Planning is key in pulling off a successful Freezer Cooking Day. Believe me, I’ve tried winging it before and it just doesn’t work. Many of you have asked questions on how I actually go about planning a Freezer Cooking Day so I thought it’d be fun to share a little peek into my planning process this time around:
1) Shop The Cupboards
I always start my planning by opening up my cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer. I’m always amazed at how much inspiration I find just from the ingredients I already have on hand.
Jot down a list of ingredients you already have to work with and possible recipe ideas as you go along. If you have an odd assortment of ingredients and are stumped for ideas, check out the Ingredient Search feature on AllRecipes.com.
To give you an example, I went through my cupboards and freezer this morning and found the above ingredients: canned tomatoes, whole-wheat pasta, and cream cheese. I immediately remembered FishMama’s lasagna and added that to my list.
2) Consult The Sales Fliers
If your cupboards don’t produce enough ideas or recipe fodder to work with, the next step is to consult the sales fliers. I often combine both the ideas from my cupboards and what is on sale to make up my Master List of Recipes.
3) Make A Master List and Grocery List
Take the recipe ideas you jotted down and narrow them down to 4-10 different final choices (or more, if you want to be a SuperWoman like FishMama!). Shoot for some variety in the main dishes you choose (I doubt you want to eat three weeks of nothing but chicken casserole!) and keep in mind how much time each will take. I usually try to pick a few simple meals and a few more time-intensive dishes.
Once you have your Master List of Recipes, read through each recipe and note what you’ll need to buy at the store. Since you’ll likely need duplicates of many items, you can just write onions and then in make a mark next to them as you go through the recipes for how many onions you’ll actually need. Like this:
Onions – I I I I (this means I’ll need to buy 4 onions)
Cheddar Cheese – I I I I I I I (this means I’ll need to make sure and have enough to shred seven cups of Cheddar cheese)
And so forth…
If your list starts to get really messy and you’re afraid you might not be able to decipher it when you’re shopping, re-write it on a clean sheet of paper once you’re finished with the rough draft.
Match up any coupons to items you’ll be buying and put these in an envelope along with your final Grocery List.
4) Make a Freezer Cooking Day Prep List
Once your grocery list is completed, go through your recipes and quickly write down what things you need to prep in bulk next to the recipe. These would be things like shredding cheese, chopping onions, browning ground beef, cooking and chopping chicken, and so forth.
For instance, if I were doubling the lasagna recipe, I would write it like this:
Lasagna x 2 — recipe on LifeAsMom.com
Brown 2 pounds of ground beef, Grate 24 ounces of mozzarella cheese
I might have three other recipes which also take browned ground beef and four which take mozzarella cheese. So once I’ve written the prep work next to each recipe, I can make a Master Prep List which combines all the prep work for all the recipes together.
My Prep List for next week’s Freezer Cooking Day.
I recommend then also making a final Master Plan which includes the order of events for your Freezer Cooking Day. First, you’ll do all the items on your Master Prep List and then you’ll actually put together all the meals. You’ll save a lot of time and effort by doing all the prep work first. And when you get to the actual putting together of recipes, you’ll just fly through them.
My Master Plan for next week’s Freezer Cooking Day.
I always try to put the most time-intensive recipes first and the easiest recipes at the end. That way, if I’m starting to drag halfway through the cooking, I know that I’ve saved the easiest for last and it gives me renewed energy!
So there you have a simple explanation of how I plan a Freezer Cooking Day. My planning method might not work for you at all, but hopefully it will give those of you who are completely new to cooking in bulk some inspiration and ideas to get started.
Free Downloadable Freezer Cooking Day Planning Worksheets
Just for fun, I asked Joy to put together some free downloadable Freezer Cooking Planning Sheets which you are welcome to use, if you find them helpful. I’ve always used a simple notebook in the past, but I’m excited to finally have something a little snazzier to use.
This simple worksheet has space for you to jot down ingredients you have on hand, recipe ideas, and ingredients you need to buy. Download the Freezer Cooking Day Ingredient Planner here.
This worksheet is a place for you to write down your final list of recipes, where they are located (cookbook, website link, etc.), and all of the prep work each recipe requires. Download the Freezer Cooking Day Master List Planning Sheet here.
Once you’ve decided on your recipes, made your shopping list, and jotted down all the prep work each recipe requires, you can create your final list, the Freezer Cooking Day Prep List. This is where you’ll put the planned order of events for your Freezer Cooking Day. Check things off as you go and be encouraged by your progress and accomplishments! Download the Freezer Cooking Day Prep List here.
I’ll post my Freezer Cooking Day Master List and Prep List later on today along with a link-up for you to share yours, as well. I’m excited to get our very bare freezer filled up again! For more ideas on how to pull off a Freezer Cooking Day, be sure to stop by and read FishMama’s post called Freezer Cooking Basics.