It’s Thanksgiving Monday here in Canada (a holiday), and we are all feeling thankful yet a little anxious.
I’m writing this on Saturday morning, and as of yet there is no baby (and Rebecca is past her due date). But last week on social media I was posting about a great day that Katie and Rebecca and I had a little over a week ago when we all got together to cook freezer meals.
We had 12 different meals that we were going to cook, and then beforehand everybody told me how many they wanted. We ended making around 65 meals I think? Some Katie and I will take home, but most we put in Rebecca and Connor’s deep freeze.
We did the shopping one day, and then the next day we spent cooking.
Well, it’s not really cooking, because the only thing we actually cooked was a whole ton of ground beef that I browned up before we froze it, but in general, we just chopped, measured, and put it all in bags. I also picked a TON of tomatoes at a local farm the week before, and I had processed them and put them in freezer bags earlier, while I was still at home, so that we didn’t have to buy any canned tomatoes but could just use fresh (you can see the tomatoes in the bags at the front).
Then you freeze the meals as is, with everything added, and the night before you want to eat it you take it out of the freezer to let it defrost in the fridge. Then you pop it in the slow cooker, according to the directions, and presto! You’ve got dinner.
Anyway, this isn’t a cooking blog, and I wasn’t planning on writing about this, but so many people asked me for the recipes on social media that we actually created a spreadsheet with all the recipes we’ve used for freezer meals (including some recipes that Rebecca made on her own on another cooking day). All of them we found around the internet for free, and then we just created shopping lists with them. So you can see the links for the recipes, the ingredients, and the organization.
In last Friday’s weekly email, that goes out to about 25,000 people every week, I had a bunch of pictures and that spreadsheet available for download, along with some instructions to make the day go easier. But it occurred to me that many who read the blog may not realize that I do send out extra content in emails every week. And many of you who are signed up for my monthly email (but not my weekly one) are missing out, because most of the personal stuff gets put in the weekly email! That’s also where I share any big things that are going on behind the scenes of the blog (like babies and miscarriages and things to be happy about and things to be sad about); angst I’m having; new book contracts (I’ve got a big one to tell you about soon!); and I often give out Amazon gift cards or prizes to people who sign up or answer quick surveys.)
So if you’re just reading the blog on the net, that’s great. I’m glad you’re here! But I’d invite you to join the bigger community and sign up for the emails, too.
If you’d like to get the extra inside scoop news, plus my spreadsheet with all of the recipes, and ingredients, and instructions for our slow cooker freezing day, just sign up below. (The link to the spreadsheet will show up right after you fill in the box!)
A Few Tips for Making a Slow Cooker Freezer Cooking Day Easier
I’m super waste-conscious and plastic-conscious, and I hate using plastic bags. I’m a save-the-glass-jars person and I freeze everything in those. But for freezer meals, you do need the plastic bags, because you have to be able to squeeze all the air out to prevent freezer burn. But you can wash them and reuse them a few times afterwards, so it’s not as bad.
Use a Sharpie to Write Instructions on the Bag Beforehand
Before you start cooking, label all your bags using a permanent marker with the name of the recipe and the instructions. Something like :
“Chicken Taco Soup: Add 6 cups chicken stock. Cook on Low for 8 Hours. Add 1 cup macaroni in last 1/2 hour of cooking time.”
“Thai Chicken Curry Soup: Add 4 cups chicken stock & 2 cans of coconut milk. Cook on HIGH for 4 hours.”
When you’re preparing freezer slow cooker meals, you don’t want to add the liquid like chicken stock, etc. to the bag before you freeze it, because it will take far too much room and you don’t need it. And some ingredients, like frozen peas or pasta, don’t get added until the last bit of cooking. So you want to make sure that those instructions are on the bags beforehand.
Stand the Bags Up, Grouped by Recipe, Around the Kitchen
We then put the bags together based on what recipe it was, and stood the bags up, so that it was easy to add the ingredients. If you add something solid, like the vegetables, first, then the bags will stand up easier. Do NOT add just something liquid (like tomatoes) without being super careful, or the bag could fall over and make a mess. Twice. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.
Add by Ingredient, Not by Recipe
It’s faster to add all the garlic at once, and all the oregano at once, and all the carrots at once, than it is to prepare all the ingredients for one recipe at once. That’s what’s nice about batch cooking. So if 5 out of your 8 recipes require oregano, you just go around the kitchen to all the bags that need oregano and measure it in, all at the same time.
Mark Off Your Freezer Cooking Spreadsheet as You Add Each Ingredient
As we added ingredients we would just bold the ingredients that were added, so that we’d know what was done and we didn’t repeat anything!
Buy Pre-Chopped Garlic and Onion, when Possible
I’m a stickler for fresh garlic, so I never, ever buy the pre-chopped stuff. But in this case, we did because it was so easy and we needed so much. We didn’t buy pre-chopped onions, though, and this was the result:
Even the dog was rubbing his eyes!
People on Instagram and Facebook told me you can buy pre-chopped onions in the freezer section, and I’ll likely do that next time we have to chop that many onions (I think we had 27 we had to do?)
Have Fun and Make it a Tradition!
We honestly had a great day (even if it was tiring). We all agreed it was well worth it. And so we’ll likely keep doing this three times a year or so, and we may also combine it with making gifts, like bath bombs or massage oils or some baby shower gifts at the same time. I enjoy doing it with my girls, but you can get a group of friends together, or a sibling group, or whatever. And then make extra to bless others with who could really use a break.
So again–sign up for the emails above! And you’ll get the link to our spreadsheet with all of the recipes. Plus lots more behind-the-scenes content from the blog, so you don’t miss anything.
Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends! And I do hope that when you all read this, we’ll be heading to the hospital….
Have you ever tried a big slow cooker freezer cooking day? Any tips for us? Let’s talk in the comments!