I have been wanting to try this Freezer Cooking thing for awhile. I actually borrowed some books from my friend Jenny a few months ago and made a list of things I wanted to try, but with my surgeries and all it just wasn't going to happen. But now that I'm feeling better and with summer just around the corner, I thought I would give it a shot. I borrowed a book from the library, made a shopping list and a to-do list and gave it my best shot. Here's the book and my to-do list:
I went to three different stores to get my ingredients. Aldi b/c it's cheap, Jewel b/c Aldi didn't carry everything I needed, and Jerry's (a local fruit/garden/cheap meat place) b/c they had the cheapest chicken. All told I spent $142 - although I didn't use a box of jumbo shells and a bottle of soy sauce, so I'm going to return them and get a little cash back. :) Here's the refrigerator bursting at the seams with all the cold ingredients:
Here are all the dry ingredients lined up to go:
This is all the chicken I bought!
So I spent an hour on Wednesday night getting everything ready. I laid everything out, made sure the kitchen was clean and organized, chopped some veggies, cooked some chicken in the oven, and started three crockpots full of chicken. Here are the crockpots lined up:
I started in the morning at 8:00am. Here's the chicken from the crockpots:
I had to take things outside to cool off before freezing:
I took my first break at 10:45am. Here's what's left of the ingredient table:
And here's the state of the kitchen at breaktime. I kept washing as I went so I didn't have a big mess:
My friend Jenny came over a little before 1 to give me a hand. She was a SUPER big help to me. She de-boned the huge pile of chicken I had cooked the night before. Then she assembled the three pans of Chicken Divan. She was with me for about 2 1/2 hours. It was fun to have someone with me and of course the extra set of hands were nice! Here's Jenny busy at work de-boning chicken:
I made 4 servings of stuffed shells. The book suggested putting the filling in a Ziploc bag and piping it into the shells. This was AWESOME! It made stuffing the 80 shells go by so quickly! Here are half of my beautifully stuffed shells:
And, drumroll please...Here's the fruits of my labor. 34 meals all told (3 Chicken Divan, 4 Crispy Fried Chicken, 6 Creamy Italian Chicken, 7 bags of meatballs, 3 Chicken Pot Pies (the 4th is in my fridge for dinner tomorrow night!), 4 bags of stuffed shells, 3 bags of Marinated Chicken Breasts, and 3 bags of Marinated Chicken Strips).
All in all I'm glad I gave this a shot. It was definitely a lot of work and I don't know if I'd be up for doing it once a month. But it will be really nice to have a freezer full of meals for this summer. And 34 meals for $140 means each entree cost about $4 - to add a side, fruit and veggie at suppertime shouldn't be too much more.
I'm divided about trying this again with a friend. I wonder how long it would take two people to make twice the number of meals. I think I could probably get the cost down too by making a better deal with the butcher on the meat and by trying to find some of the items in industrial sizes (chicken broth and cream of chicken soup for example).
So, that was my day! I hope you enjoyed the pictures. When do you want to come for dinner?