Freezer Cooking (February 2014)

This was my second attempt at freezer cooking.  You can see the first time by clicking here: January 2014.

This time there were three of us and we did 24 different meals.  One friend doubled the recipes for her family of 6 and two of us just did a single recipe of each meal.  So in all we made 96 meals.

This was definitely a marathon cooking day.  I started the day at 7:30 am by baking some bread for us to freeze, and didn’t wrap up the day until 9:30 pm (and yes, I missed the super bowl to finish up the cooking).  It took WAY longer than anticipated…but it’s cool.

My two friends were there for most of that time, so the effort was definitely shared by us all.

goods(This is about half of what we bought – it doesn’t include the 200 pounds of meat and
any of the refrigerated dairy or produce)

For anyone wanting to try freezer cooking – there are hundreds of blogs/websites dedicated to it….but here are my recommendations:

  1. Start small.  Like really small (5-6, maybe 10 recipes if you are feeling super ambitious).
  2. Do it with a friend or two, but not more than 3 – unless you have a gigantic kitchen with two sinks and lots of counter space.
  3. Be very organized.  If you aren’t organized – forget about it.  Seriously.
  4. Don’t get all of your recipes from one freezer cooking blog or website.  Look around and pick out ones you and your family will like.  I’ve found lots of blogs have really cheap meals (“4 hours, 46 meals, $95”)….that’s just not realistic for the average person.  You just can’t find a $13 roast on sale for $4 like she did.  Or lean ground beef for $1 a pound.  Plus lots of her meals just don’t sound appetizing.  Why make cheap meals that your family won’t like?
  5. Do your bulk shopping at Sams or Costco and finish up at Walmart for everything else.
    grocery
  6. Shopping for the right quantity of food can be very difficult (especially when making nearly 100 meals).  So triple check quantities and have a friend help you with this.  I may or may not have bought 12 cups of olive oil when we only needed 12 tbs.
  7. Plan for a LOT more time than you think you will need.
  8. Buy disposable pans and lots of freezer bags.
  9. If you are super on top of your sales flyers and want to plan your meals around that – then go for it, but that requires way too much effort and I planned our menu weeks before we shopped – so there was no way to know what would be on sale and what wouldn’t.  And for this full time working mama I had to keep my sanity and only shop at 2 stores (Sams and Walmart) and not shop around for the best meat prices to save a few bucks.
  10. Only buy fresh meat, do not buy frozen since you can’t thaw it and re-freeze anything.
  11. Make a list of what you have and attach it to your freezer.   Mark out each meal as you remove it – so you’ll always know what meals you have left.
  12. As silly as this sounds – doing all of this is not only physically exhausting but mentally exhausting (at least for me), so be sure you do this on a small scale at first.
  13. Have Advil on hand.  Your feet and back will thank you.   Or Crown Royal.  It works, too.  

final

(This is just 1/4 of the final product – what I am keeping for my family).

Here are the steps I took to prepare for the day:

  1. Pick freezer friendly recipes (either casseroles that are already cooked and just need to be reheated, or crock pot meals that are thrown into a freezer bag uncooked and need to be cooked the day you plan to serve it) – I’ve shared the recipes we did this time (click —-> Freezer Meals for blog), but there really are a hundred websites/blogs you can go to for ideas.
  2. Don’t plan to cook any foods that aren’t freezer friendly.  Here’s a good link (but I have frozen recipes with sour cream and cream cheese and they were fine): http://www.menus4moms.com/foods-that-dont-freeze-well/#sthash.HSb1OFxD.dpbs
  3. List out each recipe/ingredient/amount in a spreadsheet so it can be organized and easier to shop with and easy to sort – you can see my workbook (click —–> Ingredient List)
  4. Type out the recipe name with cooking and serving instructions on labels for the bags (I did not do it this time and it was definitely a time killer on cooking/prepping day)
  5. Print out the list of recipes so everyone has their own copy and can work straight from it on whatever they are working on.

And to answer a few questions people asked about on facebook:

  1. This took a total of 14 hours.  Half the time there were three of us working.  The other half it was either myself or one friend.
  2. Yes, it’s extremely exhausting.
  3. This saves tons of time – I won’t have to prepare a single dish from start to finish for my family for at least 6 weeks.  The only prep involved will be cooking rice and a veggie side dish or preparing salad.  All main meals are done.  I included some breads as well to be eaten as dessert or even breakfast/snacks.
  4. This saves tons of money.  For 96 prepped meals (and everything required to make them/store them) the cost was $1,070.  I budgeted $1,200, but we came in under budget by $130.  That boils down to $9.90 meal (including dessert and breakfast breads).  If our experience from January holds true about 90% of these recipes allow for leftovers for a full dinner or lunch the following day.  So it’s almost like we are getting twice the meals.  In addition, we have a lot of ingredients left over (like 10 cups of olive oil) to be used in the future that we won’t incur the cost of next time.
  5. Other benefit: We are eating much healthier than before.  With our busy schedule we have something every night of the week….and found ourselves running through a drive thru way too much.  In January I think we ate out a total of about 4 times, which is a huge change for my family.  So while it’s not only saving us money, we are eating better…and also trying out new recipes.

Many of the recipes are repeats from last time, there was only 1 recipe we didn’t like from last time (which we didn’t repeat).  I’ll be sure to update my blog on this post to let y’all know what I think about these recipes after we finish up with these meals. 

Happy cooking!

——————–

A thought on crock pot cooking and snow storms:
If you happen to turn your crock pot on the morning of your state’s worst forecasted snow nightmare in 30 years and can’t get home for two days because the roads are a mess and the city shut down and thousands of kids are stranded and sleeping at schools and thousands are stranded at work and have to sleep in their offices and many are stranded on the roads and sleeping in their cars….then the lovely firemen of your community can go into your house (they have a universal remote – who knew?) and cut off your crock pot and let your dog out.  And if you are nice enough and tell them they can take the roast with them since you won’t be home for two days due to the weather – they actually will.  This happened to a friend of mine last week.  Firemen rock.

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