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Freezer Meals

Feb
6

Post by community member:

Yesterday was the culmination of a four-month plan to have a freezer meal stock up party. I have been an adherent meal freezer for about two years now and have read countless books, articles, and recommendations for one day mass cooking. I have, however, never had the guts, motivation, or willpower to actually pull off a mass cooking day. The planning began approximately 120 days ago with my sister-in-law when we decided to spend one day preparing 10 meals for our patiently waiting freezers.


As with many projects the idea kept getting pushed back one more week, and one more week again. Finally, with no more weeks to go (my SIL was due to have a baby) it was decided that NOW was the time.

The first step in preparing for the big day was to find a variety of recipes. Next was to enter the recipes into a spreadsheet for easy calculation of a grocery list for multiple families. The shopping came next and finally the work began.

I wanted an assortment of chicken, beef, and pork recipes along with a collection of soups (3), casseroles (4), and prepared meats (3). The ten recipes I chose were:

Taco Soup
Italian Sausage Soup w/ Tortellini
Lasagna
Wild Rice Chicken
Wild Rice Chicken Soup
Stroganoff Meatballs
Tator Tot Casserole
Upside Down Fettuccini Pie
Hawaiian Pork
Chicken Enchiladas

Because different recipes call for ingredients in different types of measurements (one may call for 1/4 cup butter while another calls for 4 tablespoons of butter), I converted all the measurements into the same measuring type. This made it possible to add the quantities together for a more accurate grocery list.

Grocery-List-1

Mass cooking is much more fun if you have a friend, or two, or three, to work with you. After all, if you are going to be in the kitchen all day you may as well have some good conversation to go with it. So, I put an option on the grocery list to enter the number of families you will be cooking for. The grocery list automatically recalculates the items you need.

Picture1

I have a fairly well-stocked food storage, so it seemed logical to shop from there as well. I marked all the items on my grocery list purple if they could be found in the pantry. Even though I did use quite a bit of food storage, I was still amazed to see that my grocery bill was only 150 dollars. We prepared 20 meals (10 for each of two families) which made the total price per meal ONLY $7.50 and that INCLUDES the cost of somewhat expensive foil casserole dishes. I almost wish I would have purchased EVERYTHING just to see what the overall price would be. Maybe next time!

The cooking began at 11 a.m. All 20 meals were in the freezer by 5 p.m. In six hours we prepared 10 meals a piece, making our average time per meal about 36 minutes. This time included all preparations and cleanup, as well as recurrent suspensions to feed and care for six small children.

After a surprisingly quick trip to the grocery store, and a few trips to the basement storage room, I was ready! I laid all the food out on the kitchen table so it was all handy and ready for the stock pot.

Picture2

The stove was FULL almost all day!

Picture3

As each meal was completed it was bagged and labeled, ready for the freezer.

Picture4

One of the biggest challenges we ran into was cooling the food quickly enough to put it in bags. Luckily, it was only about 25 degrees outside, so most of the food spent a bit of time on the front porch. The chicken and wild rice soup was one of the last meals completed and we were ready to be done. I was very uneasy putting the soup into a freezer bag while it was still hot. I breathed a sigh of relief when it was finally safe in the freezer.

Picture6

My attempts to photograph the final product were in vain. There was so much food I had a hard time taking pictures of it all.

Picture-7

Just my portion of the food seemed like enough to feed my family for three weeks. My kids are still young so they don’t eat a whole lot, but the pan of lasagna was gigantic so I am saving it for a week when I may need dinner and multiple lunches. I am quite sure almost all of the meals we prepared will succeed in feeding my family more than once.

I would love to hear your tips and ideas for cooking in mass! I was pleased with the overall experience of filling my freezer in 6 hours and I’m certain you will be too!

Note: For Excel and PDF files of the recipes, grocery list, and freezer labels, visit Dreaming of Poultry: 10 Freezers Meal in One Day.

Jayme Payne blogs at Dreaming of Poultry.

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Posted by on February 6, 2012 | Permalink  

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Comments

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  1. 2-6
    3:25
    am

    Yowza! That’s all I can muster, Yowza and kudos! 20 meals, 6 hours…gasp

  2. 2-6
    4:18
    am

    Awesome for you and your SIL! Now you can sit back and relax! Nothing is ever too hard once you set your mind to cook mode!! I like to make and freeze meals ahead of time too, we are still enjoying the stuffed peppers I made from our bounty of sweet bells this fall. I stuffed and froze 40 individually wrapped then sealed in gallon zips. I like to do that with stuffed cabbage as well. When I make a big meal, I make meals off of it and freeze for future meals. 🙂 kudo;s to you!!

  3. 2-6
    8:34
    am

    I do this every once in a while too, and it’s such a saving grace when I’m sick or things are going on and I can throw something in the oven or microwave and have a home cooked meal! I also make breakfast foods this way, letting everything cool and then freezing in freezer bags, for example, three pancakes or french toast per bag, same with bacon and sausage. You can just put them in the microwave. Also fajitas, burritos, chili, stuffed shells, etc. Love it!

  4. 2-6
    9:25
    am

    That is quite the impressive endeavor. I have cooking marathons periodically (or at least I thought I did, HA!) but to date only solo and never as organized as you were! The most I attempted was always a morph of one thing say, ground beef, to spaghetti sauce, to lazagna, to taco filling, to sloppy joes and finally to chili. Or meatloaf, to swedish meatballs, salsbury steak etc. Not necessarily in those orders. Hands down you win, and I’m going to go out on a limb here and declare you “undefeated” too. : }

  5. 2-6
    11:14
    am

    Jill Bond in her Mega Cooking book has some techniques for prepping the food for the freezer as quickly as possible. I’m not sure where my copy is, but if you find one in a bookstore (I got mine last year I think?) you could probably just read it there.

    I really want to look at your spredsheet, etc.! It looks great and the food looks scrumptous.

    I was hoping this was a “you’ve lost power, now what?” post. Everything that was in my freezer, except for steel-cut oats, is outside (it’s 30) in plastic bins with ice. My fridge/freezer isn’t working, alas.

    Kudos on the effort and your food looks great!

    Judi

  6. 2-6
    1:46
    pm

    I LOVE freezer cooking…or at least I love having those meals in the freezer. Life is always so busy and it’s a great relief to know that I don’t have to actually cook when I’ve taken the time to do it. I’ve done it solo a couple of times and also in a group. Once we borrowed our church kitchen and hall and did a huge effort – 6 of us went home at the end of a VERY long day with 30 meals (three of each type – 10 recipes total). It was awesome and because we were able to buy cases and other large quantities at the warehouse store it was super affordable. I need to do that again……

  7. 2-6
    3:54
    pm

    I used to do the OAM Cooking from 30 Day Gourmet. I swear I only spent $200 all summer on the necessities of bread, cereal, eggs and milk. I would buy 9 lbs of ground chuck, make the meatloaf mix. I’d get 6 loaves of meatloaf and bags of meatballs. Flatten out a meatloaf, slice into 1″ squares, roll and bake on cookie sheets along with your meatloaves. My children loved those meatball dinners where they got to eat with toothpicks! If you’re going to make one meal of spaghetti, make the whole box and freeze the rest in family portions. Put 2 whole chickens in a roaster pan and cook, de-bone and portion out into meals. I started my crockpots (stew and chili) first; prepared my roasts and chickens and cooked them together in the oven; while those were going, I made my meatloaf mix and prepared the pans and trays, then cooked them after the roasts and chickens came out; then, de-boned chickens and packaged those meats while meatloaves were cooking. It gave me time to wash dishes as I went along so I didn’t have all those dishes at the end of the day. Actually, I think it only took 1/2 day to make everything. Hope this helps!

  8. 2-6
    4:40
    pm

    That spreadsheet looks really useful! I join the kudos and congrats on this successful venture. I don’t have a ton of people to cook for, but it inspires me to get moving and start doing some freezer meals as individual servings. Thank you for the great post!

  9. 2-6
    7:18
    pm

    What a co-inky-dink! My next cooking demo is going to be about freezer cooking! I’ll definitely be looking at this post closely. Thanks!

  10. 2-6
    7:32
    pm

    Jayme. What a good idea for someone who is about to have a baby. You can come to my place the next time you want to do this!

  11. 2-7
    11:46
    am

    Thanks for the great post, Jayme! You made it sound and look “do-able!”
    I have a new goal.

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