Jul 012007

Cookin’ at the Keyboard with Shelley

Our family at Sarah's high school graduation Aundra-11, Shelley, Gaylen, Megan-5, Sarah-18, Lauren-15, Anicia-11

Our family at Sarah’s high school graduation
Aundra-11, Shelley, Gaylen, Megan-5, Sarah-18, Lauren-15, Anicia-11

I started freezer cooking when Sarah was nine years old, and now she’s a high school graduate. The last few months have been packed with all the activity and emotions of this significant milestone. Many times I found myself in the middle of a task, yet lost in thought as I recalled the memories of my little girl, and the only thing that brought me back to the task at hand was my need for a tissue.

As our family has changed through the years, so has my approach to freezer cooking. In the April issue of Carol’s newsletter, she replied to Danielle’s questions:

“I’d like to know how often you use your freezer meals! Do you eat from the freezer every night, just 5 times a week, or for some lunches and dinners? Do you incorporate one fresh from scratch meal a week or a leftover night? Do you ever get tired of the same meals during your menu session and just never get to them?”

In addition to answering these questions, I will also described how I’ve made use of the Advantage Cooking software.


Situation: Starting to home school; Sarah in 3rd grade; Lauren in 1st grade; the twins were 18 months; cooked 30 meals at a time.
Freezer meals: 5-6 dinners/week and 3-4 lunches/week
Scratch recipes: absolutely not!
Leftovers: the kids looked forward to “clean out the frig” night once a week; I would make fresh muffins to fill in the gaps.
Tired of meals? life demanded that we not ask that question; just eat it!
Advantage Cooking: I didn’t need it yet because I used the recipes and grocery lists from the cooking plans that I selected.


Situation: Freezer cooking was working so well, I started to cook for 4 months at a time, using my own recipes. I also developed the SANE approach (Some Assembly Needed Eventually). By freezing only the time-consuming portion of each recipe, I could put dinner on the table, save on freezer space, and reduce the initial cash investment at the grocery store.
Scratch recipes: only to test new recipes that I wanted to add to the rotation.
Tired of meals? Over time, the girls’ tastes did change. This required me to drop some of the meals from my cooking plan. Although I resisted retiring these recipes, it wasn’t worth making 4x the recipe and convincing them to eat it.
Advantage Cooking: I desperately needed help of some kind. It was taking a minimum of 4 hours to select recipes and consolidate all of the ingredients into one grocery list. I used a spreadsheet program on my computer to help, but it was easy to mess up the formulas, which made me uncertain of my totals. This is when my husband, Gaylen, developed the Advantage Cooking program. What a relief!



Situation: We started to purchase locally raised beef and chicken from friends. The meat was already frozen when it arrived at my house, which made it difficult for me to decide to thaw, cook, and refreeze just to have freezer meals available.
Freezer meals: down to 4 meals from the freezer a week.
Advantage Cooking: I discovered how useful the software is for all my cooking and grocery shopping, whether or not I’ll be freezing it.



Situation: I wanted to train our older daughters to cook from scratch and to put a hot meal (main dish, salad, and vegetable) on the table at dinner.
Freezer meals: we used as little as 2 meals a week.
Scratch recipes: new recipes were a great way to teach them to cook. We used a lot of the recipes from the newsletter.
Advantage Cooking: The “import” feature of the software was a life saver! Even though we were trying new scratch recipes, I could easily add them to my database and include the ingredients in my grocery report.



Situation: My husband went on a low-carb diet.
Advantage Cooking: The new “recipe category” filter in the software make it easy to cook for him. I was able to separate all the low-carb recipes and freezer cook what I could.



Situation: Our family has been busy for long seasons of time in the last couple of years. It’s been difficult to carve out even a couple of days to stock the freezer like I used to, even though the busy schedule creates the need for freezer meals. My latest approach has been to do mini-cooking sessions when I have a window of time and to stock the freezer with the building blocks for a meal, e.g. cooked ground beef and diced chicken, shredded beef, marinades, grated cheese, and meals for ministry and hospitality.
Advantage Cooking: I have to say it again. Making a grocery list with the software is so easy!



Situation: Cousin Camp is at our house this summer. We’re going to spend a week camping out in the backyard, pretending we are pioneers on the Oregon Trail, charting our travels from Independence, Missouri to Oregon City, Oregon (where we live). I don’t expect to have much time to cook, so I’m planning a cooking day to freeze breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner, and desserts for the week.

Recipe Section

Our family will be camping next weekend. I don’t get too creative when it comes to food at camp. We repeat the same basic meals every time. All the meals are planned out and entered in Advantage Cooking. All I do is create a cooking day and select all my camp meals and my grocery list is ready to go! Note: even though these files look like recipes, they’re actually meal plans. Examine them more closely and you’ll get the idea.

Meal Plans for Camp

This “recipe” includes all the items needed to serve a pancake breakfast for six. The ingredients include pancake mix, blueberries, butter, syrup, eggs, ham, and orange juice.

Import the “Camp Breakfast – Pancakes” recipe/meal plan.

This “recipe” includes all the items for lunch. The ingredients include deli rolls, ham, turkey, cheese, lettuce, cookies, chips, and fruit. Note: the mayo, mustard, and pickles are included in the “Camping Miscellaneous” recipe below.

Import the “Camp Lunch – Deli Sandwiches” recipe/meal plan.

This “recipe” includes all the items for dinner. The ingredients include buns, ground beef patties, worcestershire sauce, steak seasoning, cheese, sweet onion, chips, and fruit.

Import the “Camp Dinner – Burgers” recipe/meal plan.

This “recipe” includes all the food items we consume at camp outside of meals, as well as some of the staples for other meals. The ingredients include graham crackers, chocolate bars, marshmallows, hot chocolate mix, apple cider packets, biscuit dough (for roasting), salt, pepper, ketchup, mustard, pickles, and relish. The recipe serves our family for one day at camp.

Import the “Camping Miscellaneous” recipe/meal plan.

CampBreakfastSandwichesCamp Breakfast Sandwiches
A friend of mine serves these breakfast sandwiches to her family every year when they camp. I’m planning to add them to our menu this summer. Thanks, Jennifer, for the recipe and the picture!

Software Suggestions

Be Creative!

Import the files above, and use them as examples to create your own meal plans. If your family doesn’t camp, you can use them when hosting company for the weekend or entertaining for a holiday.

As the seasons of life change in your household, experiment with the software. The hardest thing to do is actually sit down at your computer and get it working for you. Decide to do the hard things. Be creative.You’ll feel good when you’re done!

  Download a trial version of the software! It’s free!

Closing Comments from Shelley

You will hear from our second daughter, Lauren, in my next newsletter. I’m looking forward to what she has to say!

Happy summer!

Carol Santee

Carol is the co-author of the Big Book of Freezer Cooking and the author of 30 Day Gourmet’s Slow Cooker Freezer Favorites, Freezer Lunches To Go and Healthy Freezer Cooking eBooks. She is a computer information specialist and works for a computer software company.

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