Friday, October 26, 2012

A Month of Bulk Cooking for the Freezer

It's the first time I've done more bulk cooking than simply making enough for leftovers, so there will no doubt be a learning curve in the process. Thankfully, others are more experienced at this type of thing, and many of them blog their tips and tricks as well as favorite freezer recipes. 

I started keeping a Pinterest board with likely meals and then sorting through them to find common ingredients -- that way I can buy in bulk and make the most of grocery sales. I also picked a few more vegetarian entrees than usual -- we've been keeping up Meatless Mondays all this year, but a little less meat trims the budget and encourages more veggies. As the days turn colder, soups and stews are warming and filling (and they usually freeze and reheat very well for lunch or dinner).

These are the recipes we're centering our November menu around:

chicken/rice casserole - a favorite (somewhat like this)
*stuffed shells - double batch (similar recipe)
pork shoulder - carnitas style in the slow cooker a little like this

easy meat sauce (maybe)
*potato soup
vegetable beef soup - depending on what veggies are cheap (use your favorite! or start with this recipe)
beef stew or pot roast w/ veggies - basic recipe we usually use
chicken noodle soup - the way my sweetie makes it, with onions, carrots, celery, and rice noodles
*lentil veggie soup
*white bean and spinach soup
*veggie chili - adapted from this slow cooker rice & beans recipe and our usual style
*chile-cheese & rice burritos
*crusty white beans and spinach

Extras for sides, snacks, and breakfast: *refrigerator oatmeal (maybe -- we have a lot of instant oatmeal to use up as well)
*pumpkin muffins - this recipe has only two ingredients! (I may try one with eggs and one without to compare)
*cornbread muffins - Jiffy mix for me, 'cause it's cheap, but you can use a fancier one

fruit (we have several types of berries in the freezer -- maybe she'll make sorbet, or smoothies!)
bread - for all the soup! I like sourdough, but I think we also have what might be gluten-free naan in the freezer.

*vegetarian (sometimes by adapting recipe slightly)

I'm using this cooking spree to empty out the fridge and freezer as well. For example, we have half a jar of mild chunky salsa in the fridge door, and a take-out cup of green chile sauce in the freezer -- those and some lemon slices I froze for chilling lemonade will go into the slow cooker for carnitas. We have half a raw chicken and three Cornish game hens frozen -- I still have to buy chicken breasts for casserole, but those will do fine for soup. There's half-and-half that needs to be used by Halloween -- why not use it instead of milk in the potato soup and get a super-creamy texture? You get the idea.

Here's an approximate shopping list for the bulk cooking (actual amounts will depend on price and what we need for X meals for the two of us):
2 whole chickens - from freezer
chicken breasts
1 pork shoulder - from freezer
beef soup bones or short ribs

beef roast - from freezer
ground beef (if on sale)

spinach (or kale, chard, etc. - have some chopped frozen spinach for shells)
vegetables -- beets, zucchini, bell pepper, lima beans, corn, etc.

chicken broth (extra for soup in the freezer)
veggie broth (we have several frozen cubes to substitute in the soup)

cream of mushroom soup
pasta shells
rice noodles
white beans
black beans

kidney beans (in the pantry)
cheddar or colby cheese

mozzarella (in fridge leftover from last batch of shells)
diced canned tomatoes (have one small can)
canned green chiles
tomato paste
tomato pasta sauce
canned pumpkin
yellow cake mix/spice cake mix

Jiffy cornbread mix
eggs (lots already in fridge)

paprika (we're all out! but we have all the other spices)

We'll also buy fruit, bread, milk, and other necessary perishables as the month goes on, but the idea is to get the bulk (heh) of the cooking out of the way at the beginning. More time to enjoy our evening meal, talk, and relax together at the end of the day.


  1. I would be interested in knowing how this goes for you! I do make extras to freeze whenever I make soup, stew, chili, etc., but have never tried to organize an entire month. I love that you are finding ways to use up extra fridge items in your frugal and *smart*. I feel accomplished if I get all of the veggie odds and end into a sauce or soup. Really impressive!

    1. Well, the palm-sized pan of apple jelly (and who know how old it was? it was the housemate's) didn't make it. But I think one key is liking (and choosing to make) dishes with ingredients in common. We can ALWAYS use a chopped onion or some baby carrots or chicken breasts, you know?

      Our freezer is near-filled, so it may be that we'll have a second cooking weekend mid-month... I'll post an update!


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