Maybe “process” is a bit of an exaggeration. But there is a slight method to our madness when my friends and I have “freezer cooking day”. Of course you can freezer cook meals all by your lonesome, and in some ways it might be more time efficient…and of course all the meals are yours to keep at the end. But we started doing this together and it works for us, so I’ll share our method. Things will vary slightly if you decide to do your own freezer meals.
1. Gather your peeps
First it was just The Bestie and I, and then our friend Amber joined in. We make a day of it starting out with shopping, and there are extra hands in the kitchen so we each can take a joba. We get to chit-chat while we work so it’s more fun, and we always have a fun lunch or munchies throughout the day. It’s a great way to multi-task social time and being productive. I would caution against having too big of a group, however. Three works well for us. Any more and I think we’d really be in each other’s way. The more the merrier most times, but there can also be too many hens in the hen house. #crowdedkitchensputmeinabadmood
2. Plan your recipes
Several days before, select what recipes you want to make. There are tons of freezer meal ideas on Pinterest, as well as recipes that can be partially completed and frozen. I tend to be the troublesome one of the group because I try to find recipes without processed ingredients or a lot of sugar. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re not. With any recipe you won’t know without trying, but to limit the disappointment after a long day of cooking, maybe try one or two that are more adventurous, and make the rest those recipes that you are pretty sure will turn out great. I created a shared Pinterest board here where the three of us can pin recipes as we find good ones. Then when the day nears, you have one spot to go to search for meals to make. The first time we did about 6, but this time we did 12 (the main difference being that we shopped longer and had lunch out the first time, and this time just made a Costco run first thing in the morning and then got back to start cooking). This time we included some individual size portions of soup and meatloaf as well as muffins, so that we had meals to send for school lunches or for us to eat when the hubbies are gone.
3. Print recipes and make a grocery list
We print the recipes so that everyone has a copy, and then I have been the one to create the list for the store. We divide ingredients up by what we want to get at a regular grocery store, and what we want to get at Costco (we also had a Whole Foods list the first time). We get the main groceries ahead of time, then make it a group trip to Costco the morning of cooking. We’re able to maximize our time and our budget this way. Be sure to check the list twice! If you are in the middle of cooking it stinks to have to stop and run to the store! #mayormaynotknowfromexperience
Like I said before, we have two lists and get the main (non-bulk) groceries the day before. The morning of we run to Costco. I’m the one with the membership so this gives the girls a chance to shop there as well for their own items, and it’s a fun outing (especially on sample day!). This time we brought home freezer appetizers and chocolate truffles to eat for “lunch” while we cooked. #grazedallday
Once back from shopping, we organize the groceries and get started! This time we had a muffin recipe to use in the kids’ lunches, so we started there so that the muffins could be baking while we went on to something else. I’m usually the “meal prep coordinator” so I just decide as we go what recipe should be next. Sometimes we had two recipes going at once, and sometimes all three were pitching in on the same one. It depends on the recipe, amount of ingredients, and available counter/oven/stove space at the time. Amber was our master chopper and did (I think) all of the chopping of veggies. *Note: I just learned you can buy frozen chopped onion and had we known that I’m pretty sure we would have gone that route. We used about 10 large onions for these recipes so that would have saved a lot of time!
Once the meals are home and in the freezer it’s such a good feeling! I usually try to ration mine to about one a week, and it has been extremely helpful having even that one meal a week done ahead of time. It makes meal planning less stressful because it’s one less meal to think about, and if there are nights that I didn’t plan well or schedules are busier than I expect, it’s nice to know there’s food in the freezer. (Some have to be cooked in the crock pot so it’s good to plan ahead most of the time.)
Over Christmas break I’d like to take another day at home and cut up a bunch of veggies to freeze as well as make some batches of pizza sauce, and maybe I’ll do some more freezer meals myself!