Sunday, April 11, 2010

Perfecting the Art of Getting The Freezer Full

Let's face it. I do too much to take an entire day doing true Once A Month Cooking. Besides, it's exhausting. Even when I spend 2 hours at Dinner Zen, I walk out really tired, and in that case they have done most of the work for me!

Still, an empty freezer loomed. I was down to one tilapia filet from my last trip to DZ, and that is just not acceptable.

But as I said, sometimes doing a whole month of food in a day is daunting.

Well, the state of my freezer two weeks ago was as follows: 1 tilapia filet. 2 frozen chicken breasts. And that's it.

Two weeks later, the state of my freezer is as follows: 1 tilapia filet, 2 frozen chicken breasts, 3 packs of "Pork Chops with Good Stuff," 2 packs of Mango Curry Chicken, 1 pack of Bourbon Chicken (we ate 1 already), 2 packs of Lamb Zucchini Goulash, 3 quarts of Ham, Green Bean, & Potato Soup. Many bags of frozen veggies (thanks to BJ's, which will keep us going until the CSA season starts)

Is it a month's worth of cooking? Not in the least. But can I spend the day working and throw something in the oven or crock pot to reheat? Oh yes. And I did not do it all in one day.

First, chicken was on sale. So I bought the chicken and the couple of ingredients that I didn't have on hand for the 2 chicken dishes, and I went home and made 4 meals. Then a few days later my supermarket had beautiful zucchini. I made a huge pot of goulash and froze 2 meals after eating one. Then we had Easter, and much leftover ham, so that became the soup. 3 quarts in the freezer and 1 quart into our bellies. Finally, pork chops were on sale, so they became a meal to eat and 3 for the freezer.

What I like about building up the freezer, rather than doing it all in one day, is that I can get a meal into the freezer in 1/2 hour or less. I'm not worrying about having to clean every pot in my house three times. And, probably most importantly, I can cook based on what is on sale at the time. If I plan to cook all in one day, I still need to find the meat that I want to use on sale, rather than building my meals around what I have already found.

Now, with 11 new meals in the freezer, I can see myself going to Dinner Zen and doing a small order--maybe 8 half-dishes instead of 12 full ones--to give us some variety. But the truth is that with extra frozen veggies in the house, I can make a simple meal on a weeknight when I am not necessarily working all day, so we get variety anyway.

I also think that this is a cool way to introduce someone to freezer cooking, without the crazy-making of thinking you have to do a whole month's worth of food in a day. That said, if I had my chest freezer (it's coming, really!) I would make more of each individual meal, because I would know that six pork chop dishes will still stay happily frozen and not bore my family to tears. Yeah, let me get on that right now.

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