Freezer Cooking Prep-Part 1

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When I teach classes on my “Crazy Couponing”, I am often asked how I save money on meat. Simple: I buy meat when it is the lowest price available…and I buy a lot of it! The next question usually is “What do you do with it/How do you keep it from going bad?”

Ahhh, it’s time to reveal my tricks. Now, I know this may not be for all of you. You may question my methods, but I promise, if you give this a try, you will have saved a ton of money and some sanity during the Dinner-time Madness. Pinky Promise.

Let’s review first…
The basic principles to couponing are:
-Match coupons with sale items for the lowest price
-Stockpile the items bought on sale to last you until it comes on sale again

The fact is that there aren’t many coupons out there for meat. So we should buy at the lowest price and stockpile!

My buy price for hamburger is $1.99/lb. When I see this, I run to the store and get meat. Lots. of. meat.
At this point you could break up your meat into meal size portions and stick it in the freezer and be done. You’d have to remember to pull it out of the freezer to thaw it out in time for dinner. If you are super organized and remember to do this pat your self on the back. I, on the other hand, have “mommy brain” and have been stuck with a PB&J more than once…when I was hoping for tacos.

My solution is to cook it and freeze it. This helps me get some of the prep-work done on my meals, which helps me stress less at mealtime. Plus, by doing the prep work in one big chunk, I save time when I’m trying to get dinner on the table with a hungry 2-year old hanging on my leg. Can I get an amen?

I know some of my friends have had questions about this, so I decided to take pictures and walk you step-by-step in my prep work routine. (Crystal, this goes out especially to you. Thanks for asking me to share my specifics!)

Ready? Set? Go!

Step One: Buy meat in bulk on sale ($1.99/lb is my buy price)

Sep Two: Brown your meat and drain the grease. I always brown my meat in 2 lb increments so that it will fit in the pan. It usually cooks up pretty quickly. I always place my strainer on a large bowl with a spout to drain my grease for easy clean up. (Mine is a very large measuring bowl from Pampered Chef).  I will later pour the grease into an empty spaghetti jar for disposal.

Step Three: Line a pan with paper towels to soak up an extra grease and place browned meat on the paper towels.
If you don’t have a cookie pan short enough to fit into your freezer you can always use 2 small round cake pans or even pie pans. (I have to pull these out when I do really large portions.)
Step Four: Place in the freezer on the top rack for 20-30 minutes or so. This is called Flash Freezing. You really just want it to cool off and freeze a little so that you can place it in your freezer bags. Flash freezing prevents the meat from freezing in a big chunk that is hard to thaw. Trust me you don’t want to skip this step!
Here are some variations I have done in my freezer:
Use a cookie cooling rack to make a “shelf” so you can stack your pans.
Go do some laundry, clean a little, check your email, etc. and then come back for the next step. (Or if you are me, you are preparing other foods for the freezer…stay tuned for my next post)
Step Five: Place your semi-frozen meat in freezer bag in meal-size portions. For me that is 1 lb per bag since most recipes use 1 lb. I will roll up my paper towel (almost like a burrito) and place the open end in the freezer bag. It should slide off into the bag pretty easily. Place the date on the bag so you know when you cooked it. Squeeze out the extra air and move the meat in the bag so that it lays flat. By doing this, you can stack up the freezer bags to use up your valuable freezer space wisely. Continue doing this until your meat is all cooked and ready to use!
When ready to use your meat you have 2 options:
  1. Pull out the meat and place it in the fridge to thaw…that is, if you don’t have “mommy brain” that day.

  2. Pull out the meat and place the bag in the microwave for a minute or so to thaw it.

Using this method I can have tacos on the table in 5 minutes. Seriously. Easy.
Now, I know some of you are thinking negative thoughts
-“That’s so much work”
-“Ugh, really Sara”
-“Does the meat taste funny?”
-blah, blah, blah
Let me tell you what I know….
-I can’t tell a difference one I’ve added in my seasonings
-It saves me all kinds of time in the end
-It saves me all kinds of money
So, give it a try. Let me know if you do and how it went. Feel free to ask questions any time. Come back tomorrow as I show you how I use the same principle for chicken!

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Comments

  1. I've done this with hamburg before especially for tacos. I'm not as good as I should be though and usually just freeze it. You can use the hamburg to make meatballs too, then cook and freeze. Thanks for the ideas!

  2. Thanks so much for posting your tips!!! I'll definitely be referring to this 🙂

    I did cook up some chicken in the crock pot the other day and froze it. The first batch we used was dry and tough though. Do you cook yours completely before freezing?

  3. @ Crysmi- How long did you cook the chicken? Mine has always turned out fine. I usually put my chicken in things like casseroles, BBQ, etc. (things with some sort of sauce.) I do but a little water in the crockpot.

  4. This is so awesome! Thanks! I am going to try it with my next batch of hambuger meat (which I will buy on sale, of course….):-)

  5. Michelle M. says:

    Yep, I do this with hamburger and with chicken. It's especially good for me as since my son's gone off to college, I'm cooking for one. Makes coming home from work so much easier.

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