One thing that applies to all freezer cooking is this rule: Always test your recipes out on your family before you make more than one! More on this later, but always, always, always follow this rule.
Consider getting a friend to do it with you. I have two friends that I usually do mega-cooking with. One friend has a huge kitchen and doesn't mind the clean up. I do all the planning in exchange for not having to clean up. It is fun to have friends to talk to and keep each other motivated.
So, ready to do a mega-session? Here we go!
Before you begin:
- Make sure you plan everything you want to make. Make a list of the recipes and then make a list of all the ingredients in those recipes. Do the math! If you want to make 4 batches of Sloppy Joe meat, make sure you times the ingredients by 4. Do everything - even the staples like salt, flour, butter, milk - you may think you "always have enough" but when you are mega cooking, stuff goes fast. There is nothing worse than running out of ketchup half-way through the day and having to stop and run to the store to get ketchup!
- Make sure that when you plan, you also plan for storage. Are you going to do the Ziploc bag method? Do you have enough bags? In all the sizes? Are you going to do disposable aluminum pans? How many will you need? Eight inch square pans or 9x13 pans? You don't want 6 lbs of Taco meat and nowhere to put it!
- Make sure you plan a "treat." I always make sure I have my Diet Dr. Pepper and my potato chips on hand. I very rarely get potato chips because I cannot control myself around chips. But for baking day it is nice to have a treat.
- Do not try to shop and cook on the same day. It will kill you. Literally. Unless you are doing a really small batch of cooking, shop the day before. Make sure you go shopping with a really, really detailed list (see point one above!).
- The night before you cook, do some prep work. If you didn't buy already grated cheese, grate your cheese. Chop onions and celery and peppers and put them in a ziploc bag or tightly sealed container. Cook and chop your chicken. Most chicken recipes I do need to have cooked chopped chicken added. Thaw anything that needs to be thawed.
- Before you go to bed, run the dishwasher and clean the kitchen. It works so much better if you start with a clean kitchen. If you have time, unload the dishwasher before you go to bed. You will be filling it up all day long!
- Get some sleep! Make sure you get a good nights sleep. Foggy brain + multiple recipes = disaster.
- Take a shower and get dressed, down to the shoes (Fly Lady anyone?). Put on really comfortable shoes, you will be standing a long time and your feet will hurt, trust me.
- Put on some upbeat music that gets you going. You are going to need to motivation in a couple of hours. I like Broadway show tunes (Wicked is my current favorite!), I sing out loud, much to the dismay of my children.
- I like to group my meals. By this I mean, I do all the chicken recipes, then switch to hamburger recipes. That way I've only got one type of meat out and cooking at a time. If I cook some hamburger and add it to Cincinnati Chili, I don't have to do a scrupulously good job of washing before I start the taco meat.
- Have a garbage bag out in the open. I use paper grocery sacks on a pile of newspapers. You don't want to open a cupboard or lift a lid with goop covered hands. Just make it really accessible.
- Fill the sink (or half the sink if you have that option) with hot soapy water. Put things in there to soak. I would, however, recommend doing the dishes periodically. It keeps things from getting out of hand, plus you will need certain things again and again. Measuring cups and spoons get used all day long, your skillet or frying pan gets used over and over, your mixing bowls will need to be washed many times.
- Have something easy ready for lunch. You don't want to stop and make sandwiches for everyone. Lunchables are a great option for the kids, especially if you don't normally get them (which we don't). I usually plan to take a small break and run through the TacoBell drive-through, but that's just me.
- Plan to go out to dinner. I know this is counter-intuitive but trust me. You will not want to cook, and you won't be thrilled about eating anything you just cooked, either. Sometimes we just do a take-and-bake pizza.
- Freeze as you go but try not to overload the freezer. I will freeze some and refrigerate some (and freeze after it gets cold). If you put too much in the freezer at once, it raises the temp of the freezer and can ruin some food. Just be careful.
- Keep going. At some point you are going to want to just give up. Don't do it! Keep going til the end, you'll be so glad you did.
- When you get to the end of the day, open your freezer door and admire your work.Tomorrow I will post the Cincinnati Chili recipe, I promise!