Planning Your Freezer Cooking Day: Pt. 1

Part One: Plan Your Meals

Note: this will be a four part series consisting of the following. Part One: Plan Your Meals. Part Two: Your Battle Strategy. Part Three: Assemble The Troops. Part Four: Your Freezer Cooking Questions Answered! If throughout this series, you have a question, or find something I didn't really explain too well please leave your question in the comments! I'll be answering these questions in part four. If you're reading this after the series has ended, please don't hesitate to leave a comment and I'll do Q&As in the future too, or if you need an answer like, now, because you're driving to the store as we speak-which is shamefully dangerous...worse than texting...-park the car, then e-mail me at {at} gmail {dot} com and I'll get back with you asap!

The idea of OAMC or Freezer Cooking can be a lot to take in. I remember reading about it on a number of blogs and maybe an "about" article or two before just making up my mind to try it one Saturday. I work 9-5 every day at a pretty draining job. In an effort to reduce the number of nights we eat out every month, my approach to Freezer Cooking was born.

I'm a planner. I like lists, calendars, deadlines, etc. So I pulled up a calendar in trusty Microsoft Word and went to town. Our family [of two] typically eats two chicken breasts, or 1 pound of ground beef per dinner. (Because meat is the most expensive part of our diet, we try to minimize this by having a couple side dishes every meal in addition to the main course.)

I googled "Freezer Cooking Recipes" and found this site, where the bulk of February's meals came from. Additionally, I had a couple of family favorites to include and/or modify. If I could turn the entire thing into a dry mix, I did. I placed everything into a ziploc bag and labeled it in our pantry. Otherwise, I figured out how far I could possibly prepare each meal before freezing it was no longer an option, and put that into the freezer cooking plan. If this doesn't really make sense to you, I apologize. :) heh. I'll do better!

So, using my knowledge of 2 chicken breasts per dinner, I was able to calculate how many different dishes each recipe would account for. Then, I filled the calendar with that dish, making sure that there was a good amount of time between each night we were planning on eating similar meals. I try to shake it up a little bit between chicken, ground beef, and the occasional seafood or veggie dish. It's not too difficult when you've got the entire month in front of you.

A lot of places recommend only cooking for 2 weeks at a time. If that works for you, by all means go for it! In my opinion, two weeks doesn't give you enough time between similar meals and your family might get bored with the recipes you choose. Also, I'm really REALLY tired after every freezer cooking day, and the thought of doing it every two weeks doesn't sound too great. I'm a 100% or nothing kind of girl, so I'd jump in head first and just give it a go!

You don't have to do everything the first month. Sometimes just boiling, chopping and freezing chicken is all you need to make a 45 minute meal into a 10 minute one.

My first month, I focused on main-dish dinners only. By my freezer cooking, we really didn't have anything for lunches and no snack food to speak of. Side dishes were completely absent. We didn't go hungry, but I didn't have my leftovers [that I love!] for lunch the next day.

The second month, I found ways to score snack food for next to nothing using coupons and scenarios from my fave coupon blogs. Lunches were much MUCH better.

This month, I'm figuring out how to do all of the above and adding freezable dinner rolls, homemade tortillas for frozen burritos using my husband's famous [and AMAZING] homemade re-fried beans, and various freezable side dishes. We're doing all this on the same budget as before so my couponing is going to have to be in top form. :) I'll keep you posted.

To get you started, I've created a Freezer Cooking Calendar just for you!

Click Here to Download

Note: You'll notice the option to check "extra" on each day. One of my favorite parts of freezer cooking is that while you plan for 30 meals, you rarely eat all 30 meals. Someone will invite you over for dinner, you'll have a wedding to attend, etc. The un-used meals can then be used for the next month, or in place of a night where you're "just not in the mood" for what's planned! I'm building my year supply this way, though we'll have to get a bigger freezer!

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