Bulk Cooking: A Simple How-To

December 10, 2019

By Mrs. Breakfast With Nick

Every time my sister-in-law and I get together to do a bulk freezer cooking day, I get asked questions about how we do it: what recipes we use, which containers to get, what is our process? But I always get stuck on how to teach or explain something that we’ve done so often it’s almost second nature.

Well, I’ve decided to try! First things first:

We don’t use recipes!

I know! It’s scary at first, but this food is hard to mess up, I promise! I know it sounds crazy, and I totally understand there are people out there that need to – and enjoy – following recipes for everything they cook. I certainly do, sometimes! But we have made these specific meals so many times that we have adapted the originals to fit our needs, the containers, and – crazily enough – the package amounts that certain foods come in!

Efficiency is King (or Queen, as the case may be)

I aim for efficiency in our bulk cooking days, mainly because I think it’s less overwhelming and it feels more do-able, so I want to do it more often.

It can be hard to think about individual recipes and tasks when you are making several at a time, but that is generally the most efficient way to bulk cook. And, when two meals use one ingredient (rice, beef, etc..) it can be challenging to think about exact amounts and whether you’re dividing everything up perfectly. 

A few tips:

  1. Be prepared: Go grocery shopping a few days before your cooking day, and get everything you need. When in doubt of the quantity, get two. You don’t want to have to run out when you’re up to your elbows in tasks.
  2. Keep it loose: Choose recipes that are flexible and that won’t change drastically if you throw in another handful of veggies or rice.
  3. Finish it up: Work to “use up” packages of food., i.e., instead of seeing “two cups of chopped carrots” and grabbing the measuring cup, think what you could do to use up the full 1# bag of carrots. Can you add more beef or celery? There is something satisfying about going through a full package of something, because then you’re not trying to find places for 1/2 onion or a cup of cooked rice.
  4. Lists: I am convinced that decision fatigue is one of the main reasons people don’t get more done in a day. By following a well-laid out grocery list, and a day-of prep list, it makes the whole experience smoother and – dare I say it? – more fun!
  5. Support: It always helps to have a few extra people to help with clean up, assembly, and trash/recycling duty.

The Process

I’ve written out our process as closely as I can below, but obviously that can change slightly, as helpers may come and go over the course of your time. What we do is, as soon as we have one of the components of the meals prepped, we hand it off for “assembly,” which usually means spooning it into dishes or making burritos. Then we can continue making the other components.

The Meals

  • Chicken, Rice, Broccoli Bake: 8 small casseroles
  • Lasagna Roll Ups: 8 small casseroles
  • Shepherd’s Pie: 8 small casseroles
  • Breakfast Burritos: 20
  • Meat Burritos: 20
  • Veggies Burritos: 10
  • Crock Pot Stew: 5 bags

Shopping

I always shop a few days ahead, but I don’t prep much other than that. By keeping your mess and chaos all to one day, it feels less stressful and less likely to bleed into other activities in your life.

ALDI (Yep, ALDI) List: $130

  • Cilantro – 1 bunch
  • Carrots – 1 bag
  • Celery – 1 bag
  • Onions – 1 bag
  • Bell peppers – 3
  • Broccoli – 4 stalks
  • Yukon Gold potatoes – 5#
  • Shredded cheddar cheese – 3# bag
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese – 3# bag
  • 2% Milk – 1/2 gallon
  • Eggs – 2 dozen
  • Butter – 2#
  • Ricotta – 3 16-oz containers
  • Sour Cream – 1 16-oz container
  • Shredded parmesan cheese – 2 containers
  • Flour tortillas – 5 bags
  • Refried beans – 6 cans
  • Tomato paste – 1 cans
  • Crushed tomatoes – 1 can
  • White rice – 1 3# bag
  • Chicken broth – 2 quarts
  • Tomato juice – 1/2 gallon
  • Lasagna noodles – 3 boxes
  • Marinara sauce – 3 jars
  • Gallon freezer bags – 1 box
  • Foil – 1 box
  • Sausage – 2 packages
  • Ground beef – 6#
  • Beef chuck roast – 4#
  • Frozen peas – 2 bags
  • Frozen mixed veggies – 4 bags

Dollar Tree: $8

  • 3-for-$1 small size foil pans with flat lids: 8 packs

Other Grocery Store: $12

  • 2 Rotisserie chickens

From My Pantry

  • Salt 
  • Pepper
  • AP flour
  • Italian seasoning
  • Onion powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Taco seasoning
  • Meat seasoning

Kitchen Tools

  • Bowls
  • Large saucepan
  • Large pot
  • Spoons
  • Flat whisk
  • Spatulas
  • Potato masher

Order of Prep

  1. Boil a big pot of water
  2. Put 1/2 bag of rice into rice cooker to cook
  3. Start browning ground beef in large pan
  4. Peel potatoes and carrots
  5. Put potatoes in water to cook
  6. Chop carrots, celery, and onions into stew-sized-pieces
  7. Chop broccoli into florets
  8. Chop bell peppers into smaller pieces
  9. Chop cilantro 
  10. Cut chuck roast into stew-sized-pieces
  11. Pull rotisserie chicken
  12. Steam broccoli
  13. Drain potatoes and mash with butter, sour cream, and salt
  14. Boil pot of water
  15. Drain ground beef and mix 1/2 of it with the can of crushed tomatoes, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, 1 tablespoon onion powder, and 1 can tomato paste
  16. Brown sausage in large pan
  17. Sauté bell peppers 
  18. ASSEMBLE Shepherd’s Pies by layering beef first, mixed veggies, and mashed potatoes on top
  19. Put lasagna noodles on to boil
  20. Open refried beans and put into bowl
  21. Mix rice with chopped cilantro and salt
  22. Mix remainder of ground beef with 2 tablespoons taco seasoning 
  23. ASSEMBLE Beef Burritos: refried beans, beef, cilantro rice, cheese, and wrap in foil (place in gallon freezer bags). (20 burritos)
  24. ASSEMBLE Veggie Burritos: refried beans, veggies, cilantro rice, cheese, wrap in foil (place in gallon freezer bags). (10 burritos)
  25. Drain lasagna noodles, rinse with cold water
  26. Make béchamel white sauce: 1 stick of butter, melted, stir in 1/2 cup flour until slightly toasty, add 1/2 quart broth, stir until combined, then the other 1/2, stir until heated, and thin with 1/4 gallon of milk. Salt and pepper to taste.
  27. Mix chicken with remainder of rice, peas, broccoli, and 1/2 white sauce.
  28. ASSEMBLE Chicken and Rice Casserole: divide equally into foil pans. Top with 1/2 cup or so of white sauce.
  29. Scramble 2 dozen eggs until just barely dry, put in bowl
  30. Mix ricotta with 1 container shredded parmesan, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper. 
  31. Layer 1/4 cup of tomato sauce in bottom of (5) casserole pans 
  32. ASSEMBLE Lasagna Roll-ups by spreading a spoonful of ricotta mixture onto flat noodles, rolling up and placing in pan on sauce. Fill pan, then top with 1 cup of sauce and handful of mozzarella cheese.
  33. ASSEMBLE Breakfast Burritos: refried beans, eggs, sausage, cheese, wrap in foil (place in gallon freezer bags). (20 burritos)
  34. ASSEMBLE Crock Pot Beef Stew Bags: divide beef, celery, carrots, onions into 5 gallon freezer bags, top with 1 teaspoon salt and pepper, meat seasoning, and 1 cup of tomato sauce.
  35. Label everything! Name the casserole, and write “defrost, 350 degrees for 30 minutes” on each. Label the bags of burritos, 10 in each, and the beef crock pot stew bags.
  36. Freeze the beef stew flat and be careful not to stack the casseroles more than 2 tall before they are frozen solid.

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FOOD + TRAVEL WRITER

I go by Dr. Breakfast, but in addition to restaurants and recipes, I write about family travel, breweries and distilleries, the arts, outdoor fun, and so much more.

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