By ERIN TURNER
One day of cool weather this last week and I felt fall in the air.
Not that I want to wish summer away by any means, but the cooler weather got my nesting instincts piqued and, with all the abundance of produce in the garden, I began thinking about food and freezing lots of delightful dishes for my family. Plus, with school and activities starting up in the next few weeks, I am trying to get organized for the chaos of fall.
This summer, I stumbled across a cookbook all about freezer recipes. These are recipes which usually make double batches and allow you to freeze the second batch for a future dinner. I have been seeing blogs all over the internet about “once-a-month” cooking which is the same concept. I found it intriguing so have been exploring it for its ability to save money and time.
I have talked about menu-planning in the past, so you know I’m a huge advocate of that method for saving lots of money and time. This freezer method takes that concept to the next level by having you prepare meals way ahead of time and freezing them until you need them.
You literally could spend a weekend cooking and baking and then freeze all of it and not have to do any meal preparations for a month! Imagine that? Just unthaw, heat, and serve a healthy, homemade meal. This is truly “fast food” that I can feel good about serving my family!
The monetary savings of this method of cooking is enormous.
First of all, if you take advantage of the seasonal produce, you will save lots of money.
Secondly, when you cook in batches it always saves money because you are maximizing your ingredients.
Finally, you will save big bucks because you will always have meals ready at the last minute for those days when your family says at 4 p.m., “What’s for dinner?” This method of cooking will save you from resorting to a restaurant, which will freeze up your wallet!
Our family attends a lot of potluck dinners for our neighborhood and I’m looking forward to having a meal already prepared for those nights instead of just whipping together something at the last minute. Plus, this would be very handy when you want to take a meal to a new mom or a sick friend. The benefits are endless!
Now, there are some rules about what foods you can freeze well. Casseroles with cream cheese, sour cream, yogurt, or mayo may separate and have a watery and/or curdled look if you don’t prepare them properly. Any dish with pasta needs to be undercooked so the noodles don’t become soft and mushy when you reheat it. There are also time limits on how long certain dishes can remain in the freezer.
Another good idea is to track what you put into your freezer so that it doesn’t get lost in the land of no return. By keeping a chart of what items you freeze it will help you plan your meals more efficiently and also reduce any waste by making sure you use up items before they expire.
If you want more information on the dos and don’ts of Freezer cooking, check out TasteofHome.com or any other website which discusses this method of cooking. It’s important to know the tips so you can protect your investment!
Here is one recipe to get you started!
Almost everyone loves a chicken pot pie. Enjoy one pie tonight and freeze the other for that first cold, snowy day. Note that all the veggies in this dish can be bought either at the store or farmers’ market right now for great prices!
Recipe: Freezable Chicken and Potato Potpies
- 2 cups diced, peeled potatoes
- 1 ¾ cup sliced carrots
- 2/3 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup butter, cubes
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 ¾ tsp salt
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- ¾ tsp pepper
- 3 cups of chicken broth
- 1 ½ cups milk
- 4 cups cubed cooked chicken
- 1 cup peas
- 1 cup corn
- Pastry for two double-crust pies (9 inches)
- Place potatoes and carrots in a large saucepan; cover with water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 8-1o minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain and set aside.
- In a large skillet, sauté onion in butter until tender. Stir in the flour, salt, thyme and pepper until blended. Gradually stir in the broth and milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Add the chicken, peas, corn, potatoes and carrots; remove from the heat.
- Line two 9 in. pie plates with bottom pastry; trim pastry even with edge. Fill pastry shells with chicken mixture. Roll out remaining pastry to fit top of pies. Cut slits or decorative cutouts in pastry. Place over filling; trim, seal and flute edges.
- Bake one potpie at 425 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Let stand for 15 minutes before cutting. Cover and freeze remaining potpie for up to 3 months.
To use the frozen potpie: Shield frozen pie crust edges with foil; place on baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees; bake 70-80 minutes longer or until crust is golden brown. Each pie yields eight servings.
This recipe is just one of hundreds of freezer-ready recipes out there waiting for you to try! I love the concept of freezer cooking. The idea of stocking up on basic items (veggies, meat, pasta, etc) when they are on sale, then making a double of batch of a dish, eating one and freezing the other is a no brainer if you are looking to pinch your pennies.
But it is also a homerun idea if you are looking at saving lots of time and convenience. “Homemade made easy” is the name of this game!
Erin Eisenman-Turner is proud to be a native Missoulian. Along with her husband and three sons, they raise chickens, pigs, rabbits, and vegetables at Turner Family Farms in the Orchard Homes area. When the farm chores are done, the coupons clipped, and the blog written, you can find Erin exploring Montana, collecting antiques, and trying to maintain a well-run, happy, and organized home for her family.