I married up. Big time. My husband does 80% of the cooking including a hot breakfast for me and the kids almost every day AND delicious dinners AND he cleans the kitchen when he’s done!
He enjoys cooking so while it’s really not a burden to him, I know it would be easier if I cooked at least some of the time and we do default to take-out and easy meals from Costco regularly so if I cooked more we would be saving money and eating healthier. With my mom’s double mastectomy coming up she decided to do freezer meals so I tagged along and did some too!
Here’s my strategy and the recipes I used!
MAKE A PLAN
I sat down with my laptop and Pinterest and started looking for recipes I thought my family would like. I ran them by my husband (since he’s the one who actually knows something about cooking) and printed out the ones I wanted to do. I also asked on Facebook for some tried and true recommendations!
Once I had my recipes I went through one by one and made my shopping list. I got quite a few items in bulk at Costco and when I got home from Costco I went back through my recipes and did a Walmart pickup order for the remaining items. Don’t forget gallon-size freezer bags, disposable pans (for our family I went with 8×8 but if you have a larger family go bigger!) and heavy duty tinfoil!
DO SOME PREP
Most of the recipes I chose called for cooked shredded chicken so the day before I assembled my meals I cooked a TON of chicken thighs in a big roaster oven (could also use an Instant Pot or crock pot). I cooked the thighs low and slow, then shredded the meat and put it in ziplock bags in the fridge and put all the broth in containers in the fridge to separate out the fat.
ASSEMBLE THE MEALS
This is the big event. Consider hiring a babysitter if you have little ones at home, or be OK with them watching more TV than normal. My mom and I included my kids some, but when you’re doing something this big you are not going to want to be slowed down too much.
Here was my order of events and the recipes I used:
Getting this in the crock pot was the first thing I did that morning, and shredding it and putting it in freezer bags was the last thing I did that evening. This recipe is super easy and makes great shredded pork that isn’t overly flavorful so you can freeze this and then add sauce and use it however you’d like – with BBQ sauce, for tacos, or in a variety of meals. This is more of a “meal starter” vs. a whole meal.
The second thing I tackled was the stuffed shells. I cooked the shells according to the directions and while they were cooking I prepped my disposable pans and mixed up my filling. When the shells were done cooking I ran them under cold water, let them cool down and started stuffing! I did two boxes of shells (quadruple the recipe) and ended up with five 8×8 pans for the freezer! Me and the kiddos will eat this with a salad and if Kyle is home we’ll also cook up a few Italian sausages. This one bakes from frozen which is nice.
This is a “dump” recipe, meaning you dump everything into a gallon size bag, freeze it, and when you want to eat it you just pull it out the freezer, dump it into a crockpot and let it warm up for a few hours! I did kind of wish I had these bag holders when I was doing this recipe, but since I didn’t I just put the bags in medium sized bowls and that worked relatively well to hold them up while I added ingredients. I was super thankful I had a kitchen scale for this recipe. With the scale I could zero out the weight with each new ingredient and measure that way. Since I was making more than one of these, and using some of the ingredients in more than one recipe this made it super easy. Measured out a lb of shredded chicken – zeroed it out, poured in 10 oz of enchilada sauce (from my big 28oz can) – zeroed it out, measured out homemade chicken broth – zeroed it out, etc…
This is ideal freezer meal material to me. It’s not something I usually want to take the time making, but to make a bunch in advance and then cook from frozen is a piece of cake!
5. Pot Pie
I have a few friends who make killer pot pie. One usually does pot pie for friends after they have a baby and she delivers one ready to eat that night and one to put in the freezer for later (#friendshipgoals). I had never made pot pie and it wasn’t too hard! Some chopping, cooking, assembling, and done! I did spoon the filling into the pans and let them cool down significantly before putting the pie crust on top. I also skipped the egg wash and will do that when I cook it, which can be done from frozen! To cook from frozen my plan is to preheat oven to 375 degrees, do the egg wash, bake uncovered for 30 minutes, then cover with foil and bake another 30 minutes.
I ran out of chicken after doing those recipes, so I bought some more and am planning to assemble these in the next few days.
Another enchilada recipe! This one says to thaw before baking, we’ll see. 😉
My plan for this to omit the coconut milk and kale initially, cook it on the stovetop, freeze it, and then when I’m ready to eat it I will throw it in the crock pot and add the coconut milk and kale closer to the end.
Five out of the seven recipes I made use shredded chicken which made prepping the meat easy, one is meatless, and one is more of a “meal starter” (the pulled pork).
Bonus recipe: I had gotten a big package with 4 pork roasts at Costco so I used two for the Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork and yesterday I used the remaining two for this Texas Pulled Pork and OH YUM! I ate it just like the recipe told me to, on a hot buttered/grilled bun and it was delish. Had it for dinner and then divided the rest into two bags to freezer for later!
I’ll update this post as I cook the meals from the freezer!