Monday, 18 February 2013

Freezer Meals: Preparing for a Big Cook

My least favourite part of my day is deciding what to make for dinner.

I have a hectic life with the kids and the people we care for. I regularly make dinner for 7 or more people and it's hard to find time during the afternoon to make meals. I would much rather spend that time with my kids instead of slaving in the kitchen with two kids hanging on my legs and everyone else telling me how hungry they are. 

Over the years I've devised a menu plan and regularly do Big Cook days where I make several meals and freeze them to help make my life a little easier down the road. My freezer stash is my pride and joy. I'm the kind of person that needs to see results to feel satisfied...parenting and home-making don't exactly provide you with instant results very often, so this is my outlet!

I know I'm not the only busy mom in this world, so here's a few of my tips to preparing for a Big Cook day!

  • Make sure you have freezer space. Buy a bigger one if this is going to be part of your cooking routine!
  • Go through your recipes and find your family's favourites...the ones you eat regularly. Choose the recipes that can be made ahead and frozen for your big cook day.
  • Start small. Try three meals and work your way up.
  • Plan to get someone to look after your kids and keep your man out of the kitchen for the day (unless he's willing to help). Better yet, get him to take the kids out while you work!
  • Go through each recipe and write down the ingredients you need for each one. Go through the list and see what you have on hand in your freezer, your pantry, and your cupboards. If you don't have the item or enough, put it on a grocery list. Remember to check your spices and produce too!
  • If your meat is frozen take it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge the day before to thaw (only if you plan to cook it - always a better idea to use fresh meat for freezer cooking).
  • Shop for your missing ingredients. Don't forget freezer bags, plastic wrap, aluminium foil, or containers to freeze your meals in.
  • Clean your kitchen, clean your counters & table off,  and do all the dishes before you get started. I even sweep the floor to help me focus (the mess makes me distracted). This way you will have space and all the tools you need to get cooking.
  • If you are using recipes that your family already loves, double, triple or quadruple them. It's the same amount of work in most cases to make 4 as it is to make 1!
  • Label all of your freezer bags or containers with the name of the dish, the date, and the cooking instructions. I also include the number of servings as I make different sizes.
  • I have three containers that fit my large freezer bags and I use them to hold the bags open for easy filling (Search your kitchen for something that works. Juice jugs work well).
  • Put all your ingredients out where you can easily access them.
  • Put out all the tools you need; mixing bowls, frying pans, pots, food processor, etc.
  • Write down your list of meals in order you want to make them.
  • Designate a spot on the counter for the meal you're making and focus on one at a time (but if something needs to simmer, move on to the next meal preparation.
  • Start with the meal that takes the longest or requires simmering. (I start with pasta sauce or soup stock).
  • Wear something comfortable, don't forget about some shoes with're gonna be on your feet for a long time.
  • Put on some good music or a movie if you can see the TV from the kitchen.
  • Get yourself a big glass of ice water and don't forget to eat something high in protein before to get you through. (A big glass of wine helps too!)
Now to start planning your next big cook day!

Find some recipe ideas for freezer friendly meals or slow cooker meals!

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