The Bucket Method

I recently got into a discussion with Tracy from Work Of Heart and Soul, about Crock Pot spaghetti, which led to a discussion about Bucket Lasagna.  And that reminded me of  a discussion on the old Recipezaar about this method of preparing freezer meals. 

It’s not the recipe itself that makes Bucket Lasagna so appealing.  It’s the method.  It is so possible, using this method, to make layered casseroles for the Crock Pot, for freezing and fast preparation on meal day.  For Bucket Lasagna, you can pretty much use whatever lasagna ingredients you prefer.  We like an egg in the filling to make it firmer, but you can leave that out.  I’ve used sausage instead of ground beef, and have made it vegetarian.

The beauty of it comes with assembly.  Once you have a container for the meal that will allow you to pop it directly into the Crock Pot, you can layer your ingredients just like you would in a pan.  Freeze the container till the day before you want to eat the meal.  Pop the food out, frozen, and put it into the Crock Pot, preserving the layers.  Let it thaw in the pot, covered, in the fridge.  Then in the morning put the pot in the heating unit and cook.  The result will be a layered dish, rather than a casserole-style noodle pot.  Except for not being rectangular, your servings will look like, and taste like, real lasagna!

This method is awesome for preparing make-ahead layered Tex-Mex dishes, sliced potato casseroles, etc.  Freezing in the container that “fits” your Crock Pot makes it really easy to keep the layers intact while transferring the food.  Just be sure to do that when it’s still frozen.

I have older 5-gallon ice cream buckets and the newer 4.5-gallon ones that I use in my 6-qt Crock Pot.  For my 5-qt, I use half-gallon sherbet buckets, or 5# sour cream containers (from a former job in the easymealprep biz).  And for my 1.5-qt Crockette, I have a variety of food containers that work.  The key is to find a bucket that provides frozen contents that will fit into the Crock when frozen, and without too much air space surrounding the food.  Test your containers by filling to 1″ from the top, cover with the matching lid, and freeze way in the back till solid.  Then test the fit of the ice block.  (You can then use the ice block, or melt it and use the water for plants.) 

These buckets won’t last forever, but they are food grade, wash wonderfully, and have lasted several years already.  They let me know they’re ready for recycling when they crack.  They’re also great for holding soups and stews (they don’t get holes like bags do) and have wonderful handles.

Try it and see if it works for you.

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