Freezer cooking is one of my favorite ways to save money. Hands down. It’s usually quite inexpensive, it allows us to eat a home-cooked meal even when I’m too busy to cook and there’s just a sense of accomplishment in stocking your freezer ahead of time.
But the clean up is killer. There have been times that I look at my kitchen after a freezer cooking day and I just want to cry.
The mess can be so overwhelming. Or, at least it was for me for a very long time. I had no working order. I’d just do things however I remembered them, I’d wash my hands a billion times and end up using every cutting board, knife and utensil in my possession.
Lately I’ve been more intentional with my freezer cooking. Taking 20 minutes ahead of time to organize everything and give myself a checklist of items to do in a specific order has made a huge difference. Is it a bit over the top? Totally. But when you’re as unorganized as I am by nature it’s worth being a little over the top. And my kitchen no longer looks like a war zone.
So if you’re a freezer cooking newbie or are just a drastically messy cook like me, hopefully these tips help!
I create an assembly sheet/checklist for myself.
I don’t have a bunch of recipe print outs or have my computer or phone to read recipes off of a screen like I used to. That slows me down a lot and switching between different recipes at once always makes me feel like I’m forgetting something.
Since I now mainly do uncooked freezer meals (meaning I have to shove it in the oven or dump it in the crockpot after it’s been frozen), I now read the recipes beforehand and make note of how to assemble them in the bag, rather than staring at several different recipes at once.
If you’re precooking your meals, your assembly sheet will look a bit different but you can still use this method by bulking all like items together (e.g. chopping, mixing, baking, freezing).
Here’s what I put on my assembly sheet:
- Write all ingredients down on a sheet and divide them into sections (not by recipe, but by type). This will help you maximize your time and make your workflow run smoothly. My sections consisted of vegetables, meat, pourables (from a can/jar/bag) and seasonings. I work in that order as well.
- Work in the right order. It’ll go faster, there will be less mess and you’ll have to wash your hands less often because you’re touching the same type of food. I like to clean up a bit between sections so it doesn’t look like a bomb was dropped in my kitchen.I chop all of my vegetables first, place them in the bags, then I prepare/portion the meat and place them in the bags on top of the vegetables, then I place my pourables on top (e.g. diced tomatoes, minced garlic, bbq sauce, etc.) and finally I add the seasonings in last unless it needs to be placed directly onto the meat. Doing it this way helps me create a one-woman assembly line so I can be efficient with my time and keep a (relatively) clean working area since I don’t have unlimited counter space.
- Make note of all the vegetables that you will collectively use across all meals. Then allocate a certain amount of each vegetable to each freezer meal and be sure to note the “styles” that you’re cutting them in. For example, you might be using 2 onions total across all meals and need to dice 1 ½ onions total and slice ½ of an onion for another meal. Knowing the cutting styles in advanced, and how much is going toward each meal will save you time and effort. Next to each ingredient I also write down how much will go into each bag (e.g. ½ diced pepper for chili & 1 ½ sliced pepper for fajitas).
- Make special notes to yourself at the end of the sheet. For example, I had to remember to order the ingredients correctly in the apple butter pork chops recipe so the apple flavor wouldn’t be too strong. I also had to remember to store the sloppy joe sauce in a separate bag and to toss the juice from the can of mandarins.
When you’re done with your sheet, just print it out (or you can just as easily use pen and paper) and be sure to keep a pen handy so you can check off each task.
Lastly, I have a very basic but important tip for freezer cooking in general. Always label bags before you start preparing your freezer meals.
It gives the ink time to dry and helps you remember to place the correct ingredients in each bag. Be sure to write cooking directions on the bag so you know how to properly thaw and cook each meal. I forgot to do this last time since I couldn’t find a marker and had a heck of a time remembering how long to cook each meal in the crockpot.
I know my assembly method isn’t revolutionary but it has made a world of a difference in how my kitchen looks when I’m done. I no longer dread the clean up process!
Since I know many of you are freezer cooking fans, I’d love for you to share your freezer cooking tips in the comment section below!