There are several different approaches to bulk cooking. You may like one approach better than another, or you may find using a combination is the best. Try each one and see what you are comfortable with! Experiment! Take chances! There is no wrong way as long as you are using common sense and being safe!
• Master Recipes – This is an important part of bulk cooking that is preparing and freezing specific ingredients that you add to other fresh ingredients when you prepare the meal. Such as having several freezer baggies or containers of browned ground beef. Some can be flavored with just onions, salt and pepper for use in casseroles or as pizza topping. Some can be flavored with taco seasoning to make taco night easier. Cook up several whole chickens in stock and debone. Freeze them in airtight freezer bags for casseroles, chicken salad, soups, etc. Many meats can be done up this way such as beef, chicken, turkey, sausage.
• Meat Loaf is another excellent item that can be made in large batches and frozen. Mix up a large batch and put them into disposable foil pans, wrap well in freezer bags and if they will be frozen for more than 2 months, I suggest wrapping them a second time in freezer paper to help prevent burn. You can do beef, turkey loaf or salmon loaf this way. I do recommend that salmon not be kept for more than a month in the freezer. It tends to freezer burn no matter how well wrapped.
• Pre season ground beef and make burger patties, freeze them on cookie sheets then transfer them to freezer bags. Great way to save time when grilling. Just take out as many as you need, let them thaw partially and grill.
• Utilize your Crockpot – A crock pot or slow cooker can turn almost any cheap piece of meat tender and delicious! Slow cook a roast in the and freeze some of it sliced, some shredded and of course saving the stock for use in soups, gravy or any recipe requiring meat stock. You can cook beef, pork, turkey breast or ham this way.
• Bulk cooking homemade pizza is another great way to have quick and easy meals. You can make them full size or mini. If you want you can purchase cardboard circles from any cake decorating store or section of your local discount store to put them on to freeze them. (I do not recommend cooking them on these circles as I am not sure they are treated for oven safe the same as ones the pizza manufacturer uses.)
• Bulk cookie dough made into walnut sized balls and frozen is a great way to have hot fresh cookies whenever you want. Just take out as many as you need, bake them fresh and you’ll never throw away a stale cookie again!
• Cakes can freeze okay but with box mixes it is easier to keep several of them on hand to bake up fresh.
Do’s & Don’ts
- Do pre select about 20 recipes to use that are tried and true and your family loves. Plan a week’s or month’s worth of menu’s based on your bulk items in your freezer to save time deciding each day what you will have for that meal.
- Don’t freeze items made with mayonnaise, salad dressing, sour cream or cooked eggs. These items should always be added fresh as freezing changes their texture.
- Do cook recipes that save you more than a half hour prep time.
- Do plan around what’s on sale when shopping. Watch for bulk ground beef or turkey, roasts, hams, etc that can be purchased in large quantities and prepped for the freezer.
Master lists - Once you have gathered your recipes, make a "master grocery list" of all of the ingredients listed in the recipes. Combine like items and make sure you will have enough for all of the dishes you are going to prepare. Make sure to include side dish ingredients, desserts, snacks, etc. that you may need.
There are several approaches to the cooking part. You could do it in a couple of days, Day 1: shopping and prep day, and Day 2: cooking and assembly.
Preparation - This is your day/time to prepare master recipes, chop vegetables, shred cheeses, etc. Combine all like steps in recipes and do them at once. For example, if several recipes contain chopped onions, chop all the onions for all the recipes at one time. (You can go even further and chop all of the onions you have and freeze them, for present and future use). You can also prepare dough, sauces, marinades, etc.
Cooking - Finish cooking your master recipes, then prepare them for use in the other recipes you are making them into. For example, cook the turkey or honey baked ham, then divide into the parts for the other recipes (such as turkey or ham slices, potpies, etc) that they will be used for. Boil, bake simmer, fry, do all of your cooking steps now.
Make sure your counters are clear of clutter and you have lots of paper towels, sponges and towels for quick cleanup, along with aprons and a mop!
Have your recipes where you can easily see them. Tape them to the upper cabinet or whatever is easiest.
Remove distractions! Keep the pets out of way so you are not having to step over them or get their fur in the food! If you have small children, same thing, get a sitter or send hubby and the kids out for the day.
Assembly: Assemble your dishes, cook if needed, or freeze. Make sure you label everything that goes into the freezer and put any reheating instructions on the label if you think you may forget.
Use good freezer bags to put the meats in. You can also freeze sauces, shredded cheeses, chopped veggies and other items in ziploc bags, close them tight and put them on their side, patting them flat. You can get a lot of food in a small freezer this way. Be sure to use good brands of bags as you do not want them bursting open in the freezer.
Aluminum foil - Great for freezing in, I like to wrap up pizza in foil. Just don't forget to label your foods!
Plastic wrap - Another alternative to double bagging. If you want to reuse Ziploc bags, wrap the meats thoroughly in plastic wrap, freeze on a cookie sheet, then place in a Ziploc. Take the meat out of the Ziploc before it thaws, so no blood gets in the Ziploc. If in doubt, throw it out! Don't take chances!
Foil containers – There are a variety of shapes and sizes and can be used for most anything. You can even find divided ones that you can make your own ‘tv dinners’ on with a meat, mashed potato and veggie!