Monday, May 18, 2015

How to Bulk/Crock Pot/Freezer Cook In Four Easy Steps

Today I did another round of bulk cooking...or freezer cooking...or crock potting...or whatever you want to call it. It is my saving grace when it comes to dinner time. I love it. I can easily guarantee we will have a delicious meal on the table that I didn't have to actually spend much time cooking.

I've come across several blogs of women who do this - KUDOS! But I rarely like their food. 10 Meals for $50? Right on! (Read menu.) Never mind, it's all bean soups and chilis. Nothing wrong with those items but let's be real...it is not helpful to freezer cook if your family will not eat the food. Every family is different, we have different styles of cooking, diets (I'm talking to you paleos!), grocery buying and man, do we have different tastes. So I completely understand if someone reads my blog and says, none (or very few) of these meals sound good to us.

Gotcha. But I don't want that to deter anyone from taking on freezer cooking because IT. IS. AWESOME.

(Side note: I also get asked if the food is actually good. I'll admit, I've had flops but I try to go back to my blog to make an update for each meal.)

So allow me to break it down into four simple steps so you can freezer cook in a short amount of time to make the rest of your month manageable.

STEP 1 | Create Menu

Jot down some meals your family likes or meals you'd like to try. Are they freezable? Crockpotable? If it's a crock pot meal where you simply dump ingredients, keep it. Also, think pasta sauces - they freeze great and can easily heat in your crock pot. Not much for slow cooking? Think of your marinades and seasonings. Buy and season the meat, thaw it out the day of, and grill it up. Does it bake in a dish? Lasagna, Taco Lasagna, Mac and Cheese, Shepherd's Pie, Tater Tot Casserole? All freezable. Sometimes I even just freeze portions of the meal. Examples: pasta sauces (boil noodles day of), sausage bake (freeze sausage and broccoli and add potatoes and veggies day of).

STEP 2 | Create Grocery List

Once you get your list together (mine is usually about 10-12 meals and I make two of each), start making your grocery list. Don't worry about getting too organized just write down everything you need to make each meal.



STEP 3 | Go Shopping

Take the above list and shop. Make sure to buy gallon ziplocs and slow cooker liners (my fave) because it is always so unfortunate to be ready to prep 20+ meals and forget the bags. The total will probably surprise you. I know most people spend about $200-300 on groceries every 1-2 weeks so when your cooking 20 dinners and the total is between $100-$150 (on average), it is surprisingly awesome. My meals typically average $6 meal because we're all about that protein. If you're more into meatless stews/chilis/etc. you'll probably average a little lower.

STEP 4 | Make Magic...I mean, Make Meals

First I like to label bags. Then I just work through each meal. I usually start cooking any meat that needs to brown up before being put in the meal (i.e. ground beef, ground sausage, etc.). Other than that, just dump all the ingredients in the correct bag, freeze tortillas or rolls with them if necessary, have noodles in the pantry ready to go for your sauces (these are things to make sure you buy when you're planning your grocery run). This usually takes me about 2-3 hours. Today's prep was only an hour! Woop!

Then bask in all its glory. You are done. You have prepped and cooked for the next month. Hallelujah.


Now here are the meals I did today if you'd like to just follow my lead:

MENU |

Spaghetti Sauce
Pulled Pork
Greek Meatballs w/Pitas
Mango Salsa Chicken
White Chicken Enchiladas
Italian Sausage and Peppers Subs
Garlic, Herb, & Wine Chicken
Zesty Herb Chicken
Sausage Bake
Tomato Cream Sauce w/ Pesto and Chicken
Ranch Pork Chops
(I made 2 of each)

GROCERY LIST |

Produce:
1 bunch mint
2 lemons
3 green peppers
2 red peppers
1 sweet onion

Canned/Jarred goods:
4 jars marinara sauce
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 tub mango salsa
1 tub medium salsa
2 cans diced green chiles
2 cans cream of chicken
2 jars Alfredo sauce
1 jar pesto

Refrigerator/Freezer:
2 packages of cream cheese
16 oz. sour cream
2 bags frozen broccoli florets

Meat:
2 lbs. ground Italian sausage
5 lbs. ground beef
2 pork loins (3-5 lbs. each)
2 packages of Italian Sausages
2 packages of smoked sausage
8 pork chops (4 for each meal or adjust to your family)
3 bags frozen chicken breasts

Dried goods:
2 packages spaghetti noodles
2 boxes penne
4 packages of hoagies/rolls/pretzel buns
2 packages pitas
4 packages of tortillas

Seasoning:
2 Memphis BBQ Pit seasoning packets
2 Garlic, Herb, and Wine seasoning packets
2 Zesty Herb seasoning packets
2 Ranch seasoning packets
Cumin
Chili Seasoning
Garlic Powder
Basil
Oregano
Cinnamon
Salt and Pepper

Other:
1 bottle red wine (I prefer Pinot Noir)

RECIPES |

Spaghetti Sauce
1 jar marinara
1 can diced tomatoes (drained)
1 lb. ground sausage, cooked
1 lb. ground beef, cooked
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
Sprinkle in some basil and garlic too

8 on low, serve with spaghetti

Pulled Pork
1 pork loin
1/2 diced sweet onion
1 Memphis seasoning packet

Add 1 cup of water before cooking, 8 hours on low

Greek Meatballs w/Pitas
3 lbs. ground beef
1 bunch mint, chopped
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp Oregano
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
Garlic
Salt
Pepper
1 egg
1/2 c bread crumbs

Hand mix, roll into meatballs, divide into two bags. Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes. Serve with Pitas and tzaziki sauce (which is just plain Greek yogurt with dill, lemon zest, and cucumber).

Mango Salsa Chicken
1/2 tub mango salsa
1/2 tub medium salsa
1 package cream cheese
2-3 chicken breasts

8 on low, freeze with tortillas. Roll into enchiladas or serve as tacos or over chips with all the fixings.

White Chicken Enchiladas
1 can cream of chicken
1 can diced chilis
8 oz. of sour cream
1/2 Tbsp. cumin
2-3 chicken breasts.

8 hours on low, freeze tortillas with it, roll into enchiladas, top with cheese and bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

Italian Sausage and Peppers Subs
1 package sausage
1.5 green pepper chopped
1 red pepper chopped
1/2 bottle red wine
Drizzle with EVOO
Seasoning with Basil and Garlic

8 hours on low Serve in hoagies and top with parmesan.

Garlic, Herb, & Wine Chicken
4 Chicken Breasts
1 packet Garlic, Herb, & Wine Seasoning

Thaw, drizzle with EVOO and grill or add 1 cup water and cook 8 hours on low.

Zesty Herb Chicken
4 Chicken Breasts
1 packet Zesty Herb Seasoning

Thaw, drizzle with EVOO and grill or add 1 cup water and cook 8 hours on low.

Sausage Bake
Freeze smoked sausage and broccoli together. Before cooking add potatoes, sweet potatoes, peppers, etc. Drizzle with EVOO, basil, garlic, salt and pepper and bake at 415 for 45 minutes.

Tomato Cream Sauce w/ Pesto and Chicken
Thaw, cube, and cook 3 large chicken breasts (divide chicken into two meals)
1 jar alfredo
1 jar marinara
1/2 jar pesto

8 hours on low. Serve over penne

Ranch Chops
4 chops
1 packet ranch seasoning

Thaw, drizzle with EVOO and grill or add 1 cup water and cook 8 hours on low.

My total was $130 and I made 22 meals, averaging about $6/meal. Way to go, me!