Frugal Freezer Meal for 40 {Chili, cornbread, brownies}

There’s nothing more rewarding than serving with my two daughters by my side. This month I shared our mission with my two and twelve-year-old.

Our menu: chili, cornbread, brownies and Caesar salad came together easily with the help of a willing home group. They made the chili, cornbread and brownies ahead of time and delivered it to me in gallon size freezer bags. I asked the ladies to brown the chili meat, cool and add all the ingredients in a gallon bag without cooking. It was so easy to thaw six gallon size bags in my thawing boxes in the refrigerator and then dump them in a large pot and crock pot the next day to simmer.

The lettuce was donated from our community non-profit garden. It was fresher than fresh. I picked up a huge bottle of Caesar dressing for a $1 and still had leftovers.


My husband and son doctored up the brownies with a little chocolate and frozen cool whip that was at the shelter.

Over the years of ministry cooking, I’ve acquired another large 18/10 stainless steel cooking pot at Marshalls to serve large crowds. It cost a frugal $30 two years ago. I’m ready to buy another one since we’re serving 75 on Thursday. Here’s some of my tried and true tips I’ve learned throughout the four years I’ve served at the shelter.


  • Don’t try to cook an entire meal in one day. Space it out and make the meat and freeze or a sauce and freeze, etc. I can’t stress enough, cook and freeze ahead of time.
  • Soup and chili are frugal meals in the fall/winter.
  • Do buy or borrow an extra large stock pot for cooking, in addition to your own.
  • Recycle extra large aluminum trays for salads. Wash and reuse for another meal. Store them in garage in laundry room.
  • Purchase dressings, croutons, miscellaneous items as grocery outlets. We like Go Grocery, Aldi and Dickies in NC.
  • Make homemade as much as possible to stretch your dollars. Most groups bring a store-bought lasagna and bag salad. Shelters enjoy different foods, even breakfast for dinner.
  • Be creative with your menu. Most shelters eat pasta, pasta, pasta.
  • Ask for donations and purchase marked down meat and produce. Ask your grocery and tell him/her what you’re doing.
  • Always ask for help within a Sunday school class, mom group, cook and play group, gym class, work, school, etc.
  • Use your crock pot as well as large cooking pot to transport. Be sure to pour off at least 2 inches head space to prevent spilling while driving. Place a large towel under pots or place inside boxes.
  • Start a facebook, twitter or blog to spread the word about your mission!
  • Have fun while serving, bring your family along and take breaks when necessary (like my 2-year-old).
I just want to pinch her cheeks, don’t you?

Does this inspire you to serve at your local shelter. Do you have any tips to share?


Leave a Reply