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I love freezer meal prep.
When I cook, I usually double everything so I can have leftovers for the freezer or a ready-to-heat second casserole in the freezer. I’m busy, so why not minimize the nights I have to cook a whole meal as well as the extra dishes that come with that?
And why not always have healthy (ish), home-cooked food available for my family?
Why I Do Mass Chicken Freezer Meal Prep
One day I came across a great coupon for Zaycon Fresh and decided to try it out. They’re an in-bulk meat ordering company that delivers to your city. (Edit: I’m so sad they are no longer around! They were replaced by Fresh Farms USA, which is not near as impressive with pricing.)
With Zaycon, I was able to order 40 lb of chicken for 99 cents per lb. So, I jumped on that offer and set to preparing a freezer meal prep day to use it all up! I did share 10 lbs of the chicken with my Mom, but I kept 30 lbs for myself. See, here’s my big box of chicken in the refrigerator! I had to do some serious fridge cleanout to fit the whole box on the top shelf.
Before I picked up my chicken though, I had to make plans for how I was going to use it. I am nothing if not a planner!
Freezer Meal Prep Supplies I Use
- Crock-Pot. I love my Crock-Pot, and as a tired mom, I also like to use disposable liners because that thing can be a beast to clean! Overcooking tends to decrease taste with the crock-pot, and sometimes the texture is a bit weird, but you just can’t beat the convenience.
- Instant Pot. I have a 6-quart instant pot which I can’t say I’m in love with, but I’m definitely in like with. It has a steeper learning curve than the crock-pot, and sometimes it is finicky and burns stuff. That being said, I still recommend it solely because it cuts cooking time WAY down from the crock-pot for those days I forget to start the crock-pot over my daughter’s naptime.
- Lots of gallon plastic bags. Make sure your plastic bags are freezer safe, and if they’re poor quality, you will probably want to double bag. No one wants a goopy mess to clean up later!
- A Sharpie or Pre-printed Labels. You can make and print your own freezer bag labels if you would like. I like these labels here, but I’ve never had too much of a problem myself just using a good old Sharpie. That’s what I did this time just to save some time. I put the name of the dish, the date, and then instructions on how to cook on the outside of the bag or aluminum foil.
- Foil Baking Containers. I buy aluminum pans from Dollar Tree, where they are the cheapest I’ve been able to find them. I don’t like to tie up my Pyrex in the freezer with meal prep.
- Aluminum Foil and Glad Press ‘n Seal. You’ll need a way to cover the aluminum pans, so I recommend a layer of Press N Seal followed by aluminum foil to make things air-tight. If you’ve never tried the Press ‘n Seal, I highly recommend it! Seriously, my life has been changed by how well this stuff works.
- Baggy Rack Bag Holders. I used to make bag meals without them and had so much spillage, but using these I haven’t had a bag topple over yet. I also highly recommend having a couple of these for making meal bag prep so much easier! See, here’s one of them in action:
The Freezer Chicken Meals That I Prepared
When I freezer meal prep in mass quantities, I’ve found it best to make meals that I can cook in the Instant Pot, Crock-Pot, and the oven. I’m not super reliable with doing dishes in a timely manner, and I like to have some variety so we don’t get tired of chicken all cooked with one method. Plus, these meals will do well in more than one method of cooking. For instance, a Crock-Pot chicken freezer meal can go in the oven in a pinch, if needed.
I freezer meal prepped two types of meals: bagged freezer meals with raw chicken and then casseroles with shredded, cooked chicken. I’ll show you in what order I prepared them after the lists.
Bagged Freezer Chicken Meals
These are the freezer meals that I prepared with raw chicken:
- Crock-Pot Chicken Fajitas from this blog, Crock-Pot (2 bags)
- Cafe Rio Crock-Pot Chicken from Chef In Training, Crock-Pot (2 bags)
- Cool Ranch Shredded Chicken Tacos from New Leaf Wellness, Crock-Pot (2 bags)
- Lemon and Garlic Dump Chicken from One Good Thing By Jillee, Oven (2 bags)
- Soy Honey Garlic Chicken, each bag with 2 lbs chicken, from Sweet Peas and Saffron, Oven (2 bags)
- Thai Peanut Chicken, each bag with 1.5 lbs of chicken, from Sweet Peas and Saffron, Oven (2 bags)
- BBQ Chicken from Emily Enchanted, Instant Pot (2 bags)
I tried to put around 2 lbs of chicken breasts per bag except for the Thai Peanut Chicken. Those 14 bags thus used up 27 lbs of the chicken! I also like making duplicates of meals for convenience purposes when I meal prep. I’m limited on time with 2 kiddos at home!
Here are the freezer chicken casseroles I prepared
These all required cooked, shredded chicken.
- Tuscan Chicken Pasta from Six Sisters’ Stuff, Oven (2 pans)
- Southwestern Chicken and Rice from Diary of A Fit Mommy, Oven (2 pans)
- Freezer Chicken Penne Casserole from Taste of Home, Oven *this recipe is already doubled and just needs to be split into two pans.
How to Prepare the Chicken Freezer Meal Prep Bags
This took me a little over an hour to make all of the freezer bags! Here’s the method I like to follow when doing freezer meal prep:
1. I like to put all the dry, nonperishable ingredients in the night before and set up the bags around my kitchen. This means I’ll add in the spices and set the other items I’ll need that don’t require refrigeration out next to the appropriate bags.
2. On the day of, I go around and put all the more perishable items in the bags. This means the cans, the oil, etc. Having baggy rack holders is so helpful!
3. The very last thing I do is then add the chicken. I’m very particular about how I prepare my chicken, so I have to trim, pound, and then cut it in pieces to get it to a texture I like. I know, I know.
Once I finish adding all the ingredients to the bags, I seal them and freeze them! For storage in our garage deep freeze, I lay them flat to freeze. This takes up way less space than just throwing them in standing up.
Meal Prepping the Freezer Chicken Casseroles
I also used my Instant Pot to cook roughly 3 lbs of chicken after preparing the bags.
This was incredibly easy to do. Just add water, and cook. For me, I used 1 cup of water and cooked 12 minutes on Manual. You can add broth or season your chicken, but I felt this wasn’t necessary from the recipes I used. (And if you don’t have an Instant Pot, at this point, just cook 3 lbs of chicken however you prefer.)
After a natural pressure release on my Instant Pot, I drained most of the water and then shredded the chicken with my hand mixer. I left this in the fridge overnight and planned to make 6 more meals the next day. I enjoy taking breaks since standing for too long makes my feet hurt!
The next day, I was able to turn out these six oven casseroles in less than an hour total. I followed the instructions on the recipes making a few little adjustments based on what I had around the house and my family’s food preferences.
After the casseroles were prepared, I wrapped them in a layer of the Press ‘n Seal and then followed with a couple of layers of aluminum foil. Again, I labeled them with a Sharpie with the name of the dish, the date, and the cooking instructions. And then I froze them!
And that’s how I made 20 freezer meals using 30 lbs of chicken in roughly 2 hours. Easy peasy!
As a final note, I have adjusted some of the cooking times and instructions from these recipes to fit better with my experience with my oven and Crock-Pot. For instance, I always find my frozen casseroles need more time in the oven than suggested even after thawing overnight. Also, I ALWAYS thaw all bags overnight before putting them in the Crock-Pot. After reading this article here regarding food safety, I’m not willing to take a chance with food poisoning! Speaking of food quality, for best taste, these should be used within 3 months.
How do you like to meal prep? Any additional suggestions? This was such a success, I’m thinking of doing it again soon but with different recipes.