*OAMC recipe links at bottom of post
Our family works together with 4 other families to freezer cook every two months. This allows us to purchase in bulk and save a lot of money. (We average $5-6 per meal and each meal serves 8-12 people. That is not including side dishes.) A number of you have expressed an interest in knowing more and even in starting your own group.
In our group we have 3 families that cook every time and we fill in the remaining 2 spots when it is time to schedule a cook day. Some things to keep in mind as you consider what families you would like to cook with:
- Similar tastes in food (spicy or not spicy, etc.)
- No picky eaters
- Limited to no diet restrictions or similar diet restrictions
- Must show initiative and be willing to pitch in and work hard
- Similar family size – not necessary, but something to consider
Read about what happened the first time I cooked with this group and you may be amazed that they ever invited me back. 🙂
The planning starts with choosing recipes. With a little thought most recipes can be adapted to bulk freezer cooking. We pick 20 recipes to make each cook day and we plan on at least 2 meals per family from each recipe.
We have our recipes divided by type, chicken, beef, pork (or other type of meat) and vegetarian and we choose several recipes from each category for a good variety of recipes.
Adjust amounts and make a shopping list.
For our group (2 families with 8 people, our family of 12 and the two additional families which vary in size) we adjust each recipe so that it serves 8 people and we call that a “single” recipe. We multiply this “single” recipe by 10 (five families and each family gets two meals) and that gives us the amount of ingredients that we need to purchase for that recipe.
We have a computer program that does the math and combines the ingredients from all of the recipes to make a simple shopping list for us.
With our recipes and shopping list we check out the sales and plan where to shop for which ingredients.
Shop for groceries.
Wednesday before our cook day two moms go shopping (usually accompanied by a LARGE number of children). Shopping on Wednesday gives everyone enough time to complete their prep work.
By purchasing in bulk we are able to get discounts that aren’t available to those who are shopping for more typical amounts. For example at Sam’s we are given a discount for purchasing meat by the case. We usually shop at 4 or 5 different stores (Sam’s, WalMart, Dollar General, a fresh produce market and Kroger) purchasing what is least expensive at each place.
Wednesday afternoon we sort the groceries and make sure that each family gets what they need to complete their prep. Sending most of the meat to different homes to be prepped has the added benefit of ensuring that there is enough refrigerator space for everything.
Each family has some preparation work to complete before cook day. Here are the tasks that we complete before we gather on Saturday morning for cook day.
- Chicken is cooked and shredded and broth is reserved
- Beef is browned and drained
- All vegetables are chopped, peeled, sliced, diced, etc.
- All cheese is grated
- All other meat is chopped, weighed/divided (like for roasts), sliced, etc.
- All dry beans are cooked and re-fried beans are made
These tasks are divided between each family. Usually one family is given chicken, another beef and a third gets all the vegetable prep with perhaps the raw meat duty. It simply depends on the recipes that are chosen and how much prep work there is.
One of the important parts of prep work is accurately packaging and labeling the food that you’ve prepared, so that there is no confusion on cook day. As I chop the onions, I package and label them according to the recipes that they are going to be used in. I chop eight onions, put them into a Ziploc bag and label them with the recipe name. Then I chop four onions, put them into a separate bag and label them with the recipe name. For chicken or beef where we will be using large quantities we will label the bags something like this, Green Chili Enchiladas 1 of 3, etc.
I can’t emphasize how helpful careful and proper labeling during prep is for a smooth cook day. When cook day rolls around no one wants to have to try to measure or figure out what prepared ingredients go to which recipe. It need to be evident to whoever picks up that bag of onions what it is for and which recipe it goes with.
Prepare for the big day
In addition to this prep work there are some things that can be done the evening before cook day that will make the day go much more smoothly.
- Set up a central location for all the spices and condiments that will be used in multiple recipes. (Salt, pepper, soy sauce, flour, etc.)
- Designate an area that will be used for preparing raw meat, at least during the first part of the day.
- Look through the recipes and decide how each one will be prepared and divided. (Things that need to be cooked in the oven will need to be started first, recipes that require time on the stove top will need to be staggered so that you don’t run out of room and some recipes can simply be dumped into each family’s container since the ingredients just need to be combined, etc.)
- Gather a lot of large containers and pots to mix things in. We are able to borrow some from one of our churches, so this may be an option for you. Think outside of the box here, you can use a clean trash can or other large plastic bucket that you normally wouldn’t think to use in the kitchen. (You may be mixing things in HUGE quantities.)
- Sort through all the remaining groceries and divide them by the recipe that they go into. We put these ingredients into plastic shopping bags and label them with the recipe name. This will include all the canned goods and other ingredients that are specific to only that recipe and that do not need to be refrigerated.
We begin at 6 on Saturday morning and are generally finished between 12 and 2 that afternoon. Each family is responsible to bring containers to take home all the food that they will be preparing, their prep work, cooler, laundry basket and a snack if they’d like.
The laundry baskets are labeled with the family name and all that family’s containers are put into them, so that when someone is finished with a recipe they are able to quickly gather and packed it into containers for each family.
Most of us use gallon sized Ziploc bags to store our meals in. If you choose to do this it is VERY useful to have some empty containers to put the bags into that keep them upright and open while you are filling them.
Each person gets a recipe and begins to prepare it. As a recipe is finished it is labeled (recipe name and family name) and packaged into the containers brought by that family and placed in coolers to await transport home.
I posted pictures and more information about how a cook day is organized in Bulk Cooking in Pictures.
I’m also in the process of posting some of the recipes that we use.
- Beef Recipes
- Winter recipes #1
- More recipes
- Freezer recipes Part 1 (winter menu)
- Freezer recipes Part 2 (winter menu)
- Freezer recipes Part 3 (winter menu)
Overwhelmed and ready for a laugh? Read about all the things that happened the first time I cooked with these ladies.
This is a huge undertaking and I’m not sure I’ve done an adequate job explaining it, so please feel free to ask questions about anything that I missed, that is unclear or that you simply don’t understand.