If you didn’t have to spend any time cooking dinner every night, imagine what you could do instead.
Stephanie Brandt Cornais knew her answer: She craved more time for gardening and yoga. And, as of November 2009, she also needed the time to take care of her daughter Penelope, who was born with spinal alignment and nursing problems that required Cornais to take her to multiple medical visits each week.
So Cornais cooked up a way to get that room to breathe: She figured out how to prepare meals for a whole month at a time, in just a few hours.
Because of her daughter’s health issues, Cornais decided not to return to work after having the baby. But she’s made the most of that time at home. She now authors the blog Mama and Baby Love and has since published an eCookbook, “From Your Freezer to Your Family: Slow Cooker Freezer Recipes.”
We caught up with her for tips on how we, too, could get by with just a few hours of cooking each month.
What motivated you to start cooking ahead?
When I decided to stay home with my daughter, I wanted to figure out a way to make a homemade, made-from-scratch, “real food” dinner every night. It seemed so overwhelming and unattainable, other than for a Sunday dinner when I had time to be in the kitchen for a couple of hours.
When Penelope was about 5 months old, I started doing bulk cooking days and freezing what I made. It produced a large variety and quantity of meals but was exhausting.
Penelope was about 9 months old when I switched to slow cooker freezer meals. This method is perfect for someone who doesn’t know how to cook! These recipes only require assembly, and no actual cooking. You just need one day in which you have some time, so you can chop vegetables. By using your slow cooker, you’re not in the kitchen actually cooking. When you’re done, you just freeze it all.
How have you fine-tuned the process to fit your life?
I save time by assembling all my ingredients at once—chopping and so forth—and freezing them. Then, when I’m ready to make a given recipe, all I have to do is dump my bag of pre-chopped items into the slow cooker. I use six reusable, gallon-sized freezer bags to store my ingredients, which makes three recipes. Some people like to assemble enough for even more recipes at a time, but I prefer prepping only three recipes at once, so I don’t need to dedicate the whole day to assembling ingredients, but I’ve made enough that I always have a good rotation and something new to pull out of the freezer.
When I’m ready to make a recipe, I just toss the pre-chopped ingredients in the slow cooker, so they essentially cook themselves!