Freezer Cooking!

I haven’t kept up with my “On a Shoe String” blog in quite some time.  I apologize to everyone!  The last couple years of my life have been rather topsy turvy, but now that I’m getting a rhythm back I hope I can make this a more regular thing.

As I said, our lives have changed a lot in the last couple of years.  My kids and I moved in with my boyfriend and that changed the financial situation quite a lot.  It took a lot of pressure off me!  Now that some time has passed, I’m trying to look into the future a little more.  Looking into the future made me realize that it was more important than ever to keep my spending down and try to put money away.

Groceries = $$$

One of my largest expenses every month is food.  Groceries have gone UP!  Wow.  There’s no way to make it out of the grocery store for less that $100 anymore.  Even with all my best money saving tactics, I just can’t keep that expense down.

One thing I’ve recognized is that my grocery spending has increased as my free time has decreased.  The busier I am, the harder it is to find the time to make the foods from scratch that I used to make.  I realized that they were what was saving me money!  Raw ingredients cost less than pre-packaged foods and they are certainly more healthy.  I decided that I needed some kind of plan to help me save time and money in the kitchen.  Searching the internet revealed the answer:  Freezer Cooking!

Freezer Cooking

Freezer cooking or “Once a Month Cooking” is a technique than involves making a lot of meals in one small period of time and freezing them for quick use later.  Now before you conjure up images of stale freezer burnt casseroles, let me console you.  This is NOT like the freezer meals your mothers did.  These are well planned out meals that freeze well and save time!  You make several things at once that have similar ingredients.  You lay out all your recipes, get all your ingredients, chop, cut, and measure.  Next, you put everything into freezer bags or other containers, mark them with the date and any additional ingredients or directions you need when it comes time to cook it, and throw it in the freezer.  If you plan well, you can actually make an entire month worth of meals in ONE DAY!

Do I really have to do it all in one day?

When I first read about this, I remember thinking, “Oh my gosh, I could never find a whole day to do nothing but cooking!”  That may be true for many of us and that’s ok!  You don’t have to do it all in one day.  In fact, I have my own method that seems to work well for me.  I plan to cook a meal that freezes well on a night that I don’t have extra activities going on. When I make it, I will double, triple, or even sometimes make 5 times as much as we would normally eat.  I then bag up the extras, mark and freeze them.  Done.  By stock-piling when I have time to cook, I’m slowly building up a reserve in my freezer that I can call upon on the nights I’m really busy.  In fact,  my boyfriend can pull a meal out of the freezer and make it without me!  No more taking the kids out to eat because mom isn’t home.

Planning is Essential

Obviously I can’t triple a meal if I don’t have all the raw materials I need to cook with.  I do have to put some thought into it and plan for it when I do my shopping.  Also, once I make the plan, I’m sort of committed.  With a fridge full of fresh veggies, meats, and other things that can spoil, I have to make sure it gets cooked!

What Freezes Well?

This is the part I struggled with to begin with.  How do I decide what to make?  Luckily, there are several brilliant ladies out on the internet with blogs full of awesome recipes just for freezer cooking.  Also, if you are a Pinterest fan, you can find a lot of them on there!  ( I personally LOVE Pinterest and use it to keep track of new recipes that I find and want to try sometime.)  The bottom line though, is to start with things your family already eats regularly.  That way you aren’t experimenting with huge amounts of food only to find out that no one likes it!  The first 2 meals I made were Beef Stew and Roast Beef with Veggies. I’m sure you can see how similar those 2 meals are.  They are also really fantastic for freezing.  For the stew, I even put the bullion cubes into the bag that I make my broth from.  Both of these meals can go into the crock pot in the morning on low and be ready to eat when we get home in the evening for supper.  It’s fantastic!  The next thing I tried were chicken pot pies.  I bought frozen pie crusts (in the pan) and an equal amount of crusts that were just packaged up (to use for the tops).  I made up the filling, filled the pies,  added the top crusts, then wrapped them in foil and put them in the freezer.  Super easy!  I can pop one in the oven and have supper ready in about an hour.

It Really Does Save Money

So how does this fit into my budget?  It sounds like I’m making a lot of food and buying a lot of groceries, huh?  Well, I am, but once the stock pile is built up, it will drop down to normal again.  Because I’m using less expensive ingredients instead of “quicky” cooking items, we save money.  I also save a ton of time!  It’s due to these freezer meals that I’m able to write this blog entry tonight.  How cool is that?

More Information Coming Soon…

I promise that I will have more about freezer cooking coming in the near future.  I will be adding a section to My Recipe Box that will be dedicated just to freezer recipes that I’ve tried and had success with.  Also, in my next post, I’m going to tell you all about the amazing budgeting software I found that has changed my life and helped me realize the impact our groceries were having financially.  Stay tuned!

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