My freezer is currently stuffed to the brim with 14 dinners items, 2 different lunch items, and 3 breakfast things, plus the things I already had in there (frozen veggies and such) prior to my recent crazy freezer cooking day.

Not an inch of extra space!

Wednesday, a friend of mine mentioned she thought she’d do a large freezer cooking day soon, and since I had also been wanting to do one, we decided to cook together. Again, this was Wednesday. Thursday and Friday we did our shopping, most of the planning was done Wednesday night and Thursday, and we cooked Saturday. Cooking took twelve and a half hours (we had a snag with one of our packages of ground beef breaking and leaking all over the fridge, which took a while to clean) and was insane. But now, I have quite a bit of wisdom to pass on to those of you who are considering freezer cooking for yourself.

Not even space in the freezer door!

1. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, especially if it’s your first time. We we’re a bit too ambitious about the amount we could get done in a reasonable amount of time. If we were a bit more practiced, we probably could have completed everything in a much shorter amount of time, but we need to get the hang of planing menus, what prep work needs to be done, and the order to work on things.

2. Limit the amount of things you cook that require flash freezing. This was the main cause for our cooking time running so long. Flash freezing means you can’t put anything else in the freezer (so as not to squish what you’re flash freezing) and takes over an hour, so you’re working with limited space and time, even if you have a deep freezer.

3. Split the prep work evenly. We failed at this. Since we were cooking at my friend’s house, she took on much of the prep work (she volunteered!). Next time, one of us will prep the chicken and one of us will prep the ground beef. This way, everything will be done the day before, and we’ll be doing a similar amount of work.

4. Pick things that can be suited for different tastes, if cooking with someone else. My friend and I feed our families somewhat similarly. However, I like a greater variety of veggies than her family will eat, and I love onions (and force Hubby to eat them too) while her husband won’t touch them with a ten foot pole. All of our marinated things can have lots of veggies paired with them as sides, or rice or mac n’ cheese for pickier kids. I could also add onions to these dishes if I wanted, plus we were able to brown ground beef separately (mine with onions, hers without)  to tailor things a bit more to our tastes.

5. Prep labels with cooking instructions beforehand. I thought this was a bit silly to do in advance, since it would be very easy to write this info on your foil wrapped food, but this took a fair amount of time. If you’re looking to reduce your amount of time doing small, non-cooking related tasks, do this!

6. Parchment paper is your friend. This is another small thing, but I’m so glad we lined all of our cookie sheets with parchment paper. Since we were going through them like mad, this made clean up a LOT easier; just remove the parchment paper, rinse, tear off more parchment paper, and you’re ready to cook and deep freeze again!

7. Choose at least one meal you can cook straight from your freezer. Sure most of your meals are made in advance, but you still have to plan when you’ll eat them, defrost them, and cook side dishes. Some day, you’ll find yourself without a plan or food for your family – these meals are great for those days.

8. Print recipes you’ll be using, each on a separate piece of paper. We printed out all of the recipes, but since some of them overlapped onto a different page, it became more and more difficult to keep track of them all and keep them in order as the day went on.

9. Keep a list of the meals you cooked handy. My freezer is so stuffed, I can’t see some of the things I have in the back. Having a list will help me remember what I actually have in there!

10. Wear comfy clothes! You’re cooking all day, so you’ll get hot, dirty and possibly sweaty. Also, by about 6 or so, my feet and legs were tingly-feeling when they weren’t killing me – and I wore sneakers!

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Even though this was a crazy day, I think I’d be up for it again, in about two months. I’ve already been reaping the rewards of easier meal preparation. Have you done a freezer cooking day? Any tips to pass on to me for my next time? Any great recipes I have to make next time?

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