Freezer Cooking (a.k.a. bulk cooking, once a month cooking, etc)

There are a million reasons why cooking for the freezer is a good idea. When you take the time to prepare and freeze meals you:

eliminate the nightly “what’s for dinner?” hassle.

reduce grocery spending by not stopping at the store to pick up “just a few things” for dinner.

have peace of mind during unexpected financial crisis

have a gift on-hand for sick relatives & new parents

What isn’t to love?

The idea of cooking an entire month worth of dinners in one or two days can be overwhelming, I know. My husband and I have attempted this in the past but after a few hours all we wanted to do was sit down and nap. Not to mention sometimes it’s not practical to spend an entire month worth of grocery money at one time.

When going over our family schedule for the month, which includes A LOT of time away from home in the late afternoon and early evening (meal prep time) we decided to try freezer cooking again, but a little different. This time we wouldn’t aim for a month worth of food in two days, rather, we’d prepare 7 meals over 3 days. This plan allowed us to divide the work into shorter spurts, spend less money in one shopping trip but still put enough meals in the freezer to keep us from eating out or overdosing on spaghetti.

The recipes we used could be cooked from frozen for the most part. The calzones were the most time consuming but they reheated very nicely and were delicious.

The recipes we used on night one of preparation:

Cheeseburger Boats
Meg’s tip: this recipe had more meat on it than we preferred but it cooked beautifully. We served with salad and fries.

Pancetta-Wrapped Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Meg’s tip: I didn’t particularly care for the cheese spread used in this recipe and if we make it again I’ll substitute an herbed goat cheese.The sauce was so good I would have bathed in it, just make a little more than it calls for as the chicken breast got a bit dried out. We served these with stuffed mushrooms and Brussels sprouts.

Dijon Pork Loin Roast
Meg’s tip: We bought a whole loin at $1.79/lb, you can’t beat that price! We cut it into individual roasts. If you think ahead and marinate the meat before freezing you’ll have a better flavor. We served this with rolls (previously made and frozen) and salad.

Recipes used on night two:

Mongolian Beef
Meg’s tip: This dish has a lot of potential, the sauce was delicious but I suggest cooking for half the time suggested. We cooked it on low for about ⅔ of the time stated in recipe and it was so overcooked we couldn’t eat the meat. The short cooking time kind of defeats the purpose of preparing for the freezer and slow cooking so we probably won’t repeat this recipe. We served this with rice.

Traditional Irish Shepherd’s Pie
Meg’s tip: After eating this dish my view of Shepherd’s pie has completely changed. We didn’t have any red wine so we used a dry white and oh.my.goodness you’ll never look for another recipe once you’ve tried this.

Recipes used on night 3:

Chicken Enchiladas (no recipe)
Meg’s tip: Enchiladas are very versatile, use whatever you like in them. We used taco-sized corn tortillas, refried beans, some chicken cooked in taco seasoning and shredded, shredded cheddar cheese and green enchilada sauce. Prepare the enchiladas without the sauce and cheese, freeze them unwrapped on a cookie sheet then transfer them to a freezer bag. To cook place them in a baking dish, cover with sauce and cheese and cook at 350 until heated through, to reduce cooking time thaw in the fridge for a few hours first. We served this with corn, salsa & tortilla chips.

Calzones
Meg’s tip: If you must use store bought dough do so, but homemade dough is so much easier to work with. Jason and the kids filled theirs with cheese, pepperoni, bacon and sausage (hello cholesterol!) while I went for a healthier cheese, sauce and spinach. Each calzone should be cooked, cooled, frozen on a cookie sheet then wrapped in foil and placed in a freezer bag. A salad and crusty bread (previously made & frozen) rounded this meal out.

We spent a total of about $100 making these meals, which included some not-so-cheap ingredients. $100 is pretty decent for a week worth of dinner for 7 people, especially since every meal (except the calzones) provided enough leftovers for lunch the next day. To further our savings we stuck to items we already had in the pantry and freezer and used bread I had baked and frozen to round the meals out. We can certainly do better budget-wise but considering that this was kind of spur-of-the-moment I think we did alright.

We enjoyed our experience this time. Well, I should say that JASON enjoyed it because mostly I just stood around watching (well, it’s true!) Splitting the preparations up over 3 nights made a big difference and holy cow it was nice to come home and know all I had to do was turn on the oven and pull something out of the freezer.

You may call it freezer cooking or bulk cooking or once a month cooking but I call it EASY!

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