Freezer Cooking: 22+ Meals, 4 Hours
Have any of you tried cooking over 22 meals in one day before? It’s exhausting! But so worth it!
In prepping for all things baby, I’ve decided that something I’d really like to do is make sure I have at least one month of meals available for myself, my husband, and the Little when the baby gets here. As part of that mission, I’ve been testing out freezer cooking recipes for the last few months. My friend, Kayla, is partnering up with me for the November session and I’m pretty excited about some of these!
Each of us ended up taking home 11 meals (each meal feeds at least 4 adults so in our house that’s dinner and leftovers for lunch making it more like 20 meals) and 10 breakfast burritos. So in total we spent about 20 minutes and $9 on each meal even if you don’t count the breakfast burritos in the total. Pretty good since this is only our second attempt at a big cooking day like this! You can probably find your ingredients a little cheaper if you shop around, but for working moms with young children sometimes time is money and it’s worth it to pay a little extra so you only have to stop at one store.
First things first, we each took to Pinterest to find recipes that look good and that fit our families well (for example, my husband is lactose-intolerant so that limits a lot of things for our family). Then, we created a document and a spreadsheet on Google Docs where we each typed in the ingredients and instructions for those recipes. This worked well for us because we worked on it after the kids went to bed one night and with Google Docs you can work on the same pieces at the same time. The ingredients were listed in a spreadsheet so we could then sort by section of the grocery store to make our lives easier later.
From there it was simply a matter of doubling everything (since we were making one set of each recipe for each family) and checking the cupboards to see what each of us already had so we could mark those off the list.
The original plan was to go to the store Saturday morning and pick up the rest of what we need, but recently Kroger started this “Click-List” service that we decided to try instead. Have you heard of this thing? It’s amazing! You just go online and pick out everything you need and then put in a time you’ll pick it up and someone else does all your grocery shopping for you! I’m someone who typically likes going to the grocery store because I like to see all the options and sales, but when you need to save time this is a great option.
If we had gone to the store I’m guessing we wouldn’t have had to spend more than an hour there because our list was already organized and we were both fortunate enough to get sitters for the kids today (thanks, grandmas!).
Saturday was our cooking day. Kayla and I dropped off the kids, picked up the groceries, and we were ready to get started! Since this was our first time making most of these recipes, our “plan of attack” was pretty fluid for the day. Thankfully, Kayla thought ahead and printed the instructions for each recipe on labels so we didn’t even have to label our freezer bags!
We started out with the chili because it needed time to simmer and cool. Then, we moved onto the breakfast burritos so we could flash freeze them before we needed all the freezer space for the rest of the meals. From there, it was just a matter of cutting everything up and putting it in bags. We discovered the fastest way to move through those recipes was for one of us to cut the meat and veggies while the other read the actual recipes and measured out spices, sauces, and other miscellaneous ingredients. We ended up needing about 4 hours to put everything together. Honestly, I think once we are more familiar with these recipes we can probably get through it a lot faster. We had to spend a lot of time double checking to make sure we included everything – she has a 4-month-old and I’m 7-months pregnant so we do not trust our memories very much right now!
Here are the recipes we ended up making:
Breakfast Burritos – I didn’t really follow her recipe, but this is where I got the idea. I just put eggs, bacon, and cheese in this round but I think they would be really good with some peppers and onions added. These make a great “on the run” breakfast. One note though, she says 6 eggs will make 12 burritos, but I barely got 10 out of it. I’ll definitely be making more eggs next time so I can pack my burritos a little fuller.
Chicken Burritos – These were amazing and I’ll definitely be making them again! I can’t find the original recipe so I’ll keep looking and link to it when I find it.
Chicken Ropa Vieja – This one was sorta “meh” for me. Not a ton of flavor. I think if I had just made it on the stove with leftover veggies and things it would make a nice last-minute dinner, but as a freezer meal it wasn’t a hit for us.
Chicken Jambalaya – This was very good! A couple notes: (1) It took a LONG time to thaw out in my fridge. I put it in the fridge on Friday afternoon and didn’t dump it in the crockpot until Monday at noon and it was still a little frozen. (2) She suggests coking the rice in the crockpot, but Kayla tried it and that didn’t work well for her so I pre-cooked the rice and just added it at the end and that worked fine for me. (3) My husband likes stronger flavors than I do so I had some extra cajun seasoning for him to add to his bowl to make it taste just right. Without the extra seasoning the dish isn’t very spicy at all.
Chicken Noodle Soup – This was delicious and definitely hit the spot on a cold day. I’ll be making another batch of this for sure!
Chocolate Chili – I have tried A LOT of chili recipes over the last 5 years and this is the best one I’ve found so far. The only change I make is to add a little more chili powder because we like our chili to be extra spicy 😉
Salsa Chicken Tacos – Another “meh” recipe for me. My friend swears by this one as a last-minute dinner to always have on hand, but we are so used to spicy food in our house that I felt like this didn’t have much flavor at all.
Spicy Orange Chicken – This was pretty good, but not the best Asian-inspired dish I’ve had. I think next time I’ll try using an egg/cornstarch coating on the chicken instead of the flour mix that was recommended.
Since I haven’t tried most of these yet I don’t want to give you any kind of review on them, but I’ll try to come back and update this post as we try them so you know if they are as good as they look!
Do you have any favorite freezer recipes? I’m always looking for new ideas!