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6 Freezer Meal Recipes + a Master Shopping List
Tuesday, January 22
Hi there! How was your holiday yesterday? Danny didn't have school, so we were able to go out on a fun hike with some friends of ours (six adults, a baby, and one dog!). It was really beautiful - I'm starting to appreciate the Arizona desert more and more.
You guys ready for some freezer meal goodness? This was my first time making a group of meals that I was specifically planning to freeze ahead. Occassionally I would freeze parts of a meal after making it if I knew we weren't going to be able to finish it all in one or two dinners. I've been freezing bread and dough for a few years now. But I hadn't jumped on the freezer meal bandwagon yet, even though I'd been wanting to for a while.
After getting encouragement from a few friends, I had a freezer meal cooking day over at my house. In since two of the three of us had never made freezer meals before, we started out small and only made 6 meals a piece (we all made the same meals). I'll include the recipes and the master shopping list below, but first let's talk about making freezer meals for the first time. Like a lot of things that seem intimidating at first, freezer meals are actually a lot easier than I expected. From my first experience, here are some tips and suggestions I'd give to anyone wanting to jump into making freezer meals:
// Have a Freezer Meal Party with a Freezer Meal Pro (or semi-pro) //
I probably would not have made a single freezer meal (even though I'd been planning for months) if it hadn't been for my friend, Allie. Having a friend to help pull things together and guide you through the process would be my #1 suggestion. It's so much easier to ask questions along the way. Bonus: They can also give you some really great tried-and-true freezer meal recipes. Allie was instrumental in helping us put everything together. She gave us some great tips and answered all of our questions about what you can and can't freeze, which recipes are better thawed out first, etc. Find a friend or friends who have made freezer meals before and plan a party! It's also doubles as a fun girl's day while the guys are out studying.
// Start Small //
I researched a lot on freezer meals before I put these first ones together. I got a little overwhelmed with what recipes I should try, how many meals I should make, should I shop stores/coupons for the best prices, etc. My advice is to not worry about any of that, not even coupons (unless you're already an avid couponer and this is just a natural part of your grocery shopping). Start small. If 4-6 meals are too overwhelming for you, then start with 1 or 2. The trick is getting the hang of it. Don't worry about some massive cooking day for fifty meals that will feed your family for the next six months. Make something that will last you the next week or two. Slowly, as you get more practice and learn the tricks of freezer meal cooking, you can work your way up to more.
// Create a Recipe List (with reheating instructions) //
I like to be very clean cut and organized when it comes to meals. I gathered all of the recipes we wanted to make onto one word document. I included ingredients, directions, AND reheating instructions. I printed the document off for reference while we were cooking, and now that document is sitting in an easy-to-access drawer in my kitchen (and it's available for you to download below - yay!). I know exactly what's in my freezer and what I need to do with each meal when it comes time to serving.
// Create a Master Shopping List //
Even making 4-6 meals can be quite a lot if you're not used to shopping for that many recipes at once. After I had created our recipe document, I went through each ingredient and created a master shopping list (available for download below). I even paired everything off into meats, vegetables, dairy products, etc. to make the list more streamlined. It was a cinch shopping for all of the supplies (which I'd been worried about, because just looking at all of the ingredients for 6 meals seemed crazy overwhelming). And bonus - with my list, I was able to go through my cupboards and "shop" my kitchen first to see what I'd already had. Turns out, I had more ingredients than I'd thought. All in all, shopping for those 6 meals cost me around $30 total. Booyah.
// Label Your Freezer Meals (with reheating instructions) //
This may sound obvious, but label each meal. My friend Liz started writing her reheating instructions on each of her bags/foil pans as well. Even though I had my recipe list with reheating instructions already on it, I thought this was brilliant. It's a great reference if your husband ever decides to cook dinner that night. He can pull out a freezer meal bag or foil pan, see exactly what it is and what he needs to do to get it ready and voila! Easy peasy. I followed Liz's example and wrote everything down on my meals, too. They all now say how long each meal needs to be put in the oven/crock pot, at what temp, and if it needs to be thawed out first.
// Know How to Store Freezer Meals in Your Freezer //
Buy ziplock freezer bags and temporary foil pans to put your meals in. Once your meals are all put together, lay your ziplock bags down and spread them out so they freeze flat, and stack your pans. I have seven freezer meals (we doubled up on some pizza dough) in my freezer and they barely take up any space at all. I'm picky about having an organized freezer and refridgerator; I need all of the space I can get.
// Make a Weekly Meal Plan //
I kind-of thought that making freezer meals would exempt me from making a meal plan each week. Even though I could estimate how long these meals would last us, I still decided I need to keep up with a meal plan. I think this is really important, because freezer meals aren't all "freeze and forget about it." Some meals do need to be thawed out in advance. Making a weekly meal plan allows me to see what's for dinner the next day - that way, if something needs to be thawed out, I can make sure I take it out the night before so it'll be ready when it's time to put it in the oven or crockpot. This also helps whenever your husband wants to cook dinner - he can see what you have planned, find it in the freezer, and get it ready for supper that night. Danny loves cooking, but I do most of the grocery shopping and plan out our meals. If he ever wants to take over dinner for the night, he can see what I've got set up for our next meal.
Woo - that's a little bit more lengthy than I was planning it to be. But hopefully this will help out if you're jumping into freezer meals for the first time! Now, let's get on to the recipes and shopping list, shall we?
Here are the 6 meals we made (technically 7 meals - the pizza dough makes enough for 2 pizzas). The first two recipes were adapted from recipes I've saved on Pinterest, and the last 5 are all from Allie.
2. Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken (adapted from: Pregnant.LiveJournal.com)
3. Chicken Enchiladas with Green Chili Sour Cream Sauce
4. Chicken and Broccoli Casserole
5. Chicken Pillows
6. Pizza Dough
Don't they all sound delicious?! I'm really excited to try out the pizza dough - Allie says it makes the best pizzas in the world. We've already tried the Chicken and Broccoli Casserole (Danny loved it - cheesy broccoli is his favorite), and I've got the Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken in the crock-pot right now. I have to tell you - so far, so good. I'm pretty sold on freezer meals. I'm hoping they'll be a regular part of our meals from now on.
Download the Recipe List HERE
Download the Master Shopping List HERE
Any questions or concerns? Feel free to ask away! I'll answer as best I can from what I've learned so far, and for everything else I'll probably ask Allie and get back with you :) The girl needs to start her own blog - she makes killer meals, bakes like crazy, crafts things I would expect to see in a store, and she has the best fashion sense. And she just had a baby and makes cute little cardigans for him. We're all trying to convince her to start a craft/recipe/fashion blog asap.
Happy freezer meal making! Oh, and ps: If you'd like to see the rest of the freezer meals I've saved up on Pinterest, click HERE.
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