The Life-Changing Magic of Freezer Cooking

It’s a Saturday mid-March. The birds are chirping outside our kitchen window under our mostly clean sink and countertop. We’ve just enjoyed some warm carb-friendly breakfast muffins: sausage, egg, and cheese. Because we live in Texas, sometimes we top them with salsa.

In a glorious epiphany, I realize no one in this family has done any substantial cooking since early January. Yet we enjoy hot meals thrice daily without eating out. This was the goal when, with our first child’s arrival imminent, we decided to start freezer meals about six months ago. While the experiment has succeeded, I could not have imagined how much it would improve our daily quality of existence.

In the 21st century, cooking meals daily often inspires great angst and vicious debate (read the comments for this post on the food blog Summer Tomato), particularly amongst women, who’ve historically been stuck with this tiresome, never-ending chore. At our house we don’t worry with the greater sociological conundrum, choosing to concern ourselves with the basics: eating three meals a day while keeping cost and nutrition in mind.

The result? Daily meal preparation seldom lasts longer than it takes to heat something up.

Breakfast is the muffins mentioned above or my mother-in-law’s breakfast casserole, which freezes well and is among a variety of breakfast casseroles fit for freezing. (We’ve had as many as eight in our freezer at once!)

Lunch and dinner menus are interchangeable but consist of a revolving repertoire of freezer casseroles or quick-to-prepare combos like chicken Caesar salads or brats with frozen broccoli.

My husband and I possess limited cooking skills, but we’ve found several recipes we like online. While our diet is mostly low carb, there’s a website for most any type of freezer meal you could desire.

Here are some recipes we’ll use over and over:

• Jodie Fitz’s Thai Chicken Curry
• Kalyn’s Kitchen Green Chile Mock Chicken Enchiladas
• Kalyn’s Kitchen Alice Springs Chicken Casserole
• 24/7 Low Carb Diner Chicken and Broccoli Casserole
• BBC Good Food Thai Meatball Curry
• Food.com’s Just Like Loaded Baked Potatoes Casserole
• Our friend Jeff’s chili recipe

If desired, pair with a salad and enjoy!

For work, we add in easy snacks like nuts, cherry tomatoes, carrots, celery, and cheese cubes.

We have had big “cook days” in September and then again on New Year’s Day. Sometimes we add to our freezer stash between cook days if we want to try a new recipe or have some down time, like our recent snow days.

Best freezer meal moment so far? Some friends came for an unexpected visit, and we were able to steam some rice and offer two types of curry dishes! They told us not to go to any trouble. Don’t worry, dear ones.

Disasters encountered on our freezer cooking endeavor have been limited to the purchase of a too-hot variety of Hatch chilies and a terrible-tasting brand of frozen broccoli. We dread those casseroles with that broccoli, and four more await us in the deep freeze.

Beyond a point, this regimen does not accommodate picky eaters. I have met people whose family members (usually the children or husband) will not eat certain common items, like green vegetables or casseroles. Freezer meals bring the “What’s for dinner?” discussion many families engage in to a halt, which leads to more joyful meals. My husband and I plan the meal list together, so whatever comes out of the freezer any given day is something we are both okay with.

As I tried a couple of new recipes this week, I realized that divorcing cooking from the job of preparing the next needed meal makes spending time in the kitchen more enjoyable. A creative enterprise as opposed to work. By the way, the beef-cabbage stir fry and smoked Gouda cauliflower turned out pretty well.

As Annie Dillard observed in The Writing Life, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” I’d rather spend my days having a pleasant conversation over dinner, relaxing in the living room or on our front porch, or listening to the birds chirp than scrambling to get dinner on the table.

Wouldn’t you?

 

My Smoked Gouda Cauliflower Casserole from Buttoni's Low Carb Recipes

My Smoked Gouda Cauliflower from Buttoni’s Low Carb Recipes