I recently set out to simplify dinnertime in our house. As per my routine, each week I attempt to meal plan the entire week before our grocery shopping trips. Generally speaking I come up with two or three meals and we then try and keep up with the cooking as the week goes on. For the most part the process works, but this summer things have fallen into a different routine.
With school starting back up & our normal routine I was looking for something quick and easy to get us home cooked meals without too much work during the week. I was recently introduced to Once a Month Meals and I have fallen in love with the process of cooking freezer meals..
As I spent my day (spread over three days) in the kitchen, I came up with some ideas on ways to save time and sanity while freezer cooking with Once a Month Meals.
1. Buy a food scale.
This is probably the most important piece of advice I have. I have used my Ozeri Pronto Digital Multifunction Kitchen and Food Scale a lot over the last year to measure out portions, but I had no idea how much I would use it going into this process.
The recipes call for you to cook certain lbs of meat ahead of time. I found myself constantly weighing out different types of meat and breaking them up into containers as I needed them.
To be honest, the food scale came in handy when I realized how much meat really is in each package and the label on the package included the weight of the juice inside too.
2. Over buy on meat.
I bought all of my meat at Costco and assumed that the weight on the package was the actual weight of the meat. This was wrong. I did not take into account the amount of juices that were also in the packaging when it was frozen.
For example, I needed 13lbs of chicken, I bought 14lbs of chicken and I came up 1lb short. We did have to make a few extra runs to the store for more meat needed in other recipes.
In the end I divided up the extra meat that I had after our second trip out into individual bags and froze them for the future.
3. Make sure you have room in your fridge BEFORE you buy everything.
For some reason, I didn’t think this through at all. I bought everything but the meat during my usual grocery trip and filled up my refrigerator.
The next day when I took my lunch break at work to go buy meat at Costco I came back to work with close to 30lbs of meat and had to make room in the work fridge. Luckily it was pretty empty.
It didn’t occur to me until I got home that I had used up most of the room for the other ingredients. Luckily we had a mini fridge that I was able to fill up with meat until I cooked it all up and froze it.
4. If you need to break it up, cook some of it over night.
One of the first steps on my list was to cook 3.3lbs of chicken in the crock pot for 8 hours. I also had to cook up some beef so I decided to get my two crock pots out and cook it over night. The next morning before work, I divided everything up really quick and was able to start using it in recipes that night when I got home.
This saved a lot of time waiting & knocked a few easy steps out of the way.
5. Read the directions all the way through.
This should go without saying, but I suck at reading directions. With the overwhelming amount of papers I had printed out it was very important to read from start to finish. This also helped me organize out my days and what I wanted to cook when.
As we enjoy some of the meals, I definitely wanted to save the recipes & all of the instructions in case I decide to repeat this month of Once a Month Meals in the future. I picked up a binder (back to school supplies for the win) and divided everything out into sections so I can reuse it some day.
I also saved other recipes I’ve found in the binder as well. Nothing else worked for me no matter how hard I tried to stay organized. When in doubt, go back to the old school way of pen and paper!
Have you tried Once a Month Meals or other forms of freezer cooking? What are your tips?