Organizing My Cooking Plans

 inside of freezer

After April’s “eat what is in the freezer” month, I realized that my freezer was just plain unorganized.  Add to this the times I set out to make a meal, or several, only to find that jar of sauce that I thought was in the fridge actually wasn’t anymore, and chaos was slowly starting to creep in.  Organizing my pantry was a big help, but it needed to go further.  So I did a little searching.

Mom’s Budget has several printable lists that I found very helpful.  Specifically I printed out the Freezer Contents List and the Freezer Cooking Prep Worksheet.  I took a look at the monthly menu planner, but realized the space was not big enough for me to write in all three meals for the day.  If you only plan one main meal for the day, then it might work for you.

Crystal at Money Saving Mom posted how she plans her freezer cooking and provides some free planning worksheets.  I like how she laid our her steps to show others what she does.  She is a much more organized person than I, which means I can learn much from her experience.  For example, my shopping lists are not exactly works of great penmanship.  There are sometimes arrows and small numbers (how many of something I need) or items marked off.  So I appreciated that she included the note about rewriting your list if it starts to get messy.  At least I know that she too has to rewrite her list sometimes.  Even if I don’t plan to use her actual forms (so I don’t have to keep printing them off) I am going to keep them on hand to remind myself how my lists should be laid out.

Once a Month Mom as has a OAMM Freezer Inventory Worksheet available.  It is a Google document.  The list has room not only for meals that may be in your freezer, but breads, fruit, meats, snacks, etc.  If your freezer is like mine, this may be what you need as it has more room to include items, not just meals.

 Labeld bags for freezer cooking

Now that I have myself on the right track, I decided to plan some cooking times (another post as this is getting long).  Not only do I like once a month cooking (OAMC), but I like to do several of the items for up to 3 months.  This works for us as we tend to eat a dish only once per month.  An example is Sweet-and-Tangy Roasted Pork Tenderloin.  I had some pork tenderloins and chops ready for the freezer, but wanted to go ahead and make them into something.  In about 15 minutes time I had 5 of these put together and in the freezer.  That meant 1 time of getting things out and 1 time cleaning up.  I save myself about an hours worth of time by doing this – 5 times of potentially doing something -1 time of actually doing it =4 times of not having to do it x 15 minutes = 60 minutes of saved time not having to do something.

Other recipes that lend themselves to multiplying are soups.  It is usually just as easy to make a soup doubled, or tripled, as it is to make it once.

lentil tomato soup in freezer container

When is doing OAMC for multiple months a bad idea?  Here are a few:

  • limited freezer space available
  • budget with no extra money to use
  • none of the ingredients are on sale (but might be by the time you want to make this again – then I would make and freeze one meal’s worth)
  • a new recipe that you haven’t tried and don’t know if you will like yet (ask me how I know this)
  • you are moving soon

When is doing OAMC for multiple months a good idea?

  • you see the next few months being busy (harvest time anyone?)
  • you found a sale on XYZ and need to preserve it (sometimes it is easier to make that ground beef into a meal rather than just freeze it as a lump)
  • there are going to be several pitch-ins or parties coming up
  • there is extra money in the grocery budget now, but may not be in the near future
  • life is already hectic and you need to take something off your plate (pun intended) – not only is cooking prep taken care of, so is menu planning
  • you are looking to break the habit of eating out
  • you are trying to teach several kids how to do this and it is just easier to have them all work on the same recipe at the same time
  • you are okay with planning ahead several meals for next month
  • you have the space

Ingredients for Chocolate Chipotle Chili

I haven’t always done this, and don’t usually think of it as OAMC.  I tend to think of it as “once less time I have to do the dishes”.  For me, that right there is a great motivator.  And so that I am being clear, I don’t want to give the impression that I do 28 different meals for 3 months.  It tends to be 5 – 10 recipes that are made for the upcoming three months, as well as multiple bags of pre-cooked ground beef and/or pre-cut chicken.  Right now those recipes tend to be:

  1. Bree’s Lentil-Tomato Soup
  2. Crockpot Black Bean Soup or Tangy Black Bean Soup
  3. Dad’s Meatloaf with Tomato Relish
  4. Chipotle-Chocolate Chili – from “Don’t Panic – More Dinner’s In The Freezer
  5. Herb Crusted Pork Chops – from “Don’t Panic – More Dinner’s In The Freezer
  6. Superfast Salisbury Steak – I freeze the steak like you would hamburgers and bag up the sauce separately
  7. Sweet-and-Tangy Roasted Pork Tenderloin
  8. Hamburger patties
  9. Butterhorns or muffins or quick breads
  10. meatballs (uncooked)
Chipotle-Chocolate Chili
Chipotle-Chocolate Chili

When I first started doing this, I wasn’t even menu planning yet.  However, I knew that an extra bag of ground beef made supper a lot easier, in case I had forgotten to think ahead – spaghetti was my back up those days.

Do you plan meals or ingredients ahead and freeze them?  Why or why not?


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