This is a post we pulled from the archives written by one of our former contributors. With so many of us spending extra time at home, this would be a great time to make up some freezer meals and be ready for when our busy lives start ramping back up again!
I am a wife and mother of three boys. One thing I’ve been doing for years to save money and time is what I call Freezer Dinners.
Here are the basics of what I do:
I invite 2-3 friends (no more than four in the kitchen becomes too many bodies!) and we decide on six recipes to make about every 6-8 weeks. I predominately use recipes from Don’t Panic – Dinner’s in the Freezer (Amazon) and Don’t Panic–More Dinner’s in the Freezer (Amazon). Other recipes include favorites from our own kitchen.
After compiling the ingredients for the six recipes, I categorize them according to meat, dairy, canned goods, vegetables, spices, and other. I then send out grocery lists for each person.
One person is usually in charge of meat and spices, another veggies, another canned goods, and another dairy for the entire group.
We use coupons as much as possible, including the $10 off $50 from Safeway that comes in the free Tuesday Food Day paper at the beginning of the month in the Portland Metro area. This coupon is often used to purchase the meat. We also get our meat in bulk from Zaycon Foods or GoDirect Foods. Both of these companies have ground beef, bacon, and chicken breast deliveries scheduled.
Any item that needs prepping is done beforehand (i.e. cheese grated, veggies chopped, meat browned, etc.) and brought the morning of cooking, saving everyone time during cooking day.
We meet at my house at 9: 00 am and lay out all our ingredients on a large table. We each bring freezer Ziploc bags (ones we have bought for free with coupons!) and glass dishes for lasagnas, enchiladas, etc. We also bring our grocery receipts to divide cost evenly.
After about three hours of cooking and preparation, we each go home with 6-12 meals (depending on size of each individual’s family).
Our cost is typically $50 – $60 for each family. Here’s a breakdown of our latest freezer dinner adventure:
Time: 1-3 hours to shop and prep + 3 hours to cook
Meals: 6-12 dinners using 6 recipes for each family
Total Cost per Person: $52.69
Cost per Recipe: $8.78
Cost per Serving (average of 4 servings per recipe): $2.20
I also make freezer lists of our meals to place on our fridge or calendar so we know what meals we have ready for our families to eat. I also print out labels that include how to prepare the meal and ideas for side dishes as all that needs to be added to each meal to make them complete is a veggie or fruit and side dish (pasta, potatoes, rice).
We’d love to hear from others who have teamed up with friends and/or family to hammer out freezer meals. What works and what doesn’t? Comment with your experience!
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I am a single person. I just make big meals and freeze the leftovers
A group of friends and I have cooked this way for three years. We subscribe (for $6 a month) to http://www.hotby6.com
This web site gives you fabulous meals, breaks down the ingredient list for you for shopping convenience and is really simple to follow.
“We eat gooooood when Mom does freezer cooking!” Hearing my son say that
inspires me to keep on freezer cooking. I love “30 Day Gourmet” (Great for Instruction) and “Frozen Assets, Lite and Easy”. I now coupon to stockpile my ingredients. I cook by myself, so whenever I have enough of everything for a recipe, I make several.
I am soooo wanting to do this!! Thanks for posting. If anyone that reads this lives in the Happy Valley area, and likes to eat pretty healthy i.e. brown rice, low fat cheese, ground turkey type stuff……wanna try? I feel like I always make the same old things, and with school starting back up soon this is great timing.
Krista S. says
I am the one who posted this and yes I live in Clackamas! I would love to have you join us one of these times. (And I am going to laugh if you are the same Marissa I think I met in Walgreens a few months ago and we exchanged emails and phone numbers?? – if so email me! )
I live in Clackamas and am also interested!! How do we get in touch?
P.S. Great, simple, easy to read post! Definitely inspires me to do this with a group of friends.
I did this myself before our second son was born (with a babysitter for the first of course!) to have some meals ready for after the birth and it has been invaluable! I will definitely do it again. The two things I learned that are very important is have all your prep done ahead of time, like she mentioned. Grate cheese, chop all veggies, brown meats. This saves so much time. And write out a schedule ahead of time! I also chose one meat (chicken) to make all of my meals out of, this way I could cook it all together and then separate it into meals. It has been a LIFE SAVER to be able to pull something out of the freezer and still have something home cooked for dinner. Instead of grilled cheese every night. 🙂
My friend is a former Homemade Gourmet rep and she used to do “4 meals in 4 minutes” – she provides the stuff (bags, spice mixes, fillers) and we provide the chicken or other meat. I’ve purchased some of the spice mixes and enjoy making my own now. I try to cook fresh nightly but it is nice to have something to pull out, defrost, and eat.
I do something similar with 8 other teachers I work with–we call it ‘Dinner Exchange’ for lack of a better title. About once a month (on average), we each choose one freezable entree and make 8 batches. Then we get together and swap out our meals, usually over wine and snacks at someone’s house. We’ve also gotten together at playgrounds during the summer with our kids. I’ve never figured out cost per portion, etc. and I don’t think anyone else in our group does–we mainly just try to make something healthy that would appeal to everyone’s families. The shopping/cooking day is always a challenge, but it’s worked for us for over a year now, and it’s soooo nice to have a freezer full of dinners.