10 Freezer Meals in 1 Day!

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Freezer Meals

Yesterday was the culmination of a four month plan to have a freezer meal stock up party. I have been an adherent meal freezer for about two years now and have read countless books, articles, and recommendations for one day mass cooking. I have, however, never had the guts, motivation, or willpower to actually pull off a mass cooking day. The planning began, approximately 120 days ago, with my sister-in-law when we decided to spend one day preparing 10 meals for our patiently waiting freezers. As with many projects the idea kept getting pushed back one more week, and one more week again. Finally, with no more weeks to go (my SIL is due to have a baby right after Christmas) it was decided that NOW was the time.
 
The first step in preparing for the big day was to find a variety of recipes. Next was to enter the recipes into a spreadsheet for easy calculation of a grocery list for multiple families. The shopping came next and finally the work began.
 
I wanted an assortment of chicken, beef, and pork recipes along with a collection of soups (3), casseroles (4), and prepared meats (3). The ten recipes I chose where:
Taco Soup
Italian Sausage Soup w/ Tortellini
Lasagna
Wild Rice Chicken
Wild Rice Chicken Soup
Stroganoff Meatballs
Tator Tot Casserole
Upside Down Fettuccini Pie
Hawaiian Pork
Chicken Enchiladas
 
Because different recipes call for ingredients in different forms of measurements (one may call for ¼ cup butter while another calls for 4 Tbsp of butter) I converted all the measurements into the same measuring type. This made it possible to add the quantities together for a more accurate grocery list.
 
Mass cooking is much more fun if you have a friend, or two, or three, to work with you. After all, if you are going to be in the kitchen all day you may as well have some good conversation to go with it. So, I put an option on the grocery list to enter the number of families you will be cooking for, the grocery list automatically recalculates the items you need. (Enter the number of FAMILIES you will be cooking for, each of the recipies should feed a family of 4-6. If you are cooking alone enter a 1, unless you have a very large family, in which case you will want to double each recipie so enter a 2).
I have a fairly well stocked food storage so it seemed logical to shop from there as well. I marked all the items on my grocery list purple if they could be found in the pantry. Even though I did use quite a bit of food storage I was still amazed to see that my grocery bill was only 150 dollars. We prepared 20 meals (10 for each of two families) which made the total price per meal ONLY $7.50 and that INCLUDES the cost of somewhat expensive foil casserole dishes. I almost wish I would have purchased EVERYTHING just to see what the overall price would be, maybe next time!
 
The cooking began at 11am. All 20 meals were in the freezer by 5pm. In 6 hours we prepared 10 meals a piece making our average time per meal about 36 minutes each. This time included all preparations and cleanup, as well as recurrent suspensions to feed and care for 6 small children.
 
After a surprisingly quick trip to the grocery store and a few trips to the basement storage room I was ready! I laid all the food out on the kitchen table so it was all handy and ready for the stock pot!
 
The stove was FULL almost all day!
 
As each meal was completed it was bagged and labeled, ready for the freezer.
 
 
One of the biggest challenges we ran into was cooling the food quickly enough to put it in bags, luckily it was only about 25 degrees outside so most of the food spent a bit of time on the front porch. The chicken and wild rice soup was one of the last meals completed and we were ready to be done. I was very uneasy about putting the soup into a freezer bag while it was still hot. I breathed a sigh of relief when it was finally safe in the freezer.
 
My attempts to photograph the final product were in vain. There was so much food I had a hard time taking pictures of it all.
 
Just my portion of the food seemed like enough to feed my family for three weeks. My kids are still young so they don’t eat a whole lot, but the pan of lasagna was gigantic so I am saving it for a week when I may need dinner and multiple lunches.  I am quite sure almost all of the meals we prepared will succeed in feeding my family more than once.
 
I would love to hear your tips and ideas for cooking in mass! I was pleased with the overall experience of filling my freezer in 6 hours and I’m certain you will be too!
For PDF versions of the recipes click here, for the grocery list click here.
For an Excel version of the recipes and grocery list click here.
 
To make things even easier I have created a label for each meal with instructions for serving. (Click here for pdf version and here for Word doc)
 

For more great freezer meals check out: "8 Slow Cooker Freezer Meals"

If you like freezer meals you will LOVE "Cheap Meals (the 1 week plan)"

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Comments

The general rule for freezer foods is 3 months. You can 'extend' the freezer time by wrapping the food more tightly. For example, something that is stored in a vacuum sealed bag will last much longer than something stored in a zip top bag. With these recipes I noticed that the bacon feta chicken and the chicken cordon bleu developed freezer burn more quickly than the other recipes because the toothpicks poked a hole in the bag. Next time I make these I will wrap them in plastic wrap before placing them in the bag. The food shouldn't ever "GO BAD" in your freezer but it will lose its quality with each passing month.

By jayme

so as long as they are frozen the meal can be good to eat a month later or longer? we are only 2, my husband and i, can i change it on the spreadsheet and it will automatically change everything else so i won't be cooking for a family of four?

By maria (not verified)

As a general rule, freezer meals will last up to 3 months. To be honest I have eaten them after 6 months. They wont 'go bad' as long as they are frozen but they will lose their quality quickly after 3 months.

If you are only cooking for two you can 1/2 most of the recipes. HOwever, if I were you I would cook the recipes as outlined but freeze them in smaller portions (make the lasagna in two 9x9 pans instead of one 9x13) You will get twice the meals for your effort!

By jayme

Good idea

By patty (not verified)

Best Tater Tot Casserole we've ever had! I made it tonight (doubled- one for freezer) and my family of 6 loved it! I will definitely be keeping that on my "freezer meal" list! I still want to try most of the other recipes. Thanks!!

By Jolene (not verified)

So good to hear!

By jayme

excuse me if i have missed the cost of all the ingredients... but roughly how much did you spend buying everything for the 10 meals? were you able to use some ingredients from one meal over to the next meal?

By angie (not verified)

have a fairly well stocked food storage so it seemed logical to shop from there as well. I marked all the items on my grocery list purple if they could be found in the pantry. Even though I did use quite a bit of food storage I was still amazed to see that my grocery bill was only 150 dollars. We prepared 20 meals (10 for each of two families) which made the total price per meal ONLY $7.50 and that INCLUDES the cost of somewhat expensive foil casserole dishes.

By jayme

Alright so I am new to doing freezer meals, but I stumbled across your site and thought it would be great to have this on hand in my apartment during the school year.
My first question is how long do/can these meals last in the freezer?
Second, do you just reheat things when you are ready to heat, or do they need to be cooked?
Thannks so much!

By Emily (not verified)

1- Freezer meals typically last about 3-6 months. Keep in mind they do not 'go bad' after 6 months they simply lose their quality.

2- These particular freezer recipies are already cooked and only need to be reheated. Some of the recipes from "8 Slow cooker freezer meals" must be cooked.

By jayme

This may sound stupid, but I have never done freezer cooked meals before. So, do you thaw the meal before you cook it? Do you thaw it in the microwave or just let it sit on the counter? Or do you cook it straight from the freezer? I was just confused about this aspect of the frozen meal plan.

By Curious (not verified)

 Don't worry, this isn't a stupid question. Most freezer meals can be cooked from the frozen state, especially casseroles; anything that is fully cooked and just needs to be reheated. Things that need to be cooked (like bacon feta chicken from 8 crock pot meals) should be thawed first. Some people will make the argument that ALL freezer meals have a better quality if they are thawed before reheating but there are many times I forget to take dinner out of the freezer in the morning and it ends up in the oven still a bit frozen. I haven't noticed much of a difference. 

By jayme

I am so confused for the lasagna...
it says add the whole tomatoes to the meat mixture is this correct? I have never made lasagna with whole tomatoes in it...it also says add tomato paste but tomato paste was not listed in the ingredients...I am right in the middle of making it right now!!

By Emily (not verified)

I'm so sorry I didnt get your comment on time, I;m also sorry for the omission of the tomato paste. But to answer your question, YES you do add the whole tomatoes to the meat mixture.

By jayme

Thank you do much for these recipes and shopping list. I know a lot of work went into preparing it as you did. I made all of the recipes this weekend with the help of my husband and dad. Everything went well. I chopped the veggies the night before and cooked all of the hamburger and sausage before we started. I also used rotisserie chicken. 6 hours later we were done. I can't wait to try them. Thanks again!!

By Kat S (not verified)

was it a typo in the hawaiian pork sauce recipe that called for 1 teaspoon of nutmeg? maybe it's just my opinion but the sauce was horrendous, i had to throw it out. i kept the meat and put bottle sauce on it, thankfully saving it. the tator tot casserole was bland (but again, might just be my taste), the george romney meatballs were wonderful! chicken enchiladas were yummy. italian soup was really good, although i put cheese and spinach ravioli in place of the tortellini. haven't tried the rest yet. thanks for the recipes. :)

By carol (not verified)

My husband and I spend a ton of money running to the store every couple of days to get what we need for dinner. I made all 10 of these meals for $130 and split them up into thirds so we got 30 meals. Its just the two of us and we always have veggies and some sort of bread with dinner. This should last us almost two months because we don't always eat at home and I will make other meals for dinner some nights. Thank you so much I am hooked on freezer meals now.

By jay (not verified)

I used your taco soup recipe this weekend for a freezer meal cooking project, but as I was making it, it seemed off. Where is the liquid? I ended up adding 2-3 cups water/stock to make it soupy, otherwise it was very much not soup. Am I missing something?

By Laura (not verified)

Did you drain your beans, corn and tomatoes? No draining is necessary. This soup is rather thick, a bit more like a chili. Adding water or beef broth is always an option to get soup to the consistency you prefer.

By jayme

I love all the information you have on here. A friend of mine planned a day like this and we mainly our meats since both our families have picky eaters. We cooked and froze 1 lb packages of both chicken and hamburger already cooked, so all we had to do was thaw and add our other ingredients. We also made up several meatloaves and patted out hamburgers and froze them as well. Our husbands loved being able to have supper on the table faster and they were even more apt to start dinner since all they had to do was heat the meat. Thank you for all the information and recipes, I think we may give it a try.

By Jo (not verified)

Hello! Your website is so inspiring! I ran across your link on Pinterest. ;) I have a very elementary question about freezer meals. Is there a standard time and temp that you set the oven for when going straight from freezer to oven? Are they all uncovered? I am planning to fully cook everything that I freeze. I frequently make meals for friends and family who have new babies, are sick, etc....but have never frozen the meals first. This is the part that makes me nervous ~ I want to give accurate directions to others on how to bring the meals from their freezer to their dinner tables. What is your suggestion? Many thanks!!!

By Helen (not verified)

There really isn't a right or a wrong way to cook your frozen meal. You can thaw it first or cook it frozen. For casseroles and other 'one pan' dishes I typically let them thaw on the counter for 30 minutes then put them in the oven with tinfoil over the top. I then remove the foil about 15 minutes before removing it from the oven. If you keep it uncovered the entire time the top may burn before the middle is hot. If cooking a meal that is frozen you will need to increase the amount of time it cooks but the temperature stays the same.

By jayme

How do you thaw the frozen food. Do you put it into the refrigerator a day ahead?

By Carol (not verified)

There really isn't a right or a wrong way to cook your frozen meal. You can thaw it first or cook it frozen. For casseroles and other 'one pan' dishes I typically let them thaw on the counter for 30 minutes then put them in the oven with tinfoil over the top. I then remove the foil about 15 minutes before removing it from the oven. If you keep it uncovered the entire time the top may burn before the middle is hot. If cooking a meal that is frozen you will need to increase the amount of time it cooks but the temperature stays the same.

By jayme

I live in Holland and don't have a huge American Refrigerator/Freezer. How much space is needed to accommodate this many meals? Great idea, dinner time here is 6:00. Sometime we don't get home till 5:15. It would be good to have something already prepared and just heat and serve!!

By Deborah Beijer (not verified)

I'm not sure exactly how much 'space' the meals will take up but you can plan on using about 3 9x13 inch pans, 1 pie plate, and 4-6 gallon size zip lock bags. But remember, you don't need to fix them all at the same time. Just pick a few; use the space you do have.

 

By jayme

We do something similar to this for Christmas. Rather than buying gifts for friends and neighbors, we spend a weekend baking. We call it "Cookie Day" but it starts on Friday evening an runs through the end of Sunday.
I have to have my spreadsheet just to keep us on track. We make at least 10 different items, 4 to 6 of each for each family and we have had as many as 40 families that we've made these boxes for. I don't know how many cookies that is but the joy of seeing how much they all appreciate it is well worth it.

By Cyndy (not verified)

I clicked on the excel link but I don't understand it. I need to purchase the amount in the grand total column?

By Laura (not verified)

THe spreadsheet was written to calculate your grocery list for cooking with a group. If you are only cooking for yourself all you need to worry about is the 1 person total.

By jayme

This is the first set of freezer meals that all sounds good to me that I have come across. Thanks for sharing! I am getting my shopping done tonight and making everything on Sunday!

By Kimberly (not verified)

Just found a link to this on Pinterest.

I work in a school cafeteria and you'd be amazed what can be made ahead and frozen until needed! My personal favorite is cookie dough. Everybody loves fresh from the oven cookies, but nobody wants to cover the kitchen in flour every weekend! I make a big batch and freeze the dough in those cartons that deli meats come in now. On the top, write the flavor, bake time and temp, and date it! Fresh cookies without the big mess!

Also, we make spaghetti sauce, hot dog chili, taco filling, soup, lasagna, plain baked chicken, so many things! I am going to try to put a link to the USDA website. This has all the recipes, in 50 and 100 serving batches, but with a little math you can easily break it down by half or more. Or double it. We cook for 500 kids, so we have to multiply each ingredient by 5. When we have a workday, no school, I make several things and freeze them, then school nights with a 5th grader aren't so bad! Hope this link will work for you!

http://www.nfsmi.org/Templates/TemplateDefault.aspx?qs=cElEPTEwMiZpc01nc...

By Brandy (not verified)

I love this idea and was looking to make some meals to freeze prior to my due date. I was elated to discover this website and thank you for posting this, I love the recipies and the fact that you had the grocery list and labels also already done. This was a huge help to me and I thank you!

By Jenn (not verified)

My family raved about these last night. Love the spreadsheet you made for easy shopping, I just added to it at the end what else I needed and it made shopping easier:) Made my freezer meals for the first time yesterday and looking forward to trying them as we eat. And the chicken enchiladas I just completed for dinner last night as it was the last thing I put together and everyone loved them! Thank you!

By Laura Dobbs (not verified)

Lay good quality plastic wrap directly atop the casserole/dish and press down. Then cover with foil. This is what the professionals do in order to keep dishes from becoming freezer burned. The plastic prevents moisture from forming into ice crystals as air can't get in, however it isn't strong enough alone and required the foil layer.

I keep a wide 2" roll of masking tape and a Sharpie pen in my kitchen at all times. No matter what I put into the freezer, I identify the contents on a piece of masking tape with the Sharpie and nothing is left to chance. Writing directly on the foil or plastic can be disastrous if the package becomes damp as permanent marker is no longer permanent once frozen. I write the contents, quantity and date on each package. When I make chicken soup, I pull out the chicken and bone it, freezing the meat in ½ cup portions. I use zippered sandwich bags for each ½ cup portion and place all of the bags into one larger zippered freezer bag with a label identifying the contents.

By Vildy (not verified)

 I love the idea of using masking tape! I typically just write on the foil and sometimes I poke a hole in it and have to start over. Or, like you said it wipes off after it is frozen.

Thank you for your comments!

By jayme

I use a canning pressure cooker to cook ground beef. Set a rack in the bottom and meat and water. with lid. come back 30 min later remove meat and dump water with grease. The meat will crumble, great for taco etc.. You have your mess contained and have a easy clean up.

By Elaine Wright (not verified)

 I have never tried cooking ground beef in a pressure canner. (I have canned it, just not cooked it for immediate consumption or freezer meals)

I will definately be trying this soon!

Thank you for your comments

By jayme

Hi, And thanks for your hard work in doing this!! I was just wondering if you made the recipes in a certain order? For example, the Hawaiian pork has to be in the slow cooker for 4-6 hours, and some of the other recipes would be easier and quicker... Thanks again!!

By Miriam (not verified)

I didn't necessarily make the meals in a specific order but I did cook all of the meat first, starting with the slow cooker! After all of the meat is cooked the assembly can go in any order, starting with the dishes that are the easiest and need the least amount of prep time.

 

By jayme

Thanks for this, I'm currently cooking away trying to store meals for when I give birth to my second child. I do have one question though, the Taco Soup... Is it supposed to be soup or chili? There is no liquid in the ingredients and even with the liquid from the cans after simmering for 2 hours it looks like chili. Am I supposed to put some sort of liquid in it?

By Carissa (not verified)

This is purely a matter of preference. Taco soup generally does have a similar consistency to chili but you can add water or beef broth if you prefer it to be more soupy. It will go further if you add liquid.

By jayme

I am making the George Romney meatballs. I bought an already frozen package of Italian style meatballs. Do I need to cook them and then freeze them again? Thanks :)

By Jennifer (not verified)

No, you don't need to warm your meatballs up, keep them frozen.

By jayme

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