Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Filling Our Freezer (or, Making Life a Little Easier)

Welcome to the November 2012 Simplicity Parenting Carnival: Food
This post was written as part of the monthly Simplicity Parenting Carnival hosted by The Lone Home Ranger and S.A.H.M. i AM. This month we are discussing how we balance food, family, and simplicity. Be sure to read to the end to see a list of the rest of the excellent carnival contributors.
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Until recently, cooking and freezing meals ahead of time never occurred to me. I knew there were people out there who did such things but I wasn't one of them. I'd cook a dish and freeze servings for lunches while I was working outside the home (and my husband does the same now) but I never thought about doing the same for our family meals. I wanted our dinner to be fresh and from scratch, everyday. That didn't always happen but it was my goal.   
Over the summer we were gifted a chest freezer and I started looking into freezing meals to have on hand after our baby girl arrived. When I was pregnant with L we didn't have a freezer at all so freezer cooking was new territory for me. I started experimenting with our favorite recipes to see what froze well and what didn't. I realized it we would still be eating fresh, from scratch meals even if they'd been frozen a while first. It was a revelation.

Mac n' cheese (I used gluten-free noodles and flour to make it gluten-free), chicken pot pie, and pizza (I made BBQ chicken, Greek, and veggie and froze them toppings and all) all did better than expected. I had to remember to allow adequate time for thawing (for the mac n' cheese and the pot pie) and adjust the cooking times a little bit. I was really surprised by how well everything tasted after being frozen.

But it was a lot of work cooking and freezing the above mentioned dishes. They're not too time intensive when cooked individually but making all of them at the same time was exhausting. I started looking for ways to cut corners. Each week when J and I sat down to make our menu I made sure there were meals on the list that could be easily doubled and frozen. It was so much simpler! It was much easier to double one meal at a time than to set aside an entire day for cooking.

Slowly but surely, over the last few months, we filled our freezer. Many of the meals came in handy toward the end of my pregnancy when I was too tired to cook everyday or when I was on modified bed rest and taking it easy. I'd hoped to add some pizzas and another pot pie to the freezer before the baby arrived but it wasn't in the cards. As it was, I did have a frozen mac n'cheese and a batch of mashed potatoes that I was able to contribute to Thanksgiving dinner at my mother-in-law's house without doing any actual cooking.

Having frozen meals to fall back on has made life so much easier lately. It's also helped our budget...instead of going out to eat when we can't manage to get dinner together we can grab something out of the freezer. And, it keeps us from eating the same thing over and over when we don't have the energy to be creative. Even when our baby isn't so new anymore I imagine I'll continue to double and freeze recipes to have on hand, just in case they're needed. That said, I still don't see myself cooking a full month's menu in a day anytime soon!   

Here are a few of the recipes in our freezer right now:
Chipotle Lime Chicken
Honey Garlic Chicken
Sweet Potato Chili
Chile Verde
BBQ Chicken

We also have an abundance of soups (white bean and kale minestrone, cream of asparagus with dill, creamy potato-leek, butternut squash soup and more) that will be fantastic if we ever get any cooler weather. It was 80 degrees yesterday. You'd never know it's almost December. I wish I could give you direct links to the soup recipes but they're all from books and, at this point in my post-partum experience, I can't even tell you which soup is from which book. However, I can give you the titles to the cookbooks currently on top of my "favorites" list and tell yoy that I know for a fact all the soups in my freezer came from one or other of these books!

Feeding the Whole Family
Dinner: A Love Story: It all begins at the family table
The Rhythm of Family: Discovering a Sense of Wonder Through the Seasons
   
Now that baby E has arrived I'm hoping our freezer meals will last us through the end of the year...and with the wonderful support of our family and friends who have been supplying us with fresh meals, it's entirely possible I'll still have a few on hand when J returns to work!

Do you cook and freeze meals? What are your favorite recipes? 
 
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Thanks for reading the Simplicity Parenting Blog Carnival! We hope you’ll take time to read these other great contributors’ posts (Note: Links will all be live by 3pm ET on November 27th): SimParCarButton150x150
  • Oliver's Eats: Simplifying Meals - Carli at One Fit Mom discovers that simpler food offerings improve her toddler's mealtime behaviour.
  • Filling Our Freezer (or, Making Life a Little Easier) - Emily at S.A.H.M. i AM discusses how her recent discovery of freezer cooking is keeping family meals interesting and making life with a new baby a little easier. .
  • Food. I love it. - Jamie at I Love Junkmail describes how food unites us and how simple changes can make planning and eating healthier easier.
  • starting holiday food traditions - Justine at The Lone Home Ranger discusses how she embraces the bounty of holiday meals while still simplifying her family’s food traditions.
Thanks to all the fabulous writers and readers for being a part of our simplicity parenting community! Stop by The Lone Home Ranger and S.A.H.M. i AM to see how to join us for a future carnival.

This post is also part of Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Simple Lives Thursday, Frugal Friday, and Simple Meals Friday, and Seasonal Celebration Sunday.

14 comments:

  1. What a great idea!

    Congratulations on your new addition to the family!

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  2. We did this (or more accurately, my husband did this ;)) in the weeks leading up to Oliver's birth. In that first chaotic month, it was amazing to have a whole bunch of our favourite comfort foods, all prep'd and ready to go into the oven. Unfortunately most of what we eat on a regular basis doesn't lend itself well to freezing, but whenever we cook something like stew, chilli or meatballs, we always make a double batch and freeze the extras.

    Congratulations on the new addition to your family. How special that your girls share a birthday!

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    1. Thanks! A lot of the things we normally eat don't freeze well either. That's part of what is keeping our meals interesting...a lot of the things we've been eating from the freezer are new dishes or rarely made : )

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  3. I'm envious of that organized freezer. Ours is stocked too but I have failed to enact the ziptop bag idea, instead using mason jars or whatever tupperware I can find. I prefer your space-saving method!

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    1. The zip-locks are great! I feel a little guilty at how many of them I'm using (I've found the two bags keep the food best) but it's so easy and saves so much space!! I make sure the food is completely cool before putting it in the plastic bags though...

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  4. Love it! I love to freeze soups and stews and lasagna etc. I was sad when we had the hurricane when we were without power for 5 days, and I lost so much of it. There was only so much we could eat! But, good excuse to break out my crockpot and dutch ovens and make more! Will try some of yours! Congratutlations on your new family addition!!!

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    1. I'm so sorry you lost so much food due to the power being out. I hope you survived the hurricane well otherwise. Take care!!

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  5. I find that if you have big enough pots/pans, tripling or quadrupling a recipe gives you much more for the freezer at a time. This helps save even more time..

    Another idea would be to make several pizza crusts, give it the first baking to make it stiff, but not cook it completely, and just store in the freezer to top and finish baking at a later date.. (if you don't feel like topping them all on one day)

    I hate that we will not be able to do freezer meals before our little one gets here in April.. we do not have a freezer..

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    1. Oooh, how well I remember the days of having no freezer! I hope you have lots of family and friends to prepare meals for delivery in April!!

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  6. Great ideas! I hope you will share this with Simple Meals Friday!

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    1. Thanks for suggesting it! I will do just that : )

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  7. I made up a bunch of freezer meals in the last month before my kids were each due. It was so helpful for my dh who took over dinner duty completely until 3 to 4 months post-partum.

    Off to read the other posts in the carnival!

    If you have time, please link this up to Motivation Monday on my blog. It would be so helpful for other expecting moms.

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  8. A great idea Emily and a godsend when baby is so young to have all those delicious meals ready to quickly prepare when you need them! Thanks for sharing this with us on Seasonal Celebration- I value your great contribution to the linky! Rebecca x

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