Sunday, January 29, 2012

Freezer Meal How To

I have had a lot of freezer meal questions in real life, FB, and on twitter in the past few weeks.  It was one big reason why I decided to make this blog, to help answer several questions in one place.  I got started after my friend Meredith convinced me it would make life much easier as a working mom...she was right.  It changed my life!!!  I'll try to breakdown a little bit about how I do it here.  I've learned most of this from trial, error, and google.  :-)

1. What Do I Need To Get Started Freezing Meals?
I did a lot of reading on the internet before I got started and asked a lot of questions on twitter.  I went through my favorite recipes and figured out what I thought would freeze well and what might not.  I learned a lot from this site

2. Getting Started
I went to the Dollar Tree and Bi-Lo and stocked up on several foil pans, heavy duty foil (make sure it's heavy duty, the regular doesn't hold up as well in my opinion), and gallon sized freezer bags.  Make a meal plan for the week (start small with just a few meals then add more as you get comfortable) with a few easy things such as spaghetti sauce, meatloaf, and marinated chicken breasts.  Plan at least 2-3 hours the first time until you see exactly how long you will need.

3. How Do I Prepare My Meals?
I get this question every single time I tweet, FB, or discuss my Sunday afternoon meal prep with someone.  I do everything but the final step, but more on that in a minute.  Let's break it down a little more first.  I usually lay everything I need on my dining room table by recipe before I get started to make sure I have everything I need to prepare everything.
 I try to make enough for 2 weeks at a time.  That may mean making 2 of each thing or just making 6 or 7 meals and a few quick things to heat up like twice baked potatoes and hamburger steak patties.
After I made sure I have everything I start preparing starting with whatever will take the longest (ie: cooking chicken, baking potatoes, etc) while I do some of the quicker things like browning hamburger, preparing for a soup, or cutting veggies.  Yes, you can cut veggies ahead of time and freeze.

Let's talk soups and stews for a minute.  They are one of my favorite quick freezer meals.  For taco soup for example, I brown my meat, drain and combine all of the ingredients in a big bowl, then divide in to gallon bags for storage  (remove as much of the air as you can and lay flat to freeze).  Thaw enough to put in a crockpot and heat for 8 hours!  EASY!

As an example of how I prepare a full dish I'll use the example of my one of my favorite freezer meals to prepare and cook is chicken spaghetti.  I use a recipe I found on pinterest (I can't remember the link, sorry) and then revised a little to make it a little faster to prep.  I cook the noodles, chicken, and sauce.  Then I mix it all together in a big pot before pouring into a foil pan.  Thaw the day before then cook as directed.  

I also like to prepare meats ahead of time.  Right now I have a pot roast that has been sitting in my freezer for a couple of weeks.  It is in a freezer bag along with a packet of onion soup mix and beef broth.  I will just  thaw a little in the fridge the day before, pour into the crockpot and call it a day!

I hope this explains how I meal prep.  It is kind of hard for me to explain, but this is my method and it works great for me.  I hope it made sense.  If not, send me an email or leave me a comment!

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