Freezer Cooking for a Family of 7: Trying to Keep it Simple

freezercookingKaraMe, getting my freezer cooking groove on a few weeks ago.

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“Hey Kara, what’s up with all the freezer cooking?” You’ve been asking me questions here and on social media for a few months now, so I thought I’d share how I make freezer cooking work for me.

Freezer cooking has been a life saver for me! Well, that might be a little bit of an exaggeration, but it has been a sanity saver, which sometimes translates to the same thing.

I’m working from home as a freelance web content writer, I’m running two blogs, we homeschool, plus all of the general noise, hijinks, busy schedules, and chaos of life in a family of seven.

This could add up to a recipe for dinner disaster every night, but about six months ago I re-discovered freezer cooking and it’s been making a world of difference.

With seven people (3 adults and 4 kids from preschool to seventh grade) I have to make the freezer cooking process as simple as possible.

Here are a few things that are currently working for me when it comes to freezer cooking:

1) I don’t set aside a big freezer cooking day. I’ve found an 8 or 10 hour day in the kitchen, on top of a mega shopping trip before-hand to prepare, just doesn’t work with my life right now.

Don’t get me wrong: I’d really love to make a big once a month freezer cooking day work for me, because I can see the advantages of it.

It’s just that every time I’ve tried, at the end of the loooong day the results have been a cranky mama, cranky kids, and a big mess in my kitchen.* All of these things are, I’m sure, my own personal issues. But, I have to go with what IS and not what I wish was.

*However, after reading on my friend Cheri’s blog about this freezer cooking session from $5 Dinners that can be accomplished in just a couple of hours (as opposed to a whole day or even a weekend) I decided to give it a try.

I’m happy to report that I was able to pull the meals all together in less than three hours (okay, that does not include shopping time the day before, but still I think that was pretty good). I’ll let you know what we think of the recipes as we try them (so far, so good) and I’ll come back and update this post, okay?

freezer cooking can be a bit messay, so clean as you go | SimpleKids.netIf I can manage to do big batch cooking with my limited counter space, anyone can!

Normally, though, this is what I do …

2) Instead of a marathon cooking session, a couple of times a week I simply double whatever we are having for dinner and freeze that. That’s how I build up my freezer stash of meals. Yes, it’s slower, but that’s the pace I move best at these days and if I make a faithful practice of this we usually have enough in the freezer to help me get through the busier seasons of life.

Instead of once a month cooking, I aim for adding a couple of meals to the freezer every week. Hopefully at least equal to stocking up the number of meals we eat out of the freezer (one new meal in for every meal we take out and eat), although over the holidays we consumed more than I restocked.

Trying to keep Freezer Cooking for my family simple and manageable | SimpleKids.net

3) Yes, I do purposefully incorporate meals into our weekly meal plan specifically to freeze. Sometimes I do this to take advantage of sales and sometimes I do this because I like having family favorites on hand. For example, next week chicken spaghetti and roast beef sandwiches both made it into the meal plan because I want to add some to the freezer for the months ahead. Both recipes came from the Pioneer Woman.

4) Speaking of PW, here’s the post from her blog that I refer to the most when I’m doing my own freezer cooking. I’ve also found Jessica of Life As Mom’s freezer cooking book and Aimee’s Simple Bites Menu Planning and Batch Cooking to be helpful (so much more than just freezer cooking in that last link to Simple Bites, very helpful if you’re trying to cook for a crowd on a budget). And I already mentioned the $5 Dinner plan that I just gave a try earlier this month.

5) Go disposable. I don’t like to keep my pans tied up, so I use foil pans and heavy duty freezer bags. My grocery store runs specials from time to time where I can pick up the foil pans in many different sizes 10 for $10. Sometimes I wash and res-use my foil pans and sometimes I don’t and just throw them away. Depends on how tired mama is after dinner, folks.

6) Whenever I can, I look for recipes that I can put in the slow cooker to cook. My slow cooker has long been a trusted kitchen sidekick, but this already easy and convenient method of cooking gets even easier when the ingredients are all ready to go and I just have to grab them from the freezer (or the fridge if a recipe needs thaw time) and dump them into the crock. This is one of the slow cookers I have.

7) Get the kids involved. Okay, I’ll admit that some days this might be counter productive, and it’s going to depend on the age of your kids how much real help in the kitchen they will be. However, with freezer cooking there’s plenty of extra chopping, mixing, freezer bag labeling, can opening, and other prep so extra hands make lighter work. I find that my kids love to help, so I let them.

If nothing else, employing my 13 year old to babysit the 3 year old while I’m working in the kitchen is a big help. So, in the kitchen or out, I accept any help my kids want to give.

freezer cooking: making it work for our family of seven | SimpleKids.nesA really big bowl for mixing comes in handy, too.

An adorable helper doesn’t hurt, either.

Some of my favorite recipes when I’m freezer cooking for my household of seven:

And that’s really it, friends. No real science behind it, no marathon 8 or 12 hour days in the kitchen, just me taking a few meal times a week to double or triple up. Hope that answers your questions.

Do you have a freezer cooking resource to share that helps you keep it simple? Tips on cooking for a large family? A favorite tried and true recipe to share? Leave me a comment below.

Looking for some more inspiration about getting through the busier seasons of life? This post on applying the 80/20 rule to parenting is one of my favorites.

About Kara

Kara Fleck is the editor of Simple Kids. She is a small town mama, writer, knitter, bookworm, and hooligan. Kara lives in Indiana with her husband Christopher and their four children Jillian, Max, Lucy, and Amelia. You can find more of her writing at KElizabethFleck.com.

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Comments

  1. Oh, Kara! Freezer cooking has been a life saver for me too. Just last night I *thought* we had nothing to eat for dinner. There was nothing planned. But our freezer stash came to the rescue and saved us from another meal out. Can’t wait to go through the links–esp from Simple Bites.

    Peace keep you!
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  2. Do you have a separate freezer? Or do you manage to do this in a standard sized-freezer (w/refrigerator)? It feels like my freezer won’t have enough space. (Then again, there’s only three of us. So maybe.)
    Misa´s latest post: Top 10 Family Board Games (List Three of Three: Misa’s List)

  3. Great post! Thanks for sharing. We have a family of 6 and my freezer cooking is a true sanity saver also. I discovered foil pans (and lids!) from Sam’s. Very economical. My plans are nearly the same as yours though I also add a freezer cooking session when there is a good sale on meat (chicken breasts/legs/pork loin/ground sausage etc…). If it’s chicken breasts I poach or bake them, freeze some whole and dice or shred for recipes. Legs I’ll marinate for grilling or bake to eat plain, bbq or with hot wing sauce. Pork loin roasted, or bbq for sandwiches or pizza. Ground pork sausage I cook and bag to freeze flat. I use that for biscuits and gravy, breakfast burritos or casserole and pizza toppings or to add to pasta sauce. Great to have the meat cooked and ready to go!

  4. I love the idea of keeping life simple and I think your advice is great, but every so often trash aluminum plates? sorry but I think beyond it simple, do it conscious and environmentally responsible. There are many techniques for washing fast and responsibly the fret. I do not know, you can consider http://greenbabyguide.com/2008/10/28/how-do-you-hand-wash-dishes-to-conserve-water-and-dish-soap/

  5. All of these recipes looks delicious and so easy to make – I’m excited! Can’t wait to try them and to have a stash of them in the freezer. Thanks so much for all your efforts! 🙂

  6. Very Interesting Post, thanks

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