One hundred fifty years ago, our ancestors spent most of the summer growing their crops and then preserving the bounty so they could survive the winter. Have a relaxing, lazy summer, and they could die of starvation during the winter. Now, we don’t have to worry much about preserving our food; there are grocery stores nearby, and we can buy whatever we need.
However, if you would like to capture produce at the peak of ripeness as well as eat locally, in season without terrorizing your wallet, you may want to mimic our ancestors and preserve some of the summer’s bounty for the winter.
Yes, you could simply dice up your fresh veggies and freeze them, but if you take the time to cook them in meals now, you not only preserve the food but also save yourself the time you would spend cooking later.
We subscribed to two CSA shares this year  which means we sometimes have more produce than we can use. From last week’s delivery from just one of the CSAs, I was able to make and freeze the following:
- Minestrone Soup  (2 family meal size batches plus 2 single serving lunches for myself)
- Healthy Bean Soup with Kale  (1 family size batch)
- Harvard Beets  (1 family size side dish)
Come fall, not only will we be eating organic, local produce, but I can take the night off from cooking. I already have 3 meals made for my family. If I can do this every week for the next 18 weeks of our CSA delivery, I will have 54 meals made in the freezer. That is almost 8 weeks of dinners for my family.
Freezer Cooking Tips
If you would like to buy extra produce now, when it is cheaper and more readily available so you can freeze some meals in advance, consider the following tips:
- Pick recipes that are specifically for freezer cooking. Not every meal can be frozen and taste edible when it comes out of the freezer. A great place to look for freezer cooking recipes is food.com. Simply type in OAMC (stands for once a month cooking), and you will find over 600 recipes specifically designed for freezer cooking.
- Invest in quality freezer bags. Spend the money to buy heavy duty freezer bags to keep your food fresher longer. Also, buy a permanent marker to label the bag with the name of the recipe and the date you made it as well as any special instructions (such as to add pasta when you reheat).
- Freeze the food flat. If you are making foods like soups, release as much air as possible before sealing, and then freeze flat on a cookie sheet. You will be able to stack your freezer meals to maximize freezer space.
- Make a chart so you don’t forget what you have. Keep a running list of the meals you have put in the freezer so you don’t forget any. You will want to eat most freezer meals within 3 to 9 months, depending on the ingredients.
You can save yourself money and time by doing some work like our ancestors and preserving some of the summer harvest for enjoyment later in the year.
Do you have any favorite freezer cooking meals?