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Freezer Cooking and Meal Planning: How They Work Together

How do you feed a family of eight?!

Well, that’s a tricky question. We have gone beyond the family that only eats 1/2 pound of bacon for BLTs. We could easily consume two pounds in a meal. And it seems that not five minutes pass after dinner before someone says, “I’m hungry.” My word, I could cook all day.

As you know by now, freezer cooking is a way that I can stay one small step ahead of the game. Each month I cook up double and triple batches of different foods and then store them in the freezer. I’ve been doing this since it was just me and FishPapa, so I don’t think it’s a big family thing. In fact, some big families have a hard time with freezer cooking because of the massive amounts of food needed for a meal. For now, this works for us.

Once I have my stash of meals and meal components, I turn to a fresh Monthly Meal Plan page in my planner and start filling in the blanks. I assign every day a different meal and since I’m looking at the month as a whole, I try to spread like items around so that we aren’t having Italian dishes four nights in one week. I try to limit red meat to 1-2 times per week. I account for special occasions, weekends, and the like.

I don’t stick to the plan all the time, but it’s a great target for me to shoot for. Quite honestly, I prefer to be spontaneous, but I don’t like spontaneity that necessitates fast food when I don’t have anything better. And it’s getting harder to be as spontaneous with a large family.

You can’t turn an aircraft carrier on a dime.

Freezer cooking helps, but I still have to have a plan and I have to follow through and pull items from the freezer.

One thing you’ll notice in my meal plan this month is that some meals are repeated, twice or even weekly. These are meals that are easy to pull together and that my family loves. Taco Tuesday and Friday Pizza Nights are regulars that make life just a little simpler and give our weeks some routine.

Here’s what I’m shooting for in April:

1. Minestrone Soup

2. Pizza Night: Homemade Pizza and ChiChi’s Salad – The cheese was already grated and some of the pizza toppings were already prepped

3. Lasagna, Green Salad, and Foccacia Bread – The lasagna and foccacia were from freezer cooking. I prefer not to bake the lasagna until the day I serve it. The foccacia was already baked, just needed to thaw and warm.

4. Tri-tip, Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Green Salad, Butterhorn Rolls – I prepped the tri-tips during last month’s freezer cooking. They marinated as they thawed. The Mashed Potatoes thawed overnight and then were warmed in the oven. The butterhorn rolls from the freezer were unbaked and then rose during the afternoon before I baked them.

5. Chimichangas – I store cooked pinto beans, grated cheese and tortillas in the freezer. I thaw them during te day and then assemble burritos at dinnertime and crisp them on the griddle for “mock chimichangas.”

6. Taco Night – I precooked the taco meat and stored it in the freezer along with a bag of grated cheese. At dinnertime, I just warm the meat and the taco shells from the pantry and add shredded lettuce and the thawed cheese.

7. Shrimp Pasta Jambalaya

8. Chicken and Rice Bake – The chicken is freezer-marinated, the rice is mixed in a separate bag, uncooked. The broth is frozen in a third container. I just thaw, assemble, and bake.

9. Pizza Night – Homemade Pizza, Veggies, and Ranch Dip – The cheese is already grated and some of the pizza toppings are already prepped.

10. Chicken Enchiladas, Beans, Rice, Green Salad – The enchiladas are already assembled; I’ll just thaw and bake. The beans are cooked and frozen; just warm up at serving time. The rice and salad I make from scratch.

11. Greek Steak, Pita Bread, and Couscous Salad – The steak is already marinated. I’ll just let it thaw before FishPapa cooks it up. The pita bread and couscous salad are items I’ll mix up fresh. And if I get a good photo, I’ll share the recipes.

12. Rice and Beans – The cooked beans and grated cheese are ready in the freezer. I can thaw them the morning of and cook up a pot of Mexican Rice that night.

13. Taco Night – see above

14. Pancake Night

15. Lasagna, Green Salad, and Foccacia Bread – The lasagna and foccacia are from freezer cooking. I prefer not to bake the lasagna until the day I serve it. The foccacia is already baked, just need to thaw and warm.

16. Pizza Night – see above

17. Chimichangas – see above

18.  Chicken Cacciatore – The chicken breasts are frozen in a seasoned tomato sauce. I will most likely thaw and then cook in the crockpot and serve over pasta.

19. Calzones with Chicken, Sausage and Pepper – I anticipate leftover chicken and sauce from the previous night that I will work into Calzones.

20. Taco Night – see above

21. Pasta w/ Meatballs, Salad, Foccacia – The red sauce, meatballs, and foccacia are from the freezer. I’ll cook up fresh noodles and toss a salad.

22. Rice and Beanssee above

23. Pizza Night – see above

24. Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes, Salad, Rolls – Everything but the salad is in the freezer.

25. Paella with Shrimp and Sausage, Salad, Baguette

26. Pasta w/ Red Sauce, Salad, Cornbread

27. Taco Night – see above

28. Pancake Supper

29. Meatballs and Mashed Potatoes, Salad, Rolls – The meatballs, mashed potatoes, and rolls are in the freezer.

30. Pizza Night – see above

My freezer is not full of casseroles, but almost every meal this month has some of the work already done for me. I threw in a few full-on cooking nights because I enjoy cooking and experimenting. Here’s hoping my plan works.

What’s your plan?

For more meal planning inspiration, visit I’m an Organizing Junkie.

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Comments

  1. You have a great idea about having a regular rotation of certain recipes. Sometimes I almost pull my hair out trying to come up with different meals every week, My family loves pizza, I think I’ll start making Saturday our Family Pizza Night. Thanks for the tip!

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      A friend taught me that back when I just had one kid. It was just for fun then. Now, it’s fun, but it’s also survival!

  2. Thank you so so so much for this. You would think that by now after 20+ years of marriage, I would have this meal planning/freezer thing licked. :) But the truth is, it’s a learning experience – learning to improve all the time. Your listing for the month is very helpful to ‘see’ how to implement the ideas. I’m going to print this one out & try it this week.

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      Oh, good. As I was typing it out I wondered if I was going to be boring all of you. Glad to know it’s helpful to at least one person! ;)

      And I’m learning something new everyday. Right there with ya.

  3. Always love your one month menu plan. Hope you’ll share the shrimp pasta jambalaya recipe; I’m intrigued.

    I tried menu planning last night but just couldn’t do it. Mental block I guess.

  4. Man, talk about planning. Even though I’ve started monthly freezer cooking, I can’t seem to get past menu planning one week at a time. But I don’t have 6 kids…so I guess I have some time to learn! :)
    You’re awesome!
    ~Alicia

  5. Jessica, Thanks so much for the post! We are not feeding a family of eight but our life is very chaotic right now. I started OAMC to help our family while my husband is working two jobs and I am working a part-time job to pay off debt. It has helped us tremendously! I have made a plan each Monday and we have stuck to it pretty well. The key for me is to set out from the freezer what we will be eating that night before I go to work at lunchtime. That way we have no excuses for going out. I love the idea of monthly planning. I think it would really fit our life for right now! Thanks again!

  6. Last month was the first month that I did a meal plan for 30 days. Before that it was a week by week thing. I can not believe how much easier it is! It takes a little more time during the planning part, but then it’s done for the entire month! I “only” have five kids, but with homeschooling and church responsibilities, anything that saves time and money is welcomed around here. You’re meal planning and freezer cooking posts are always so helpful…we actually ALL of your posts are helpful! :)

  7. I was just talking yesterday with my daughter, who is single and cooking for one, about how helpful it is to have a menu plan and a few things ready to thaw or prepare from the pantry. We agreed that it would be both economical and healthier. I also find it helpful with just Hubby and me, so it’s not just large families.
    Thank you, too, for the beautiful, meaningful posts about Easter.

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      Thanks, Elaine. I’m glad that you were encouraged. And, yes, I think freezer cooking and meal planning can work for everyone.

  8. Yum!! You should try to Leftover soup meal! It is a great way to feed a bunch of people pretty cheaply. :-)
    I am visiting from MPM. :-)

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      I love leftover soup! Unfortunately, my kiddos aren’t doing well on soup these days. Not really filling their tummies that way. Hoping that phase passes soon.

      • @Jessica Fisher, I find that the thicker soups fill bellies better here. Minestrone soup is the most filling and loved soup by my children. I also find that lots of bread on the side helps make up the difference. We have soup for lunch most days, and often for dinner.

        My husband would LOVE if I implemented Taco Tuesdays and Pizza Fridays. He’s been asking for the pizza on Fridays for a while, actually, and tacos are his favorite meal (he also said he would be fine with having those for breakfast everyday :) ). Right now my shopping budget is zero, so I spread out those meals with cheese (for the pizza) and ground beef (for the tacos) from the freezer. Should our budget change, I can probably put those in more often.

        • @The Prudent Homemaker, Prudent Homemaker-My family is moving to Henderson, NV soon. I can’t wait for you to start your garden tours again. I am so intrigued by growing things in the desert especially after seeing the tiny yards this past weekend- YIKES!
          Jessica- Off the subject of your awesome meal plan, do you have any curriculum recommendations for home schooling pre-k/k age? My daughter will not be finishing pre-k, since we are moving, but Nevada has 12 month school so once we get into a permanent residence (June) I’m not sure if she will be in Kindergarten. I just don’t want her to be behind!

          • Jessica Fisher says:

            Wanted to make sure you saw Brandy’s reply. Not sure if you’ll receive it via email or not.

  9. What an impressive plan. I am thinking about trying to do more freezer cooking and making mixes of common foods that I make frequently. Your freezer cooking posts have been very helpful in my thought process!

  10. I love this post! The notes by the dates are extremely helpful. We’ve implemented pizza saturdays to go with our family night. (Date night is Friday and tacos are Tuesdays)… This is really a great help for me!

  11. Krissy,

    I can’t reply to you above, so here’s your reply!

    I am actually speaking about gardening in Henderson tomorrow night, and I’m having a garden tour on April 24th at my house. You can see details here:
    http://theprudenthomemaker.com/speakingengagements.aspx

    Also, I know you asked Jessica, but if you’re planning on continuing to homeschool in Nevada, you don’t need to let the shool district know you’re homeschooling until age 7. If you’re planning on enrolling her in public school, you should know that there are 6 different tracks here. Which one you have at each school will depend on what you get when you get here and know what school she will be attending; only then can you find out what track she’ll be on at a particular school.

    You can find out about schools here:
    http://premierlvhomes.com/schoolinformation.aspx

    Here’s what I use for Pre-K/K curriculum:
    http://theprudenthomemaker.com/kindergarten.aspx

    • @The Prudent Homemaker,
      Thank you! We will be moving on April 21st so maybe I can make it on the 24th. I called the school we feed into now and they said all the Kindergarteners start in August, no matter what track you are on. Thank you for the links! I don’t really plan on homeschooling permanently but I don’t want her to struggle once she gets into big school.

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