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!