The Ultimate Guide to Freezer Cooking (Part II)

Now that you know what foods and meals freeze well and have gotten all your materials organized, it’s time to get down to it: shopping and cooking! We will focus on how to do one cooking session for your freezer, but of course, depending on your time you can choose to simply double or triple a recipe when you’re preparing dinner one night or just cook one or two dishes each time and slowly build up your freezer stock.

Before you go shopping Grocery list making from bed for 22-person feast. #thaneysgiving

Put together a shopping list taking into account the overall quantity of a particular ingredient that you will need. If more than one recipe requires onions, make sure you know the total amount that you will need to purchase. You can use the week’s sales to help guide your menu as well. If chicken breasts are on sale, organize meals that revolve around it. From your list of ingredients, see which of them you have in your pantry. Doing a big batch of cooking is a great way to use up pantry items.

Shop on a different day than when you will be cooking, that way you’ll have all the energy needed to tackle your big cooking day.

Time to cook!

Analyze the recipes that you’ll be using and look for similar ingredients. It is easier to chop and prepare all of the same ingredients together regardless of the specific recipe. If all of your recipes call for diced onions, do them all and divide up as needed for each of the recipes. That way you’re just focused on one task and don’t get confused jumping from one ingredient to the next.

Select recipes that can be easily multiplied such as soups and lasagna. Cook and assemble your meals like an assembly line.

Freezer Meals

Photo: Kathleen Franklin on Flickr

You will want to prepare your meals up to the point where you would normally put them in the oven or in a slow cooker. From here, cool your meals down completely before putting them in the freezer. Contrary to popular belief, allowing foods to cool at room temperature is not the best way to do this. It is recommended to cool your foods quickly by dividing the dish into smaller portions and putting it into the fridge or freezer right away. Or if you’re cooking a big pot of soup, for example, to put it into an ice bath to bring the temperature down. The danger zone is when foods sit at 4ºC (40ºF) or above for too long. The faster food cools down, the safer it is.

If you’re packing food items into bags, squeeze out any excess air that you have in your packages. The extra air causes freezer burn so try to eliminate as much as you can. However, if you’re freezing liquids, it’s good to keep a little bit of air because liquids will expand as they freeze. If you are using containers, avoid putting a lid on it until the food has cooled completely. Extra condensation or water in your meals can cause the foods to become watery when reheating. Once the food is completely cooled, put it in the freezer.

Foodsaver bags - My Saturday afternoon

Photo: Dan Perry on Flickr

Once you’re done, remember to label your packages with what it is and the date that you made them. If you’re really organized, you can put up a master list on your fridge so you know when you’re running low on a particular meal.

You can also attach cooking instructions to the outside of the package so you don’t have to look up the recipe again when you’re heating them back up.

For extra fun, try organizing a day to cook with friends and family.

Ready for the big cooking day?
Here are some of our favorite recipes that are healthy and great for the whole family.

Meats (Chicken, Pork, Beef)

 Soup & Stews

Chunky Lentil Soup

Photo: Whitney on Flickr

Casseroles

Baked Goods

Cranberry Orange Muffin Photo: Adelina Wong

Cranberry Orange Muffins                                                                                                                           Photo: Adelina Wong

Breakfast

So what are you waiting for? Get cooking and share with us your favorite freezer recipe.

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