I told you guys last week how I spent all day Saturday real food freezer cooking. I also told you that I would give you the details on how I did it and what I made.
I was inspired to do this little project not only because I had been wanting to try my hand at it, but because a good friend of mine and avid reader was getting ready to do a HUGE freezer cooking day. She is about to have her 3rd (!) baby and asked me what I knew about freezer cooking. Well, let’s see. I knew the concept of it–you make a huge batch of meals and freeze them, but what I didn’t know was what kind of recipes are good for freezing, and just how much dang work it takes to orchestrate it (luckily she had a LOT of help).
When she told me about planning her freezer cooking day I got to thinking–why can’t I do a real food freezer cooking version? I mean, I already gave you guys an entire month’s worth of printable real food meal plans, so why not do a freezer cooking version of this?
That is essentially what I have for you today. Now, I didn’t do an entire month of meals but I did scour Pinterest, and found 5 breakfasts and 10 dinners. If you double most and triple or quadruple a few, you will end up with 24 dinners. That’s a pretty good start! I also found a recipe for dinner rolls that are freezable as well as garlic bread. Pair that with one of the dinners, add in a side dish and voila–dinner is served!
Here are a few things I learned from real food freezer cooking:
1. Have a plan of action–know what you are making and what steps go into it. Last Saturday was the day I marked on my calendar to execute this. I made up the menu and grocery list about 2 weeks in advance, and didn’t think about it again until the day arrived. That was a TERRIBLE idea. I suggest at the very least, going over your menu and list again the day before you go shopping, and if you do the cooking on a different day, the day before that too. This way you have a good idea in your head of what you need to do–like soaking beans if you are cooking from scratch, making sure all of your meat is thawed out etc. You should even write down a plan of execution. If you have A.D.D like I do, you will definitely need it. I spent 8 hours in the kitchen and didn’t even make all of the meals on my list due to getting sidetracked. That is pretty sad!
2. Make a DETAILED grocery list. Saying you need tomato sauce isn’t very helpful. Go through your recipes and count up how much you will need–write it out in quantities you are familiar with. For example, I know that tomato sauce comes in small cans (8oz), medium cans (15oz) and large cans or jars (24oz)–go through and figure out how many ounces you will need for everything! And you also need to make sure you read your list correctly! I didn’t and ended up not having enough of a few things. There is nothing more frustrating than getting everything prepared and realizing you forgot an ingredient.
3. Clean out your freezer ahead of time. Why I didn’t think of doing this I have no idea. I was in the midst of preparing my meals and I had to stop to move stuff around, wipe out baskets, throw stuff away etc. So frustrating! This is probably why it took me as long as it did to make those meals!
4. Make sure your kitchen is clean before you start. You don’t want to have to stop to wipe down counters, put dishes away, etc. Also make sure your dishwasher is empty because you will be using that baby, believe me.
It is also helpful if you have a friend who wants to get in on this with you. You can divide out the meals when you are finished and it’s always nice to have someone to chop veggies while someone else assembles! The friend I mentioned earlier set up different stations and paired her helpers off. Each station was responsible for a few recipes, and this made things go so much faster for her.
Alright, here’s a list of the real food freezer cooking recipes I made. A few are my own basic recipes, but most are from others. I love the power of Pinterest!
• Blueberry and Greek Yogurt muffins (makes 12)
• Breakfast Burritos (makes 20)
• Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Pancakes (makes 12-16)
• Mini Omlettes (makes 8-10)
• Make Ahead Oatmeal Smoothies (make in whatever
flavor/quantities you prefer)
• Lasagna (make 2)
• Mexican Chicken Chilli (double recipe)
• Frozen Pizzas (Make 4—use the whole wheat dough)
• Greek Marinated Chicken breasts (double recipe to make 6-8
breasts and freeze in smaller portions)
• Crockpot Fiesta chicken soup (double recipe)
• Spicy Southwest Marinade for chicken (marinate in packages of 2-
3 breasts, freeze then grill, or grill ahead of time to use on salads,
• Mama’s Meatloaf (make 2)
• Slow Cooker Chilli (double recipe)
• Baked Penne with Chicken and Tomatoes (recipe makes 2)
• Creamy Chicken Casserole (recipe makes 2)
As I mentioned before, I didn’t really have a good plan of action. I mean, I had an idea of what needed to be done, but I didn’t take into account everything. I did at least remember to soak my beans the night before since I was using dry beans vs. canned. In hindsight, it would be much wiser to actually COOK the beans a day or two ahead of time, as the simmering pots took up valuable stove space and made the kitchen pretty hot.
Before I went to the store that morning, I did throw about 6 chicken breasts in my Crock Pot * with a little bit of salt and pepper, to cook while I was gone.
I’m glad I remembered to do this! The chicken was pretty much done by the time I got home and had everything put away. All I had to do was shred it. This was one of those times I was VERY thankful for my Kitchen Aid stand mixer. I put 3 breasts in the bowl with the paddle attachment. It shreds the chicken in less than 30 seconds. For real. LESS than 30 seconds. Much better than shredding those babies with forks or fingers.
While the chicken cooled and the beans were simmering on the stove, I chopped up all of the veggies. This made it easier to do an assembly line sort of thing.
I made up the 2 marinades first and put them in gallon Ziploc bags with the chicken breasts.
**Side note, be sure to use high quality freezer bags for this. Using a generic can result in a HUGE mess when the bags don’t stay sealed. <–happened to me!
I did the Greek marinade with whole chicken breasts and the southwest marinade with breasts cut into strips. The bags chilled in the fridge while I finished the rest of the cooking.
Then I started assembling the Mexican chicken chili and Fiesta chicken soup. I made 2 batches each of these. Here’s a little peek at my assembly line.
Note: for the Mexican chili I opted to leave the chicken broth out of the freezer bag and wrote on the directions to add when cooking. I don’t think this meal would fit in a gallon Ziploc with 5 cups of broth added to it.
It was so much easier to get the bag to stand up by placing it in a bowl. I folded the “zipper” part over and the bags stood up no problem. This allowed me to just throw everything in it without spilling or getting stuff all over the outside of the bag. Definitely a time and hassle saver.
After those were assembled, the beans were finished cooking. I added what I needed to the Mexican chilli and put everything minus the ground beef into bags for the regular chili.
Next I browned the ground beef and started cooking lasagna noodles. While all of that was cooking, I started making up the meatloafs–Meatloaves? Meatloaf’s?
I don’t know about you, but there is something totally disgusting about mixing up raw ground beef with your hands. I guess you could use a spoon but I don’t think it would go well, and you can’t very well shape it into a loaf with a spoon now can you?
Next, I started cooking the bacon for the burritos. By the way, if you are still cooking bacon in a frying pan–stop! Bake it in the oven on 350 for about 20 minutes. Your house won’t reek of cooked bacon for days and it comes out perfect every time. Well, unless you burn it. Then I guess it’s not perfect, but you get the idea.
After the lasagna noodles and ground beef finished cooking, I assembled the lasagna. Then I started making up eggs for the burritos. I added in green pepper and onion to the scrambled eggs as well. Using 8 inch flour tortillas, I ended up with 18 burritos.
By this time, I’m starving, and my kitchen is icky. So I took a time out (like an hour) to eat, clean up, and do something other than cooking. And by that I mean, sat in front of my computer and looked at pictures of other people cooking. On Pinterest. I need a life.
I had one more dinner recipe I wanted to make-Baked penne, chicken and tomatoes. Since the recipe already made 2 I decided that one would be dinner, and I’d freeze the second. While everything was baking for that I whipped up the pancakes. I layed them out flat in the freezer for about an hour, then put them in a gallon Ziploc. That way they didn’t stick together in the bag.
FINALLY, I grilled the chicken that had been marinating for the last 6 hours on my George Foreman. There was no way, after spending that long in the kitchen, I was going outside in the 100 degree weather to grill. I never use our foreman anymore, but I was sure glad I had it.
I froze all of the chicken strips in 1 bag, and the Greek chicken breasts in quantities of 2. I plan to use the strips for salads, and maybe even quesadillas.
I ended up not making all of these recipes, but I got a pretty good start.
Here’s what I made
- 2 loaves french bread made into garlic bread and cut in half
- 14 pancakes
- 18 breakfast burritos
- 1 lasagna
- 2 batches Mexican chicken chili
- 6 Greek marinated chicken breasts-frozen in 2 breast portions
- 6 Southwest marinated chicken breasts, cut into strips and frozen in one bag to use on salads
- 2 batches Fiesta chicken soup
- 2 meatloaf’s
- 2 batches chili
- 1 recipe (2 casseroles) baked penne with chicken and tomatoes
Final tally– 4 servings garlic bread, 32 breakfast items, and 18+ dinners, depending on how many chicken strips are used on our salads at a time.
I love that 3 of those recipes are Crock Pot meals, because it is easy for me to thaw those the night before and put them in the Crock Pot the next morning before work. Sure beats having Spaghetti every Thursday night 😉 Next time I do this I will definitely make more recipes that are for the Crock Pot.
And as promised, I also have your printable menu and printable grocery lists just to make everything easier on you. Remember, if you are cooking dry beans–cook ahead of time. Same goes for the shredded chicken–it will make your day much easier.
Click the links below to download your FREE real food freezer cooking menu and grocery list
Do you have a favorite freezer meal? I’d love to hear what everyone else makes!
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