***Give Away Alert! I will be giving away three copies of my freezer cooking cookbooks The Frozen Gourmet Just leave a comment on the blog sometime this week and I will pick three winners – the more comments, the more chances to win!***
I have had so many questions about the whole Zen of Freezer Cooking – recipes, storage, shopping, cleaning out the fridge, etc. that I thought it would be a good idea to address some of the questions that you all have – and share some of my Freezer Cooking philosophy. (Yes, that is exactly how deep I am.)
I am summing up some of the questions that y’all have been asking and trying to give the best answers I can.
Does shopping at Costco really save you money? How about for a smaller family?
Here is my very uneducated opinion about Costco: If you are super organized, use coupons wisely, follow loss-leader sales, and can shop on a frequent basis to take advantage of those sales, you can probably save as much money shopping more traditional stores and outlets as you can at Costco.
I admit that we make some trade-offs re: money/convince. If I can get it at Costco, I usually do – especially when it comes to Freezer Cooking. (Although, we tend to buy our fruits and veggies at Safeway or Farmer’s Markets, and do grow a few things – tomatoes, peppers, and some herbs – on our tiny back patio. We have not been as happy with the quality of the Costco fruit and vegetables. )
I think if you get your stuff home and have a plan for dividing up your big Costco-sized items, you can save money. Money is lost when you forget that you bought that bag of frozen chicken and discover it 18 months later.
What about Low-Fat versions of the recipes – where can I find those?
Most recipes – low fat or not – can be frozen in some state. You can always use low fat substitution for the ingredients that are stated in a recipe as well.
Obviously you are not going to freeze a salad, but, low-fat soups, chili’s, marinades, stews, (that are not cream based) work great.
I have some recipes in my book that are great for low-fat cooking. And then there are others. There will never be a low-fat version of “Poppy Seed Chicken” or “Dreamy Spaghetti”. Maybe lower-fat, but they are just not healthy. In those cases, we serve a lot of veggies, and treat those casseroles as more of a side dish (and I have a bowl of chili instead of the casserole.) These are the recipes that my kids LOVE so it is OK to slip them in every once in a while. (Trust me, the meal I am serving them is better than what they would order at McDonalds.)
Here is a family favorite for low fat cooking. If I could only freeze one recipe – this would hands down be it. You can spice it up and add chicken sausage to make a great Jambalaya – serve it over pasta, or if you are looking for lower-fat versions, over steamed white or brown rice.
1 lb Boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
1 Tbs Vegetable oil
2 cups Mushrooms
1 tsp Minced garlic
1-28 oz Can of crushed tomatoes in puree
2 Tbs Parsley
1/4 tsp Pepper
2 tsp Italian Seasoning
1 tsp Basil
1. Prepare: Cut chicken into cubes. Slice onions and mushrooms. Chop garlic.
2. Cooking: In a large skillet, sauté chicken in vegetable oil until no longer pink in the center. Remove chicken from skillet and sauté onions, mushrooms, and garlic until the onions are transparent. Add chicken and remaining ingredients except for Parmesan cheese. Simmer for 15 minutes. Allow sauce to cool.
3. Freeze: Freeze in a 13×9 pan.
4. Serve: Thaw sauce in the refrigerator overnight. Place the foil-covered pan in a 350° oven for 30 minutes to warm. Serve over pasta or mashed potatoes.
Can I store my freezer meals in glass – I am worried about the health reports re: plastic bags.
If you are likewise concerned about plastic bags, I would encourage you to take a look at This Article. Basically my philosophy (this is just for me and my family, you need to make your own decision,) is that I store and freeze in plastic, but I don’t reheat in plastic anymore.
Day 3: Prepping for Your Day
You have already decided what you are cooking and made your shopping list. Now before you rally the troops for Expedition: Costco, make sure you have a place to put all that stuff when you get home.
- Clean out the fridge and the freezer. In our house, that means if I won’t be using it for meals, and I can’t remember when I bought it, it gets tossed. I try very hard not to buy things that we are not going to use immediately because I don’t want to waste resources (economically, or environmentally.) Either that or we have a meal that consists solely of freezer stuff we need to use up. (Guess what kids? Organic Fish Sticks, mixed vegetables and puree of pumpkin for dinner! Oh boy!)
- After cleaning out your freezer and fridge, make sure you have a clear working space in your kitchen. This is when I will pack away the crock pot, the toaster over, and any other knick-knacks on my counter.
- Empty the garbage and recycling.
- On the cooking day, wear super-comfy clothes that you don’t mind getting tomato sauce on and your comfiest shoes (if you do it barefoot, you will be exhausted early on.)
Figure out what you are going to eat for dinner on cooking day. I can’t tell you how many times we have gotten to the end of a cooking day and had nothing to eat. Some of the ways we have planned for that dinner in the past:
- Buy an extra chicken at Costco and eat that with a salad.
- Leave one meal unfrozen and put it in the over.
- Order a pizza (totally legit option after all your hard work.)
Tomorrow – I answer more of your question AND we go to Day 4 – making the meals!