As summer approaches and brings rising temperatures, I am always on the lookout for recipes that don’t take long to cook, or don’t require a lot of heat, so the house stays cooler. In south Texas, July and August are brutal, especially on the electric bill, so I try to do whatever possible to keep the temperature in the house down.
One way to use less electricity and keep the house cooler is to do some batch-cooking. Batch-cooking is when you cook a large portion of food or even double a recipe you are making so that you have enough leftovers to freeze for later. Some recipes are better than others for this, but most foods can be frozen and reheated later.
Some of my favorites to batch-cook are:
There are others that you can freeze as well, but you will want to separate some of the elements first. For example, double your taco meat the next time you make them for dinner and freeze half of the meat (you’ll want to chop fresh vegetables for the reheated meat). You can also freeze homemade sauces, or blanch your vegetables and freeze those as well.
For a few benefits of batch-cooking and freezing, check out THIS POST from Candy’s Farm House Pantry.
Know the Recipe
The first step to batch-cooking is to know your recipe. Make sure it’s something that will double (or triple) well when you make it. Verify that you have enough of all the ingredients before you start cooking. You also want to know the best way to reheat the meal. Soups and chili and sauces can usually be reheated quickly on the stovetop. Bread can be eaten as-is or toasted. Pancakes and waffles do best if they are heated in the toaster.
Remember that cooking times may vary. For example, if you are doubling a soup, it will take longer to come to a boil because there is a lot more liquid in the pot than usual. Make sure you take this into account and cook everything thoroughly.
Having the correct containers for freezing your foods is essential! You can purchase leftover dishes that are made for freezing, meaning they will keep the food good for much longer before it starts to get frostbite on it.
Look for containers that are either single-serving size or the right size to freeze enough for your family. You don’t want to freeze an entire pot of soup if your family doesn’t eat that much because then you will have leftovers again or you have to chip away at a frozen block of chili just to get out enough to thaw.
When filling your containers, always make sure you leave space at the top. Any liquid in the food will expand, and you don’t want the container to break. Trust me; it’s not fun to clean a broken glass jar from the freezer. I did this when I was making homemade baby food a few years ago, and it was a mess.
Label Your Containers
Always label your containers. Add a label with the food inside and the date that it was frozen. You can also put a “eat by” date on it as well. There are many ways you can label, and it will vary based on the type of containers you have. Since I use glass dishes, I write on it with a dry-erase marker since that will wash off when I am done. Sometimes it rubs off a bit, but I can usually tell what it is.
Another option is to get numbers put permanently on your containers, then keep a master list on the outside of the freezer. Either get vinyl numbers or use a permanent marker to mark the outside of the dish. I suggest marking the container itself, not the lid, to make sure they don’t get switched on accident.
Know How Long to Freeze
Some foods will stay good in the freezer much longer than others. Freezing stops bacterial growth, so in theory, it could be frozen indefinitely, but most foods will start to lose flavor and texture after being frozen for too long. Make sure to rotate the foods in your freezer, so the oldest ones are brought to the front to make sure they are used first. Here’s a handy chart I found on the suggested time for freezing various foods: