I decided on a whim to stock my freezer up with delicious meals. I know myself. When I get home from my full-time job, and I have another 2-4 hours of blog projects to work on when I get home, there’s little time (ok, ok…desire) to cook a meal. So we wind up ordering take-out. Not exactly budget friendly.
So I decided since I have extra time on the weekends, that I could try my hand at freezer cooking and preparing a bulk quantity of meals all at once and then I would just have to pop them in the oven/crockpot/stove and voila! A delicious homecooked, budget-friendly meal. Some of which will be ready to eat when I walk in the door. HOW COOL IS THAT?
This was not my first foray into freezer cooking. I have done a couple smaller versions before, but nothing on this scale. Right now I have something like 15 dinners in my freezer. I made multiples of things I know we would like (Scalloped Potatoes and Ham is one of our favorite things on this earth) and only one batch of things I have never tried (like the Chicken Delicious).
Here’s what I made and links to the recipes:
Scalloped Potatoes and Ham
Savory Pepper Steak
World’s Best Chicken
Pioneer Woman’s Perfect Chili (I used turkey)
Beef Tips with Mushroom Gravy (I added sliced mushrooms)
Chicken Cordon Bleu
Like I mentioned above, some of the recipes were doubled. Some of the recipes made enough for two meals without doubling. Just make sure you are prepared with correct quantities for the desired end result. I don’t recommend making a triple batch of a recipe you’ve never tried before.
That being said, here are some tips I found helpful when freezer cooking in bulk:
Make the kitchen a “No-Fly-Zone”: Keep kids and pets out from under foot. Easier said than done, but this is for sanity and safety sake. Put up a baby gate, ask grandma to babysit, whatever it takes. I had a very sad dog moping at my feet because he realized my ham wasn’t going in his bowl.
Prep like-items together: I had several recipes that called for chicken. I cut all the chicken at the same time. That way, raw chicken was only needed to be cleaned off a single time instead of three or four times.
Clean as you go: Instead of making everything and ending up without a clean dish in sight, clean as you go. At the very least, rinse everything. It makes things a LOT easier, because you’re not going to want to do 5 loads of dishes after 3-4 hours of meal-prep. Best case scenario, have a helper cleaning dishes between recipes. That way, you get a few minutes out of the kitchen to take a break. In our house, I do the cooking, and Andrew (my husband) does dishes after every meal. When I do the freezer cooking, I make 1-2 recipes, then I get a break while he does dishes. It works out great!
Avoid cross-contamination: It’s especially important because you are preparing mass quantities of meals, and you don’t want to ruin them all by cross contaminating a veggie dish with raw chicken juice, potentially ruining not one meal in the event of an outbreak, but rather a month’s worth of meals! As I said above, prep all your like-meats (chicken with chicken and so on) at once, then set aside in bowls in the fridge to grab as you need them. Don’t forget to refrigerate perishable ingredients until you need them. You don’t want things spoiling!
Have some tunes playing: Make it enjoyable! Or…as enjoyable as possible. A good peppy playlist will keep your toes tapping as you chop.
Label your bags: Use a sharpie or something that won’t rub off. Label with the recipe, the cooking instructions, and any ingredients that are to be added after cooking. You think you will remember when it comes time to cook the meal, but why chance it? Also, make sure to label the meals BEFORE you fill the bags/containers. It’s easier to write!
Lay your bags flat in the freezer: Rather than making giant bricks of odd-shaped bulkiness, if you fill a gallon bag and lay it flat, once it’s frozen, you can stand your bags up and “file” them in your freezer. Not only makes it easier to find what you want, but also saves space!
Use an electric carving knife: You’re going to be cutting. A LOT. So make it easy on yourself and whip out the power tools if you have them. I use mine to cut raw meat, and vegetables.
Make a spreadsheet: There’s nothing worse than getting elbows deep into your chili recipe only to find out you’re missing key ingredients (I’ll admit it, I’m guilty). Make a spreadsheet before you shop of each recipe and the quantity you need for each item. That way nothing gets overlooked!
Do you freezer cook? What are your freezer cooking tips?