Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Freezer Meals

'''''[I've been meaning to do this for forever but every time I'd sit down to prepare I got scared and never followed through. I guess pregnancy and my nesting problem finally proved to be the motivation I really needed. MAKE ALL THE FREEZER MEALS!! I knew that towards the end of my pregnancy I wanted to make some freezer meals for Matt and myself. I know that I'm not always going to be up for preparing a good meal for my family every night when I've been caring for an infant all day...and lets be real, probably all night. I made the decision that I was just going to do it. No turning back.

I looked at a few blog posts of people who have done this before and did lots of research but never found a specific plan that looked like it'd fit our family. I don't really like spicy food or fancy food or things along those lines. I like simple and to-the-point yummy food. Matt is definitely more adventurous in the food world than I am but I think he prefers simple as well. I wanted to make sure I was preparing things we would both actually enjoy and not just things to fill up our bellies. Why can't we have both?? It took a few hours but I found some recipes that looked good and didn't look too scary to try. I doctored a few of them to make them more for us. For example, one recipe called for a lot of peppers. I hate peppers so I just left those out. I also don't like a lot of onion. So if the recipe called for 3 chopped onions I'd put in half of 1. I also couldn't handle any more than that. My eyes water and burn so bad and my nose runs and it's just a miserable experience for me. It's worse now that I'm pregnant. Onions are weird. Once I was done I stared at all of my meals and I felt so accomplished and proud. One day's work and I have 14 meals for my family and a few of them should have plenty of leftovers to eat a second day. Here was my plan:


I wanted to be smart about buying the ingredients. First I went to Aldi to see all that I could get there. But, of course, they didn't have everything. That's the only bad thing about that place. It's so cheap and the quality is great but you're almost always going to have to make a second trip to an actual grocery store. It's a great money saver though. I spent about $65 there but I got a ton of stuff. It would've probably been closer to $150 at Kroger. So then I had to go to Kroger and I spent $75 on everything else. So about $140 total for 15 meals which comes down to $9.33 a piece. Not so bad for a good, bountiful meal! If you have a Costco membership that's probably a good place to go for meat as well. I got my chicken and roast at Aldi but had to buy my Boston Butt at Kroger. I tried couponing but the things I needed didn't really have coupons available. I used a few Kroger coupons but that's all I had to work with. I did do some miscalculating on the chicken quantity and ended up only having enough for 1 fajita. They also only had like a 9 lb Boston butt at Kroger sooo I made a lot of Dr Pepper Pork.  

So the first thing I did after figuring out what I wanted to make was make a grocery list! Go through each individual recipe and write down everything you need. Pay close attention to quantities (you don't want to get to the grocery and have only written down chicken stock without knowing how much you need). Also pay close attention to how many meals the recipe makes. This is where I messed up on the chicken calculation. If you want to make one recipe twice be sure to get twice the amount of ingredients that it calls for. Some recipes give you the ingredients for 2 bags so you won't need to double that unless you want to make more than 2.

Once I had everything written down for each recipe I consolidated my lists to make one big list for everything. Then I went through my kitchen and marked off things I already had. Also note the container the recipe calls for. Some say freezer Ziploc and others say foil pans. I needed to make sure I had those things when I started. I ended up using 5 pans and the rest bags. You need a pan for the stuffed shells and the parm chicken casserole. After I had my consolidated list I uploaded everything that I had left to get onto my grocery list app. You can use any app but I used my Kroger app to do this. You can write comments about each item you add so be sure to put your quantity needed there. What I love about grocery list apps is that they automatically group your items for you so you don't run all over the store looking for something. You'll know the basic vicinity it's in and other things you need that it's close to. 

Once you have your list you can go shopping! Gather everything you need then come home and spread it out on the counter, adding the other things that you already had on hand to the mix. It's much more efficient when everything is in front of you instead of having to run around and find each thing when you need it. 

I was feeling a little overwhelmed at this point but I decided to take it recipe by recipe. I didn't try to do everything at once. Too much going on for me. The first thing I did do however was measure out the chicken. I pulled all of my chicken recipes and figured out how many pounds I needed per recipe. I used my handy kitchen scale for the first time ever! Very exciting. I measured out the chicken and put it in a bowl with the corresponding recipe on top. This way I could keep track of my chicken and not use too much on one recipe and not have enough for another. It proved to be very helpful.

Before you put anything in your bags label them. I put what they are, their cooking directions, and the date. The recipes will tell you how to cook them if you choose to freeze the food instead of eating it right away.

I just followed the recipes step by step and bag by bag. 

My first success:

I first made these 2 recipes in order because they were both\ chicken and required just assembling and no cooking:
BBQ Chicken
Chicken Fajitas

Then I made the chicken pot pie which required that I cook the sauce. I got out my sauce pan and followed the directions. Once it was cooked and cooled I added my vegis and raw chicken to the bag and it was done!

The last chicken recipes required cooked and shredded chicken so I finished off my chicken meals by making the stuffed shells and chicken parmesan casserole. I boiled water and put the chicken for both recipes together in the pot. This wasn't a big deal because the shells only call for 1 breast so it didn't throw me off having my previously sorted chicken together again. I cooked it till it was done then threw all of the breasts in my Kitchen Aid mixer. Did you know that Kitchen Aid mixers shred chicken beautifully with no work?? It's incredible and has changed my life for the better. Just use the regular mixing attachment, lock it in place and let it work its magic. Perfectly shredded chicken every time. So after that I separated the chicken back to its original sorted bowls (after I washed out the raw chicken residue) and kept going. These are the 2 recipes that require a pan. So I followed the directions,  aluminum foiled them shut, labeled them and threw them in my freezer!

The stuffed shell recipe says it's for one but I split it into 3 pans because it made so much. I'm most looking forward to those later. They look so good!!

After all of my chicken recipes were done I moved on to the beef roast. I got a 2 lb roast and cut it in half to make 2 bags. I just threw that stuff in a bag and was done!

Lastly, I went for the Boston butt. I mentioned before that that was the only one they had and it was huge! Good thing it's not really expensive.  It was about 9 lbs and $16 at Kroger. I cut it up into 3 serving and separated it into 3 bags. I just added the other stuff to the bag and that's it!!

One of my greatest accomplishments! I was so proud. I had to get them all back out of the freezer to take a group pic. My cute little freezer meal homies.

This wasn't near as scary as I thought it'd be. My feet hurt pretty bad from standing all day but other than that it was pain free! 15 meals in one day. I'm really hoping they go a little further than that with leftovers. I'm excited to try them in a few months. Please let me know if you have any questions or decide to try this specific method. I'd love to know how it goes. I definitely plan on making more in the future since this went so smoothly. Happy freezer mealing!!


I did this again with a new Aldi plan. Check it out here.

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