This 5-part freezer cooking series comes from Maria Barton of MariaMakes.com. If you’d like to submit a recipe, helpful tip, testimonial, or Whole30 article for consideration, email it to [email protected].
Scrolling through Instagram and Pinterest for #Whole30 recipes can be intimidating. What if you work 40+ hours a week and don’t have time to cook up elaborate recipes multiple times a day? What if you have little ones to look after and limited time to meal prep? Or what if you just don’t want to spend that much time in the kitchen because you have better things to do, or (gasp) hate cooking!? Fear not, faithful Whole30-ers: freezer cooking to the rescue!
Freezer cooking involves preparing food in advance, often in mass quantities, which you place in the freezer for quick and easy future meals. When you load your freezer full of tasty Whole30 approved goodness by spending just one day in the kitchen, you are truly setting yourself up for success, and giving yourself more kitchen-free time to do the things you actually want to do. In most cases, you can throw in a quick side salad, leftover vegetables, or a frozen bag of mixed veggies to a previously prepared freezer meal and you are SET.
For the next four weeks, I’ll be guest posting and sharing freezer recipes that you can make in advance, so you can have fresh, healthy, delicious meals READY TO GO with minimal prep and clean-up. I’ll be sharing original recipes and also adapting recipes from a New York Times #1 bestseller you guys might have heard of… The Whole30 anyone?
Today, I’m going to share the tips and tricks you will need to get prepared for your big cooking day. This is the process that works for me, but once you get going, you can adapt this routine in the way that suits your lifestyle, family, and needs.
My general freezer cooking process:
- Recipe and shopping list organization
- Shopping (for food and supplies)
- Cooking day!
- Preparing for the freezer
[Tweet “Get ready for #Whole30 freezer cooking, from guest poster Maria Barton. #changeyourlife #youmayneedabiggerfreezer”]
Recipe and Shopping List Organization
Before a big cooking day, I like to compile a list of all of the recipes I will cook, pull together my shopping list, identify the items I already have on hand, and figure out what food/supplies I will need to purchase.
When considering what recipes to make, keep in mind that some things freeze extremely well—others, not so much.
I use this worksheet to organize recipes for my cooking day; I’ll add the link to each article for handy reference. And if you needed yet another reason to buy The Whole30, I’ll be referencing it often to help you prepare your favorite recipes so they’re freezer-friendly, so now would be a good time to place that order (or swing by your local Target).
I recommend you do all of your shopping the day before your cooking day. That way you will be organized and ready to go, and less overwhelmed on the day-of. Check out your local grocery store flyers, hit your favorite spots, and get everything you will need (ingredients and supplies) for your freezer cooking-palooza. Now is also the time to stock up on the ideal freezing supplies. Until I finally invest in a vacuum sealer, my favorite supplies for freezing meals are:
- Sandwich, quart, and gallon plastic zip-top bags
- Freezer-safe plastic containers
- Waxed paper
- Masking tape/permanent marker for labeling
There will be some items that you will be able to prep early to make your life easier on your actual cooking day. (I usually just do this step first on my actual cooking day so I have everything ready to go for all of my recipes.) Do three recipes call for minced onions? Chop the amount you need ahead of time so that when it comes time to pull the recipes together, all you need to do is measure it out and go! This is also helpful for commonly-used ingredients like peppers, garlic, green onion, or tomatoes. You can also pre-measure spices or spice mixtures, portioning them out in snack-sized zip lock bags or ramekins.
It’s also mission-critical to make enough space in your freezer ahead of time! Clean it out, use up the food you already have in there, and make room for your new healthy freezer bounty. The last thing you want is to spend all day preparing 20 meals before you realize you have nowhere to put them! Once you really get going, you may decide you need to buy a stand-alone freezer… but let’s take this one step at a time.
This is the big day! Prepare yourself: you will have a big mess once all is said and done, but I promise it will be SO WORTH IT. Of course, if it’s just not feasible to tackle this all in one day, you can split it up. To prepare for this series, I cooked eight recipes in one day—and I would strongly urge you against it, as by the end, I was BEAT. (But I did have a freezer full of Whole30 goodness.)
Do yourself a favor and eat breakfast for dinner the night of your cooking day, or better yet, go out to eat. You won’t want to waste one of your freezer cooking meals on the same day you make it! (And don’t worry, the next four weeks will be devoted to recipes and cooking tips to get your freezer stocked full of Whole30 meals.)
So once all of this delicious food is cooked, how do you go about freezing it?
When you are deciding whether to portioning out your prepared freezer meals in plastic bags, containers with lids, or foil pans, keep your end-use in mind. If you’re freezing soup to have ready for at-work lunches, consider freezing it in small single portion-sized containers. For full meals to cook for dinner, a gallon sized zip-top bag or foil pan may make the most sense. Flat things are easier to stack and help you to save space.
You should also remove as much air as possible from your containers, to prevent freezer burn. You can do this with a vacuum sealer, or by using a straw to suck the air out of your plastic bags before zipping them that final inch.
Using a permanent marker, clearly label your meals so you know what food is in what container and how long it has been in there. I also like to write simple cooking instructions, i.e. “Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 min.” That way, my husband can easily grab something out and know what it is and exactly how to cook it.
After everything is portioned out and labeled, cool all of the food in your refrigerator before moving it to the freezer. The colder the food is when it goes into the freezer, the better it will freeze (fewer ice crystals).
Each week, we’ll be bringing you the rest of my 5-part series on Whole30 freezer cooking. So get ready for a freezer-cooking-party-people! This is going to be fun.
Article photos courtesy of Maria Barton. Header photo from ambermaybe.com.
Maria Barton is a fledgling blogger, Whole30-er, home chef, DIY-er, gardener, wife, dog mom, soon-to-be former “fat kid for life.” You can find more delicious recipes at http://mariamakes.com and connect with her at @mariamakesstuff on Instagram.
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