Do you like saving money on home-cooked food, but hate actually doing the cooking part?
I’ve been on a huge home-cooking spree in the past half a year or so in a desperate effort to tone down my food budget. I’ve tried finding and collecting new recipes, planning my meals, and even streamlining my cooking processso it’s not as painful.
But still, even with all the progress I’ve made in cooking more meals at home, I still haven’t solved one big problem yet: how to eat home-cooked meals each night without actually going through all the hassle of cooking them.
First-world problems, I know.
Nevertheless, it’s still a problem that needs solving, and I’ve recently found just the thing. It’s cheap. It’s almost too simple. It saves a ton of time. It’s…
Dump meal cooking!
Wait, wait, wait…what are dump meals all about?
“Dump meals” are meals made to be dumped out all at once and cooking. Not because…er….dumps (tee hee).
I admit, it’s not the best name for this style of cooking, but it’s one of the most popular. You may also know it as freezer cooking.
It’s a simple process, and it’s broken down into three easy steps:
- Do all the meal prep on the weekend, or when you have more time available. This involves pre-cooking of meats, chopping vegetables, mixing everything together, etc… At the end, you put all of the raw ingredients together in a bag, and pop it in the freezer.
- Thaw the meals so they’re defrosted when you want to cook them. You can thaw them the same morning you’re planning on cooking (use warm water), or thaw it in the fridge. I usually find it takes two days at least to fully thaw in the fridge.
- Dump all the contents of the bag into your slow-cooker before you head off to work for the day, or stick it in the oven when you get home from work.
It’s so simple! You don’t actually have to cook anything when it comes time to eat it!
Why the hell didn’t I find out about this sooner?
What I Really Like About Dump Meals
Freezer cooking has definitely made my life a lot easier. Here’s why:
- It saves time. I can do all the meal prep in one go, rather than in seven separate sessions.
- It saves money. If there’s a sale on a certain cut of meat one week, I can stock up and make a whole pile of meals ready-to-go. Recently my grocery store had BOGO pork chops—guess what’s in my freezer now?
- It’s easy. Dump meals are simple to make and don’t require a lot of fancy ingredients or hassle.
- It makes my freezer more organized. I freeze everything on cookie sheets so it’s flat and stacks well. I literally have a library of dump meals in my freezer!
- It lets Zach eat meals while I’m away working. I can make a set of dump meals before I go and even my silly husband can figure out how to cook them for dinner.
What I Don’t Like About Dump Meals
There aren’t many downsides to making dump meals, but there are a few that I’ve found.
It can be a bit wasteful. Each batch calls for a separate plastic bag, and some recipes are frozen directly in disposable aluminum trays. It’s a bit much to throw away. I suppose you could always wash and reuse the bags and nix the aluminum trays, though.
The types of recipes that can easily be made into dump meals are limited. It requires a special type of food to be able to be frozen and cooked all together in one go. You might not find all the recipes that you might otherwise like to eat with this method alone. But, no one ever said you had to stick to dump meals alone! I still like to make fresh meals during the week too.
You Can Learn How To Make Dump Meals Too!
Making dump meals isn’t rocket science, but it still helps to have some guidance when you’re just starting out.
I started out by subscribing to Erin Chase’s MyFreezeasy program. I really like her program because she comes out with tons of new meals each month, and my even my picky eater husband never gets bored of them! She also has videos and in-depth shopping guides, preparation instructions, and printable labels for each meal.
For even more freezer cooking recipes, I recently started up an entire Freezer Cooking board on Pinterest. You can check it out here!
Related: 365 Days Of Quick & Easy, Make-Ahead Meals For Busy Families (affiliate link)
Most of the freezer cooking meals rely on slow-cookers because it’s pretty much the easiest way to cook meals. Here’s a pro tip: Buy a programmable slow-cooker with a temperature probe. Here’s the one that we use (affiliate link). That way, your meal will be cooked just to the right temperature and you won’t come home to a piece of stale shoe leather.
I don’t cook exclusively with dump meals. But, they’re a super important part of my arsenal now. Thanks to this tactic (and others), I shaved my monthly food bill in half! Now that’s what I call a worthwhile investment.
Have you tried making dump meals? What did you like or not like about it? Leave a comment below!