I have had a couple of requests to write an explanation of how to do freezer cooking. We use the planning sheets from 30 Day Gourmet Freezer Cooking Workbook. I have found that it works best to cook with 4 people. We usually have three meetings each time: the planning meeting, the shopping meeting, and the cooking day.
Planning meeting: We gather for a planning meeting and decide which recipes we would like to cook. We try to do a couple of recipes that can be prepared easily. This time we cooked: baked ziti, sweet and sour chicken, raspberry chicken, craisin tacos, chicken and salsa soup, meatloaf, porkchops, and chicken kabobs. We have a recipe page that allows you to fill in the ingedients,as well as instructions for cooking, freezing and serving. We fill in the chart (kind of like a recipe card) for what one recipe calls for and we multiply it by 8-that way each of us ends up with 2 bags of each recipe. So if craisin tacos call for 1 pound of ground turkey in the recipe, we will need 8 pounds of ground turkey to make our recipes. We do all the ingredients for all the recipes that we will be cooking, multiplying by 8.
After the meeting, I keep all 8 recipes and create a master ingredient list to total all of our ingredients we will be buying at the store. If chicken salsa soup calls for 16 chicken breasts (when prepared for 8 recipes) and raspberry chicken calls for 16 pounds ( for all 8 recipes) and the sweet and sour chicken calls for 24 cups (for all 8 recipes) and the Kabobs called for 32 chicken breasts ( for all 8 recipes), we end up needing 112 chicken breasts. Salt may be 8 teaspoons in one recipe and 4 teaspoons in another, so we will need 12 teaspoons total to cook. The conversions for cups, pounds and breasts of chicken are found in that book.
Shopping Meeting: After I have tallied all the ingredients for a master shopping list, we meet to decide where to buy all the ingredients. One of us usually goes to Sam’s, another may go to Walmart, and another may fill in at the local grocery store. We have also used Aldi’s, the commisary, and bread outlets to make the cost cheaper. At this meeting ,we also claim two recipes each to prep the ingredients for before we arrive on cooking day.
Shopping: We shop right before we cook so that the fresh ingredients stay fresh, but we all also need the ingredients so the we can prep before we get there. That means that we may shop on Wednesday, prep on Thursday, and cook on Friday. I send an email that tells who needs what to prep. I usually find a way to shop by myself because it takes a lot of brain power to do the conversions (and a great calculator). We keep our receipts for the cooking day.
Prep: Prepping for your two recipes usually involves chopping onions, cutting raw chicken, chopping vegetables, browning ground beef, etc. Some recipes can be fully prepared ahead and brought in freezer bags to the cooking day. For example, for the chicken kabobs we cut the raw chicken into kabob size pieces, divided them evenly into freezer bags that are labeled with the meal’s name, and mixed the marinade. We poured the marinade over the raw chicken and the meal was done. The more you can do in your own homes, the better.
Cooking Day: We meet at 8 am at a large kitchen (usually a church kitchen). We bring all of our ingredients and all of the meals that we were able to prepare ahead. We try to start with the longest meal first. We cook in the big pots and pans there. Sometimes we are pleasantly surprised to have a recipe make 12 servings instead of 8 and we end up with more meals! If we end up with an extra meal, we label it ministry meal and we give it to someone we know who needs it. Whatever ingredients we have left over, we divide if we can and we keep the extras in my basement for the next freezer cooking time. It has been cheaper and cheaper each time because of all that we have had on hand and have not had to buy.
Payment: We total all of our receipts and divide by 4. Like throwing a shower, we reimburse those who spent over the total. This time we spent $420 total on 18 meals. That came to $105/person. The last sheet we fill in is one that hangs on your fridge. It shows what is in the freezer. We mark how many bags of each meal we have. There is another column that tells you what you need on hand to finish the meal. For example, tacos will need shredded cheese, lettuce, tortillas, sour cream and salsa to serve. Some won’t need anything on hand to serve. Most meals make enough to be eaten for two meals. We may take one out Monday and eat the leftovers on Tuesday. There may be enough for Eric to have lunch on Wednesday. We may take another out Thursday and eat it on Friday too. Somewhere in there we may eat at church or on a date or out to eat. So we end up using 2-3 meals a week.
If you are still interested in knowing more, let’s talk so I can give you a few more tips for making the process go more smoothly. I love being able to pull one out in the morning and heat it up by 4:30 that afternoon. I don’t have to cook when the kids are the most needy 🙂 Hope this helps!