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. 


52 comments:

  1. I stocked our freezer in preparation for baby's arrival. Love it! Now if I can only find time to restock now that he's here.

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  2. Luckily mine are old enough to help now Jenn. In fact, they will fight over who gets to help in the kitchen now.

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  3. Wow! I've never done that, but it looks like the way to go!

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  4. Wow! Book marking this! Thank you :)

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  5. That is awesome !! looking forward to your recipes !!

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  6. Would love to do this. I need a bigger freezer, lol. Looking forward to the recipes!

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  7. This is awesome! Bacon & feta sounds like an interesting combo-- I love both though!

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  8. I've never cooked this far in advance. The sweet teriyaki sounds so good.

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  9. Stefani, we had the bacon and feta chicken tonight and it was amazing! I will have that recipe up tomorrow.

    Becca, you really do not need a big freezer. I got all 25 meals plus our frozen veggies in a regular sized freezer.

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  10. I've done this once and it was so nice not to worry about things. I was not nearly as organized with the prep as you were so things took a bit longer. I think if I followed your plan, I could do this a lot more regularly.

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  11. I do this at least once a month -- it is AWESOME. I started right before the birth of my baby, which I then shared as a "post baby freezer meal plan" on my blog. It was SUCH a lifesaver that I kept it up. It's so nice to have those meals in the freezer for busy days!

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  12. Oh this is so what I need! I too hate cooking! But I hate eating out and eating junk.

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  13. This would be great to do before baby comes!!

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  14. We just got our chest freezer up and running and I'm so excited to have found your post! Thanks for sharing.

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  15. You go! Since our move we still haven't gotten our big freezer set up so I haven't been able to do this lately. It is such a huge help though.

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  16. Fabulous and although I'd love to do something like that I'd never have room in my freezer :(

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  17. This is neat. I'll be doing more cooking soon and I'll def be pulling that crock pot out.

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  18. You are such an inspiration to me! I need to be this organized and start using my crock pot more - it would make my life so much easier!

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  19. Tricia, it is super easy to fit these meals in because they lay virtually flat on top of each other.

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  20. Very organized! I love crockpot cooking and should try this method. The whats for dinner thing would go out the window :) Gonna keep up with your posts here on this for recipes. I have a ton of garden stuff in the freezer right now and need to use it up!

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  21. You have some great selections! Normally I prepared crockpot freezer meals about 2x per month. I have two refrigerators with freezers on top. Once you establish a routine, it's easy - Thanks for sharing your recipes! Can't wait to try them.

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  22. Am I missing the recipes someplace? Would LOVE to know what to get to do this!! :)

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  23. Klitteral, I haven't gotten the recipes posted on the site yet. I am waiting until we have tried them and I have final photos before posting. Wouldn't want to post a recipe for something we haven't actually eaten yet. :)

    The bacon and feta stuffed chicken recipe is linked up above already and I will be posting and linking the others each day for the next week or two.

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  24. I really need to try making freezer meals but just the thought of doing it scares me.

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  25. This is such a wonderful idea! I am really looking forward to seeing all of your posts.

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  26. Yay! I was making sure I hadn't missed something :) I'll be anxiously awaiting the turn out and I hope it works!

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  27. I've never seen freezer-to-crockpot meals before--what a great idea! This would be a wonderful way to have meals ready to share with others, too (for those of us who have "empty nests").

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  28. Do you include all the ingredients other than sliced potatoes and separately-cooked items (rice, pasta, etc.)? And what about whole, small potatoes?

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  29. Jennie, I include all ingredients except potatoes. Even whole potatoes I wouldn't do. For meals like a roast, I put the vegetables in a separate freezer bag buy themselves to keep them out of the sauce etc, but you can leave them in the same bag if you like. With rice and cooked pasta, I do not freeze them, but some people do and have with success. I just make them for my family the day of. We have a rice cooker, so there is nothing to it.

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  30. Fore easy crock pot clean up, use the Reynolds Slow cooker bags. When you are finished with it, pull it out and throw it away. Virtually no clean up.

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  31. Looks great! I will be doing this but using Tupperware FreezerMates or other Tupperware containers meant for the freezer. Stacking ziploc bags, especially with meat, isn't safe as there is no air flow around each bag. The middle bags will take longer to freeze, therefore, your meat will go bad before it freezes.

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  32. These look and sound great. I have never prepared freezer "meals" before. So I have a what some people might call a stupid question : Do you put the meat in raw?
    Thanks!

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  33. Not a stupid question at all. For these meals, yes, you put the meat in raw. Other do a form of freezer cooking where they actually completely cook the meals before putting them in the freezer, but these are designed to be pulled out and popped in the Crockpot.

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  34. So excited to have found this, I am due to give birth in 8 weeks and have been trying to get some ideas to stock the freezer with!

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  35. new to the whole crockpot meals and with baby number 4 on the way u have helped me prepare ahead some meals so i can get squared away for the baby girl arrival. keep posting and good work xo

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  36. Where can i find more of your recipes or more recipes that you can freeze and put in crock pot?

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  37. You can find more recipes here. http://www.lifewith4boys.com/search/label/crockpot%20cooking

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  38. After school evening routine is tough. So I would like to start doing this to save time and ease the rush and stress once school starts. I am gone 12hrs a day and I noticed a lot of recipes max out at 6-8 hrs on low. I am wondering if I could put the ingredients in still frozen and cool on low so that it is not overcooking/turning mushy, etc. while I am still gone. any suggestions?

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    1. My crockpot has a timer option to cook for say, 8 hrs. on low and then it automatically switches to a "keep warm" setting after time runs out.

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  39. I have not ever cooking anything that long before, it is possible you could, but you would risk it drying out. You may look into purchasing a crockpot that has a delayed start timer. This way, it would start cooking at the time you want it to, and be done by the time you got home. You could leave the meal a bit frozen so it thaws before it starts cooking.

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  40. I'm loving these recipes!! Thank you!!

    As for overcooking, I use a lamp timer. I put my mostly frozen meal in the crock pot when I leave the house at 6am, turn it on, set the timer to turn on about 12 or 1 (depending), plug the crock pot into the timer, and forget it. Dinner is done when I get home and all I have to worry about is side dishes.

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    Replies
    1. I never would have thought of a lamp timer..what an amazing idea.

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    2. Oooh! That's a really genius way of doing things. ^^^

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  41. Do Even Put The Ground Beef In Raw For Like The Spaghetti And Stuff?

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  42. My family has decreased in size, but I still do freezer meals. I keep foil pans on hand so if I make a casserole that feeds a gang; I'll split it and have a meal for later.

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  43. some of the recipes that you have linked up don't explain how or what to freeze together, ex beef stroganoff. How do you know on these recipes what to keep out or what things can be put together in the freezer bag?

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  44. Generally, everything goes in one bag together unless it expressly says not too in the instructions. 99% of the freezer to crockpot meals you will find will have all the ingredients frozen together. Some of the recipes I used in this were strictly crockpot and I just converted them to freeze. Basically, anything put cut potatoes, rice and butter can be frozen together in a bag. Those specific things I would add fresh when cooking meals. Also, you can freeze veggies for a meal separate or add fresh if you would rather too. Cream soups and such can be frozen, but if they separate you will just have to whisk them back into shape.

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  45. So, I really love this idea but how would you convert things for a single person. My biggest problem with cooking is I end up cooking so much I have to eat what I cooked for a week and it gets sickening but i don't like waste. But I can't afford to eat out all the time and the way my eating habits have been.... replacing food with soda....which made me really malnourished and still gained weight. I am tired of feeling weak and sick.

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  46. Squeaks, if you take any of the recipes and fourth them, so if it calls for 2 cups of something, you would use a 1/2 cup instead, or if it called for 1 tbs. you would use a 1/4 of a tbs., then you should come up with meals that maybe give you enough left over for lunch the next day, but not so much so that you would have to eat it for a week. Another idea would be to prepare the entire recipe, but then place it in four separate bags to freeze instead of one. That way you are making four meals at once, but you can eat them different times of the month. The cooking time shouldn't change with a smaller amount, but you could always keep an eye on the meals the first few times to make sure they don't overcook and become rubbery.

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