When I have the mind and energy to do it, I love doing a large freezer meal prep session. Or maybe I should say – I love the result of a large freezer meal prep session! I haven’t done one of these in quite some time and thought I’d walk you through how I processed 40 pounds of chicken breast this week.
If you’re wondering where one even acquires 40 pounds of chicken, I encourage you to check out Zaycon Fresh – they are pretty much nationwide and offer bulk meats at fantastic prices (right now fresh boneless skinless chicken breasts are just $1.69/lb!). You can also buy meat in bulk from a club store, such as Costco or Sam’s Club.
Prepping for Your Freezer Meal Cooking Day
Before picking up your meat, plan out what kind of meals you’d like to have on hand – and make sure that they are freezer friendly! My favorite freezer recipes come from this book:
This book is called Fix, Freeze, Feast and I’ve written about it several times before. I use this cookbook more than ANY other I own and that’s not an exaggeration! While one could definitely check it out from the library, I highly recommend you buy yourself a copy at some point, particularly if you plan on getting into more freezer meal prep. (It’s just $8 right now on Amazon plus free shipping for Prime members = score!)
Next, I planned the meals I’d like to make. Here’s what I came up with:
- Curry Chicken (Fix, Freeze, Feast)
- Teriyaki Chicken (Fix, Freeze, Feast)
- Cashew Chicken (Fix, Freeze, Feast)
- Molasses Rum Chicken (Fix Freeze, Feast)
- Chicken Cordon Bleu (Fix, Freeze, Feast)
- Breaded Chicken for my Chicken Piccata Recipe
- Fiesta Crockpot Chicken (My Litter)
Plus, I decided to freeze several pounds of chicken as is for other recipes such as chicken pot pie, barbecue chicken, and chicken enchiladas.
After arriving at my final recipes, I stopped in at WinCo where I purchased several of the ingredients in bulk (such as the cashews, breadcrumbs, and curry). I also made sure to buy freezer bags both in quart and gallon size. My advice: make sure you have everything you need on hand! You don’t want to be making random trips to the store because you forgot something.
Day One Freezer Prep
Typically, I’d process all 40 pounds of chicken in one day. I don’t know what it is – maybe I’m just getting old – but I decided to break my prep into two days. Yes I know this means twice the amount of kitchen clean-up, but honestly, I felt it’s just what I needed to do so I wouldn’t be in the kitchen for four hours straight!
I decided to start with that night’s dinner: Fiesta Chicken! I’ve been hearing rave reviews about this recipe so I knew I had to try it. I contacted the blogger (who happens to be a personal friend of mine) and asked if this recipe could be made freezer meal style and she assured me it could. I figure I might as well have dinner cooking in the crock pot while I worked on some more chicken.
The only recipe in my line-up that involves cooked chicken is the Chicken Curry. Since that would be the most labor intensive, I decided to knock it out right away. The recipe in the cookbook calls for cooking the chicken on the stove, but I opted to oven bake it to maximize my time.
Neither my daughter nor my husband enjoys curry. So you might be wondering why on earth I’m making it then? I’m making it for me. (And my son, if he wants it.) I decided to do something a little different on this freezer meal prep go around. See, we often think about prepping meals for dinner, but not lunch. I decided to take a number of the meals and put them into smaller, quart-sized portions perfect for lunch or to send with my husband to work. (He works at a fire station and is able to cook his meals there.)
Why not make lunch-sized portions of chicken curry? There may be some days I’d just prefer that over a sandwich or salad!
While my chicken and curry cooked, I started prepping for my next item: breaded chicken. One of my favorite chicken recipes, hands down, is this Chicken Piccata recipe. It’s SO GOOD and the whole family loves it. It combines butter, capers, fresh parsley, white wine, and chicken broth. It’s so simple and the flavors are just amazing and there are never leftovers. While the entire recipe isn’t freezer friendly, I figured I could at least freeze the breaded chicken which would save a step when I want to make this meal. (Seriously though, you NEED to try this recipe!)
I’ve never made the Molasses Rum Chicken recipe out of the Fix, Freeze, Feast book, but it’s intrigued me long enough now so I decided to go for it. Man oh man does the marinade smell good! It combines dark rum, lime, barbecue sauce, molasses, and a few other things. I decided to freeze this one into smaller portions as well.
At the end of day one, I’d managed to process exactly 20 of my 40 pounds of chicken, plus make a royal mess of the kitchen!
Day Two Freezer Prep
This morning I woke up with a pep in my step, ready to address the remaining 20 pounds of chicken chilling in my fridge. Seriously, this breaking it up in smaller sessions thing is awesome! Turns out, we ended up LOVING the Fiesta Chicken Recipe I’d thrown in the crockpot the day before that I decided I pretty much needed to add 3 batches of it to the day’s plan. It was the best and the chicken shredded up so perfectly! Another reason why I’m glad I didn’t process all 40 pounds in one day!
So back to WinCo I went for beans, Rotel tomatoes, corn, cream cheese, and fajita mix. Total cost: $11.91 (or $3.97 per meal, plus the cost of chicken).
What I decided to was to include a bag of the cream cheese and fajita mix in the larger bag of the chicken. This way, I’d have everything I needed in one spot for that meal. (Minus the tortillas, which you technically can freeze, but I much prefer to buy fresh.)
I love that this recipe just requires you to dump everything into a crockpot! SO easy. I really can’t rave about this recipe enough. Head to My Litter for the instructions. (Heads up: I did substitute fajita mix for Ranch mix.)
Next on the line-up: cashew chicken!
I love the Fix, Freeze, Feast recipe for Chicken Cordon Bleu, but it’s a bit of a pain to make as you can see from the photo above. Consider it a labor of love.
What I love about this recipe is that you freeze the individual chicken rolls up in plastic wrap before placing them in a bag. This works great if you end up wanting to just cook one.
Bits of chicken that didn’t fillet nicely or fit into a recipe were cubed and frozen. These will be perfect for chicken chili, chicken pot pie, or other such recipes.
Here’s the finished result of both days one and two:
Yes, it’s a lot of work, but it feels SO GOOD to open my freezer and see lots of quick fix dinners and lunches ready to go.
I bet you’re wondering what it would cost to do something like this and if you could fit it into your grocery budget this month. Here’s how my costs broke down:
- 40 Pounds of Chicken Breast @ $1.69/lb = $67.60
- Ingredients purchased at WinCo = $50.99
- Total cost = $118.59
Here’s what that cost got me:
- Fiesta Crockpot Chicken: 3 Dinners
- Curry Chicken: 5 Lunches (2-3 servings each)
- Cashew Chicken: 3 Dinners
- Chicken Cordon Bleu: 11 Portions
- Molasses Rum Chicken: 1 Dinner, 5 Lunches (2-3 servings each)
- Breaded Chicken: 3 Dinners
- Teriyaki Chicken: 1 Dinner, 2 Lunches (2-3 servings each)
- Cubed Chicken: 5 bags (1 lb each)
- Chicken Breast: 2 bags (1 lb each)
Not only did I save money going this route, I’ll save time on dinner prep throughout the next couple months.
Final Tips from This Week’s Freezer Meal Session
Here are some takeaways from this week’s session. Consider these as you plan your own freezer meal day:
- Make meals your family loves. With the exception of one of these recipes, we’ve tried all the recipes used in my batch freezer session. Nothing like making seven batches of chicken a la king only to realize your family hates it.
- Break up your prep into manageable sessions. If you have four hours to kill (plus lots of energy!), by all means – get it all done at once. However, don’t be afraid to process a large amount of meat into multiple sessions over 2 or more days. (Just get it done before it goes bad, of course!)
- Turn some dinners into lunches. Take dinner-portioned recipes and make lunches by placing them into smaller bags.
- Save money by thoughtfully selecting your recipes. I like selecting recipes that share ingredients or make use of ingredients I already have on hand.
- Save time by limiting labor-intensive recipes. I only selected two labor intensive recipes on this go around: chicken curry and chicken cordon bleu. I also made sure to not tackle both recipes in the same session.
Feeling inspired? Then I highly encourage you to check out the sale happening at Zaycon Fresh! You can get 40 lbs of chicken breast for just $1.69/lb. This is a fantastic price and a good opportunity to make some freezer meals yourself.
For more tips and ideas on this topic, please see my Freezer Cooking page.