Yesterday I shared some tips on how to plan a freezer cooking day. Today, I will go over choosing recipes & shopping.
We started by meeting over coffee and planning our menu. We decided to use recipes from the "Big Cook" cookbooks, which are set up to make food in large batches. In the cookbook, you can chose from 1, 4, 6 or 8 meals.
We decided to do only four meals of each recipe. This meant, each of us would take home two of each meal. While it would have been easier to do more of each recipe, we didn't want to get bored with eating the same meals over and over. We also didn't want to waste food, if we discovered that our families weren't crazy about a certain dinner.
It's a good idea to make up your recipe list with at least 50% uncooked meals. This will allow you to assemble a greater number of meals on your freezer cooking day. The only meal we cooked was the beef for the Sloppy Joe's and the extra ground beef. It also leaves you the option of either cooking your meal in a crock pot or oven - depending on what your day looks like.
Our cookbook had all the ingredients already quadrupled, but if your going to make large amounts of your own recipe, do the math ahead of time - this makes shopping and cooking much faster.
I went through each recipe and made notes of how much we needed of each item and then added it up. It helped that we had several recipes with the same ingredients like Chicken Cacciatore and Cantonese Chicken, so we could buy in bulk and save money.
Try to buy items already sliced or prep a few ingredients the evening before. You may be surprised that some "ready made" ingredients, don't cost that much more.The sliced mushrooms we bought were the same price as the whole ones.
Keep in mind though, you don't want your cook day to become a "cook evening plus a cook day." You want to be well rested for cook day! We shopped for one hour the night before and I spent fifteen minutes dicing onions with a food processor, to save us time.
The reason we shopped the evening before cook day, was to ensure everything would be fresh and we could take everything straight to my friend's house from the grocery store. We met for an hour with our grocery lists and picked up whatever items we didn't already have at home. This was mostly meat, vegetables and some canned goods.
We dropped everything off at her house and successfully got fifty pounds of fresh meat to fit in her fridge! This made it a lot smoother in the morning to have most of our ingredients in the kitchen, ready to cook.
Make sure you think about freezer and fridge space. You could use coolers or an unheated garage to store ingredients.
Consider what type of containers or bags you want to freeze or store your meals in. We bought a 90 pack of Ziploc bags at Walmart, and tinfoil containers at the dollar store.
You may also need to bring extra frying pans, stock pots or large bowls.
Don't forget to plan lunch for cooking day. We had cauliflower soup on our menu, so we decided we would have a bowl for lunch and freeze the remainder.