Thursday, July 19, 2012

Freezer Meals!

The first time I heard of "freezer meals," I was a little disgusted. I mean, I had never been able to put anything in the freezer without it becoming frostbitten or covered with those little icicle things. Ew!But when my sister-in-law Jillian suggested making freezer meals back in January when we were expecting our babies (who ended up being born within 9 hours of one another! SO much fun!) I was in no position to argue.

Here, less than six months later, I am hooked! I feel that my kitchen is revolutionized! I am a post-modern chef! Well, that's what make-ahead meals make me feel like, anyway. Tangible proof of this excitement was witnessed by my husband, as I broke out into a song with my own kitchen-esque lyrics to the tune of Little Mermaid theme song. His reply: "Nice job, Ariel."

I was honestly so energized by the massive amonts of time that I had (more to spend with baby and husband!) that I could not resist delving into researching this new and exciting "field." Now, to clarify, I don't think I can be one of those "Once A Month Moms," simply because I enjoy cooking, so I'll plan on fresh meals weekly, supplemented by the pantry inside my freezer. These will come in especially handy when I am watching Nick's basketball or football games in the evening, or as our children grow up and we become busier with each succeeding day!

Anyhoo, I spent all last week searching for golden recipes, planning my grocery trip, shopping for said groceries, and preparing meals from those groceries.
This isn't all of it! Just what we didn't have yet. Thought my husband hates it, I love grocery shopping! hahah

Monster cookies! Fourth of July style!

I'm not above making cookies in large batches and then freezing them ahead. This is  how I do!
Before beginning the cooking, pop some potatoes in the oven, at 350 for an hour.
They only freeze well cooked-- I've heard they turn black if you freeze them raw!

This post  will have two parts: freezer meals tips that I've learned along the way and easy make ahead recipes. I am by no means a professional-- none of this is my original idea, but instead I have done online research and collborated it here.

1. Gather recipes that require limited ingredients. If you see a recipe that calls for just tons of ingredients you don't have, your grocery bill will stack up quickly. This is all about using what you have well and living on a budget!
2. Make sure you make a list of the meals you plan on making with the groceries you buy. I know this sounds obvious, but you don't want to get home and be like, "What was this onion for again???" Waste of money and time!
3. Start with plenty of materials. Ziploc bags, aluminum trays, aluminum foil, Saran wrap. If you are low on any of these things, add it to the grocery list.
4. If you have kids, any number of any age, don't expect to do everything in one day. In fact, don't even try. Startegically plan to do 1-2 meals per day for say, a week, or whatever works for your schedule.
5. A very easy way to make freezer meals without taking up too much time is to simply double your recipe and freeze half!
6. When freezing Ziploc bags full of freezer meal, use a cookie tray to freeze first. This will help the meal to freeze flat so it takes up less space in your freezer.
7. Freeze entire cooked chickens to have on hand for recipes that require cooked chicken, namingly casseroles. This will save lots of time in the long run!
8. Feeze outside the box! Things besides just meals freeze well also! Like I mentioned before, cooked chicken can make life a lot easier. Also freeze fresh vegetables that come in great quantities (like the GINORMOUS zucchini I recently got from my aunt Bekka), breads (banana bread keeps awhile in the freezer so you can make double!), smoothie packets (just add the fruit and other ingredients to bags and cut them open in the day of!), and even pancake mix (just thaw before use).
9. Do your research to keep track of what can go in the freezer and for how long-- you don't want meals to spoil and your hard work and money down the drain!
10. Last, make some sort of spread sheet or Word document that tracks the meals you make so that you always know waht's in the freezer and nothing's forgotten! Also, this makes you feel accomplished as the meals rack up! YAY!

Once again, most of these are not my recipes, so instead of typing out the entire recipe, I'll provide the link, and therefore, the credit.  Here are a few I tried last week:
1.When the Dinner Bell Rings
2. Excellent Book: Dinner's in the Freezer
3. Freezer Meals for Us
4. Once a Month Mom
5. A Turtle's Life for Me

AND there are plenty of other resources out there! Simply google 'freezer meals,' 'make-ahead meals,' or 'dump meals.'
I have really enjoyed being organized, prepared, and discovering new recipes! I hope you guys can take some of my advice and have some organized fun with this!

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