Freezer Cooking - A Great Way to Save Money on Your Monthly Grocery Bill

Some people call this once-a-month cooking, once-a-week cooking, or freezer cooking.  The names may be different but the concept is the same.  You block out one day and do the bulk of your cooking for the designated time period.   This can really be a great money saver for those families who don't feel like they have enough time to cook on weeknights and consequently eat out frequently. This is also great because you can build your weekly cooking around the sales, buying in bulk, or those items you are able to use coupons to buy for pennies.  If this is the first time you've ever done this, I suggest planning on cooking for one week.  Carve out a day where you know you can cook with minimal interruptions.  Make a list of what you are going to cook for the week.  Try to build some meals that are different but have similar ingredients - perhaps a chicken stir fry that includes onions and bell peppers for one meal and chicken fajitas that also include onions and bell peppers for another meal.  They will taste different enough that it doesn't seem like you are eating the same things over and over, yet they are built around the same ingredients.  This saves you preparation time and money.  Purchase or assemble the ingredients you will need for your cooking marathon.  To organize yourself, first look at all of your recipes that you will be making for the week.  A prep list is a great tool when you are cooking this way. Sit down with your recipes and write down everything that needs to be done for your cooking marathon. If one recipe calls for you to chop garlic, write the amount of garlic down that you need. Then if a second recipe also calls for chopped garlic, add the amount to the previous "chop garlic." This will keep you organized and working on things in the fastest way possible. Or let's say you are going to have tacos and spaghetti this week.  You will need ground beef for both of these.  Instead of browning beef once for tacos and then a second time later that day for spaghetti, you'll want to do it all at once in one big batch.  The same is true for cutting up vegetables.  If three of your recipes call for chopped onion, cut the onion you need for all three recipes rather than cutting it three times.  Once the items are cooked, you want to let them cool and then either freeze the whole dish or cut them into individual servings and freeze those.  The nice thing about the individual servings is you can use these for dinners for one or to take your lunch with you. This can be a tremendous money-saver.  Instead of eating out or buying convenience items in the store you have a healthy and home-cooked frozen entree to reheat at work. Make sure you wrap things very well that are going in the freezer. First wrap the dish with plastic wrap and then cover that with foil. If you are freezing something in a plastic bag, try to get as much of the air out of the bag as possible. Also, label everything with the name of the dish and the reheating instructions.  To streamline this process for the future, keep the recipes and the prep list all together in a binder. Once you get four or five of these weeks worth of meals built up in your binder, you can start cycling through them. This will save you even more time. You won't have to gather recipes and make a prep list each time you do this. Just pull out a week's worth out of your binder and make those for the week. With a little bit of ingenuity and planning, you can make home cooking a huge time and money saver for your family!
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Louis Lee

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