I’ll be the first one to admit that when it comes to cooking, I am LAZY! I have never been a fan of spending hours in a kitchen to prepare a meal. I make exceptions for holidays but typically still find myself annoyed at all the time and effort it takes for one meal! But the hubby can’t really cook beyond frozen pizza and mac n cheese so its my job to make sure we’re all eating well. I’ve done a lot of meat and potatoes but thats not super healthy and it definitely gets old after awhile. I’ve been pinning a lot of stuff for freezer meals and crock pot dinners for awhile and I thought I would take the plunge and try it out finally. I bought this book called Don’t Panic, Dinner’s in the Freezer. Its a great cookbook that has tons of meals that you can make ahead and freeze for a later date. I bought a copy on Amazon for less than $9 but you can also get it on Kindle for like $2!
I sat down with the book and went through the recipes. I picked out 12 total – 6 chicken and 6 beef or pork. I tried to select meals that my family would eat. Hubby is a bit of a picky eater. I am working on that though. I was raised eating a wide variety of foods and while there are a few things I know I don’t like, for the most part I just love food. And I plan to raise my kids the same way. So this past weekend I went and did all my grocery shopping for the freezer meals. I hit three main stores: Aldi, Hy-Vee, and Walmart. I know Aldi is an international chain but Hy-Vee is pretty specific to the midwest. Basically, Hy-Vee is where I went for some of the meat I could get frozen or cheap. Like ground pork – not too many places seem to carry basic ground pork. We shop at Aldi almost exclusively for groceries. I love that I can walk out with 3 bags full of food (they are pretty large bags) having spent less than $100. This particular trip did cost me more as I was buying enough groceries to make a month or so worth of food.
For the record I have no idea how some people seem to get away with doing 3-4 months worth of food for super cheap in 2 hours. Thats insane. With these 12 recipes, I counted that I would end up with about 25 meals. It took me 4 1/2 hours one day to complete 9 recipes. I did 2 more the following day in about an hour. I still have one that I haven’t done because I miscalculated my ground beef need and haven’t been back to the store. Of the recipes that I did complete I will get around 30 meals total. Some of the recipes will easily last us 2-3 meals because there are only 3 of us. And I have no problem eating leftovers! Some of them I split into multiple bags so we only have to cook what we’re going to eat that night. I spent about $250 total, possibly a little more. There were a few things I didn’t have to buy because I already had them in my pantry, though I did buy replacements for my canned goods and such. I also purchased some extra meats for chili and stew that I can make in the crock pot. And I was doing our normal grocery shopping as well so its a little blurred with what was just for this project.
The book recommended not shopping and cooking on the same day so after I did all my grocery shopping I put everything out on my table and counter that I would need, put the frozen chicken out to defrost, and cleaned out the fridge to hold the few things that couldn’t sit out. The following morning I pulled everything out and got to work! This picture doesn’t include the chicken but its pretty much everything I was using. These are the recipes I chose:
Chicken Pot Pie (makes 2 pies)
Lemon Glazed Chicken Breasts
Cheesy Chicken Bundles
Pecan Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Honey Pork Chops
I bought some high quality freezer bags and printed the name and the simple serving day instructions on each bag and I filled it. A few of the recipes required some cooking in advance and had to sit out and cool completely before I could stick them in the freezer. So far, we’ve had the cottage pie and it was a hit. The book listed it as 4-6 servings. We got 9 out of it. You definitely have some wiggle room with doing these recipes on how many meals you can get and whether to add all the specific ingredients. For example, hubby is not a fan of green pepper as it gives him indigestion. But he’s okay with red, yellow, or orange pepper. The Hawaiian Chicken calls for green pepper to be added on serving day. I will end up substituting with red peppers probably. And the Chicken Cacciatore called for sliced onion. No one in our house is a big fan of onion. I don’t mind chopped, cooked onion but sliced? No thank you. I added some onion powder to get the flavor but left out the sliced onion.
One recommendation the book makes that I want to try and do is to do your freezer meals with a group. If you get 2-3 other people interested in doing them it can really save you a lot of time. Each person can bring ingredients for one or two recipes that their family really enjoys and then the tasks can be divided up, like cutting veggies and preparing meat and bagging food. I’ve also read where one person does all the shopping and the cost is then split up between everyone. I find this appealing because it felt like it took a long time to get everything done and having the extra help would be awesome. Of course, even one more person would make this easier.I’m hoping to talk some of the girls in my community group into helping out!
Now I’m not gonna say these recipes are super healthy. Chicken is better for you than most meat but these are all still pretty heavy meals in my opinion. I try to serve a veggie with every dinner though and we eat a lot of spinach salad too. I did recently pin a link for skinny freezer meals that I might try out once we work through all of these. This post turned out a lot longer than I thought it would. Hopefully I encouraged a few people to try something new! I am pretty happy with the results and will probably try and do this once every couple months or so. Happy cooking!