Bulk Freezer Cooking- Real Foodie Style
There are some pretty awesome bulk freezer cooking articles on Pinterest these days, so I debated a while before writing this post.
The real reason I decided to add to the seemingly never ending “bulk freezer cooking” train is this:
I couldn’t find any great guides that were centered around REAL FOOD. Not to mention local or in season food… Plus, I wanted something with tips on minimizing plastic use, rather than maximizing!
So, I decided to put all the tips and tricks that I have learned over the last few years, and make my own bulk freezer cooking article- Real Foodie style. 🙂
In general, my preferred freezer cooking style is to just double or triple any freezer friendly meal I make each week, and continually keep my freezer stocked with a few meals.
However, there ARE times when a concentrated bulk freezer cooking session is in order. The key to not losing my mind in busy seasons of life, is to have a larger stash of freezer meals to pull from.
What are those “busy seasons”? For us, the busiest seasons of life are:
- Planting season (early spring)
- Harvest season (late summer/early fall)
- Having guests for long-ish periods of time, or multiple gatherings/parties
- Right after a baby is born
- And last, but DEFINITELY not least- the most important time for me is the first 26 weeks of my pregnancy, when I can’t move without puking. Yep. It’s awesome, and the only way we survived last time is freezer meals.
So, when a busy season is looming ahead, I break out the goods, and a bulk freezer cooking session is begun.
The 4 areas I focus on are:
- All-in-one type of dinners that require just a bit of cooking for a side dish or two. Use your list of family favorite meals, and find ones that freeze well. Ours are:
- Lasagna– A salad or veggie and some bread complete this meal.
- Swiss Steak– Rice and maybe a veggie side are needed.
- Enchiladas or Southwestern Egg Rolls– Sour cream and salsa, maybe some avocado and chips for a side.
- Meatloaf– This meal needs veggie sides and a starch, but pre-making the actual meatloaf greatly speeds up dinner making.
- Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches– This meal just needs the buns and cheese for the sandwiches, and maybe some sauerkraut as a side.
- Soups of all kinds. Serve with whatever side you prefer.
- Spaghetti and meatballs– Just cook up the pasta, and whatever vegetable sides you prefer.
- Meats that I freeze in a marinade, and are easy to cook in a cast iron pan, or throw on the grill once they have thawed (and marinated as they thawed).
- Basic ingredients that speed up dinner prep.
- Refried beans
- Grated semi cooked potatoes (for hashbrowns)
- Chicken or Beef bouillon
- Bread Crumbs
- Breads/Breakfast foods
- Whole wheat or sourdough bread
- Rolls, english muffins, or sandwich buns
- Quickbreads or muffins- Zucchini, Blueberry, and Pumpkin are our favorites
- Pancakes and Waffles
- Breakfast egg casserole, or breakfast burritos
I usually give the most time and attention to category #1 when doing a bulk cooking session, and add to the other categories more gradually throughout the weeks, but you can do whatever suits your schedule and preferences.
Also, if you notice, all these items are made from ingredients I can grow or raise here in Central Virginia in zone 7. (the only exception being rice and maybe some olives in the enchiladas.) No crazy expensive or exotic ingredients here.
Step #1 to bulk freezer cooking is: Decide which recipes you want to make.
*Links to these recipes can be found at the bottom of this post.
Step #2: Assemble/Buy the necessary ingredients.
Step #3: Begin soaking or simmering any necessary items the day before your bulk freezer cooking session.
*Please note, that if you are cooking in a traditional real food style, you will need to properly prepare any grains or legumes by soaking them the day before cooking. I always grind my flour, and start my recipes to soak the day before my weekly baking day, and before any bulk cooking sessions.
IMPORTANT!!! My favorite way to begin a bulk cooking session is to start by cooking an entire chicken (or two) in my crock pot the day before. Let it simmer for at least 24 hours, then strain the chicken out of the stock. Allow the carcass to cool, then remove all the meat from the bones. Now you have a whole pot of stock and lots of shredded chicken to use for all your recipes!
Step #4: Start cooking.
I am going to walk you through how I make all 8 of our favorite freezer meals (above) in about 3 hours. I always double everything, so it will actually be 14-15 meals.
First, put your beans on to boil with a few cups of the chicken stock.
Next step is to chop the vegetables. I put the onions, carrots, and celery for the meat loaf through the food processor, and begin sauteing them. Then the peppers, tomatoes, and celery for the swiss steak go through the food processor, and are set aside. Rinse the food processor, and keep it ready for processing more tomatoes and onions for the rest of the recipes.
Flour and saute the meat for the Swiss steak, then finish the recipe with the chopped vegetables. Place the finished recipe in 3 glass 8×8’s or 2 glass 9×13’s with pop on plastic lids. (If you don’t have these, you can also use stainless steel steamer pans with lids, or aluminum disposable pans.)
By now the vegetables for the meatloaf are finished sauteing and you can assemble the meatloaf with the remaining ingredients.
Shape the meatloaves with your hands and wrap tightly in freezer paper.
30-45 minutes in-two recipes done.
Next, we will make the spaghetti sauce, meatballs, and lasagna.
(Make sure you are keeping an eye on your simmering beans!)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, and put a large pot of water on to boil for the lasagna noodles.
Put two of the onions through the food processor. Use half to mix up the meatballs, and begin gently sauteing the other half in olive oil for the spaghetti sauce. Shape the meatballs and stick them in the oven at 450 degrees for 30 minutes.
Rinse the food processor and process all the tomatoes for the spaghetti sauce. Add them to the sauteed onions along with the remaining ingredients. Simmer until the meatballs are finished cooking.
Put the lasagna noodles in the boiling water. Saute the ground beef for the lasagna, put the tomatoes through the food processor, and mix with the remaining ingredients to make the meat sauce.
Mix up the cheese mixture for the lasagna, remove the cooked noodles, and layer with the mozzarella cheese, meat sauce, and cheese mixture in two 9×13 pans.
By now, the spaghetti sauce and meatballs should be finished. Remove them from the heat, and let cool.
1.5 hours in, and 4 recipes completed.
While the meatballs and sauce are cooling, cut up all the ingredients for the Philly cheese steak sandwiches. I do put this recipe in two plastic gallon ziplock bags because I haven’t found a better alternative yet. Add the seasonings, and they are ready for the freezer. (These will be dumped into the crockpot when you are ready to use them, so the plastic won’t ever get hot at least.)
Freeze the meatballs in quart jars, and the spaghetti sauce in quart jars, or in muffin tins for individual servings. Later, once they have frozen in the tins (maybe the next day), pop them out, and place in half gallon jars or gallon ziplock bags. I like these muffin tins the best because they pop out so easily!
Put the onions for the soup through the food processor and begin sauteing. Add the remaining ingredients, and bring to a boil. While the soup is coming to a boil, make your enchilada sauce, and begin sauteing more chopped onion for the enchiladas.
Process the final two onions for the southwestern egg rolls, then wash your food processor, and put the soup through (or use an immersion blender). Return to the pot and add the remaining ingredients. Simmer for 5 min, then season and cool.
Add the shredded chicken and remaining enchilada ingredients to the sauteed onions, and layer with the mozzarella or jack cheese, and tortillas in 4 8×8 or 2 9×13 pans.
Lastly, saute the chopped onions for the Southwestern egg rolls, add the remaining ingredients (including the beans you have been cooking) and cook through. Cool and freeze in quart jars.
As long as you don’t have TOO many toddler interruptions, you should be able to complete all 8 recipes in just 3 hours.
A few things will still be cooling, and need to be labeled, but the cooking and most of the freezing will be totally done!
You can also choose to do this all at once, or spread the three stages throughout a day. Whatever suits your schedule best.
This is just my version of real food bulk freezer cooking. You can substitute ANY of your favorite freezer friendly recipes!
Any variations can be used. A lot of times I will cook more like 6 cups of beans, and after I take out the ones I need for the egg rolls, I will freeze them plain, or mash them into re-fried beans and freeze. In summer time, we do a lot more plain grilled meats with fresh veggies, so I tend to do more of the frozen meat in marinades.
Sometimes I do a bulk baking day, and make loads of muffins, waffles, and bread to freeze. Just go with whatever your needs and likes are at the time!
Here are all the recipes I use:
Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches. – I use actual steak instead of chicken most of the time, and I add basil, thyme, and oregano instead of the spice mix she recommends.
Chicken Enchiladas and enchilada sauce.
Southwestern Egg Rolls– I use mozzarella or jack cheese in place of the pepper jack.
The rest of the recipes have been passed down through my family, so I will include them here.
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 4 cloves minced garlic
- 2 Tablespoons sucanat (raw sugar)
- 2 Tablespoons real salt
- 1 Tablespoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon fennel
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 64oz pureed canned or fresh tomatoes
- 4 (6oz) cans of tomato paste
- 1 cup of water
- Saute the onions in the olive oil
- Add the garlic and saute 1 minute
- Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 c. milk
- 3 slices of bread crumbled, or 1 3/4 c. of dried bread crumbs
- 2# ground beef
- 1/2 c. chopped onion
- 2 Tablespoons dried parsley
- 1 clove minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon real salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
Combine and form into 24 balls. Bake in a 9×13 at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. Freeze after baking.
- 2# ground beef
- 2 t. garlic powder
- 2 T. dried basil
- 1 t. salt
- 32 oz pureed fresh or canned tomatoes
- 4 (6 oz) cans of tomato paste
- 1/2 t. fennel
- 1/2 t. cumin
Saute beef, then combine with remaining ingredients.
- 4 cups of cottage cheese
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup dried parsley
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 t. pepper
- 1 t. salt
- 16 lasagna noodles
- 3 cups grated jack or mozzarella cheese
Cook the noodles, the layer half the noodles, cheese mix, meat mix, then grated cheese. Repeat layers with the remaining half of the ingredients. Freeze or bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
- 4# of beef round or sirloin cut into small serving size pieces and pounded flat
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1/2 c. olive oil or lard
Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet, dredge the meat in the flour and brown in the oil. Remove from the pan and place in two 9×13 pans.
- 2 T. real salt
- 1/4 t. pepper
- 1 t. savory
- 1/2 c. flour
Add to the hot pan and brown in the drippings. Blend in:
- 4 c. water
- 2 c. finely chopped celery
- 2 c. finely chopped bell pepper
- 64 oz pureed fresh or canned tomatoes (8 cups)
Cook and stir until slightly thickened. Pour over meat, and freeze, or bake at 325 degrees for 2.5-3 hours.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 cups chopped onion
- 1/4 c. minced garlic
- 1 seeded and chopped jalapeno
- 3 chopped corn tortillas
- 16 oz pureed fresh or canned tomatoes
- 10 cups of chicken broth
- 1 t. cumin
- 1 t. oregano
- 1/2 t. cayenne
- 3 cups cooked shredded chicken or turkey
- 3 cups frozen corn
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 cups monteray jack or mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 c. lemon or lime juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
Saute onions, garlic, and pepper in olive oil. Add the chopped tortilla and saute 3 more minutes. Add tomatoes, broth, and spices. Bring to a boil. Run through a food processor, or use an immersion blender. Add chicken, corn, and cream. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and add cheese, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer 5 minutes. Serve with sour cream, avocado, and cilantro.
Happy Bulk Freezer Cooking!