It is very simple really; it is a matter of cooking and prepping certain ingredients of your favorite meals ahead of time and then either freezing, canning, drying or refrigerating. The most common is to freeze, whether you have a large one or just the one on top of your refrigerator.
Whenever you are going to prepare a family favorite, double, triple, even quadruple the recipe if it will keep in the freezer.
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!
• If you want to share this with a friend or two and get together and put together say up to 20 different recipes and freeze them, this can be a fun way to get together with friends and help each other with cooking! Doing this takes a lot of pre planning as far as what recipe’s, how many of each to prepare, and doing the shopping. This takes money planning as well so the cost is split fairly.
• 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.
• Meatballs for spaghetti and meatball subs the same way as the patties. You can freeze them raw or precook them and freeze with or without sauce.
• Bulk Grilling - especially in the summer! Designate a night a week or at least two nights a month for grilling. It is easy, delicious, and your hubby can get in on the act. Grilled meats can be used in salads, pitas, as fajitas, in sandwiches - you name it! Imitate those fancy restaurants, but make it yourself! Even grilled hotdogs and burgers freeze well to heat up for a quick meal for the kids.
• 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!
• Brownies also can be bulk baked and frozen, but not for more than a month.
• 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.
Prepare long-cooking items like soups, stews, slow cooker recipes, dough’s and large meats first, then work on things that take less time, such as chopping, grating, mixing, and measuring. Don't get discouraged if you don't get as much done as you want to, just put it in the fridge and do more the next day. Practice makes perfect!
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.
Freezer containers in a variety of sizes are necessary! I find the most useful sizes to be the 2-cup (good for sauces and gravy), and 5-cup (good for entrees that are put on rice or pasta) sizes, as well as the larger 11-cup sizes (good for casseroles, fried rice, any dish that is served whole with nothing else added).
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!
Divided Paper Plates – work great to make your own microwavable ‘tv dinners’.
**** Freezer inventory - keep a list of everything you freeze, and mark it off when you use it up. This is very important! Put it on the side of your fridge or freezer so its handy.
Here are some general freezer guidelines. For more information, check out the website for the National Food Safety Database:Never refreeze raw meat! If the meat was frozen raw the first time, you must cook it before refreezing! If in doubt, double bag it! Protect your food investment by making sure it is protected from freezer burn.
Don't allow meat or eggs to defrost at room temperature. You are creating an opportunity for bacteria to grow, which can result in food poisoning! Instead, thaw these foods in the refrigerator or use a microwave on defrost setting. Better to be safe than sorry!
Breads and other baked goods can be thawed at room temperature quite nicely and safely. They can also be refrozen but may get dry.
If you are in doubt as to whether a food is still good, toss it!
Most items keep well in the freezer from 3-6 months.