Freezer meals are a huge time and money saver! You need to be willing to carve a small chunk of time out of your schedule to make several meals in one day and pop them in your freezer, but when you think of all the time you save in the end, it is so worth it!
I have a heart for getting families together around the table! I also have a giant heart for meal ministry and that’s how this whole freezer meal cooking day started. I shared the story in this post.
What made our freezer meal day different?
It started with a conversation between my friend Kim and I, we were saying how life has become so busy and we see daily needs to help others by bringing them a meal, which is wonderful except we are finding it hard to get a meal on our own table, let alone somebody else’s table!! This made us feel very frustrated. We talked about a few different things we could do to get dinner on the table as well ways we could be more available to serve others in our community by bringing them a warm homemade meal.
This is what we came up with: Get together with two other like minded friends (four total) once a month, or maybe every other month and make 12 different meals for each of our freezers, so 48 meals total. We decided this is a good amount to supplement our normal cooking and it gives us meals at the ready when someone is in need! Now when we receive an email or a phone call asking us to help someone out and there is no hemming or hawing, no excuses, because we are prepared to serve!!
You could also get together with friends and completely stock another friends freezer, don’t keep any for yourself! How much fun would that be?!?!! So much fun!!
Here are a few suggestions to help your meal making day go smoothly! Now I’m sure I forgot something or maybe you have a better idea for how to do it, if so please feel free to add your freezer meal tips and trick in the comments!!
1. Get your people on board. Ask friends, make sure they are committed. Make sure you all agree on the recipes. Talk about ingredients. Maybe several of the recipes have peppers in them, but not everyone likes pepper well then you need to decide do we leave the peppers out, make some with peppers or what?! Because this impacts your shopping. All of this can be done through a few quick emails.
2. Recipes. This sort of goes hand in hand with number one. Decide on recipes. Know how much each recipe makes. For example The Pioneer Womans Spaghetti Chicken makes a huge amount so you may be able to adjust and make only 3 recipes for 4 families. Have all your recipes printed off and if possible place them in clear plastic sleeves to preserve them from the wear and tear of cooking day!
3. Organize shopping list. Go through your recipes and make a DETAILED list of everything you need to make all the meals. I divided my list up in sections: Meat, Produce, Canned Goods, Dairy, Frozen foods, Bakery, Misc (spices, sauces etc)
4. Shopping: I did all the shopping for our day of cooking the day before we cooked. I was organized so it went fast. I stopped at four stores and was done in 21/2 hours. I went to the butcher, the grocery store, Costco and Gordan Food to pick up containers. Having a very organized and detailed list that I stuck to helped the shopping go fast. We said that next time we would try splitting the list up, the only downfall in that is it might cause a bit of a mathematical struggle determining who owes what to whom in the end. Like splitting the bill between 5 ladies after a girls night out. Head scratcher.
41/2. Containers and anything needed to store and freeze meals. I suggest if you are doing this more than once that you purchase containers in bulk from a local store, I buy mine at Gordan Foods, you can also order from sites such as the Webstaurant Store. (I used Webstaurant for all my disposable pie pan needs!) We used gallon sized freezer zip-loc plastic bags, 9×13, and 10 inch round heavy-duty aluminum foil pans. You will also need a good heavy-duty plastic wrap, aluminum foil, and a sharpie to mark your containers.
5. Organizing Groceries at home. Now you have all your groceries and supplies you want to unload in an organized fashion. The more organized you are the day of cooking the quicker and easier it will go. And for all the time this step saves you it doesn’t take that much effort. I cleared a space in my dining area and put up a long folding table. Place your printed recipes on table then place the ingredients that go with each recipe along side, then as you make each recipe it will be all right there, no time wasted searching in cupboards. Plus most people don’t have enough extra cupboard or pantry space to accommodate this many extra groceries.
Another thing to think about: Refrigerator storage. Luckily it was still very cold when we cooked, so we were able to use my garage as a refrigerator. However when we do this in warmer weather I am going to have to get out all the coolers and purchase ice to keep the meat and some of the vegetables cold or frozen. Good idea: ask each person to bring over a large cooler full of ice the day before. Then groceries can be unloaded into the coolers and when the meals are done they can load up their cooler with their freezer meals and head home!
*** don’t skip this next step!!!
6. Organizing your Kitchen: Clean out your refrigerator as much as possible because you will need to use your kitchen refrigerator. I cleared my counter space of any nik-naks and clutter to give us more room to work. I also set up a long folding table and (I already said it but it’s worth saying again) laid all the recipes on the table and placed the ingredients (that did not have to be refrigerated) for each recipe on top of the printed recipe. I made sure I had plenty of paper towels and my dish cloths where all washed. I also placed a large box at one end of my kitchen island for recyclables, as well as putting out an extra garbage pail out. I also suggest putting a bucket out with warm water and cleaner and a rag to have a ready for possible spills and any mishaps.
Have cooking partners bring their own cutting boards, and at least one sharp knife, and possibly a few large bowls and a pot or two. Even if you don’t use them you have extra if you need it
So where to start? Which recipe to do first? We divided and conquered. First we started by doing most of the prep work together. Cutting up all the onion, peppers, ginger, celery, carrots, garlic, any vegetables that needed cutting. As three of us prepped vegetables one of us trimmed and cut all the chicken breasts and placed the cubes in bowls or whole breasts or thighs in separate bowls. We used A LOT of chicken, I lost count, we had to make a chicken run to Costco but I’m sure it was over 100 chicken breasts!
I broke the recipes down into three categories:
1. No prep -> recipes that we basically put ingredients in a bag to be cooked later in slow cooker.
2. EZ prep -> not a lot of cooking is involved mainly assembling ingredients beef enchiladas for example.
3. Prep recipes -> any recipe that needs a sauce made, or filling cooked before it can be assembled. Example Lasagna, or breakfast burritos.
I can’t stress enough how important it is for each person to read through the recipe thoroughly before starting. You want to speed right along, but honestly make sure you read through the recipe you’re assembling before you start!
The day went so fast! We started at 9 and ended at 430 we took small breaks to go potty and eat a quick lunch but honestly every bit of that time we were getting on our feet…which brings me to another point you might want to suggest wearing comfy shoes on cooking day to save sore feet and backs. Most of us rarely work in the kitchen standing for 7 hours straight, and believe you me your back will hurt if you are not wearing proper footwear.
Don’t let 7 hours on your feet in the kitchen scare you! Think about all the time shopping you’ll save int he end, all the time worrying about what the heck you’re going to make for dinner, all the money you’ll save because you won’t be tempted to eat out. And buying and cooking in bulk saves money. We laughed and talked and had a great time. Any day int he kitchen with friends is a perfect day in my book!
The Cost: I’m sure you can figure this out on your own, but I thought I’d share how it fared for us. We had four families, some families larger than others so we counted people, we had 20 people to feed, our groceries were roughly $500 we divided that by 20 and came up with $25 per person. So Amy’s family paid $100 because she had four people and I paid $150 because I have 6. We each when home with 12 meals and a bag of cookies cost per meal was approximately $10.50! You can’t even feed your family cheapO greasy pizza for that price.
Freezer meals are great to have on hand not only for your own family, but when there is a need in your community you are ready to help! Below is the list of meals we made. I have links to most of the recipes, however some of these recipes are not on the world wide web yet (I need to to put them there.), so hold your horses, or email me if you really want them and I’ll send them to you!!
No Peek Chicken
Chicken Pot Pie we used store bought pie crust to save time.
Chicken Spaghetti we made three times this recipe for four families, because it makes a generous amount it worked out perfectly.
Slow Cooker Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup
Comfort Meatballs & Mashed Potatoes
French Toast Casserole we froze the topping in a separate baggy and added just before baking. My kids loved this for dinner, with leftover baked potatoes repurposed into breakfast potatoes and sausage links,
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls ready to pop in the oven and bake. I made the cookie dough, scooped balls on to a baking sheet and popped sheet in deep freezer for 30 minutes or until dough was frozen solid, then I placed the cookie dough balls in freezer safe zip-loc bags. All ready to bake up some chocolate chip cookies at a moments notice! You can use your favorite cookie recipe.
If you have any questions or want to talk more about freezer meals please leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to hearing from you!! XO Sheila