Freezer Cooking in an Hour: Brown Rice, Pinto Beans, Frito Chili Pie, Apple Chips, and Mac & Cheese With Beef

It’s hard to say whether or not this was done in an hour because I broke it up over little snippets of time during the last two days.

Yesterday morning, before school started, I boiled a big pot of pinto beans, cooked a pot of brown rice, and browned some ground beef.

After school was finished for the day, I made quadruple batch up Frito Chili Pie. We had it for dinner (it was a hit!) and I saved the rest to freeze.

This afternoon, once school was finished, I boiled a pan of noodles, took the remaining ground beef, and made Macaroni & Beef With Cheese. We served one pan for dinner and I froze enough for another meal. I also made two pans of apple chips.

Tomorrow, my plan is to start the Apple Butter in the crock pot early in the day and also, if I’m ambitious, to make a batch of homemade applesauce on the stove. I’ll post pictures of that, if I end up completing it. Sometimes my great intentions don’t end up going very far! :)

I’ve found that even just doubling or tripling a recipe I’m already making for dinner and then sticking the extras in the freezer really doesn’t take much extra time. And having at least a few extra dinners on hand in the freezer to pull out and use on busy days can be such a lifesaver!

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  1. Mandy says

    I just opened a bag of Pinto beans to soak! No joke! Thanks for more inspiration with your freezer cooking/baking days!

    • Sandra says

      I am just beginning to explore recipes utilizing beans and I’m leary of buying dry beans vs. canned. Is there much to preparing dry beans?

      • liz says

        I think the only difference is the time it takes to soak them (i usually do it overnight) and then i’ve found that cooking a large amount of beans in my crockpot works great. Then i just drain them, use the amount i need and freeze the rest.

      • Daina says

        Dry beans are easy, but there’s a bit of a learning curve, as there is with everything. The first time it seemed like a lot of trouble because I had to keep checking if the beans are done, but now it’s easy (especially if we use the slow cooker). We use a LOT of beans in our half-vegetarian household, so we just cook up a big pot once every week or two and freeze what we won’t use right away, and it doesn’t take much time but saves a lot of money. But if I only used a can of beans every few months, it might not be as worth it.

        Here are instructions:

        • Sandra says

          Oh, thank you! I am overweight and recently unemployed so, I wanted to find a way to loose weight while being more frugal. I have been trying new recipes which utilize beans in place of meat. I’ve found a number of delicious recipes which ask for 3-4 cans of beans and at .99 a can it’s better than meat but, I’d like to save more if possible. I noticed the prices of dry beans at .59 a lbs and have been contemplating switching over. I don’t know why, I just feel a little imtimidated with the idea. I’m willing to give it a try though. Thanks for the link!

          • April says

            You don’t even have to soak dry beans, I always just throw them in the crockpot add a little salt and pepper and cook them on low all day. Easy Peasy.. you can even do a half bag of beans and half bag of rice. I’ve NEVER had it not turn out.

  2. Whitney says

    I totally agree! It’s so easy to cook extra when you’re preparing a meal, and then freeze enough for another meal! I do this all the time, at least 2-3 times a week. If I’m not making extra for my own family, I am usually making extras to freeze and give to friends who need an extra hand (like a friend who is a single mom of 3, I usually try to make her family 2 meals a week.) It blesses them immensely and is practically no extra work on my end!

    • Amie says

      I also like to double batches so I can put one meal in the freezer for a later date. It is so easy to do and having good tasting, easy to reheat meals, has has really helped us almost eliminate take out. Now eating out is a treat, not a convenience. I LOVE that you make extra to help a single mom. That is so kind!

  3. rae says

    you could do the apple sauce and apple butter together. You could cook long enough to make applesauce then take out that portion and continue cooking (and if you wanted extra spices then add them) to make the apple butter. Also, I find it really saves time to just core and halve the apples then mash them after cooking instead of dicing them ahead of time

      • rae says

        also, if you don’t eat chunky applesauce (I like it smooth but know some people say that the chunks are how you know it is home made : P ) you don’t even have to peel them because after cooking and blending, you can’t tell. Or if you are only going to mash it, the large peels would probably come right off after a bit of cooking. For the applebutter since it is blended, you can’t notice the peel :)

    • Sandra says

      I half and core my apples too. I find the skin gives the applesauce a great color. I pull out the skin afte the cooking is complete and use my immersion blender to smooth things out. Great idea to start with enough apples for both recipes. I freeze my applesauce. Can you freeze the apple butter too?

    • Heather says

      If you have a food mill and don’t mind smooth applesauce, no need to even core or halve! Just wash, cut out bad spots, and cook in a pot. Then run it all through the food mill. So much quicker and easier. If you make a lot of applesauce, it’s worth the investment of a food mill.

    • beth b says

      Do you Peel them? I haven’t for applesauce because I use a food mill but last week I made apple butter in the crock pot and it was a pain to core and Peel. I’m considering buying one of those rotating peelers.

      • Rae says

        I do not peel. After blending (after cooking), the peel gets so ground up since it’s so soft that you cannot taste it :)

    • Michelle says

      I just made apple butter for the first time a few weeks ago in the crockpot. It takes a loooooooong time (about 16 hours) but it makes your house smell wonderful!

  4. says

    Loved your recipes, going to try the apple butter tommorrow :0) Im always try to save time & money, I run a home daycare with 9 kids so its always a challenge. But I love what I do!

  5. Molly says

    How did the apple chips turn out? I had read another recipe that said that they needed to be eaten within 3 days of cooking. Is that true? Did you freeze yours? Will they be as good after freezing? Also, I noticed that you freeze dinners with noodles. I haven’t done a lot of freezing but am getting into it more recently. How are the noodles after you thaw the meal. I heard they weren’t great.

    I really enjoy reading your blogs and emails. I am relatively new to the site. Thanks for sharing all of your secrets!

    • says

      Noodles are fine as long as you undercook them. They’ll absorb some of the liquid when freezing/thawing. The apple chips were a huge success. I’ll be sharing more pictures and details about them today. I wanted to wait until everyone had tried them and I’d stored them overnight before giving a verdict!

  6. says

    This isn’t my website and I haven’t tried the recipe yet but I intend to.
    I’ve had it bookmarked for awhile.
    It’s a slow cooker recipe for apple butter with no sugar added! She uses fruit juice or cider instead.
    Sounds yummy!
    I don’t peel my apples or pears either, as some have said in above comments. Just made fruit leather the other day and because I puree it in my food processor, the peels aren’t noticeable at all.

    • Meredith says

      I was looking for a crock pot apple butter recipe last week. When Crystal posted the link on Monday, I made it on Tuesday. It was absolutely fabulous. My apples were from an orchard that were fairly tart….the apple butter isn’t tart at all (I’d rather have things on the sweeter side). The only sub. is that I didn’t have cloves and I used Allspice. The recipe is great so on top of Crystal….I recommend it!!!

  7. Melissa says

    I have been cooking extra batches when I make pancakes or casseroles and I am amazed how quickly that adds up. Thanks for the inspiration!

  8. Kristin says

    If I am short on time, I make freezer applesauce. Just add cored, quartered (un-peeled) apples with your spices, sweetener (optional), & a small amount of water. Close the bag while squeezing as much of the air out as possible & mix around with your hands on the outside of the bag. (I use just enough water to move the spices around the apples.) After frozen, take the apples out and let thaw for a while. The freezer will make the apples mush, so taking off the peels is super easy. When I get the peels off, I just add back to the bag and squish. It takes longer for me to explain than actually do it, I think… So easy!

  9. Jolene says

    When you make the apple chips, do you store them in the cabinet or the freezer? I wanna try to have some for the kids after school snack but I don’t know if you’d store them like potato chips of fruit?

  10. says

    I don’t peel my apples either; just core them and put in the pan with about a cup or 2 of water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer on medium for about 25 minutes. Stir occasionally. I then run my sauce through a “foley” thingee. (The kids used to think it was fun to “help” by turning the crank on it.) Most of the time I don’t even add any cinnamon sticks while it simmers…especially since I use the applesauce in baking in lieu of oil. In no time at all you have 3 quarts or 6 pints of applesauce. This year I have been experimenting with fruit/applesauce blends using the same method.

  11. says

    I bought some apples this week to make Pumpkin Applesauce with tomorrow, and I’m going to peel, core, and half them only…instead of dicing them. I’ll just mash it in the food processor anyway, so it doesn’t matter if they’re diced. Also, I too like to cook a little extra…funny how your freezer can be stocked by the end of the week if you do a little extra every night.

  12. says

    I’m on week two of an experiment: serving the same meals two weeks in a row. Last week, I made lasagna for dinner and one for the freezer; I made a big pot of stew and put the leftovers in the freezer; waffles for dinner, leftovers in the freezer, etc.

    It’s been great to have less to do at mealtime this week and since I already had dinner taken care of, I got to do some big time stocking up at the grocery store this week…I’m liking it so far!

  13. Roxanne says

    I use to avoid dry beans, even though they are healthier and cheaper, until I spoke to a woman who was in line at Walmart’s Black Friday sale last year. She told me that you can cook them in a crackpot! I have been cooking dry beans ever since! It is so much easier !

  14. says

    That is great how you can fit in everything. Here is something I have always done which works really well for my family because my husband is almost always home during the dinner rush (he is a teacher and home by 4). When I go in the kitchen to make dinner I stay in the kitchen. Sometimes the dinner is a quick one and that is all I get done, but many times once the dish is in the oven I have 30 minutes to an hour. I use that time to make ahead other things for the week. I will make breakfast for the next morning, I will work on packing lunches, I clean up, I fill containers with flours or sugar if they are low, and just generally do whatever I can in the kitchen to help the rest of the week go better. It really helps me stay on tops of things.

  15. says

    I used to do the double/ triple/ etc a recipe and put one in the freezer for later. Then my kids grew up from 4 preschoolers into 4 teenagers. Gone were the left overs and it takes a double recipe just to make dinner these days. Great ideas though.

    I cook dried beans in the crock pot. It takes less tending than on the stove and they come out great. Fantastic for days I am not at home to watch. Apple sauce in the crock pot is wonderful too. I have done it overnight, so we wake up to a kitchen smelling of warm apples, YUMM>

  16. says

    I have been up to my eyeballs in apples. I made three quarts of applesauce the other day. I’d love to hear how you made those apple chips and exactly how they turned out. I need to get rid of some more of these apples before Mr. Farmer from our CSA gives us more in a few days. I don’t even have much room in my fridge anymore.

  17. Stephanie says

    I just canned 14 pints of applesause :) I peel, core, and quarter the apples. Then I put them in my turkey roasting pan with the lid and bake at 300 until they turn to sauce. It couldn’t be easier and it makes a lot without the constant attention. I stir every 20 minutes or so to check the progress. It takes about 1 1/2 -2 hours depending on the kind of apple, but you don’t have to watch it on the stove. I sweeten when it is done (if I am sweetening) or I cook with a few cinnamon sticks. PS – It makes the house smell WONDERFUL!

  18. Stephanie says

    I made apple butter a few days ago using the recipe you posted- yummy! I filled a 6 quart crock pot with apples and upped the cinnamon and cloves. The only annoying part was peeling the fruit but even that didn’t take so long. It took about 16 hours (all hands off except occasional stirring) to cook and made about 2 quarts. We have one quart left in the freezer because homemade bread with apple butter has been the preferred breakfast/snack in the house.
    It was a great thing to make with the bruised apples- you will get a LOT of those taking a three year old apple picking who wants to do it all by herself :)

    • rae says

      if you blend it after or during cooking, you don’t even have to peel. I just cut mine, cook, blend when cooked until applesauce consistency then continue cooking. Blending when they are soft makes it unnoticeable

      • Stephanie says

        I peeled because the apples were sprayed and I’m trying to reduce the pesticide load as much as possible since we can’t afford to buy everything organic and apples are on the “dirty dozen”. If they were organic then I would be all over blending and I am so saving that idea :)

  19. Angela says

    You know what else is so yummy that we have been doing lately with apples? Pumpkin apple butter. It looks kind of yucky and is SO good.

  20. Teresa says

    The Frito pie looks delicious! I really want to learn more about freezer cooking, but I need a lot of hand holding…like when to stop cooking and cool off for the freezer, best way to store things (pans, ziplocks), do you thaw or just reheat? And so on…can anybody recommend a cookbook or website? I just tried to google and it’s very overwhelming!

  21. lori says

    Crystal, how was the mac and cheese with meat? Curious to see if you all liked it as this is something I would love to try.

  22. Ashley says

    How many dinners do you have in the freezer at a time? If I made double batches to freeze I would quickly run out of dishes to put them in. I guess if I want to do this I’ll need to invest in more casserole dishes etc.

    • says

      I try to have two week’s worth at all times. I rarely freeze things in casserole dishes any more, though. I typically just use freezer bags, as shown in the post. You can get a box of 18 at the dollar store for $1, making it totally worth it–even if you don’t reuse them!

      • Diane says

        I have also lined a 9×13 pan with aluminum foil and then frozen it. When it’s hard, you can take it out, and then freeze that so you’re not running out of casserole dishes. That may work if it’s something you don’t want to scoop into a freezer bag (like lasagna or something, that’s what I did).

  23. erinoftwins says

    Can you tell me…did you freeze the brown rice. Do you just cook it and freeze it in bags? Do you under cook it. i am just getting onto brown rice and was surprised to learn that it has to simmer for 50 minutes. Most night I tdon’t have this kind of time, so being able to freeze it would be amazing!!!

  24. Melissa says

    Made the Apple Butter last night with apples I found in the “clearance” section. I have NEVER made it before so I was a bit apprehensive. It was easy and tasted absolutely wonderful. I was able to fill 3 jars.

    Looking forward to finding more apples on clearance so that I can try out the Apple Chips!!

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