Kate Hall
Home Cooking Consultant
and
Founder of...
The Full Freezer
My Easy Cooking Method;
from the planning
 to the shopping,
from the cooking,
to the cleaning up!
The Full Freezer Podcast
Discussing all things batch and freezer cooking, this is my journey to a calmer life 
(or at least calmer dinner time). 

I share tips and tricks, as well as insights into how freezer cooking has become a vital part of my survival as a working mum of two, and how others have made it work for them!
Sources: 
*https://www.independent.co.uk/extras/lifestyle/british-people-cooking-recipes-kitchen-skills-food-dishes-survey-a8409586.html
**http://science.unctv.org/content/reportersblog/choices
Can't Plan, won't Plan...

How One Momma Cooks Up a Storm Every Night, 
Without A Meal Plan Ever in Sight!

I have always had great admiration for people that can 'Meal Plan'. Those that sit down on a Sunday and decide 'right, this is what we're having for dinner this week'. I can't help but wonder if they actually look forward to eating the meals each night, or whether they just do it because they know that the alternative would be a stress-fuelled panic, or another night of fish fingers and chips slung in the oven. 

If you are anything like me, you may have tried meal planning, and failed horribly. Buying in ingredients and watching them go off, or actually making a meal, but really not fancying it when the time came to eat it. I don't really think it's our fault - everyone is so busy these days, by the time dinner rolls around, the thought of prepping, cooking AND tidying up afterwards is enough to put anyone off it. I quite simply, Can't Plan, and Won't Plan. 

I went through what I thought was a really organised phase of 'batch cooking' where I would fill the freezer with ten or so different types of meals, with six to eight portions of each. The problem was, it took a lot of planning, and a lot of effort cooking, and I still got bored with what I had to hand! 

Now you may be thinking, blimey, ten or so different meals! I only know how to cook three different things (according to a survey*, one in four of us only know how to cook three recipes, so if that's the case, you're really not alone!). But I only really 'knew' how to cook three or four of those dishes. The others I spent ages going back and forth through the recipes and getting confused with what I was doing. This is why I have been so focused on finding another way. On banishing complicated recipes and separating the prep from the cooking, so that I can save my energy for enjoying my food. 

Why am I doing this? Well, you can check out the story of how The Full Freezer came about below, but part of my frustration over the last few years has been how much money I have wasted on 'sling in the oven meals', which made me 'feel' like I was cooking, but without me having to think, or do too much washing up

I hate to think how much I spent on sweet potato wedges which I could have made quite easily myself (seriously, you just cut it up boil for five minutes then coat and chuck them in the oven. You can even make them in advance and cook them from frozen!). Back then, I thought that I was 'saving time', but the reality was that I was wasting ten minutes every day 'popping' in to pick something up for dinner. Over two years, I lost around five days standing in a check out queue! 

The bottom line is that Supermarkets know that we're too knackered to cook, but that we like to feel like we have. It's not a surprise really that the range of ready to cook meals are so huge, or that ready meals are increasingly branded as 'luxury' items. By the time we 'pop in' to pick up dinner, we will have made nearly 35,000 decisions that day**. It's no wonder that we want something quick and easy! So Supermarkets are cashing in on our weakness. Some meals cost three or four times what they could be made for at home, and they never taste anywhere near as good. 

So what I have worked to develop is a system to overhaul my bad habits and instil good ones. This process saves time, saves money, wastes less food and makes you feel flipping amazing because it allows you to eat something different EVERY night (if you so choose), without having to stress, or fight with an enormous stack of post cooking cleaning up. The key is using your Freezer effectively and using my secret technique to increase your meal variety without getting overwhelmed. 

Want to know more? Simply sign up below...

Kate xx
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The Full Freezer Challenge

How We Eat A Different Meal Every Night, 
Without Planning Ahead or Using Ready Meals 

This last year, I have been on my second round of maternity leave. As my return to work crept closer, I started to try and figure out a way to keep on top of everything at home. I really wanted to be able to provide my family with good home cooked meals every night so that I wouldn't have to always rely on ready meals and convenience food. I once calculated that over the next 16 years I would be preparing my family nearly 6,000 dinners (not to mentions breakfasts and lunches) and to be honest, just the thought of that sent me into a tailspin!

I wanted to be able to cook a variety of meals that we would enjoy and lay the foundations to cook interesting meals for my kids as they grew older.

The thing is, I was finding it difficult to plan what meals we should eat, buy the food, and cook it. Every night was a stressful panic, trying to figure out what to feed everyone, especially when I was preparing different meals (one for a weaning baby, one for a pre-schooler and then another meal for me and my husband when he got home from work).

To make things worse, I felt terrible because my kids weren’t getting the balanced and varied diet that they should be. I felt even worse about the situation because I was spending a fortune on food; money which we could have spent doing more together as a family. I felt like crying.

The problem was that I kept buying food and intending to cook up some delicious meal, but I always had so much to do I would run out of time. This meant I would waste the decent fresh food that I had bought, and then have to rely on processed convenience foods.

Then, as if by chance, something amazing happened... it hit me like a bolt of lightning, my approach to batch cooking was flawedI was filling my freezer with big batches of the same sorts of cooked meals (such as big portions of chilli, cottage pie, lasagne… you get the picture).

I actually needed to prepare and freeze a variety of uncooked dishes instead so that there would always be something tempting on hand.

As a result I pulled together as much inspiration that I could from every source available and I completely geeked out on all things 'freezer' - learning about different storage solutions, freezing techniques and how to not poison everyone!

My plan was to start converting recipes into ‘prep and freeze’ dinners, which didn’t require any cooking before the meal went into the freezer.  I spent hours online, researching different recipes, finding inspiration at every turn. I learnt about how to freeze food safely, and what I could and couldn’t freeze. 

After I did that, I found that I had an endless supply of meal ideas, was wasting less food and didn’t feel quite so stressed about dinner anymore.

Suddenly, I was cooking things that I would never have even considered making in the past, especially not on a busy week night. I was also freezing left over ingredients and storing them correctly - substantially reducing our food wastage. 

The secret to being able to provide my family with good home cooked meals every night was to properly utilise my freezer.

But there was still a problem...

Despite having been using my freezer for ‘batch’ cooking for years, I hadn’t found a good way to keep track of what I had in stock. I would make a list and stick it to the freezer, but it would be messy to update. I would keep a spreadsheet or write in a note on my phone, but I would forget to remove dishes when we ate them.

I ended up getting so frustrated that I knew I needed a better solution. I bought a laminator and created my own ‘wipe-clean’ freezer inventory, which I keep stuck up in my kitchen. Because I can see it, I remember to update it, and because it is easy to amend, I actually do it!

After months of research, testing and development, I combined what I had learnt, to develop an all-encompassing approach to cooking (from the planning, to the shopping, the cooking, to the clearing up) and implemented it fully in my own home.

I chose to call it “The Full Freezer Challenge” as I knew I needed to push myself to make a fundamental change to how I approached mealtimes. I am never going to be a person that meal plans, but I can be a person that always has something delicious on hand.

I thought if I could create something that would make it possible to waste less food, provide my family with a greater variety of meals, and reduce the stress on me at mealtimes, then, I’d be really happy.  

I can now stock my freezer with minimal effort, provide my family with a wide variety of different meals, and save time and money as a result.  

I am now starting to share The Full Freezer Challenge with others.

It is early days, but I’m already seeing some wonderful feedback from clients…

Claire says “I can see how this might become a tad addictive. I made [my husband] choose something for dinner we could make extra of so I could freeze some!”

Jan says “You’ve got me on a mission! My husband hasn’t eaten this well in years, and I’m actually enjoying cooking again!”

Sarah says “I haven’t used my freezer in 10 years, so your advice is really appreciated. I can’t wait to get cooking it’s going to save me so much time in the evenings!”

After creating The Full Freezer Challenge, I was not only able to serve up a different meal every night (and even different things to different family members at different times!), I’ve also been able to stop wasting so much food, because anything that can be frozen, gets frozen. 

I save money not having to buy more food, and also time as I don’t have to pop to the shops so often.

And in the end, all of this means I’m now able to spend more time playing with my kids, hanging out with my husband and even taking the occasional five minutes to myself!
Good Food Doesn't fix everything, 
but it sure does help
~ Kate Hall ~
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