Often I receive questions about crock pot cooking, meal planning, and cooking in bulk. Most of these questions come from friends and readers who love to cook but can’t find the time most evenings to pull off a big dinner.
Although I don’t dust off my crock pot nearly as often as I should, I do have plenty of ideas on planning and making meals in advance.
The key to great “make head meals” is to find family favorites that freeze well. Cooking in bulk and freezing can create a very efficient kitchen!
Think about it, if you’re taking the time to make homemade marinara and meatballs, why not make a GIANT pot of marinara and a quadruple batch of meatballs? It would only take you a few more minutes of prep time and save hours of cook time on other nights.
I do this frequently with my kids’ favorite meals: lasagna, pasta sauces, chili, hearty soups, even baked goods. On nights I’m preparing these things, I’ll cook up a double or triple batch. That way, if I’m out on the town one night, Daddy needs only to pull a hearty home-cooked meal out of the freezer and reheat it.
Try spending one full day of cooking to prepare all your meals for the next several weeks.
- Plan out a menu of 7 favorite dishes.
- Make an extensive grocery list of all the items you’ll need X3.
- Plan one full day of chopping, simmering, and baking.
- Then packages each batch in thirds, for 21 family meals.
- Make sure to wrap and label carefully.
When freezing wet items like soup, homemade stock, chili, and sauces, allow them to cool, pour them in GOOD-QUALITY freezer bags, zip tightly, and label. I try to place them in the freezer flat so they freeze in a nice, stackable shape. Sometimes I use airtight plastic containers, but have found the thick freezer bags work just fine.
First, lay the individual items out a baking sheet that will fit flat in your freezer.
Next place the sheet in the freezer uncovered for at least 30 minutes, so that the exterior of each item is frozen hard, then place all the items in a freezer bag together. The frozen exterior will protect the items so they don’t get ugly!
Flash freezing also works well with garlic bread loaves and whole cakes. The key with items to large for a freezer bag is to wrap them well in plastic after they’ve been flash-frozen, then wrap them again in foil. The extra lining guards against freezer burn.
Cooking large quantities and freezing the excess saves money, time, and sanity, and insures that your family eats well when you are too busy to cook.
Other dishes that freeze well…
This post is part of BlogHer’s Make Ahead Meals editorial series, made possible by Bank of America.