Freezer Cooking Day: The Final Tally

After about four hours of work, here’s what my sister and I had to show for our efforts:

FishMama’s Lasagna x 4

Brown Bag Burritos x 2

Cheeseburger Meatloaf x 3

Chicken and Red Bean Burritos (recipe from The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook)

Lemon Chicken x 3 (recipe from The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook)

White Bean and Chicken Chili (recipe from Eat Well, Save Big Cookbook)

Taco Meat

Make Ahead Butterhorns x 2

Blueberry Pancakes

Chopped onions

2 bags of cooked brown rice

1 bag of cooked Great Northern beans

All totaled, the above should make enough for about 25 dinners for our family–plus some breakfasts and lots of Butterhorns! I sent 8 of the meals home with my sister as a thank you for all her help.

The rest of the meals should last us almost an entire month since we eat an average of 16-20 home-cooked dinners per month. (We go out to eat once a week and usually have dinner at our parents’ homes 1-2 times per week, plus we also eat leftovers or a really simple dinner of sandwiches or cereal a few times a month, too!)

It feels so nice to have the freezer all stocked up again!

Did you have a chance to do any baking or cooking this week? If so, post about it on your blog and leave your link below to your direct blo g post. I’d love it especially if you could share pictures and recipes so we can get ideas for our next Freezer Cooking Day! And I’m guessing many others would be inspired as well.

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Comments

  1. Beth says

    One thing I did, was save my casserole dishes (because I needed them). I sprayed the dishes with PAM, and then. I then put aluminum foil down and put my food in there. You have to make sure that the food does NOT touch the glassware or it will stick. I cover and put it in the freezer (I put with a sharpie on the top what it is and temp etc). Once frozen, I put in a small sink of warm water and it will loosen the foiled dish. I put it up on a towel and release it, slide it into a ziploc and WALLA! I found that the dishes were easier to stack in my freezer and that freed up my dishes for other things.

  2. says

    Wow that looks like a lot of good food! I bet you are relieved to know you have all that in the freezer! Now if you get sick or have an emergency come up dinner is hassle & worry free. Great job, makes me wish I had a sister.

  3. Dawn says

    You are amazing! I wish my sisters didn’t live 3,000 miles away! Maybe I will have to get together with a friend though and see what we can make together.

  4. Amara says

    What great work! You are very disciplined, Crystal, and keep your hands BUSY for your family.

    You mentioned that 20 meals will feed your family for a month, because you eat out once a week and eat with extended family another evening or two each week.

    I think this would be a great thing to highlight with your readers as part of your 31 days to grocery savings series.

    My point is this:

    A low grocery budget can indicate many things, including wise stewardship, scratch cooking, using things up…and can also indicate that the family eats out more often, fellowships over food more often, entertains less.

    A high grocery budget can indicate less-disciplined stewardship, heavy use of prepared food, laziness…and can also indicate that the family eats almost exclusively at home, entertains others with meals, packs a crazy amount of sack lunches, etc!

    Ultimately, I think women really need reassurance that a low grocery budget is not a sign of righteousness/perfection, nor a high budget a sign of sin/character flaws. We might do best to work on a suitable FOOD budget that is within our means AND appropriate to our current life season.

    I am sure you will tackle this, Crystal, because you are wise. However, I always counsel friends that they need to work with their husband to brainstorm a suitable FOOD budget that works for THEIR OWN family. For one family, that might look like $60 a week (plus “dining out” money) and another might find it looks like $200 (with almost no meals out.) One mom might have the time to learn couponing, where another needs to look for other savings strategies as a better use of time.

    The point, of course, being wise with our dollars. ;)

    Thanks for your inspiration here!

    • Lynn says

      @Amara, This is something I have been thinking about a lot lately and you stated it so well. Thank you! I prepare home cooked meals 28 or 29 times out of 30/31 days per month. Therefore my weekly “grocery spending” totals are going to be higher than someone who eats at home less. I know of folks who eat out on a very regular basis and their grocery totals are similar to mine, but we’re not comparing apples to apples then!

  5. Tricia says

    Mmmm. Cheeseburger meatloaf. Will have to try that one! You socked away a bunch of good basics. I love having pancakes in the freezer too.

  6. cwaltz says

    This is going to sound like a somewhat crazy question. Does anyone have a sodium conscious taco seasoning recipe that you can share? I usually buy the low sodium packets and I know it would be cheaper to make my own but our family is watching their sodium.

    Christine

    • says

      @cwaltz,

      After looking at a few taco seasoning recipes online, I realized the most common non-salt ingredients were onion powder, garlic powder and red (cayenne) pepper, though you can use whatever spices you like, in whatever proportions. I personally like a combo of garlic, cumin, paprika and black pepper. But most of the time we don’t season our taco meat and just rely on the cheese and other toppings (including salsa sometimes) to add flavor.

      I’m not sure using the spices straight out of the spice jar is any cheaper, but it gives you complete control over the ingredients.

      • cwaltz says

        @Daina,

        My biggest problem is I have picky and finicky eaters who are not anxious to be my guinea pigs. (In their defense when I go off recipe I’ve had more than my fair share of flops)I’ve managed to cut out alot of salt through boxed processed stuff but I’m still having problems kicking the packaged habit entirely.

        I guess I could start out halving any salt recipes and seeing if they notice.

    • Susan says

      I quit buying taco seasoning and chili seasoning mixes several years ago because I realized that they were ridiculously expensive (unless you find some McCormick q’s!) and in an effort to reduce our sodium consumption. I buy the large economy size ground spices at Sam’s or Costco – garlic, cumin, and chili powder – and just throw some in with my browned, drained, rinsed ground beef. I use about 1 tbsp. each of cumin and chili powder, 1 tsp. of garlic powder (NOT garlic salt), and I add black pepper, paprika, and gr0und red pepper or ground chipotle powder to taste. I think the paprika adds to the color of the taco meat, not sure whether it flavors it much. In the past I had a some ground jalapeno powder that was good in taco or chili meat, too. So spices and about 1/4 cup water to a pound of ground beef. If you want to thicken the sauce, add about 2 tbsp of flour with the spices.

      I make my own pizza sauce in much the same way – a small can of salt-free tomato sauce, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp. each of dry basil and oregano, black pepper to taste. Let the flavors blend while you roll out your pizza crust.

      You will find over time that you and your family will lose your taste for salt. Processed foods and foods from other cooks will start to taste awfully salty!

  7. Sheila says

    Way to go Crystal and your wonderful sister!!! I think y’all did an AWESOME job and I appreciate you sharing this with us!!!! :)

  8. Kristen says

    Wow that looks great! I need to start doing this. We are a family of six and busy busy! I am happy to hear we are not the only family who has cereal dinner nights to ;) !

  9. says

    So did you get all those beef recipes together with that one pack of hamburger you showed in your photo of your shopping trip last week? I know your amazing, but I still can’t imagine you could stretch it that far :) Then again, I would not be surprised!

    • Crystal says

      @Stephanie, No, I already had 2 packages in the freezer that I didn’t use last time around when I sort of flaked out on freezer cooking. :)

      And I didn’t put any beef in the lasagna. We usually always make ours meatless. I started doing that when we couldn’t afford much meat and now it’s just become habit.

  10. says

    HOLY COW – well done, my friend. That is awesome. I linked up, but accidentally had Tasty Tuesday in the title since it was cached and I didn’t see that part of the title on my laptop. My apologies. Didn’t mean for it to be so long.Link is correct though.

  11. Lisa Imerman says

    For the person who asked about taco seasoning. Google online and you can find a ton of recipes for a spice mix. My favorite recipe for taco meet is the Cook’s Illustrated Beef Taco recipe (I am sure you can find it online). I just make the meat as it says and then use it for tacos. Really yummy.

    Also, Penzey’s spices has great blends too.

    • cwaltz says

      @Lisa Imerman,

      Thanks Lisa

      I have had problems with kidney stones(my dad, mom, brother and now younger sister also have had them) so I have been trying to watch the sodium levels and push water, not just for myself but for the kiddos in my household’s sake.

      I do some modifying when I see recipes but so far I haven’t found a good taco seasoning to replace the low sodium stuff in the packets. I’ll definitely follow your advice though.

      :)

  12. Jennifer says

    How do you freeze pans without lids? can you just use foil to cover them or does that lead to freezer burn?? I would love your ideas on storage for the meals.

  13. Ally says

    Crystal – I have done a minor freezer cooking day previously; just muffins, lasagna (which I haven’t used yet), and some bread. I am a wife, mother and full time employed. I was planning to do a freezer cooking day or part of a day on Saturday. Is it difficult to start realizing you don’t have to come home and cook. I fear I do this, and then forget about the items I have made already.

    I love your blog by the way! We are starting to realize our ability to save money on groceries, and will soon be working on our Debt Snowball with Dave Ramsey!

  14. Heather says

    When you put x and a number does that mean you made that recipe that many times or does it mean you can feed that many on that receipe?

    Thanks

  15. says

    I just made a batch of your sister’s Brown Bag Burritos…YUMMY! I added leftovers I had lurching in the fridge to mine and they still turned out great: 2 cups cooked brown rice, extra enchilada sauce, extra cheese, 1 cup sour cream, and used whole beans instead of refried. Thank you for sharing!

  16. Christy says

    I’d really like to see a post(s) about eating out on a budget. You always say that you eat out once a week–how much do you spend? Do you attempt to be frugal when you eat out or are you able to splurge a little in this area since you save so much in other areas?

    • Becky says

      @Christy, I agree, that would be great, I always thought eating out with my family of six would be more expensive than what I could cook for that one meal? Unless it’s Burger King – something like Perkins is approx $40 and that includes the 20% discount card we have.

    • Crystal says

      @Christy, Eating out once a week is one of the “splurges” we’ve allowed in our budget once we had wiggle room for it. We enjoy eating out and it’s nice to have a break from worrying about dinner or clean up for a night!

      We still do it economically, but we also don’t feel the need to totally scrimp since we budget for it. We usually spend $20-$40 on dinner out, including the tip, for our family. Though at the rate that our son Silas is starting to eat, I could see that amount getting bumped up soon! :)

  17. says

    That is so awesome and inspirational! only 4 hours is amazing! I haven’t started yet, but I have been wanting to start and your series on it motivated me to try a few meals to start! Great Job!

  18. says

    Wow, great job! I bet that comes in handy, I prefer to cook fresh mostly, but I know the things I do freeze ahead of time, are so handy.
    I think it is good to say something like that when you talk about food budget. I have a very low food budget, but I also only have 4 children who are pretty small yet. We though pretty much never eat out and we do not eat at people’s houses often and if we do, we usually contribute food.

    It would be nice to talk about hospitality when you are on a very tight budget and feeling like feeding a crowd wiped all your food out!

  19. Priscilla says

    I continue to be incredibly impressed. Thank you for sharing your resourcefulness. God bless!

  20. Becky says

    Crystal

    I am making the brown bag burritos today and I realize you packaged differently than recipe – how did you do – paper towel and ziploc? I have never made before and was a little worried about how the recipe pkg at paper towel and then foil?

  21. Mary K. says

    Do you bake the lasagna before you freeze it or put it in uncooked and bake when you’re ready to eat it?

    I love to see all of your yummy prepared food! Great job!

  22. Ali Christian says

    When I clicked on the FishMama Lasagna link…there was no recipe. What am I doing wrong?

  23. Melissa says

    I did a freezer day, too — well actually over 2 days. My 11-year-old son was my soux chef! We had a blast. Here’s what we made:

    Cinnamon Rolls (16 large rolls)
    Meatloaf (1 uncooked)
    Chocolate Chip Muffins (a dozen)
    Spaghetti Sauce (2 quarts)
    Pancakes (part whole wheat — 3 dozen)
    Meatballs (4 dozen)

    I am very pleased! Thanks for the ecouragement!

    Melissa

  24. says

    Awesome job!! You are so inspiring! :) Maybe next month, I can plan to tackle a little bit more! I am really enjoying the recipes you share!

  25. says

    Very inspiring. I plan participate next month and see how much see how much I can tackle in four hours. I love the ease and peace of mind of knowing there’s a dinner ready in the freezer and that all I need to do is heat it up. Thanks for the inspiration!

  26. says

    I always enjoy your posts and have learned a lot from you. I have done some freezer cooking in the past so I was interested to see what you had to say.

    I think there is an even easier way to cook than the way you are doing it. I prefer to cook a quadruple meal once every couple of weeks. You could do it more often if you like. We eat the meal that night and then put the other 3 meals in the freezer.

    When I was pregnant with my 3rd daughter I did this system occasionally. One day I wondered how many meals I had accumulated, so I counted them up. I had over 50 meals in the freezer! It was wonderful to have these after I had the baby.

    I wrote the whole system into a ebook and make it available to others on my website. Let me know what you think of this idea or if you have any questions.

  27. Angela says

    I’m working on a freezer cooking day (well, 3 days technically but that’s just b/c I couldn’t do it all at once). I wanted to make these blueberry muffins, but the recipe link has an error! The link works, but the recipe ingredients do NOT list eggs, and yet in the directions, it clearly says to mix eggs, buttermilk, and butter. So did you use eggs or not? And if so, how many? :) Thank you for this amazing blog! It has helped me become a better steward of all God has given me! :)

  28. ERIN FOSNIGHT says

    I love this idea and would like to try it. Does anyone have or know of any weight watcher recipes turned into freezer cooking? I would appreciate any input.

  29. shirley says

    I am so thankful I found your site. Thank you for the great ideas and help with making a budget work. I am going to see I can get my brother & SIL to do it as well. I have always loved the idea of making meals ahead and Ihave been tryin to do coupons and save. We have a Family Dollar in our area and I am gong to put that on my list as well to shop at.

  30. says

    Just wondering if you ever figured out how many eggs to put in your blueberry pancakes recipe. It clearly says to add eggs in the directions but the list of ingredients does NOT list eggs lol. I want to attempt making these myself but I want to get it right :)

    Thanks a bunch!