Monday, April 30, 2012

Freezer Cooking for a Larger Family

I am guest posting!  I am so excited that Bobbie has included me in her line-up for her maternity leave.  Please check out her wonderful blog over at A Vision to Remember.

With five kids that are all big eaters and only one picky eater (plus Mr. Right), I never felt that I could do the Freezer Cooking.  I was invited to supper swaps, but meals for a family of 4-6 just don't cut it with two teenagers to feed.  I could never justify the cost of paying for two meals in a swap either, so I stayed away.  That didn't mean I didn't want to freezer cook and have a plan, though.
Yes - this is really my freezer!  It has 18 meals here, plus 4 more in the door

Years ago, I had tried Once-A-Month cooking, but my husband told me I could never do it again!  Half of the meals, he hated and refused to eat and he didn't like that it took two whole days of my life away!  That all changed last summer, when a friend and I went to an Amish Auction and got 45 pounds of Asparagus between the two of us!  She sent me a recipe for Asparagus & Potato Fritata from "Fix, Freeze, Feast" by Kati Neville and Lindsay Tkacsik and I froze six of the fritatas, praying that my family would eat them.  They loved it, and I decided that I needed to figure out my own version of Freezer Cooking.

Here are the things that I learned about freezer cooking for a larger family:

    • Cook up as many meals as you have time and food for.  On a good day, I will cook 2-3 recipes of 2-4 meals each for a total of 4-8 extra meals. (Keep in mind the meals are for 8 people.)  I try to do this once or twice a week.
    • I freeze meals today, for next month's menu.  Then, I inventory my meals when I sit down to plan the next month's menus.
    • Find the right size of meals for your family.  I find if I make three meals for 4-6 servings, but split it into 2 bags, it is a good size.  This takes some trial and error.  We've been hungry after a meal and had to find things to add to it.
    • Plan to add side dishes.  This was really hard for me - I came from the one pot casserole family.  It is hard for me to add things to a casserole.  We now make a habit of putting out a pickles and bread at every meal, and try to have at least a vegetable and a fruit, too.  This cuts down on the main meal serving size a little and no one walks away hungry.
    • Tell the family they are your taste-testers for the first time on a recipe.  This will help try out new recipes in the freezer.
    • Mark your recipes with exactly how you multiplied it, divided it, and weather you liked it.  I give all recipes either good or excellent, (or "don't like"), but I write things like make 2 meals, or child #1 doesn't like, etc.
    • Freeze meals on a cookie sheet, so they are flat.
I wanted to share my version of Tater Tot Casserole for the Freezer.  Hope you enjoy!

Freezer Tater Tot Casserole

Makes 2 freezer meals with 6-8 servings each.
3 lb. ground turkey or beef
5 cans green beans, drained
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
2 cans cream of chicken soup
2 cans evaporated milk
2 Gallon bags

Day of cooking:
2 2lb. bags of tator tots (can substitute french fries)

Day of Freezing:

1.   Brown and season meat.  Drain.  Cool and put in marked gallon bags.

2.   Divide 5 cans of beans between the two bags.
3.   Mix 1 can of cream of mushroom soup, 1 can cream of chicken soup and 1 can of evaporated milk.
4.   Pour mixture over ingredients and mix together.
5.   Freeze on a flat sheet for use later.

Cooking Day:
  1. Thaw.
  2. Grease 9x13 pan.  Pour mix into pan and spread out.  Top with tator tots.  Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour.
  3. Enjoy!
This recipe only takes a few minutes to prepare for in the freezer and then get into the oven.  It is a great feeling to have dinner not only planned, but already made.  I will make up a bunch of burger recipes, including this one when I get burger on sale for the following month.

Please stop by and check out the rest of the scraps of my life over at Prairie Scraps.