Spring is upon us, bringing its bounty of fresh produce! It's the perfect time to talk about two of our favorite kitchen strategies: batch cooking and freezing. We're sharing ways to save time and money while keeping our families fed & healthy with these seasonal harvest recipes.

Why Batch Cooking and Freezing?

We. Love. Batch. Cooking! Why? Well, lots of reasons. One of the biggest being – we all have those mornings or evenings where we're running behind or just flat-out too tired to cook a scratch meal. So instead of resorting to expensive and unhealthy fast food or take-out, having pre-made recipes ready for you in the freezer in a life-saver! We've got a great Beginner's Batch Cooking Guide here!

Batch cooking is simply preparing meals in large quantities to be eaten over several days or stored for future use. When it comes to stocking a freezer for a rainy day, it's a game-changer!

  • Save Money: Buying in bulk and utilizing seasonal produce can reduce your grocery bills. Plus, you're less likely to opt for takeout on busy nights.
  • Save Time: Invest a few hours in the kitchen on a less busy day, and save countless hours throughout the week.
  • Eat Healthier: Stretch those seasonal produce options further into your meal plan, leading to nutritious meals for you and your family all year round.
  • Reduce Stress: Knowing you have a homemade meal ready to go can be a huge relief on those hectic evenings!

What Produce Is In Season During Spring?

Here's a list of common fruits and vegetables that peak in spring. Of course this can depend on the climate in your geographic location, but your grocery stores & farmer's markets should be well-stocked and well-priced on these items:

  • Asparagus
  • Artichoke
  • Spinach
  • Lettuces
  • Peas
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Radishes
  • Green onions
  • Rhubarb
  • Apricots
  • New Potatoes
  • Carrots

Stock up on these items while they are on sale, and pick out some ways to incorporate them into your menu plan. Shopping seasonally is one of the best grocery budget tips you can follow, which is why our 4-Volume Collection of Family Meal Plan Cookbooks is designed by season!

Batch Cooking Strategies

  1. Plan Ahead: Decide on a few recipes that use overlapping ingredients to minimize waste and simplify your cooking process.
  2. Prep in Stages: Wash and chop your veggies all at once. Cook grains or legumes in bulk. This way, assembling meals becomes a breeze.
  3. Cook Once, Eat Thrice (or more): Opt for recipes that freeze well. Soups, stews, casseroles, and baked goods are great candidates.
  4. Label Everything: Trust me, you won't remember what's in each container. Include the name and date to keep track of what you've got and to use older items first.

Freezing Tips

  • Cool It: Allow your food to cool completely before freezing. This prevents ice crystal formation, which can affect texture.
  • Portion Control: Freeze meals in the portion sizes you'll likely use them to avoid defrosting more than you need.
  • Air-Tight is Right: Use freezer bags, airtight containers, or vacuum-sealed bags to prevent freezer burn and maintain freshness. (We love a vacuum-sealer! If you need to learn more about how they work, we wrote a great blog post here.)
  • Flat Pack: For items in bags, lay them flat to freeze. Once frozen, you can stand them up like files for easy organization and space-saving.

Spring-Inspired Batch Recipes

Alright, we've covered the basics of why you should take advantage of batch cooking & freezing with all this spring's produce. Let's get into some recipe ideas!

1. Spinach & Feta Quiche: Make a couple of savory pies and freeze one for later. They're perfect for breakfast, lunch, or a light dinner. Use a homemade or store-bought crust, eggs, fresh spinach, feta, and any other seasonal veggies you'd like to throw in. It's a great Shelf Cooking recipe because you can utilize whatever produce you have on hand!

2. Strawberry Rhubarb Freezer Jam: We have a tasty (and EASY) freezer jam recipe here. Don't let juicy berries go to waste! Even if they've gone a little soft, they still make a great jam that tastes amazing over yogurt, pancakes, or even by itself. It freezes beautifully and is a wonderful way to use two of spring's early stars.

mason jar of mixed berry jam, from ShelfCooking.com

3. Asparagus and Pea Soup: This vibrant, creamy soup is spring in a bowl. It's dairy-free, relying on potatoes for its smooth texture. Cool completely and freeze in portions for a quick and healthy meal.

4. Veggie-Packed Pasta Sauce: Sautee any combination of spring vegetables you have on hand (think carrots, green onions, spinach) and simmer with crushed tomatoes and herbs. We have a simple from-scratch pasta sauce recipe here to use as your base. Serve it fresh over pasta, or freeze for future meals. It's a versatile way to sneak in those veggies for the kiddos!

Tomato paste substitute in a jar next to tomatoes and parsley, from Shelf Cooking

If you're new to batch cooking and freezing, start small and don't overwhelm yourself. Even doubling a recipe and freezing half is a step in the right direction.

Once you see what a life-saver it can be, come back for more of our great freezer-friendly recipes and make-ahead meal ideas! We've got lots of 'em and we're always adding more!

Here's to a season of fresh flavors, healthy eating, and a bit more time to enjoy those beautiful spring evenings!