Let’s face it, when you’re a full time college student, working part time, volunteering at church, trying to maintain a social life and maybe even go on a date with your husband every once and a while, there’s no time for cooking dinner. Okay so maybe there is, but at 7:00 when I get home from a long day the LAST thing I feel like doing is cooking something. I love easy crock-pot meals but I’m typically gone longer than 8 hours a day and unfortunately my crock-pot doesn’t have a timer.
So, in an effort to eat a healthier (8:00 dinner times usually consist of leftover dessert or last minute Wendy’s runs) my husband and I decided to give freezer meals a try. It seemed like a daunting task but since he was willing to help, we made a day of it. There are lots of blogs and pins on Pinterest dedicated to “all in 1 shopping trips”. These sites lie out the recipes and provide a master-shopping list. But the problem we ran into was that we couldn’t find a list that had meals we actually liked. So we created our own. We perused the Internet for recipes that “freeze well”, and added some of our staples that we knew froze well (lasagna, grilled chicken, etc.).
We decided on 7 meals we would eat 3 times in a month and then planned to prepare lots of grilled chicken to be easily warmed up with rice or noodles. We then combined all of the gathered recipes into an Excel spreadsheet. Each sheet in the Excel file was dedicated to a recipe and then we pulled all of the ingredients into 1 sheet at the end and added it all up! We planned meals that were meant to feed 4, even though there are only two of us, so that we could take leftovers for lunch everyday.
We bought all the canned, fresh and normal portioned food at Wal-Mart and then bought the bulk meat, cheese, and bread items at Sam’s club. In all we spent $140 on the ingredients. We typically budget around $200/month for food so this left us with $60 to buy fresh fruit and snacks every week (we included veggies in all of the meals).
Then the marathon began. We started by cooking all the meat, and then went recipe by recipe through the rest of the ingredients. I had purchased some foil 9×13 pans from Dollar Tree and after each meal was prepared we’d cover them in foil, label and date them! It took about 4 hours (including clean up time) the first time with two of us actively cooking or putting together meals but the payoff was enormous!
Here are some tips:
- Don’t pick meals you haven’t tried before. If you do and end up not liking them you’ll be stuck eating them several times that month.
- Make the noodles as you thaw/reheat the meals. I’m a texture person and some noodles didn’t freeze as well as others.
- If you’re making your own list or trying to freeze your regular recipes, use this site and others to figure out what kinds of foods freeze well and how to freeze them. http://www.cookinglight.com/cooking-101/techniques/how-to-freeze-foods/defrost-frozen-foods
- Gallon freezer bags are best for meals that will fit in them. When frozen they take up less space than the aluminum tins.
For a whole month we could come home to a nice homemade meal without any effort! We loved it so much we’ve been doing it every month ever since.
Now if only we could remember to take them out of the freezer in the morning to thaw…