Cook Fresh or Freeze in Bulk?

cooking in bulk and freezing or cooking freshWhich is better—cooking each meal fresh, or cooking in bulk and freezing for future meals? Cooking in bulk is generally viewed as more efficient. However, there are important advantages to cooking fresh.

Keep in mind that the options are not mutually exclusive. You can prepares some things in bulk, like rice, sauce or chicken stock, to use as part of a fresh meal.

In the table below, I analyze the considerations for each method.

Cooking Fresh

Cooking and Freezing in Bulk

Time

Take out ingredients, measure them and cook each time. Deal with the ingredients and cooking utensils only once.
Clean up each time. Clean up once for several meals.
Smaller block of time required for preparation. Allow larger block of preparation time, which may be difficult with small children underfoot.
Heat up one time only. Take into account defrosting and reheating time.
Time-saving appliances, like food processors, may not be worth the trouble. It pays to take out, operate and clean time-saving appliances.

Flavor

Fresh tastes best! But some dishes like those with beans or some marinated salads improve after a day or two in the refrigerator. Freezing sacrifices some nutrients and flavor.

Safety

No time for food to spoil. Food can gather bacteria if not put away promptly, and large quantities take longer to cool off. After defrosting food deteriorates more rapidly.

Leftovers

Can be refrigerated or frozen, as desired. Cooked foods that have been defrosted should not be refrozen.

Convenience

An experienced cook can usually pull one meal together with food on hand. Needs more advanced planning for shopping.
Use family-sized cooking and storage utensils. May need to own larger pots or extra baking utensils and  more storage containers.
Likely to have utensils on hand. May need to rely more on disposables for cooking, baking and wrapping.

Space

No need to worry about storage space, as most gets eaten right away. Must have room available in freezer.

Energy Usage

Energy is used each time a meal is cooked from scratch. Filling up oven or larger pot with several items usually saves energy, but freezing adds to energy use as does reheating the food. Always defrost in refrigerator for safety and efficiency.

Pitfalls

Last-minute emergencies, running out of ingredients. Forgetting to defrost, or miscalculation of defrost/reheating times, inexperience when cooking large quantities lead to mistakes.

You may also enjoy:

My Cooking Spreadsheet

Do You Admit to Guests that the Food Isn’t Great?

Ripening Sourdough: Images at Various Stages

Photo: achichi

Comments

  1. I’m staring at your post thinking – how could one make this into a jazzy infographic? You could have the fresh on one side as one set of arguments, and the frozen on the other.

    In my experience, some foods are better than others at being frozen. Chicken soup, for example, I love to have in my freezer as backup when there’s no time to make a soup, though it does take time to defrost so it can even fit into a pot for cooking.

    I once read that frozen vegetables may actually have more nutrients than fresh, because the nutrients have been “locked in.”

  2. I would add for time/convenience:
    fresh – takes time to prepare each meal
    frozen – can organise home-cooked meal very quickly
    In our house, bolognaise is always bulk cooked. If there’s a day we don’t come home till late, that’s on the menu. The spaghetti doesn’t take long to cook and, while it’s cooking, you’re busy tidying, laying the table etc and not stuck in the kitchen.

    • Julie, I feel the fresh part was included under the “time,” and the frozen was understood–but I’ll look at it again another time. I agree that sauces are good, and it’s important to have something in the freezer for emergencies so as not to rely on take-out.

  3. Faye Levy says:

    I find it useful to cook larger quantities of foods that take long to cook such as dried beans and to keep them in the freezer. It also helps to cook such foods when the weather is not too hot, because in the summer you don’t feel like having something simmering for hours.

  4. I prefer to cook fresh food but I admit that I am pleased when I find something ready in the freezer.

  5. I do a combination of the two. I make my soups, kugels and bread in bulk, which I find helpful for dinner prep (at least three times a month is a “frozen” dinner). It also really helps with making Shabbos. Everything else is made fresh.

    Love the chart!

  6. Faye Levy says:

    Just wanted to add that I really enjoyed reading your post and am glad to see you’re back posting on Cooking Manager. I missed you.

    • Thank you so much, Faye. As you can see I’m still not completely back into the swing of things but I hope to get there.

  7. I think the advantage of frozen over fresh is that veggies are usually cooked before they are frozen. It’s the pre-freezing cooking (blanching or whatever) that kills an enzyme which contributes to rotting.

    Great posting btw.

    I’ve never successfully frozen/reheated/served, but I’m thinking now I was too ambitious and should just stick with frozen meal parts (chicken soup, beans, and bolognese sauce or meatballs). I do find shabbos prep becomes infinitely easier if I just have to pull the soup out of the freezer and that’s just one soup!

    I second Faye’s comment. This is one of my favorite blogs.

    • tdr, thanks so much! The problem of the enzyme is solved when you use fresh vegetables–it depends on the season and where you live I guess.

  8. mommymommymommy says:

    When I worked full-time, my Nana would make me all of my favorite Jewish grandma foods for the freezer so I could eat them for months after her summer visit from Florida. I would then cook certain foods, like meatballs, in bulk, because it was so easy just to defrost them and cook some pasta.

    Now that I am home full-time, I get my kids to help in the kitchen for many meals. They love it and learn valuable skills in the process, and we spend time together to boot. I do freeze extras, like leftover taco meat, for quick meals. But I cook every day because I can.

    • mommyx3: Thanks for your visit. I’m sure my mother had little in her freezer except for meat and Empire blintzes.

  9. BookishIma says:

    I’m glad you posted this – I always feel like maybe life would be easier if I buckled down and froze ahead, but I find that I just don’t like the taste of frozen and reheated food. I do make and freeze meal components, like you said, and of course we reheat leftovers, but we don’t really eat whole defrosted meals. Also, our freezer is fairly small. I like to buy our meat in bulk from higher-quality sources so that takes precedence.

    • Bookish Ima–I think that is why I posted this. I also feel the need to “defend” myself for not freezing so much.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Cook some of the hot dishes close to serving time, so they won’t need refrigeration at all (except for the leftovers). […]

%d bloggers like this: