Thanks for the great questions this week!
Here are a few for everyone to learn from, feel free to comment if you have extra insight to add!
Q: How do you budget THIS month for NEXT months freezer meals...I see how you would NEXT month for the following, but that initial start up cost...it's very daunting to us!!
A: For the initial start up cost, I would say to pick a meal that has few/cheap ingredients.Jen's Spicy Sausage Pasta is an inexpensive meal you could make cheaply. Another idea is to start with a small co-op group. It will definitely be cheaper to cook 4 meals instead of 8.
Q: I don't know what to cook BEFORE I freeze vs leaving it raw to bake at a later date. Also, do you always have to thaw it before baking? How do you know whether to thaw or bake frozen?
A: Most things can be cooked before you freeze, but like Jen said you are trying to save yourself time- so only cook what you have to (like browning your meats or cooking veggies).
I would suggest thawing things as best you can before baking to cut down on cooking time. Baking something frozen would take at least twice the amount of time to bake and it may not cook evenly.
Q: My question - how long do meals stay good in the freezer? Does it depend on the ingredients? Are we talking weeks here, or months?
A: soup- 4 months
cooked meats- 2 months
casseroles- 3 months
Q: I would love to make individual pot pies to freeze. I've found little tins. But I'm unsure of cook times, if they would need to thaw etc. Has anyone tried this before? If so I'd love to hear what worked/didn't work for you.
I would say to definitely give it a try. I wouldn't think the mini pot pies would HAVE to be thawed, but the cooking time will vary greatly if they are still frozen. You may take your cue from pre-made pot pies. I think the frozen potpies that you cook frozen take around 45 minutes to bake.Try it out once and just keep an eye on them. Let us know how it goes!
Q: Co-op Question: Is there a "pool" of recipes the group chooses from in order to satisfy all tastes? I would hate to get back meals in a swap that my family wouldn't eat. I'm afraid of losing money on that. How would it be handled?
In our co-op we share a couple of EASY things that could be deleted from a recipe that our family may not like- i.e. mushrooms and onions. You don't want to give your co-op group a long list of things to not include b/c it would be too hard to find a meal to satisfy all of those needs. You will definitely want to be in a co-op group with others that cook and eat similar things as your family. This will help a lot! Jen did recommend to me, however, that sometimes it is a GREAT thing to try new recipes that you would never have made for your family. It could be a great experience for you!