in skin care products. When I was working in cosmetics, people loved to put an emphasis on products that were derived from something “natural”. Like a plant. For example, some companies used willow bark extract in place of salicylic acid because willow bark contains salicylic acid and they claimed that willow bark extract was better because it was derived from nature. By that logic, I could claim that petrolatum is derived from nature because it comes from oil, which is drilled out of the ground and is composed of decomposed organic matter. This is absolutely drawing a line between the shit and the asshole. 

  The next time you’re looking to make a choice in anything- think about it critically. Is there really a difference? Ask some experts! Don’t get caught between the shit and the asshole. It’s pretty unappealing in there.