This is technically round 3, but I promised, and never delivered rounds 1 & 2. How long can I blame these sorts of things on being a new mom? Does the grace period wear out when G turns 1? If so, I am squeezing another 5 weeks out of that excuse!
A lot of food we buy is organic (dairy, meat, and the dirty dozen for sure), so that does up the cost a bit. But overall I think we spent about $200 between Costco and Safeway (use the Just4u app!), and wound up with 18 freezer meals, all of which will give us plenty of leftovers. Probably 36-45 meals total. This breaks the price per meal down to roughly $4.40 per meal. Not too shabby, and cheaper than my soy latté this morning. On the day of, some of the meals will require add ons like cooking some quinoa, or making a salad, but nothing over the top price or money wise – maybe $50/week for produce, yogurt, milk, and other staples as we run out (less in the summer).
This go round I mixed in some tried and true freezer meals with some new ones. Most meals made in the crock pot can be turned into freezer meals. They are my favorite kind because they are quick and easy, for the most part. You just dump, seal, and freeze. I also love making yummy marinades for meat – they are perfect for the grill. And finally, casseroles are a good standby. The ones I pick are more time consuming than most, of course.
For freezer meal inspiration I have a pinterest board, pick and choose recipes from Once a Month Meals *(OAMM, formerly Once a Month Mom), and use tried and true family favorites. My burlattas have actually been featured on the Once a Month Meals 2011 November menu too!
*I haven’t done a full OAMM menu yet, however, because I’m not a fan of tangy sauces, and am not a huge meat eater. So customizing a menu to my own taste is something I take the time to do. But if you aren’t picky about that sort of thing, OAMM is a GREAT freezer meal resource!
First I compile my favorites and newbie recipes. I make a grocery list (sorted by area of the store), and create a word doc for directions. For a big cooking day I try to chop all my veggies the day before during G’s nap. This doesn’t always happen, but makes the process smoother. The next morning I’ll throw chicken in the crock for shredding (pretty much all my menus require some shredded chicken – it’s best with some taco seasoning thrown in the mix), and get to filling freezer bags (either ziploc gallon size or foodsafe bags for our vacuum sealer) with my dump and go meals. Then I attack the casserole dishes one by one. I’ve attempted making more than one at once (i.e. making pasta while sautéing the ground beef/Italian sausage mixture and rolling enchiladas), but I usually miss a step with something, or forget to throw in an ingredient or two. So I figure it might take a bit more time to focus on one at a time, but haste makes waste, right?
After I do my dump meals I flash freeze the casseroles before vacuum sealing them. Flash freezing is very easy – I just make a flat space in my freezer, lay a cookie sheet down, and then place whatever meal I need on top of the cookie sheet. After 45 min to an hour I can usually vacuum seal. Some things take longer (like the pulled pork, I needed to wait for the Dr. Pepper to freeze a bit more before sealing otherwise the liquid would all go out of the bag). Sometimes I leave them all night, it just depends on what comes up and gets in the way of the process!
We generally eat 1-2 freezer meals a week, and cook 1-2 times. Once I have a full freezer I often will double recipes once a week, and freeze the second half. That way I don’t have to do big cooking days – which can be really difficult with a little one. Once the freezer starts to get low I start looking for inspiration again. Also, some of my girlfriends are getting into freezer cooking and we swap meals. I’m trying to rope more friends in, as swapping can really add to the variety of your freezer.
This rounds recipes – all were doubled
** indicates a tried and true recipe
Dump & go crock pot meals:
Mustard Lime Chicken – can be baked or grilled. I doubled and will probably cook in each style to decide what I like best for the next go round. I suspect grilling will win!
Chicken & Dumplings** – I’m looking for a non-condensed soup version if anyone has a recipe suggestion. Though this one is really tasty. I used the Cascade Farms Organic peas/carrots/corn blend for the veggies because it was 50%. Score! Not having to chop veggies is priceless for bulk cooking days!
Pulled Pork**- this one was tripled because of the cut of meat we bought, and it is SO tasty! I’d like to find a recipe that doesn’t use soda, but Dr. Pepper is pretty magical, so I guess I can handle it every once and a while.
Pesto Ranch Chicken Thighs - an easy crock pot meal to serve over rice, quinoa, or pasta.
more time consuming & casserole style meals:
Cream Cheese Spaghetti **- I’ve made this with spaghetti, ziti, and fusili. I like the fusili the best. I do half (local, organic) ground beef and half Italian sausage. Do not attempt to add mushrooms! I tried last go round and the filling was way too watery. Doubling the onions and bell peppers works though. And do not neglect the French fried onions at the end of the cooking process. I’d never eaten a French fried onion before this meal, and man, I was missing out!
Paleao meatloaf – I made this with Italian Sausage, instead of ground pork. I have no idea of that is paleo compliant, (probably not!). I’ve never made meatloaf before, can you believe it?!? I actually rarely cook meat, I’m more of a chicken or fish kind of gal. But this recipe was super easy, and allowed me to finally use the almond meal I bought at Trader Joe’s forever ago and forgot about. Also, you top the meatloaf with bacon. And as we all know, bacon is amazing. I also made these in silicone cupcake liners so I could pop them out when frozen and just pop 3 or 4 in the oven at a time. If I get adventurous this week I might make some mashed potatoes and freeze them in the silicone cupcake liners for single servings as a side for these meatloaves. Which would totally ruin the paleoness of this meal, haha.
Avocado chicken enchiladas - This was made the following day after the chicken had cooled & was shredded. I added a small onion (diced) to the sauce. I filled my tortillas (purchased from a local Mexican restaurant for a more authentic taste) to the brim. I think one enchilada will be a substantial meal, so this should yield us 7 meals.
We’ve only had one of the freezer meals for this round so far, (pulled pork), and it was a total keeper. We had pulled pork sandwiches one night, and used as taco filling another night. We still have plenty leftover too!
And exciting news, I’m pairing up with Jenn at The Wannabe Housewife for a $100 cash giveaway! Enter through the rafflecopter below :)