Regular Contributor, Calvalyn Day, shares tips to ease your busy schedule with Freezer Cooking.
Freezer Cooking The Easy Way
Simplify Your Life with Meal Prep
I don’t know about you, but with all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I am always looking for ways to simplify my life and save my sanity.
So, today, as a special Christmas gift, I am going to give you my number one mommy tip for simplifying life–Meal prep is the way to go!
Have you ever heard of Freezer Cooking? Basically, you spend an entire day, or days, prepping, shopping and cooking for a whole month; and then, you eat from your freezer instead of having to cook every night. I have done marathon freezer cooking days in the past, but honestly, now, an all-day cooking fest is more than I can manage in a tight schedule. So, here’s my easier version for when I’m too busy to help myself be not busy.
Most of us carnivores eat at least some ground meat in our lives. Whether you prefer beef or turkey, it’s a versatile way to stretch a family budget. Now, with this trick I’m going to share it’s also a way to stretch your time. I batch cook my ground beef and freeze it for quick meals like tacos, sloppy joes or spaghetti. It’s unbelievably easy, perfect for freezer cooking, and saves me from having to wash a pan every night that we need ground beef.
Here’s how it works:
Start with at least 2 pounds of ground beef. I have been known to do 5-10 pounds if there is a great price. Several times per year, most stores will offer ground beef for a couple dollars per pound, and that’s a great time to do this. I add chopped veggies to my pan in the cooking process (more on that in the tips below), but this is a completely optional step.
Next, select your seasonings. This is your general seasoning, and I like seasoned salt, pepper and garlic for mine. You can choose your own combination or none at all. When you turn your ground beef into a meal there is generally some seasoning at that point, but I find that it makes things go even quicker this way.
Two pounds at a time, add the seasoning, ground meat, and any veggies you choose and brown until your heart is content! When you’re done, drain, cool and add to meal size portion storage containers or bags. In even the tightest freezers several frozen bags will lay flat and keep for at least a month with no loss of flavor. Up to 3 months is even suggested by some sites.
Here’s your finished product.
How to Use Your Frozen Meat:
When you’re ready to eat, if you’ve used a storage container, you can sprinkle taco seasoning, and microwave without thawing for a meal that’s quicker than the drive-thru. Or, you can cut down on prep time for a home-cooked spaghetti dinner by throwing the frozen meat in the pasta sauce while it simmers on the stove!
Now, for the tips I mentioned. Included here are a few tools that I like to use (with affiliate links that you might enjoy adding to your holiday wish list), as well as a few things I’ve picked up along the way.
Mix and chop. I have a direct sale version of this, but I paid way more than this price. It really is much better than the wooden spoon and this version is dishwasher safe.
Strainer. This version is a little quicker than the bowl type, but either will do the trick. If you want to rinse your meat to take away a little more of the grease after cooking, this bowl version is what I use.
Vacuum sealer. Zipper style storage bags are completely reasonable for this process, but if you have one of these electric sealers from infomercials of long ago laying around this is the perfect use for the bags.
Get the kids involved. Kids as young as 3 or 4 can handle scooping the cooked meat into the containers after it has cooled, and older kids can measure the meat for an impromptu math lesson as well.
Adding veggies. When my older kids were younger, hiding veggies in food became all the rage. I did it long before any of the books came out, for a while it was even a running joke in my house, but it is another way of stretching the budget and upping the nutritional value of your food. Onions and green peppers are aromatic staples in my cooking, but I have used steamed broccoli and carrots when I make tomato based meals and my kids never noticed. If you have a mini chopper or food processor it helps, but you can honestly use a blender as well.
I hope these tips make the after school dinner rush a little less rushed for you. Have some other ideas to save time in the kitchen? Hit me up on Facebook or Twitter and let me know!
Have you ever done any Freezer Cooking?
Visit Calvalyn at her blog, Indy Parent Coach!
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