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You’ve chosen some recipes from various freezer cooking books and websites, and you’ve adapted some of your own family favorites. You’re ready to spend anywhere from an hour or two to all day cooking to fill your freezer, so that you won’t have to cook unless you want to for the next week, or the next month. Right?
Not quite yet. You need to take one more step to ensure your success, and to make the process run as efficiently and smoothly as possible. That’s to plan everything out.
What? You’re an experienced cook? So was I, the first time I attempted a multi-recipe cooking session, and I ended up sincerely regretting my lack of planning. Once you get started, you’ll appreciate having a plan of attack all laid out, and the exact knowledge of which step comes next.
The first thing to do is to consider your recipes, and for your first session, pick three or four recipes that have several ingredients in common. The two most important groups of ingredients to consider are the main source of protein, and any vegetables that have to be chopped, peeled, or otherwise handled before adding them to the cooking pot. For instance, say your primary protein this session is browned ground beef. It’s much easier to cook the ground beef all at once, and you only have to clean up once afterwards, too. Cooked chicken is another one you can prepare all at once and have ready. Even meats that don’t need cooking ahead of time, like meats that are added raw, can be bought in bulk and chopped with the best food chopper or sliced ready to go.
And if you’re going to chop onions (Here are some great onion choppers for you!) or celery or mince garlic (Here are some great garlic presses for you!) or whatever, doing up all you need for all your recipes at once will speed the process more than you’d think it would, especially if you use a food processor.
The next thing to consider is the methods and tools you’ll need to put the recipes together. You don’t want, for example, to need to bake more than will fit in your oven, or three different pans requiring three different temperatures, at the same time. You need to take into consideration the pots and pans you’ll need for each recipe, not just for cooking, but for storage. Although one way to deal with family-sized casseroles is to line a pan with aluminum foil (or plastic wrap if the recipe has tomatoes or other acid food in it) before you fill it, freeze the casserole, then pop it out and finish wrapping it before you put it back in the chest freezer. Then when you’re ready to eat, unwrap it, put it back in the pan, and put it in the fridge to thaw. That won’t free up the pan in question for at least 24 hours, though.
Thinking these sorts of things through before you start cooking, and doublechecking to make sure you have every single thing you need to complete your session (don’t ask me about the time I thought I bought the green chilis and didn’t) will make your first freezer cooking session the positive experience that will keep you doing it into the future.
Two last hints for success with OAMC
Start a notebook with recipes and also save your cooking day game plans and ingredients lists in it. This will keep you from having to reinvent the wheel every time you need to refill your freezer, and will encourage you to cook for your freezer again since part of the work is already done for you.
And please, please, please. Wear comfortable shoes on cooking day. Not slippers, not barefoot. You’ll be glad you did.
While you’re here, be sure to check out our kitchen product reviews!