I think the Pinterest pin originally came from J-A. At any rate, I found a blog post, which linked to a free PDF, which listed thirty-one recipes for a slow cooker aka crock-pot. All of them were suitable for simply prepping and throwing the raw ingredients into a freezer bag. Then, when you wanted to cook one of them, you thawed it in the fridge for twenty-four hours, then dumped everything into the slow cooker and cooked as if you were making it from fresh. Prep once, cook many. There's even a list at the end of the PDF telling you what you need to buy to make all of the recipes, with cross-references to the individual recipes in case you're substituting ingredients or leaving some out.
The dishes are all American, with a strong emphasis on Southwest flavours, but a decent attempt was made at variety. There's one curry, a couple of soups, some roasts, and some Americanised Asian (meaning vaguely Thai, vaguely Japanese, vaguely Chinese, vaguely Vietnamese) meals. All of them are straightforward recipes: it's easy to substitute if you don't want to use a particular ingredient.
The recipes were designed for the standard family of four, but since I'm a singleton of one, one recipe will last me about a week. The PDF said all of the recipes could be frozen for up to three months. I figured that was 15-16 recipes, picked through the list, used a spreadsheet to compile my shopping list, and had at it.
I have been ill most of the summer, and am currently on sinus infection three or four for this year, so I knew I had to pace myself. I hit a supermarket on the way home from work Friday night (see top photo) and got most of the things I needed. As it happens, this particular supermarket is frequented by residents of the Toronto Islands, so perhaps that's one of the reasons why the cashier didn't blink when she had to scan five boxes of frozen chicken breasts — it's a place that sees a lot of people shopping to stock up.
The following morning I went to the independent butcher's across the road from me and got the rest of the ingredients I needed. The clerk was curious about what I was doing when I ordered 2kg of ground pork ("Are you sure you need two kilos, or is it two pounds?"), so I explained the grand plan to her. She pointed out this is the sort of make-ahead we should encourage university students to do. They'd save precious studying time and eat better.
I timed the prep and freezer-stashing with a stopwatch, just because I wanted to know how long it was going to take to make 15-16 recipes every three months. Not counting meal breaks and "need to sit down now and feel sick" breaks, it took four hours and thirty-seven minutes to get everything done. Not bad, really, and I'm sure it would go faster if I were healthier.
Every freezer bag got labelled with the name of the dish, plus the cooking instructions and freezer date. The label in the photo is an example of a recipe where you have to add one more thing during cooking (cream cheese in this case). Most recipes you can just dump and cook. A few need water or soup stock added at the start of the cooking time.
The sixteen meals should keep me in decent food until the start of December, give or take a week. I can see myself tweaking and replacing recipes on the next round, but overall I like this approach! There was remarkably little to clean up at the end of the prep, because of course you don't use any pots, and most of the garbage was either compost or recycling. Most of the ingredients are whole foods too — the few processed foods are along the lines of tinned beans or ketchup, so processed but not too scary, and replaceable if it really bothers you.
Toronto is in the midst of a late-summer heat wave at the moment, which means I'm sticking to salads for now, but in a few weekends I'll have to remember to toss a bag in the fridge Saturday so I can cook it Sunday. It'll be interesting to see what happens to the rest of my groceries with all these prepared meals on-hand.