Saturday, October 6, 2012

25 Meals in 4 1/2 Hours - Freezer to Crockpot Monthly Cooking!

Do you hate cooking? I do. Unfortunately, I like eating and these little things called children that live in my home insist on having dinner each day of the week too. What has this equaled for us in the past? A lot of eating out, which is expensive. So, I decided to do some research and create a month's worth of freezer to Crockpot meals in one evening, 4 1/2 hours to be exact. In one Friday night, I was able to put together a month's worth of meals and I'll show you how I did it.

{Why Freezer to Crockpot Meals?}

Because their easy! Think of it as the lazy woman's monthly cooking. Well, not lazy, just for those of us who hate cooking. Plus, there is a fresher element to these meals since they are actually cooked for the most part on the day you eat them. There is less prep and time involved than if you froze fully cooked meals, plus you can fit flattened ziplock bags of ingredients into a freezer much easier than bulky casserole pans.

{What Cooking is Still Involved?}

Most people who hear that I made a month's worth of freezer meals or even planned on doing it asked me what other cooking would be involved. Basically, you remove the meal you want to eat from the freezer the day before, let it defrost in the fridge and then dump it in the Crockpot to cook for the designated amount of time. Some meals will need rice and others will need noodles. This is where I suggest you get a rice cooker, because non-instant rice is much cheaper than instant and you don't have to do a thing. You can also teach older children to cook pasta and they love getting to "help". Steam in bag microwave veggies are simple as can be and tossing together a salad is no work at all. At most, you will need to spend 5 minutes in the kitchen to prepare each nightly meal!

{The Meals}

Many people avoid Crockpot cooking because they feel it limits them and you can't create meals the whole family will love. This isn't true. Virtually anything can be cooked in a Crockpot and the meal choices are varied and endless. Below is the list of meals I made. I created two of each meal except the  bacon and feta stuffed chicken for a total of 25 meals. I will be linking up the recipes as I get them posted on the site in the coming weeks.
The total cost for these 25 meals including sides and supplies was $275, that is an average of $1.83 per serving for our family of 6! Way less than we would spend eating out and even less than I spent buying meals to cook each night. 

{How Do You Do It?}

Creating a month's worth of freezer to Crockpot meals is as simple as filling bags. Really! Below are the steps I took and that you can take to get it done quickly and efficiently. 

Step 1: Start with a clean kitchen. Trying to do this in an already messy kitchen is only going to stress you out.

Step 2: Have a print out of each recipe with the ingredients and cooking information. This is much faster than trying to go back and forth on a computer and you can create your own cookbook of recipes for the future.

Step 3: Label all your freezer bags with the name of the meal, date and cooking instructions. 

Step 4: Cut up all the veggies you will need for the meals. It is easier to do this so your eyes only water once. :)

Step 5: Start by putting together the meals that require cooked elements. For instance, the meatless hashbrown casserole is the only meal I made that does not go in a Crockpot and is fully cooked. I put that together first so that it would be done and have time to cool while I did the other meals.

Step 6: Do all meals that require you to prepare or cut meat next. I did the pork meals after the cooked meals because they required me to cut the meat. Think like steak and ribs were already pre-cut. 

Step 7: Finish all remaining meals that are just dump and mix.

Step 8: Make sure all meals are completely cooled and then stack in the freezer. We have a standard size small freezer above a fridge and all 25 meals fit in here. The steam in bag veggies for the meals are in the door of the freezer and there is still room for our ice maker!

Helpful Tips:
  • Squeeze out as much air as possible from your bags before closing. 
  • Squish the ingredients as flat as possible for easier stacking in the fridge.
  • If possible, by meat that is pre-cut. It saves a lot of time.
  • Clean as you go along. It is much easier to hand wash one mixing bowl each time you make a meal than to have 20 dirty mixing bowls when you are done. 
  • Do not put sliced potatoes into your freezer meals. If a recipe requires sliced potatoes like the roast I made, add them the day of cooking. Sliced potatoes will turn black in the freezer. The exception to this is potatoes that are already frozen such as the purchased hashbrowns or tater tots in my meals above. 
Have you ever tried monthly freezer cooking? If so, how did it go, what are your favorite recipes? If you have any additional questions, feel free to leave them below.