But I like eating! And my family likes eating. Not cooking is not an option, sadly.
I tried once a month cooking. That was horrible. Just horrible. There are too many things to keep track of and I have 4 young children. I cannot spend all day cooking and take care of them and not ruin one (or more likely, several) meals.
But it’s such a lovely idea. Spending the whole rest of the month just throwing dinner in the oven and still having it be home cooked, healthy and delicious. Sigh.
So, I started quadrupling each meal and saving three. It typically doesn’t take much longer to cook 4 times as much and then I save all of that time that I would be cooking for the rest of the month. It’s as close to bliss as I am going to get.
Steps to 4 Weeks of Meals with ¼ the Effort
Step 1: Pick 7 Freezer Friendly Meals
Pick 7 meals you know your family likes. The easiest meals to freeze are ones that fit in a Ziploc bag. Examples include chili, soup, or crockpot meals. Casseroles take up the most space, you might want to wait on those until you have tried this a few times and know you have the space in your freezer.
Example of a week’s schedule:
|Chili||Spaghetti||Chicken alfredo||Beans and Rice||Stir Fried Rice||Potato Soup||Clam Chowder|
All of these meals are easy to make and freeze.
Step 2: Cook 4 and Eat 1
Let’s pretend it’s Sunday. You would cook 4 meals worth of chili instead of just 1. So, whatever your family normally eats times 4. For my family, that means a stock pot full.
I serve the meal and let the rest cool while we eat. It does normally take an hour or more to completely cool such a large amount of food.
Once the food is cool:
Step 3: Freeze 3
I use freezer bags to freeze all of the meals. I have found that the freezer bag fits in a Vitamix blender perfectly. It’s like a helper is holding the bag open for you.
Once the bag is as full as you want, lay it flat in the freezer. If the meal freezes flat, it is much easier to stack horizontally or vertically.
Step 4: Thaw and Eat
Take out tomorrow’s dinner, today. If it is Sunday, then I would take the spaghetti out of the freezer. I just leave it on the oven to thaw but if you’re worried, you could leave it in the fridge.
When I first started doing this, I would constantly forget to get the food out of the freezer. I wouldn’t remember until an hour before dinner. Frozen food does not thaw in just an hour.
I found that I could fill my stock pot with hot water and let the frozen food bag soak (making doubly sure that it is sealed! Made that mistake.). It only takes about 20 minutes to thaw well enough to put in a pan or bowl to warm up.
I have added taking out tomorrow’s dinner to my routine tracker.
What about Breakfast and Lunch?
My goal is to do the same thing for breakfast and lunch that I do with dinner. Remember that whole “I hate cooking thing”; I haven’t gotten to the place where I care enough to cook three times a day, even though I know that I will be done for the rest of the month.
So what do I do?
The Super Simple Method
I pick the same foods for breakfast, lunch and snack and we eat the same thing each day. Perhaps not the best method, but easily the simplest. I try and choose items I won’t have to cook or ones my children can prepare themselves. We eat a fruit or veggie (sometimes both) with each meal.
Breakfast: Oatmeal and Milk or Green Smoothie
Lunch: PB and J
Snack: Yogurt or Nuts and Fruit
Dessert: We only eat dessert on Sunday to save money and make Sunday extra special. We typically eat ice cream.
As my children get older and can be helpful in the kitchen, we will have a greater variety. Right now our variety is limited to which kind of nuts or fruit.
Where to Go For Ideas on Freezer Meals
There are two places I go for ideas on freezer meals. If you know any great resources, put them in the comments and I will add them in.
Once A Month Meals—Fabulous website. Although it sells a subscription, this website offers many free meal ideas for all types of eating styles and lots of information on freezer cooking.
$5 Dinners—Similar to Once A Month Meals but offers specific lists for stores like Costco.
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Looking For More Ideas?
Visit iHomeschool Network to see how other busy homeschoolers get dinner on the table.