Large Family Freezer Cooking

Large Family Freezer Cooking

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Freezer Cooking for Large Familes

I don’t like cooking…but I love efficiency. Why make one meal when you can make a dozen? A lot of sage advice for cooking simply doesn’t work for our large family. Case in point: “when baking, double the recipe and freeze the rest“. Except we already make four dozen muffins for breakfast and by doubling that, we would need double the muffin tins and double the time to bake. However, a lot of things about freezer cooking do make perfect sense for our family. 

The most important part about freezer cooking for my large family is choosing the recipes carefully. Not only do you want to choose recipes you enjoy and that freeze well, but recipes that are efficient. By efficient, I mean, which recipes are going to be efficient when I make them together? Which recipes do I have enough pots and pans to cook at the same time? Just this weekend I shopped, prepped and made 20 meals for our family of 11. And I took pictures along the way to share with you.

Large Family Freezer Cooking from the mom to 14 children!

All the groceries you see on the counter were purchased to make and prep meals for our freezer. Okay, I didn’t actually make the chicken enchiladas. But I do have all the ingredients on hand when I decide to.

When preparing for a batch cook of freezer meals I shop at bulk stores. Sometimes Costco and sometimes a local restaurant supply store, Cash&Carry. This time, I went to both stores. I have favorite products at both and usually rotate between shopping at them, but this time, I knew to be efficient I needed to go to both.

I spent a total of $473 between both stores and two hours shopping. This included our regular groceries, not just food for my freezer meals.

I like to begin my cooking and prepping as soon as I get home from the store, often while we are still getting the groceries put away. 

Pro tip: Make sure your counters, sink, and refrigerator are clean before you leave!

As soon as I was home, I put a pot full of white beans (for White Chicken Chili) on to boil* and began cooking the 10 pounds of ground beef I purchased. This frying pan is my favorite, and I put enough in to cook comfortably, but not over fill. I ended up cooking the 10 pounds in three batches, one after the other.  I kept an eye on the beans and meat while I sorted the groceries.

*I now use my Instant Pot and the beans are done in an hour with no soaking!

Large Family Freezer Cooking from the mom to 14 children!

Large Family Freezer Cooking from the mom to 14 children!

While all the food photos you see on my blog are taken by me, I work hard to stage those photos and plate the food. This is real life, my friends. You will notice the Lion Temple on my table, while I assemble lasagna on the other side.

While this was going on, I set 10-year-old Avi up at the table slicing peppers for chili and gumbo. 

Once the meat was done and I had a free burner, I began soaking a HUGE pot of kidney beans for chili. Next, I set up an assembly line at the table for lasagna. I have found it well worth my money to purchase these disposable pans for lasagna, casseroles, and enchiladas. They stack well in the freezer, I need to keep fewer pans on hand, and they are perfect if I need to share a meal with another family. 

Large Family Freezer Cooking from the mom to 14 children!

I don’t actually use a recipe for my lasagna. I simply layer canned sauce, noodles, cheese (a mixture of mozzarella, parmesan, and ricotta), meat and olives. I never pre-cook my noodles. I have found that as long as I put a layer of sauce at the bottom and either freeze or leave in the fridge overnight, the noodles cook up just fine. This time, I tried something new and layered two pans of lasagna with ravioli instead of noodles. We have eaten one and it was simply amazing!

Once those were done, I moved on to burritos! 

Large Family Freezer Cooking from the mom to 14 children!

Burritos are another easy freezer meal that don’t require a recipe. I simply fill the tortillas with a mixture of meat, cheese, olives, cilantro and salsa. I roll these and freeze overnight on a cookie sheet. The next day I removed them and place in freezer bags. This method keeps the burritos free from each other, so you can grab however many you need from the bag. This makes for easy lunches!

Once these were done, I deboned the three rotisserie chickens. I put the meat in containers to use the next day and put all three carcasses in the crockpot. I added onion and garlic and covered with water. I put the crockpot on low and let it cook all night long

This is all the cooking I did on day one. It took about 2 hours. The next morning I woke up and finished the cooking. 

Day 2:

I am a morning person, so as soon as woke up, I turned off the crockpot and took off the lid so the stock could cool, and turned on the kidney beans so they could begin cooking. Then I sat down and had a cup of coffee and breakfast. 

Large Family Freezer Cooking Recipes

After eating, I began the white chicken chili. I strained the bones out of the stock and removed the fat. While doing this I was busy sauteing: chilis, onions, garlic and seasoning to add to the chili.  Next, I mixed all of the ingredients in a large bowl. 

Pro tip: No need to heat this recipe before freezing. Everything has already been cooked, so I just mix in a bowl and freeze!

Once the ingredients were mixed, I placed in a Rubbermaid container and it was ready for the freezer!

My kidney beans for chili were still cooking, so I mixed up the ingredients for another family favorite: Chicken Gumbo! If you have never tried gumbo, you really should. I was feeling daring one day and made what seemed to me to be an exotic recipe (I mean, what is okra anyway?) and it is now a family favorite.

Great tips on how to freezer cook for a large family.

See that giant food storage container? Yep, I mixed the gumbo right in there. It was the only container i had that was large enough. Like I said above, there is no reason to cook and then cool the gumbo. All of my ingredients are cooked and it will simmer before we eat it. My gumbo recipe calls for canned tomatoes and tomato sauce…I use half a #10 can and use the other half for my chili. See? Utterly efficient. 

Once the gumbo was mixed and poured into containers, I mixed up the sauce for Chicken Curry. When that was done I added the pre-cooked chicken and poured it into two Ziplock bags.

Large Family Freezer Cooking Hacks

Pro tip: Use the empty #10 cans to hold your Ziplock bags while you pour soup or sauces. 

By now the kidney beans were fully cooked and I poured the rest of the ingredients in our big pot, mixed and poured that into the containers.

Do you see what a difference the flow and choice of recipes makes? I make sure that I cook and assemble in the most efficient order. 

I spent about 3 hours prepping and cooking on day two. 

Freezer Cooking by the Numbers:

Total spent: $473 (keep in mind, I did not just buy groceries for freezer cooking…this is also our family groceries. In fact, most of what I bought at Costco was for my kids’ school lunches. We spend $1,200 per month on groceries, so even with this, I am on budget). 

Total hours shopping: 2

Total hours prepping and cooking: 5

Total meals: 20 (this would easily be 40 or 50 meals for a regular sized family!)

3 lasagnas

30 burritos

2 chicken curry

1 White chicken chili (package in one container, but enough for 2 meals)

3 chili

2 chicken gumbo

7  roasts chopped and frozen for meals.

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Have you ever done freezer cooking? Did you love it or hate it? If you have a favorite freezer recipe, please share it in the comments!

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29 Responses

  1. “I mean, what is okra anyway?” Lol! Okra is a delicious staple food I’ll have you know! (I’m southern, we eat it a lot.) Next time you’re feeling adventurous, try to find some pickled okra. That’s my favorite way eat it and also my favorite kind of pickle.

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      For southerners, I’m sure! My children from Liberia ate okra in Africa and so it became a favorite here as well (though I had already braved gumbo by the time they came). Keziah would cook a huge pan of okra and peppers and we’d eat it over rice. I am fairly confident I will not be able to find pickled okra here in the Pacific Northwest, though I’d love to try them.

  2. Renee, I have no idea what kind of farming goes on in your area of the country, but I wanted to share with you and other readers: if you live in a part of the country where cattle are raised for beef, you may be able to find a farmer who will sell you a quarter, half or whole beef. You can make this choice based on your family’s needs, how much storage you have, and your budget. We chose a quarter of beef for our family of 8. We could have used a half or more, but we only have a small 36″ long chest freezer. Our quarter came out to $3.13/lb all told. Part of that goes to the farmer and part to the processor. The beef comes back all neatly wrapped in cuts of your choice, packaged in sizes of your choosing all well, so totally custom. We got everything from ground to roasts to organ meats to a few choice steaks for special occasions. At my request, the butcher even threw in a garbage bag full of bones for me to make stock out of. It is a great deal if you have the extra money in your budget (remember, you spend once and you won’t have to buy beef for months!) and very convenient. Another way to save on purchasing meat for a crowd!

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      We bought a side of beef for 5 or 6 years in a row….however, the last few times we did not like the taste of the beef. There is nothing worse than a freezer full of meat you can’t stand the taste of 🙁 Also, I personally didn’t like the freezer full of frozen, wrapped meat. I have so many appointments (and often 100 miles away) it is much easier for me to buy the meat in bulk (like I showed) and then prep and freeze it. But, that is a great option for many people.

      • Really? That’s awful! I grew up eating my parent’s own beef or else the neighbor’s beef. I cannot remember it every tasting bad, only better than supermarket beef. I wonder what those cows were eating. What a disappointment! I can understand not wanting to do that again.

        • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

          The first couple of years it was fine. The last two the meat had a very strong, gamey flavor. Chuck thought it was okay, but me and the kids didn’t like it at all.

  3. I cannot wait to try the lasagna with the raviolis. Did you purchase frozen raviolis from the freezer section or refrigerated raviolis? Thank you! AWESOME JOB!!

  4. okay, the Ravioli Lasagna is GENIUS! How have I never thought of that? I am absolutely making that next week.

    • also, side note, I also regularly batch freezer cook. However I am cooking for just one, which also presents its own set of unique challenges! But I can typically do one big batch cook at the beginning of the semester and have it last me all the way through final exams! Life of a grad student! (plus my friends are always baffled when they come over and i can make them a full meal quickly. LOVE freezer cooking and LOVE my crock pot. lifesavers, timesavers and moneysavers!)

      • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

        That is brilliant! I love that you are doing this even as a single woman. Tilly was squealing over the idea of having 3 months worth of meals. Before my grandma died, I would package single portions for her when I was batch cooking.

  5. What kinds of meals do you put in the rubbermaid containers? I freezer cook and only use disposable containers for meals so I can easily heat up meal.

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      I put soups in the Rubbermaid containers. Sauces (like the chicken curry) I can fit enough in a Ziplock bag. An average sized family could as well. For us, 16 cups of soup just isn’t enough.

  6. Another great article. Thanks renee. I have a silly question though……….how do you heat up and serve the burritos?

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Thank you! We don’t have a microwave, so we put them on a cookie sheet and cooked for 18-20 minutes at about 350.

  7. Love this! Thanks for all the tips.
    And have you ever used a pressure cooker? I bought one this year, and it makes wonderful cooked beans in about half an hour. Turns a frozen roast to where it’s falling-apart-amazing in 40 minutes. It may be helpful for your freezer cooking. I got mine off Craigslist.

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      No…to be honest I’m afraid of pressure cookers. Too many stories of them exploding and killing people.

      • I received a pressure cooker for Christmas. I am not afraid of them (it’s almost impossible for them to explode now! That’s a holdover fear from the early days) since I already use a pressure canner often. I LOVE IT! I highly recommend you swallow that fear and jump in. It’s amazing. I can make a beef stew from cutting the meat and veggies up to serving in an hour! My set came with a large skillet size and a big pot, so it makes enough for our large family to have leftovers! It’s stainless steel rather than aluminum, too. It was at Costco for a lot less than Amazon, but here’s the link to see it. The handles have been redesigned, btw. http://www.amazon.com/Fagor-Combi-5-Piece-Pressure-Cooker/dp/B00023D9S0/ref=sr_1_14?ie=UTF8&qid=1454218668&sr=8-14&keywords=pressure+cooking+set

        • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

          Thank you for this! I really should get over my fear. My grandma had a cousin who died in a pressure cooker accident…and I tend to be a sloppy (it will all work out fine) kind of cook. Those things combined have caused me never to buy one. I will look into this, however.

  8. When you make the ravioli “lasagna”, do you add cheese, or is it just layers of ravioli and sauce?

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      I layered with with cheese. I made it just like lasagna 🙂

  9. This is impressive! 🙂

  10. I love freezer cooking. I did some of this while I was pregnant so my husband and I had something to eat when my daughter was born (and we were both too sleep deprived to cook). My favorite is probably ones that you can freeze then put in the slow cooker. Less prep time but with the same results. Thanks for sharing this on #SHINEbloghop last week, Renee! This is such an efficient way of cooking and I’m sure every family will get a use out of your awesome tips!

  11. I love that you have your kids help you in the kitchen on prep day! I bet that’s a huge time saver 🙂 I just have my husband and I to cook for, but I always feel like I’m in the kitchen forever on freezer meal prep day! Great post!!

  12. […] know I love freezer cooking, and it doesn’t just include dinners. One of our favorite and freezer friendly recipes is my […]

  13. This is an amazing post! Thank you from a Mom of eight !

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