How to Build Up Your Meal Inventory
There are many ways to get the most out of freezer cooking, so you'll need to pick the one that's best for you. Often the first that comes to mind is once a month cooking. Perhaps you've thought of doing once a month cooking, but the idea of preparing 30 meals in one day overwhelms you. Not to worry, there are many ways to have a freezer full of meals. Choose the method that is most convenient for you.
Double a Meal
Doubling a meal is an easy way to create an inventory of freezer meals. When cooking a meal, simply double the recipe and make two batches; one meal is to serve that night, and one to freeze. When you double a meal, choose a recipe you know your family loves. Doubling a meal is a simple way freezer cooking saves you time in the kitchen since it doesn't take twice as long to cook twice as much. For very little extra time and effort, you have cooked an extra meal for your family to serve in the future.
Bulk Cooking in Mini Sessions
When you bulk cook in mini sessions, you make 7–14 meals in one day by following these steps:
Consult your calendar and choose a shopping day and a cooking day. Ideally these should not be the same day. Plan to spend 3–6 hours cooking.
Choose a variety of recipes based on what your family likes to eat. They are not going to be happy if they have a chicken dish every day for the next 14 days, so mix it up.
Check which ingredients you have on hand and make a grocery list.
Read over each recipe and ensure you understand the instructions.
Plan your cooking session and write it out. Look for recipe steps you can combine. Do two of the recipes call for chopped onions? Chop them at the same time. When deciding the order of cooking, first do the steps that take the longest amount of time. If you need to boil a whole chicken, start this early in the day. Save dishes containing raw ingredients for last since they are the quickest to assemble and don't need cooking time.
On cooking day, begin with a clean and organized kitchen.
Stockpile cooking involves planning meals around ingredients you buy, often in bulk, at the best prices. Finding these best prices requires research, but the savings make it well worth your time. Stores often advertise loss leaders, or items stores sell at a great discount, to get you in the store. By making a weekly habit of checking the sales in your area, you can find items you need and can scoop them up in large quantities.
Coupons are another way to save money on ingredients, but it is easy to fall into the trap of buying things you don't need. To get the most out of coupon shopping, make sure the brand name product with a coupon is less expensive than the store brand product without one. Maximize your savings with coupons by saving them until the item goes on sale.
What is a price book?
It is a notebook you build that keeps track of product prices. Each page of the notebook is dedicated to one product and lists the best prices found and the store you found them at. With this information, you can easily see if a sale price is a good price.
Shopping warehouse stores is another way to stockpile by buying in bulk. It is critical to know your prices, because warehouse stores don't necessarily have the best deal on every product. When comparing warehouse prices to grocery store prices, make sure to compare the price per unit (whether it is ounces, pounds, per item, etc.). A price book is an invaluable tool in this scenario since it helps you recognize good prices and guides you as to which items to buy in bulk. Buying bulk and items on sale are two ways to help reduce your cost per meal.
Special Event and Holiday Cooking
Holidays bring to mind delicious food shared with friends and family. While these special occasions are fun, they can also be stressful. Many of us leave the cooking to the day of the event, a practice that robs you of time with friends and family. The solution is freezer cooking.
Plan your menu, from appetizers to desserts, a month before the event with food you can make ahead and freeze. Defrost your food in the refrigerator the day before the event, and the next day it will be ready for the oven. You are spared the time of preparation and cleanup, leaving you more time to enjoy your day.
Swap Meals with Friends
A freezer meal swap is a fun and easy way to fill your freezer with a variety of meals. To start a freezer meal swap, find 3–6 friends interested in swapping. Put together a menu and assign each person one different meal to prepare. Each swap member cooks her assigned meal in his or her own kitchen, but makes the meal for every person participating in the swap instead of just one batch.
In other words, if there are a total of 4 people in the swap, each person will quadruple the recipe and package four meals. Once each member has prepared the meals, arrange a time to get together and trade. Even though you only cooked one recipe, you come home with a variety of dining options.