Have you seen those pins on Pinterest? You know the ones: “20 Freezer Meals in One Hour for under $100”. There are always accompanying photos of a bunch of neatly stacked and labeled Ziplock bags filled with food. The posts promise a shopping list and a host of other tips. I decided I wanted to try this. I rounded up a group of five willing friends with the promise of wine and leaving with six slow cooker meals. I offered to do the recipe selection and grocery shopping. I asked for a volunteer host with a large kitchen.
I thought my task would be easy. There were so many freezer meal plans to choose from. No big deal. Well upon closer inspection a lot of the recipes called for a can of cream of whatever soup, ranch dressing powder, processed cheese product, etc. Not things I cook with. So that was kind of a letdown. I quickly realized I was going to have to choose my own recipes.
I decided on a bit of a criteria:
-nothing that needed per-cooking, browning, searing. This eliminated the prospect of using any ground meat. I couldn’t imagine browning 12+ pounds of ground meat, then putting warm meat into a bag (I am making the bletch face right now)
-I tried to vary the type of meats and types of dishes (not all soups)
-aim for a variety of flavours (I would go for all Mexican)
I settled on Chicken Fajitas, Beef and Broccoli, Balsamic Pork Tenderloin, Chicken Enchilada Soup, Vegetarian Chili and Thai Chicken Coconut Curry Soup (click for recipe). I compiled a master grocery list and did the shopping the day of to keep things fresh.
I told everyone to bring a cutting board, their favorite knife, a can opener and some measuring spoons. I prepped the Ziplock bags by writing the contents, date and instructions (i.e. cook on low for 6-8 hrs). Then it was time to get to work….well drink wine too.
It took us about three hours to prep all 36 meals. Not bad. By far the most time was put into chopping peppers (30 of them) and onions (24). It could have been a lot faster if I had of thought of getting someone to bring a food processor. Grating ginger was a huge chore too (sorry Stacey). I thought to buy a jar of minced garlic but not ginger….next time. It worked well to do assembly line style; one person adds meat, another veg, another spices, etc. Less room for error that way.
When all 36 meals were done we were feeling pretty pleased with ourselves. Boom, six dinners we don’t have to worry about. It worked out to $12/meal. The meals are quite generous, for sure enough for dinner and left overs and in some cases two dinners.
The meals need to be thawed before cooking. I recommend putting the bag in your slow cooker insert in the fridge. There is a good likelihood that the bag will get punctured in your freezer while you are digging around in there. Having it leak all over the fridge = not fun. If it is not fully thawed just increase the cooking time a little.
Everyone was so happy with the process that there are plans to do another in early September. Plus it is a great excuse to hang out with your girlfriends. Of course this can be done in your own kitchen, but friends make everything better. There were suggestions that this should be my side project, facilitating groups of friends in bulk meal prep. Might be fun?
Tiffany McFadden, RD