A few years ago a friend of mine asked me about my secret for getting dinner on the table. While she was serving frozen chicken nuggets and tater tots, my family was enjoying vegetable lasagna, red lentil soup, “meat” balls & spaghetti, falafel, and other yummy dinners. As a working Mom, she couldn’t even imagine how I got it done.
Of course, I shared my secret. Freezer cooking!!
I’ll never forget the puzzled look on her face. She had never heard of this and couldn’t put together the two words in any way that made sense. Freezer Cooking?
What is Freezer Cooking?
I have no idea if this is a real term or if I made it up!! LOL. To me, freezer cooking is when you purposely make things that you intend to freeze.
Most people freeze meats, packaged foods, fruit, and leftovers that are about to go bad. When people stick leftovers in the freezer, many times they aren’t very appealing. (Total understatement!!)
However, as a Freezer Cook, I make foods with the intention of freezing them, and defrosting in a way that the food will taste as fresh as if I’d just made it. Sound too good to be true? I assure you, it’s not!
What other Freezer Cookers Do
I’ve been freezer cooking for years. It’s one of those things that you do on your own, and then it suddenly becomes a “thing.” It’s now all over the internet and there are tons of resources out there on how to do it.
Most of the resources, however, don’t use my method. Their methods are okay, but as a vegetarian (and perhaps a picky eater), they don’t always work for me.
Many freezer cooker blogs will suggest putting foods in plastic freezer bags. You would defrost them overnight in your fridge and typically put the food in your slow cooker.
Another method (usually combined with the one above) is to cook for a whole month at a time.
I’m not a fan of food cooked in a crock pot (picky eater!) and I would die of exhaustion if I had to cook a whole month of meals in one day.
My method is so simple, it’s almost ridiculous. The best ideas are the simplest ones, right? I’ll list the steps below, then explain each one later in this post.
Step 1 – Double the recipe
Step one is the most basic step. If you’re already cooking, double (or even triple or quadruple) the recipe. It will take you longer, but it’s more efficient. The best part is that you won’t be spending ALL day cooking. You’re simply making more of something that you already make.
An example of this would be making “meat” balls. To make vegetarian meatballs, I first roast an eggplant, then use my food processor to puree it along with beans and other ingredients. Instead of roasting one eggplant, it’s easy to triple the recipe and stick 3 eggplants into the oven. I’m already getting my food processor dirty and a triple recipe fits into my large food processor in one batch. Win-win!
Step 2 – Put the food in real containers
There are three reasons why I do this. This step is optional but recommended.
1. Food is more appealing to me when it’s in a real container. When I put a lasagna in an aluminum foil pan, I don’t want to eat it. It seems gross and I also worry that the acid in the dish has eaten through the foil…..
2. If I use a real dish, I know that I need to eat up the food in the freezer so I can get the dish back! This forces me to keep food from piling up and staying there indefinitely. It’s a game I play with myself 🙂
3. I don’t like to use disposable products because it’s not environmentally friendly.
Step 3: Wrap and freeze without cooking
If I had a secret to my method, this would be it.
The reason why my food tastes so amazing and fresh is because it’s NOT leftovers, it’s fresh! The lasagna isn’t being reheated, it’s being cooked for the first time!
Foods taste entirely different when reheated. My food is fresh!
It’s also so much easier to freezer cook if you don’t pre-cook everything because then you don’t have to wait for the food to cook, wait again for it to cool, and then freeze. You can freeze it as soon as you’ve assembled it!
So simple, and yet so effective.
All rules are meant to be broken and this is no exception! Some foods I do precook because it’s more convenient, or the like soups, they heat up so well, there is no reason not to fully cook them.
Below are examples of foods that I do NOT pre-cook:
– Eggplant Parm
– Pancake mix (dry part)
– Quiche (put in pie crust after defrosting)
– Quesadilla (filling only)
– Pie Filling (ex. Apple)
Below are examples of foods that I DO pre-cook:
– Meat balls
– Falafel (can also freeze the dough)
– Potato pancakes
– Matar Paneer (Indian dish)
– Veggie Burgers
Do what works for you and feel free to change things up based on your tastes and time.
Step 4: Defrost Your Food
When you’re ready to eat the food, you’ll need to do a little pre-planning. Pull out the food the night before and put it in your fridge to defrost. I like to put the food on a trivet (in the fridge) to absorb the moisture as it defrosts.
This step is especially important if you plan to reheat a casserole. The dish could break if it goes directly from the freezer to the oven.
Step 5: Cook your food
I find that even defrosting the food overnight in the fridge, I usually need to cook the food for longer than the recipe indicates. Keep on eye on it and allow some extra time, just in case. I’ve sometimes will even double the normal cooking time. It varies depending on how cold or frozen the food still is, especially in the center of a large casserole.
Give it a Try!
Now you have one of my best secrets to eating healthy, yummy, home-cooked meals.
Let me know in the comments if you plan to give it a try, what you made, and how it worked out!!
I hope you’ll be eating at home much more and also feeling calmer in the evenings. The best part is you’ll have time to focus on your family, instead of dinner!
I can’t wait to hear how your journey goes!