This is Part 1 of a 4-part series! I LOVE freezer meals, and I love helping people navigate using this tool of freezing meals ahead of when Baby arrives – to make dinnertime nourishing, sane, and less stressful. Following the links may lead you to my affiliates, or blog sites that I like. If affiliates, I may receive a small commission if you purchase something — which will enable me to keep freezer cooking for MY family! Thanks!
I encourage my doula clients to plan for their postpartum time, just as they are planning for the birth. I like to use the reminder of planning for a wedding. It is a big day, exciting, one you’ll remember forever — but what about the rest of your life? Sometimes newly married couples experience some post-wedding, or post-honeymoon, blues. It is very real. And, new parents can experience this, too. The BIG EVENT of birth is over, and suddenly, Mom and Dad need to eat.
Enter Freezer Meals! (Sometimes my kids ask me if I had to choose one super power, what would it be? I tell them, besides making milk, my superpower IS – making freezer meals! They truly make me a more Super-Happy Mommy, because I don’t get quite so anxious about what-everybody’s-gonna-eat around-here! Level up!)
In this series, I’d love to talk about several subjects that I’m quite passionate about: healthy nutritious food, efficiency, budgeting, and process. Freezer meals are the epi-center around which these passions can easily revolve.
But first – Why freeze food? Which foods freeze well? and, How do I do this?
Having meals on hand that easily are re-heatable in a crockpot, stovetop skillet or oven can really be a sanity-saver in the early weeks/months of having a new baby in your house. Oftentimes, Baby needs to eat right when its time to cook. Or, Baby has a ‘fussy spell’ right around that time. Or, one or both parents is exhausted, so it’s McDonalds or take-out once again — which is hard on the budget, and not very nutritious in the long run. Freezer meals easily solve the question, “What’s for dinner?” in a way that is healthy, enjoyable, and much less stressful!
There are many things that freeze well – including rice, pasta, tortillas or quinoa (for a good carbohydrate for dinner), oatmeal and eggs (for breakfasts), soups and most veggies. There are some foods that are tricky to freeze, and some that really shouldn’t be frozen. I find that Extension Services have great information, and I’m linking one such list here, on safe, nutritious food freezing: http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/freeze/dont_freeze_foods.html
So, with those first two questions answered, how do you get started? I have tried MANY different ways/methods of freezer cooking over the past nearly 15 years. Here is a chart I came up with on the pros and cons of different methods that I’ve tried (and I’m sure there’s a few methods I haven’t tried!):
Cook for a Day, Eat for a Month, OR, Cook for a Day, Eat for Two Weeks
|Maybe slightly misnamed, as it really is about a 2-3 day process. You’ll need to gather recipes, a shopping list and take a shopping trip, spend time prepping veggies and meats, and then have a day where you basically cook the entire day. You’ll make 20 – 30 meals, and could include breakfasts and lunches, too.||A lot of effort in the day, but then you really don’t have to think about much, just reheating, for up to a month!||A lot of effort in one day ( can be hard for pregnant moms – so enlist help!)! Might not be doable for everyone’s budget.||You can find books in the public library, online lists and resources (some free, some with minimal fees) to help you organize. You can also use online tools that are subscription based (see below). Because of the quantity, it’s helpful to have a food processor, but not strictly necessary (just will take longer without one!)|
|Double all the meals you’re making for 1 week, take the following week off||At every supper, make two quantities of whatever you’re making – freeze the extra.||You’re cooking anyway, might as well make 2! Pretty easy. Take next week off!||You get a week off from cooking, but no more. Not ideal for those who’d like a longer break.||Use your favorite recipes, and have extra dishes/freezer bags on hand to put them away. I LOVE the online tool Once a Month Meals – check it out!|
|Attend a Freezer Meal Workshop (10 meals in 90 minutes) with me and Wildtree Foods.||You’ll prep some ingredients, and receive some at your workshop. These are NON-cooking recipes (for the most part) so they are very easy prep. You’ll add organic, no-preservative, high quality spices and sauces to complete your meals, and have enough left over to repeat the 10 meals again on your own, with the benefit of the in-person training you’ve received.||All the planning and thinking is done for you. Budget friendly, Meals are tested nationally and only used in the workshops if they get good reviews. Many crockpot and skillet meals for easy reheating.||Not a good fit it you’d like to choose different spice blends. If you would like to choose all spice blends yourself, this might not be a good fit.||Recipes, shopping list, and some ingredients provided as part of the kit you purchase when you sign up to participate. Workshops can be hosted by an expectant mom as a shower as well, or to get friends together to cook (and if 6 friends attend, the new Mom’s kit is free). Though not necessary, this really neat tool is GREAT for filling freezer bags – it holds the bag while you fill it, no fuss, no muss: http://amzn.to/2liP3Jz|
|Take 1-2 hours and make 6 variations of the same meal||This works great for some favorites that are also flexible, like burgers with varieties of seasonings, meatballs, a casserole dish that is easy to double or triple (I plan to do part of this series with my favorite easy-doubling recipes, so watch for that!)||Takes very little time or even advance planning. You can do this in just a couple hours, but it really pays off in less stress later. Can be budget friendly, as you can just do a session when an ingredient, for instance, chicken breasts, are on sale.||If you like a ton of variety and don’t want to eat the same thing twice in 2 weeks, this might not be for you.||As well as library and online lists, I’d again point to Once a Month Meals for some great ideas, as you can search by ingredient or type of recipe. **For all of the above, keep in mind you’ll need freezer-safe bags or dishes to freeze in, as well as the appropriate amount of freezer space. More on this (and pictures!) in a later post.|
The next post includes 2 methods I Love. The 3rd post I plan to talk about my FAVORITE way to freezer cook! and my last post will feature a new service I will offer, Freezer Meal Consulting, new to Culture of Life Doula in April! Watch for all these posts, and FILL your FREEZER!