I'm lazy. While I love good food, I don't care for the clean-up involved with cooking. I also don't usually feel like cooking even though I feel like eating. We won't get into what I think of the cleanliness of restaurants, especially here in NM. I have a valid Food Manager Certificate from TX. I know what those places SHOULD be doing. Plus I'm FRUGAL. Eating fast food is expensive. Once a month I will cook up a month's supply of individual recipes that we really like (our "every month" recipes) and freeze them in single meal amounts. Since it's just the two of us on or two batches of a large family sized recipe (6 to 12 servings) usually makes us several meals. I can usually crank up the oven and cook 3 recipes that yields several meals, depending on what I am cooking. I tend to group my batch cooking based on oven temps. That way I can set the oven at one temp and cook several recipes (times do vary) over a period of time (I have a 30" home range in the bus). Some of my stuff cooks in 30 minutes or so, most takes a few hours. Come summer, I can do my cooking in the mornings when it's coolish (helps to have a very good vent over the range to suck the hot oven heat out). I need to get another vac sealer (my old foodsaver bit the dust a while back) and vac seal the oven stuff during the winter to eat during the summer when it's too hot to cook. I tend to shoot for 20 to 24 "meals" per month (not counting enchiladas since those are lunches) and then the rest of the meals will fill in with things like hamburgers, ground beef pasta sauce (I freeze 90/10 ground beef in 8 oz packages), pork chops (sometimes just pan seared - other times with a white wine sauce), frozen or homemade pizza, lasagna, eggs & sausage/bacon, Snow Crab legs & shrimp boil, manicotti. We eat the freezer completely down before doing our main grocery shopping trip. So far we have been running every 6 weeks before doing our main "monthly" grocery shopping trip. I have found that I can usually get all the cooking done on 2 to 3 days. One of the batches is our meal for that evening and the rest I put up after we eat.
Freezer Thaw-&-Eat Dinners:
Meatloaf: now that we aren't feeding "Tace, my meal loaf recipe has gone from 1 meal to 4 meals. Meatloaf is a good thaw-heat-&-eat recipe. I cook my meatloaves on a broiler pan rack.
Jambalaya: cook several batches in oven. Served hot over brown rice. This is one we have about once a week in the winter so I make up quite a bit. It's easier to make in the oven rather than on the stove.
My Cajun American Enchiladas: makes 18 -20 enchiladas that, once cooked, I roll up individually in foil and stuff in a freezer bag in the deep freeze. I take them out as wanted, thaw/heat in the micro. I like the enchiladas but they are very messy to make for what they are. Doing a double batch means I mess with them only once yet eat them all month long. I tend to eat them 1 or 2 at a time for my "lunch" (at 8AM) or as "fend for yourself" meals when we aren't very hungry and didn't take anything out to thaw for supper. I do not count the enchiladas as part of my monthly meals.
Fried Chicken: messy job but I have the reheat perfected and now freezing then reheating the chicken later gives us a fried chicken that tastes like freshly fried without all the mess. I've been cooking up 6 lbs of boneless skinless chicken thighs but I picked up my large chicken skillet from out of storage recently so the 6 lbs will get bumped up to 12 lbs.
Hungarian Goulash: 4 to 6 batches baked for hours in the oven... warms up the bus on a cold day.
Brown Rice: bake 2 lbs in the oven - freeze in 1 & 2 cup packages.
Oven Baked Chicken: cook 6 lbs & freeze. Use for most anything that calls for cooked chicken or use as a shortcut in any recipe that calls for cooking chicken then adding the cooked chicken to other ingredients. sometimes we just dump BBQ sauce on it and make sandwiches. Sometimes we add the cooked chicken to jarred pasta sauce. Sometimes I make Alfredo sauce, add chicken and nuked broccoli florets and serve over cooked pasta.
Oven Pot roast: cut roasts up in half to equal 1.5 - 2 lb, freeze along with the gravy... thaw/reheat, thicken gravy; serve over thawed & heated brown rice.
Bourbon Chicken: oven cook, freeze; serve over thawed & heated brown rice.
Corned Beef: is already cooked so I split a package in half, split the seasoning packet in half and freeze. Thaw, toss in my Futura pressure cooker until done, remove, toss a bag of frozen Brussels sprouts in the pot likker and bring to a boil, simmer until done.
Meatballs: Basic meatball recipe that I then use the meatballs (frozen in packages of 10) to make Meatball Sauerbraten or add to pasta sauce. Meatballs are like the Enchiladas... a pain to mess with and not worth the effort for single batch meals.
Chili: my normal recipe makes 7 cups. It doubles nicely allowing us to many freeze individual amounts to reheat in the microwave as wanted. This is one of those recipes (like many soups & stews) that work out great to be frozen in wide mouth half pint canning jars (fill to the "freezer" line just under the thick rib the ring butts up to). Fill sterilized canning jars with hot chili, put a sterilized lid & ring on (or use the plastic 1 piece lid),let cool before freezing. Canning jars can be reheated in the microwave without thawing(sans metal lid & ring), the jar doubles as a serving bowl.
We also freeze up pulled pork BBQ in single meal amounts.
When we want something "special" we tend to make it ourselves. If it's a dish from a popular restaurant, I can normally find a copycat (sometimes the original) recipe online.
We make a lot of our desserts and snacks ourselves. Although we try to make small batches of those.
During the summer, we like to grill most of our food outside. Roswell is too dusty/windy in the late afternoon to do any grilling. In the past, I have grilled (on low flame for a couple of hours) large amounts of chicken (it will be pink inside from cooking so slowly) and froze it all. Also David has made extra burgers and cooked to well done so we can freeze them. Grilled-frozen food tastes/smells like freshly grilled when thawed & reheated.
I need to work on best freeze-thaw-heat method for my lasagna and manicotti recipes.
I have a collection of restaurant steam table pans that I do most of my oven baking in.
We also buy large bags of frozen veggies (Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli, 1/2 ears corn on cob) in addition to the frozen meals we make (even David does the oven cooking). As you can see, we need the big freezer we have. What we do isn't for everyone. But if you have a bit more freezer space than the typical RV refrigerator, then anyone can make a "family sized" meal and freeze the excess for later meals. If you have a large freezer then, even with an RV or apt size range, you can put the meals up and save quite a bit of money.
Large batch recipes abound online. I like the look at the OMAC websites and Dayle's Growlies for Groups
for large batch recipes plus methods to freeze them. If it's something I have never frozen before, I look for a similar recipe as see how they froze, thawed and reheated the dish.
For REALLY BIG recipes
The Growlies website is a great source if you are having to self cater a large group (wedding, picnic buffet, gathers of any kind) or bake lots of cookies & cakes for Christmas.
If you decide to cook large batches either for your self or for a party PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE take the time to be safe
. Even for our use, I still wear gloves over clean washed hands when large batch cooking or packaging food up for the freezer. I wipe down all counters and nearby surfaces with a sanitizing solution. In other words, I follow the same food handling practices we used on the food cart. It makes everything easier to clean up at the end of the freezing session. Gloves make it easier to keep my hands clean as well.
Instant read thermometers, like used in restaurants, are inexpensive (don't buy the ones at grocery stores & Wal-Mart). Learn to calibrate them and use them. An electronic food scale that allows you to "zero it out" is a godsend when making large recipes. I rewrite recipes to weights whenever possible (grams or ounces).