Okay, so today is the day we will talk about ways to make the cooking day a huge success. Here are a couple pointers that will help make it a fun day instead of a stressful day.
- Wear comfortable clothes and shoes!! I hate shoes but today is a day I break out the tennis shoes.
- Follow your cooking plan. You spent the time and hard work of making it. Follow it so you do not get lost and frustrated not knowing what to do next. See last week’s post for details on how to make a cooking plan.
- Cross off meals so you know what is done and what is left. This is important to helps build your confidence and excitement as you see what all you have accomplished.
- Make sure you drink and eat throughout the day. If you have low blood sugar, you will have a hard time thinking and staying focused and you might get a little cranky. Or maybe that is just me 🙂
- Have a plan for supper. After a long day of cooking you will not want to think about making another meal. Have a frozen pizza on hand, eat out or plan which freezer meal you will eat that night.
- Ask for help with the dishes. This is one of the main reasons why I love freezer meals: I have a minimum amount of dishes at supper time during the week. The downside to freezer meals is you use almost all of your pots, pans, bowls etc the day of cooking. So enlist a husband or kid to come in periodically to help with the dishes.
- Cook with a friend. I highly recommend this option!!! I almost always do it with a friend. You are doubling the amount of meals you are making but in all reality you aren’t adding that much more time as long as you can work while you talk 🙂 This allows you to make several meals at once and then there is help for clean up. You can also divide and conquer meals. One can focus on flash freeze meals while the other tackle the stovetop. You can also split up the day-before prep work. One can make the lists, one can do the shopping, one can cut up veggies and shred cheese, and one can cook the meat.
It is very important for me to tell you that you will be exhausted by the time you are done making these meals and wonder why you ever listened to me. It is a lot of work but keep the prize in mind as you get weary. In the end you will have a freezer full of meals and that will be priceless. You will be so thankful that you have put in the hard work every night when you pull out the meal for the next day. It will also make you smile when you see how it saves you money in groceries and in eating out. It is also important to keep in mind that the beginning of the cooking day seems to go really slow with no real progress. But trust me as you hit the middle part of your step by step plan, meals begin to form and you have real, tangible evidence that you are making progress. Another reason why I put the marinades at the end of the step by step plan is at this point you are ready to be done. Marinades are recipes that can be completed in a matter of minutes making it easier to stay focused and get it done. The number of meals you pick and the number of steps within each meal will determine how long it takes you to complete the cooking day. It will take you about 2 hours to do all the prep work the day before you cook. Eight to ten meals will take you about 3-4 hours. 15-20 meals will take you 6-8 hours. (If you cook with a friend and just double all the recipes it doesn’t add that much extra time since you are just doing the same thing twice instead of two separate steps.) The first couple of times you do freezer meals it will take you longer because you are still figuring out the process and learning how to multi-task making several meals at a time. I normally just block off the whole day so that I am not on a time limit and if I get done quickly I can go and take a bath and relax instead of using more energy to be social. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. The more you do it, the better and more efficient you will get!
Other important pieces of information
- Make sure you cool the meal completely before you place them in the freezer bags.
- It is so important to buy name brand freezer bags. I have learned the hard way. The cheap, store brand freezer bags do not hold up and one will break here and there. I use ZIPLOCK gallon and quart size FREEZER bags. It is well worth the investment and you get boxtops for your school 🙂
- Make sure you get as much of the air out as possible to help prevent freezer burn. You can either use a FoodSaver or a straw. To use a straw, put your food in the freezer bag. Push out all the air that you can and seal it. In the middle of the bag open up the seal big enough to stick a straw through it. Step 1: Stick the straw down close to the food. Step 2: Take a deep breath and suck the air out as you pull the straw back out. Step 3: Keep your hands on the seal so that you can immediately close the seal once the straw is out. If the meal has liquid in it make sure you keep the straw away from the liquid or else you will get a nice mouth full of juice 🙂
- Lay the bags flat so that they freeze flat instead of one big, hard clump of food. This will help them stack better in the freezer, saving space.
Flatten out the food so that it freezes flat.
- You can use your own 9×13 or 8×8 pans if you can spare them until you cook that meal. Or you can buy the throw away aluminum pans at Sam’s, Walmart or even the dollar store.
- In an ideal world you would pull your meal out of the freezer the night before you want to use it. This will give it close to 24 hours to thaw. I haven’t gotten this down in all the years I have done this process. I end up pulling it out the day of or the afternoon of the day I want to use the meal. Most of the meals can be used even if they are not fully thawed, they will just require a longer cooking time.
Still feel overwhelmed?
Here are some other options to try if you are not quite ready to do a full day.
1.) When meat is on sale, stock up. Then that week cook some up to be ready to throw in casseroles or soups. Put some of the frozen meat into a freezer bag with a marinade.
2.) When you make supper for your family, double it. Eat one recipe that night and freeze the other one.
3.) Break up the cooking day into 3 smaller days. One day put together all the marinades, one day all the meals that need to be flash frozen and the third day the meals that need to be cooked on a stove. Or cook all the chicken meals on one day and all the beef meals on another.
4.) Prep the meals for the week on the weekend. Spend a couple of hours on the weekend prepping the veggies, cheese and meat. Put together the casseroles and soups and either freeze them if they are for the end of the week or put them in container in the refrigerator. This will cut down on the time needed to prep during the week and the dishes needing to be washed each day. The quantity is more manageable (4-6 meals) but the time saved is priceless.
Assignment Step Three:
Pick your cooking day and do it. Invite a friend to join you. It will be well worth your time and effort. Your family will enjoy healthy, nutritious, yummy meals.
(I want you to succeed because freezer meals have been such a blessing to my family and I would love it to bless your family. In a couple of days I will send all of our website subscribers a free meal plan via email. The planning is all done for you. There are 9 meals picked, Prep Work for the days before Cooking Day, Cooking Day Order of Steps and Grocery lists are all filled out for you. All you will have to do is pick the day, buy the groceries and make the meals. To get this free meal plan, sign up on the website to follow us by email by putting your email address into the box at the right.)