How to Make 15 Meals in an Afternoon with Large Batch Cooking

Large Batch Cooking for Freezer Meals

It’s been a while since I’ve done some large batch cooking for freezer meals but it was time for me to get into it again. Life has been busier than ever lately and any time that I can save preparing our meals on the busy days would be a life saver.

We prefer large batch cooking over making traditional freezer meals. Is there a difference? Yes…

Freezer Meals

Traditional Freezer Meals generally consist of an entire meal put together in some kind of freezer container (usually a freezer zippered bag or a tin foil pan). It’s usually a complete meal all in one and all you need to do is stick it in the oven or in the slow cooker on the day that your family plans to eat it. Once it’s made you typically have very little to do to finish the meal. We’ve found that this type of meal is very useful if you are able to eat the majority of foods (and have few restrictions such as allergies) and if you have a large chunk of time to prep the meals for the freezer.

Large Batch Cooking

The big difference between Large Batch Cooking and Freezer Meals is that the meals aren’t complete. The foods are large parts of a meal but usually don’t consist of the entire meal all in one. The foods are full prepared so they simply will need to be re-heated or added to the rest of the meal to make it complete. Large Batch Cooking generally takes less time than making freezer meals because you usually make a large amount of whatever you are already cooking and just put away the excess for a future meal or meals.

 

So now that we’ve got the description out of the way. Let me share with you some tips about large batch cooking and why it works so well for us!

batch2

Here’s a picture from my latest round of large batch cooking. Instead of just making extras of one meal I was making two and also trying to get a little baking done while my oven was on, but I still ended up with the base for 15 meals (plus some snacks) with a little extra work. I used these Extreme Freezer Containers from Amazon. They fit 32 ounces (they do have other sizes as well that I hope to get at some point!) and are BPA free. I also purchased these Freezer Labels from Amazon because I’ve had trouble with other labels sticking. I’ve been very happy with both products!

batch3

I started my large batch cooking session by simmering a large batch of homemade BBQ Sauce which we use with our BBQ Meatballs recipe. I ended up with 5 containers of this which was perfect since I got 4 containers of meatballs which will make 4 meals so I have a spare one that we can use for BBQ Chicken or something similar.

batch4

I was also making some spaghetti meat sauce. First I browned four pounds of hamburger. Then I drained it and removed 2 pounds (and split that between 2 containers), the remaining 2 pounds I put back in the pan and made spaghetti sauce with. I ended up with 4 containers (or 4 meals) worth of spaghetti sauce that’s ready to go. I will just need to heat it up on the stove or in the slow cooker and serve with pasta and veggies. The 2 containers of hamburger I will use as the base for other meals such as tacos.

batch5

In the oven I made up a large batch (using 4 pounds of beef) of my Make Ahead Meatballs. Along with the BBQ Sauce this will make us 4 meals for the stovetop or slow cooker.

batch

Since I had the oven on for the meatballs I decided to make full use of it and I whipped up a batch of Banana Bread Mini Muffins for a little snack and some Banana Cake for a treat. I also made a big batch of my new Gluten Free Homemade Tortillas Recipe while everything was baking, enough for at least 4 meals.

I made enough food for my family to have for supper plus:

  • 4 Meatball & Sauce Meals
  • 4 Spaghetti Sauces
  • 2 Ground Beef Bases
  • 1 BBQ Sauce (we will use for BBQ Chicken by adding this and some chicken breasts to the crockpot)
  • 4 Meals Worth of Tortillas

Total = 15 Meal Bases!

Of course, these aren’t complete meals but that’s why we like large batch cooking! We prefer fresh produce with our meals so cooking this way leaves us open to create the meals we want, based on what I have on hand. For example, I can make the BBQ Meatballs as the base for supper and pair with a nice salad if I have lettuce on hand, or if I don’t we might fry up some green beans with onions. Whatever we do, the hardest part of the meal that takes the longest (the meatballs) are already ready for us.

Since my kids and I can’t have gluten, dairy, and eggs, making traditional freezer meals is hard for us since most of them depend heavily on pasta, cheese, cream-of soups, and other similar ingredients. Large Batch Cooking allows us to make what we already make…just more of it at a time.

Large Batch Cooking is something I will do once a week when I get back into it again, that way there are always a few extra meal bases in the freezer. Obviously all of the meals I made on this day are similar so we will probably only eat 1 to 2 of them a week which means I have another 2 months before I need to make any of these meals again.

freezermealplanpreviewsmaller

Want to get into Large Batch Cooking? You will need to plan ahead so that you have enough food to make your meal and to make your freezer meals as well. Since I plan all of my meals out a month in advance I also plan out which foods I will be large batch cooking. I’ve made this simple Freezer Meals List for you to print and some printable recipe cards (I recommend printing on card stock) so that you can get started as well!

Do you do Freezer Cooking or Large Batch Cooking? Which do you prefer?

merissabio

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Support Little House Living by Sharing This

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

34 Comments

  1. For our small family of four (two adults, one 5 year old, one baby) freezer cooking is better right now. Before I had the baby, I put together 60 freezer meals that were allergen friendly for us, which meant no soy or dairy. Each meal lasts for one dinner plus lunch the next day for the adults, since my son eats a large breakfast and is in school from 11:30-3:30. I’m making one of our last freezer meals tonight, and the baby is 6 months old! What do you do for the summer? I was thinking of marinating meat but I don’t know yet.

    1. For summer I usually stick mostly to basic meat meals….shredded chicken, browned hamburger, plain meatballs, homemade sausage, etc. Since we eat so many fresh fruits and veggies in the summer and need to use them with our meals, it seems easy just to have that very simple base to pair with the fruits and veggies (plus those types of “plain meat meals” are super easy to put together in bulk!).

  2. I am all for making things in huge batches. My mother always did that with pasta sauce, meatballs, mac & cheese and a few other things when I was a kid.

  3. Wow. You’re very organized. I could learn a thing or two from you. I’ve been thinking about doing this for a long time. This article just gave me the motivation to do so. No cooking and kitchen cleaning for a while is perfect motivation. Thanks.

  4. Large batch cooking does sound like the way to go to save time on busy days. I would have to do it on a much smaller scale since I live alone–but I believe it would help even me!

  5. I really do need to do this. I can see how useful it would be and it would totally help the family out for when I travel unexpectedly or get a fast media fam trip offer. I also love that printable. SO cute!!

  6. I love doing freezer cooking!! When we get home from our trip its great to know there are meals ready in the freezer, plus its perfect if they can go right in the crock pot.

  7. I love bulk cooking. When I had a large freezer I would make several meals in advance. It would really help especially right after our daughter.

  8. Cooking this way is a lifesaver for me! I will cook up chicken, ground beef, pork roasts, beef roasts, make meatballs, etc. I batch cook up pinto beans (leave some whole and smash the rest), rice, pasta, muffins, pancakes and waffles and freeze them for cutting even more time off my meal prep during the week. Once my freezer is fully stocked, I can grab something out and make a super quick meals from it. The pasta just takes about a minute in the microwave to reheat and I find that it doesn’t get mushy as long as it wasn’t overcooked in the first place.

    My kids aren’t gluten free so I love it that I don’t have to cook two separate meals. They might have a meatball sub while I just have meatballs and a salad.

  9. I think planning our meals in advance and freezing them would make my life so much easier. I have to prioritize my time in order to do this.

  10. Whenever hubby and i’s work schedules get crazy we do this!!!! So easy to pick a day a cook and freeze!

  11. I’ve been doing this for about 5 years now, ever since we got an upright freezer (I’m short and I hate having to dig in the bottom). Yesterday I bought 5 pounds of ground beef on sale, browned it all with some onions, added some water, some peas, and 3 beef cubes. Thickened with flour for a lovely brown gravy. Some mashed potatoes on top and presto, Cottage Pie. I made enough for supper last night, hubby’s lunch for today, and two more meals for in the freezer. Dehydrated potatoes work well too. I do the same with lasagna and mac and cheese with veggies and chopped ham. I love the fact that it doesn’t take any more time to make 3 or 4 as it does to make one meal.

  12. I do a bit of both. I make freezer meals that I know we love and Maybe a new one to try. I love batch cooking as well, used it last night! Diced and cooked chicken made the base to our stir fry and dinner was done in less the 10 mins!

  13. Everything sounds great except for the way you store your meals. I use small containers (square) freeze then place the whole container with label into a food saver bag, vacuum seal then freeze. The food lasts at least 2 to 3 times longer than just a container or a zip lock bag without freezer burn.

  14. I am going to try this. I think it will simplify my summer and make it seem longer. I won’t be stuck in the kitchen. Thanks!

    1. I mainly use the freezer method of big batch cooking. In my case my son’s diet is quite restrictive, but for 10 he can eat quite a bit. I make his main meats this way all the time and freeze them in “meal potions”, such as 10 small meatballs at a time. The day I made them I made a batch of about 170 or so. In our house the family rarely eats together because of scheduling, and this way I can guarantee a fast healthy protein when he is hungry, as oppose to his filling up on snacks while I try to prepare something. I make taco meat for my daughter the same way, make a batch and freeze in individual portions, it thaws great. It even works well for the different types of homemade gluten free bread I make him, making several loaves and freezing, thawing as needed so he doesn’t always have to have the same types over and over and I am not baking every day. One of my son’s favorites though is bacon. I cook a whole pack of bacon at a time in the microwave, and freeze in portions of three strips. It helps on those days he needs some protein before school. It is sometimes easy to forget what you have in your freezer, I find making a list for the side of the fridge helps. Cross off as things come out (usually wait until the last portion is out) and add to list when new food goes in.

  15. My DH just got a bargain on a 9 lb pork butt. I just brought out one of my crock pots, had him cut it into 3 lb hunks, stuck one in the crock pot for supper with a jar of bbq sauce. We had it for supper and I froze the rest.
    The next morning I took the other two out, put one in crock pot and added a jar of chipotle, lime & garlic sauce to a crock pot. Put the other one in a second crock pot ( I have two) and added a jar of peppercinne peppers, juice and all, and set them for 6-8 hours. When done I froze them in meal sizes, for the two of us and we have so many meals with little effort. Sandwiches, tacos, meat plus pasta, many meals on the cheap side.

  16. I love large batch cooking and these are awesome recipes. Your print outs look very nice! Thanks so much for sharing with us at Full Plate Thursday. Have a great weekend and come back soon!
    Miz Helen

  17. Thank you so much for the post. This is so much easier than freezer “whole meal” cooking, and like you said, this allows you to use fresh produce way more than a complete frozen meal. This is also a good space saver for us 🙂
    Love the added bonus that its already cooked and you just have to thaw–I would always forget to thaw my meals the day before I need to cook them, so a lot of times, meals were just taking up extra space.
    Thanks so much for showing how easy this is to do while you are already cooking, rather than setting aside a whole day for freezer meals and still not having dinner done! haha.

  18. Processed or packaged foods are never be encouraged in our daily eating habits, I believe. They lack the authentic nutrition that one might get while opting for traditional cooking. I really appreciate the fact that you started off by saying no to packaged food here. Also, a great tip for making meals for family get-togethers and party time. Nice post. Thanks for sharing.

  19. Love it! I have been doing big batch cooking for years…and still love it even though we are now almost empty-nesters! It really feels like you have more time when you don’t have to start from scratch for every meal!!Thank you for sharing your projects with us at Friday Favorites!! Hugs- Christine at Must Love Home

  20. Such a good idea I will be retiring in the middle of May and will make some of these for the days I am too busy in the garden or sewing so
    thank you Marissa

  21. I do both. when I am cooking, I try to make enough for two meals as I go for an easy already made dinner. When our garden is producing, I make meal kits that I put in the freezer such as cut up veggies, meat and spice packs and place in the freezer. This allows for a fast, homemeade meal and uses our garden bounty. We supplement our meals with fresh fruits and veggies that we do not grow.

  22. I really appreciate you sharing this! I believe I have an intolerance to gluten and dairy. I have put off eating gluten free because it seems so overwhelming. After reading this I see that I can prepare ahead and it will save on time. I am new to a site like this. Do you have a link to gluten recipes you would be willing to share? Thanks!

  23. I do this a lot as my sweetie doesn’t like the traditional soups, chilli and stews type meals. I do individual meat loaves, blanch and freeze veggies like cut up carrots, do a bunch of double baked potatoes etc. Parts of meals that combine to make a few different meals. Our favourite way to meal prep;).