Freeze those meals for Later

Here it goes, guys. Today I’m going to make a bunch of meals and freeze them so I can pull them out on busy days.

I started last night. I planned my menu and made my shopping list. I separated my shopping list based on stores. First, I checked weekly ads to see if there were any discounts. I found that Rainbow has a deal on ground beef.  1.68/lb. So I put that down on the rainbow list. I was really excited, because the recipes that I picked for this time have mostly ingredients that I know they carry at Aldi. If you haven’t heard of Aldi, or are skeptical, you should really check it out. I’ll post about Aldi another time. Cub didn’t seem to have any good sales this week, and I don’t have any other grocery stores nearby, so I limited my shopping to these two stores.

Okay, so I’ve mapped out how to spend less on my food, by looking for sales and getting as much as I can from Aldi. It turns out that I spent about $100. Now, being that my kitchen is only 6 months old, I do not have every staples that, say, a mother of 4 would have. This time I had to buy things like lemon juice and ground ginger. This means I may be spending more on my grocery trips than you may need to. I also had a very empty fridge, so the veggies and things that I usually have plenty of (celery, onions, peppers, carrots) had to go on my shopping list.
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Shopping mistakes

I eyeballed a lot of things, because I didn’t want to take the time to figure things out. For example, I bought two bags of onions, but I didn’t even use one, but I didn’t double-check the amount of chicken needed for recipes, so I bought too much. Take the time to figure out exactly how much you will need. It’ll save a lot of hassle.

I could have planned my meals based on sales, to optimize my savings.

I should have shopped the day before. Since I bought bags of chicken breasts, and I have an ancient microwave, I wasted a lot of time waiting for chicken to defrost. My marinades would have been much easier if I didn’t have to keep myself busy with other things while my microwave worked at a snail’s pace.

The Menu

Completed today:

Broccoli Cheese Soup
Orange Teriyaki Chicken
Hawaiian Chicken
Kabobs
Taco Meat
Ground Beef

On the list for this weekend:
Manicotti
BBQ Chicken
Hamburgers
Twice-baked Potatoes
Chicken Enchiladas

Let’s Get Cooking

The first thing I did is chop up some veggies. I chopped up four onions and put them in a bowl to use in a lot of my recipes. I chopped up some green peppers, carrots and celery too.
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While my husband, Loren, kindly started browning a couple pounds of beef with some onions mixed in so i have ground beef frozen and ready to go, I made broccoli cheese soup. That’s where my celery, carrots, and peppers came in. I got that started, but there was a lot of wait time. So by the time my husband was done browning meat, I was ready for another project. We got started with the orange teriyaki chicken. That was really easy. We mixed it all right into a bag. Thanks to another blogger (see shout outs below) I knew just what to do. I took the pitcher from my blender, took the blade out, and stuck the baggie in there. No messes, quick and easy. It took less than ten minutes, and we had it in the freezer.
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Once the ground beef cooled, we put it in freezer bags and got started on the taco meat. Same beginning, except we added green pepper. Then I just used taco seasoning from Aldi. You can do your own taco meat recipe if you’d like, however you normally make it. I thought about adding black beans next time for more ease on serving day.
For the hawaiian chicken, we did mix it in a bowl because it was such a big recipe. I knew I wanted it to freeze in one bag since I’d make it all in the crock pot at once, but I didn’t have a bag big enough. I ended up using one of the chicken breast bags. It worked out pretty well. The recipe itself was just as easy as the teriyaki. I’m starting to love these marinades and crock pot recipes. Throw it all in and you’re done! The Hawaiian chicken will all mend together (there is pineapple and mandarin oranges in it) and we’ll eat it over rice.
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My husband had to head to work, so I dropped him off and came back home to clean up the rest before going to work myself. In the process I snipped up 4 or 5 chicken breasts with a scissors and added some italian dressing. It took me about 3 minutes. I’ll use that for kabobs by adding pieces of pineapple, green peppers, and onion.

Freezing the Food

Freezing is really easy. Divide it into the serving sizes you would like. Depending on the recipe, I divided it into what we needed for a meal together, single meals to take to work, or the entire recipe. The Hawaiian chicken was a crock pot recipe, so I left it whole. But that one feeds 8-10 people, so when we’re done eating it I’ll re-freeze it into smaller amounts. The soup went into single servings (I used pyrex bowls with covers), and the meat was divided into 1 lb. increments for future cooking).
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Once it’s divided into the appropriate baggies and is cooled down, get all of the air out. Flatten it and lay it flat in a cake pan in the freezer. This way it holds form while it’s freezing. Once it’s frozen you can remove the cake pan from the freezer. I label it with the type of food, the date, and, if needed, the cooking directions.

Sadly, I didn’t get all of my recipes done today, but I got a good start! I still have quite a few recipes left, but I’m estimating I’ve got about 17 meals in my freezer already!  And I was only cooking for two hours! I’ll be sure to write about my next day of cooking, when I can finish everything.

I need to give a shout out to my helpers!

This blog is what finally got me off my butt and started. If you like what I’ve posted, check hers out! http://www.aturtleslifeforme.com/2011/06/freezer-meals-on-cheap.html

I also got a few of my recipes from a book I just bought (also thanks to the blog above). If you want the recipes for the Hawaiian chicken, Orange teriyaki chicken, manicotti, and broccoli cheese soup, this is where you should look!

Don’t Panic – Dinner’s in the Freezer by Susie Martinez, Vanda Howell, & Bonnie Garcia

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