Bulk cooking and freezing meals day

October 11, 2012

It was a rainy sort of day and I was in a get-organised sort of mood. So I decided to cook meals ahead for the next couple of weeks and freeze them. I have a deep freeze and need to make more use out of it … this is what I did:

I went shopping to grab some beef mince, chicken thighs, a whole chicken, stewing steak and vegetables (shopping list below). I had a few recipes in my head, some old classics — Chilli beef, Beef Stew, Chicken and mushroom stew and Chicken soup.

Note: If you want to do this really on the cheap then you can search out discounts and specials. I try to buy free range and local where I can, but it’s not always possible or convenient or economical to do that. I shopped at Aldi this time around, I bought the cheaper beef cuts but spent a little more to get the free range chicken. I spent $60 on the fresh meat and vegetables for all of these recipes, the spices, dry sherry and canned beans and tomatoes I already had in the pantry, but if you added the cost of those it would come to about $85. I made 11 really good sized meals for a family of 4, which adds up to $7.70 for each meal, then if you add the cost of the rice, salad or bread which I will serve with each meal, the total cost of each meal will end up being under $10 for a family of four. Have you ever worked out how much you spend per meal for the family?

When I got home I prepared all the vegetables

NOTE: As I prepped the vegetables I put all the peelings, end bits and leaves of the vegetables in a big stock pot. The carrot peelings and tops went in the stock pot. The celery tops and root went in the stock pot, the rubbery carrots, and limp spring onions from the back of the fridge went in the stock pot, as did the parsley stalks, onion skins (plus a whole onion chopped into quarters). After you have added all the vegetables, add some bay leaves, pepper corns and a whole chicken, cover over with water, and let simmer on the back of the stove top for about an hour, until the chicken is cooked through.

Prep vegetables and put them in separate bowls/containers.

  • Roughly chop 8 large onions
  • Roughly chop 1 kg of carrots
  • Roughly chop a whole celery
  • Roughly chop 3 whole garlics
  • Roughly chop a big bunch of parsley
Search your cupboards for 4 large-ish pots and get them out.

Then I fried off all the vegetables separately in a large saucepan with some duck fat and a pinch of salt. You can use ghee or olive oil as the fat instead. Fry off the vegetables until they are tender and only slightly golden, you don’t want any burned bits. Divide the vegetables into the four different pots – make it pretty even.

  • Fry your onions until just soft and starting to get some colour.
  • Fry your celery until just soft and starting to get some colour.
  • Fry your carrots until just a bit glassy.
  • Fry your garlics for just a minute.
  • Don’t fry the parsley, just divide it between the pots.

Chop and brown your meat in batches

  • Next I chopped up the beef into large-ish cubes, you can buy it already cubed, but I used a boneless beef chuck roast and so needed to cut all the fat and sinew off and chop it up. It is cheaper to buy it that way than already prepared.
  • Fry off your cubed steak in small batches, with a little fat, and turn over when one side is nicely browned. You just want to brown it all over – not cook it through. A few minutes on each side is enough. After you brown each batch, add it to one of the pots (the smallest probably).
  • Once all the beef is browned, you can chop the chicken thighs, chop them into large pieces, I just chopped each thigh in thirds or quarter. Then brown these in batches too and add them to another of the pots.
  • Last of all you will brown the beef mince in batches and add it to the largest of your pots.

Next add the spices and different flavourings to each of your pots, cover with water and simmer.

The chili:

(makes about 4-5 really decent sized meals, I usually freeze extra big batches as the hubby likes to take some to work too, serve with crusty bread and fresh cilantro and sour cream)

In your pot you should already have your browned meat and softened vegetables and herbs…

  • Add 2 cans of beans – black beans or kidney beans or white beans — I used black beans this time because that is all I had in the pantry.
  • Add 4 cans of cooked tomatoes (you can use the same amount of homemade cooked tomatoes if you have some.
  • Add 2 jars of of roasted red peppers, chopped.
  • Add 2 dessertspoons of ground cumin and coriander and smokey paprika
  • and 1 dessertspoon of cinnamon and 1 of chili (or to taste) and 1 of hot paprika
  • You will also need 1 dessertspoon of dried or fresh oregano or thyme and a bunch of fresh cilantro (coriander)
  • About 4 cups of beef broth or water plus a cup of beer or dry sherry – to cover the ingredients.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Simmer for about 2 hours.
  • Take off the heat and let cool.

Chicken Mushroom Stew:

(makes 3 really decent sized family meals, when warming it through add a little cream and serve with rice or garlic bread)

In your pot you should already have your browned meat and softened vegetables and herbs…

  • Add 1 cup of dry sherry.
  • Add a bunch of fresh oregano with the leaves picked off the stalks.
  • Pan fry 4 rashers of chopped bacon and add.
  • Add a can of chickpeas or white beans
  • Cover with chicken stock or water, and simmer for 40 minutes.
  • Pan fry 2 cups of button mushrooms in butter and black pepper and add at the very end.
  • Take off the heat and let cool.

Chunky Beef Stew:

(makes 2 really decent sized family meals, serve with boiled or mashed potatoes or polenta and fresh parsley)

In your pot you should already have your browned meat and softened vegetables and herbs…

  • Add 2 cans of cooked tomatoes.
  • Add 1 cup of dry sherry (or dark beer or red wine).
  • Add 1/2 cup of roasted red peppers chopped.
  • Add a bunch of fresh herbs chopped (eg oregano, thyme, rosemary or sage)
  • Add 3 bay leaves.
  • Slow cook for 3-4 hours.
  • Take off the heat and let cool.

Chicken soup:

(makes about 4 cups of stock plus a chicken soup dinner for 2 nights with leftovers for lunch the next day) 
  • Once the chicken is cooked through you should remove it and let it cool. And then remove all the chicken from the bones and shred it.
  • Strain all the mushy vegetables from the broth (you can feed these to your chooks or compost bin).
  • Now you can do a couple of things here: I put away about 4 smaller containers of strained stocks in the freezer for future meals. And the use the other half of the broth for the chicken soup. To make a really easy chicken soup, we just simple take the broth, season it with salt and pepper and add some chopped peeled carrots and potatoes – cook for 20 minutes and add the shredded chicken.
  • Or you can put all the stock away in containers in the freezer and use the steamed chicken for a whole bunch of other recipes or lunches during the week. Make quesadillas or chicken sandwiches or chicken salad.

Next after each of the dishes have cooled you will need to find some plastic containers to freeze them all in (or maybe you should have thought about this earlier … mmm…) I used a combination of tupperware, yoghurt and ice cream containers – you can use ziplock bags or foil containers too.

You will probably need about 12-14 containers. Sometimes if I only have very big container then I’ll just fill it up with 2 meals worth and I know that we’ll be eating that meal 2 nights in a row – or for lunches at least the next day or two.

Shopping list for all of these recipes

  • 2 kg (4.4 lbs) beef mince
  • 2 kg (4.4 lbs) chicken thighs
  • 1 whole chicken
  • 1 kg (2.2 lbs) stewing steak or slow roast chuck
  • 3 garlics
  • 8-9 onions
  • 1 kg (2.2 lbs) carrots
  • 1 whole celery
  • Big bunch parsley
  • Other fresh herbs (bay leaves, oregano and thyme)
  • 2-3 cups Button mushrooms
  • 3 (400 g or 14 oz) jars of roasted peppers
  • 3 (400 g or 14 oz) cans of beans
  • 6 (400 g or 14 oz) cans of cooked tomatoes
  • Spices: cinnamon, smokey paprika, chili, cumin, coriander
  • A bottle of dry sherry
  • 4 rashers of bacon (optional)

 

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Suzanne October 17, 2012 at 12:43 pm

Wow, this is a very cool post. I really appreciate how you went step by step starting with basic ingredients, then divided them, and got four very different meal types. And yes, I do calculate the price per meal on some of the meals I prepare. I think it’s interesting especially when I am spending what seems like a lot of money to prepare something at home only to realize that if I were to take my family of four our for a meal, I’d spend far more.

Jaime woody November 2, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Thanks for this! It’s really nice to have everything ready to go for the week!

Faith November 4, 2012 at 3:51 am

you are not the onlyone who calculates cost per meal i feed a family of six on about 25-300 a month that is an average o 10 a day 2 meals or 4 1 meal or six. we eat a lot of chicken and rice dishes and beans in there. I also freezer cook it all with in a day or two of buying. i admit to cheating somewhat as i usually use frozen vegies in my meals. I know it could lessen my monthly cost i at lest in the summer bought fresh and chopped my own but with 2 small kids still underfoot on cooking days i need the extra time for cuddles.

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