When time and energy are luxuries, prepping meals in large batches ahead of time is a lifesaver
I must admit that the first time I saw the term ‘freezer cooking’ in writing, I went “Huh?” How can you cook in a freezer? I even wondered if it was a cheeky spin on good old freezer burns. There had to be some trick to it because food cannot be cooked in the freezer for very obvious reasons.
The terms ‘freezer cooking’ or ‘freezer meal’ have the same effect as putting food in a Ziploc bag in the kitchen sink, pouring water on it and calling it ‘sous vide’ (a method of treating food by partial cooking followed by vacuum-sealing and chilling). So what on earth is ‘freezer cooking?’ The phrase, it turns out, refers to prepped meals that have been parcelled and frozen, either ready for later cooking or already cooked and portioned for reheating.
Yes, my dear, in this, the information age, everything now has a name. Of course, this breathes new life into mundane things and turns into fads what many would consider ordinary. But who’s complaining? Certainly not me!
I have been making ‘freezer meals’ since college. I even wrote a column about those early cooking experiences. Only back then, the term didn’t exist; I was merely being prudent. Being organised in the kitchen and prepping meals in large batches ahead of time is just that, but my motivation was more about managing my time to minimise how much of it had to be spent in the kitchen than about giving Martha Stewart a run for her money.
How things have changed since! Now I absolutely adore cooking and would happily spend most of my waking hours in the kitchen! The only thing though is that it is not always practical — especially when there are other elements that beg for our attention, like babies, careers and well, lives. Even in our busiest moments, we need not sacrifice great tasting homemade meals for hasty, tasteless meals on-the-go ad nauseum.
My friend Jeleser, a corporate mom who just returned to the workforce after taking a break to be with her baby, preps weekly to ensure that her healthy-eating son Joshua can maintain his excellent eating habits even when she is no longer home-based and he is off to school. Freezer cooking may be the only way for busy people to ensure healthy or otherwise just homemade meals on the table when time and energy are limited.
Whether you are a busy mom, buzzing bachelorette or simply not a fan of cooking more than once a week, freezer cooking offers you the opportunity to conveniently work more home-cooked meals into your life. For those of us who have been there, that is pretty much baking the cake and eating it too!
Here’s what you need to know to apply the principles to your cooking:
- You may be able to save when you buy in bulk on some food items. You can also drive a better bargain with butchers, seafood purveyors and other food suppliers.
- The mess is greater because you are handling more food at once, but the clean-up is easier since you only have one major prep day. Get a friend to join you or hire a maid for a couple of hours to help with the prep and cleanup.
- Meats, fish and poultry will be seasoned to the bone because the marinade will be soaking in while they defrost later on.
- Shop in bulk for produce once per week or biweekly. If you opt for biweekly shopping, you will have to top up on some fresh fruit, vegetables, bread, dairy and eggs weekly if you want them fresh. Otherwise, you can freeze even fruit.
- Peel and cube fruits and freeze for quick, healthy and refreshing smoothies in a pinch.
- Buy lots of onions, peppers, scallions and herbs. Keep a wide assortment of oils, vinegars and condiments like soy sauce, mustard, yoghurt, and Worcestershire sauce on hand so that you can make large batches of marinades.
- Buy different cuts of meat, poultry and fish so that you can mix up your meals throughout the week. No one wants to eat the same thing everyday, not counting pregnant women and children.
- Stock up on small and large freezer zipper type bags. Get a Sharpie marker to write ingredients and freezing dates.
- If you wish your food to taste fresher or have more time to cook more often, it is better to prep in large batches but freeze in smaller portions for more frequent cooking.
- If time and energy are bigger issues for you, simply cook larger batches then freeze for later reheating. In that case, you may also want to invest in larger pots and pans to accommodate more food at once.
- Chop up all prepped herbs and vegetables, meats and poultry and arra-nge according to your recipes. Portion them and store with marinade. When ready to cook, simply take the necessary portion parcels out and defrost.
- When bagging food, squeeze out as much air as possible and lay flat in freezer. Laying the bags flat will help in faster defrosting and maximise storage space in even the smallest freezer. Arrange all similar items in the freezer together for easy retrieval.
- Label, label, label! We keep sharpies in our kitchen for easy access. Always put production date (date of cooking), contents and portion amounts on labels.
- Stews, braises, roasts, rice dishes, pizza and tough cuts are great for freezer meals.
- Make 1-3 vinaigrettes or salad dressing (depending on your consumption) and store in airtight jars in fridge.
GREAT FREEZER MEAL RECIPES
Cheddar and Dill Scones Savoury Aged Cheddar Dill Scones
Jamaican Oxtail and Beans More Jamaican Comfort Food: Oxtail & Bean Stew | Chef and Steward
Cajun Chicken Gumbo Low Carb Cajun Chicken Gumbo | Chef and Steward
Succulent Thyme Roasted Chicken Thyme Roasted Chicken | Chef and Steward
Freezer Meals tips, practical application and recipes Freezer Cooking! | The Pioneer Woman
Jamaican Rice and Peas How to cook Jamaican Rice and Peas (Vegan) | Chef and Steward
Stovetop Jerk Chicken Stove Top Stewed Jerk Chicken | Chef and Steward
Jerk Marinade for Chicken, Meat and Fish Chef and Steward’s Real Jamaican Jerk Seasoning
Meatless Stew Peas (Vegan Red Bean Stew)- Ital Red Peas Stew
Jamaican Beef Patties How to make Jamaican Beef Patties
Delicious, rich and creamy ice cream Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee Ice Cream
Weeknight Freezer Meals 10 Freezer Meals for Busy Weeknights Recipes from The Kitchn
An assortment of freezer recipes from Six Sisters 50 Easy Freezer Meals