Super Easy Freezer Meals

Back in November 2015 I decided to make myself a month-long meal plan to help simplify my life.  It seriously was the best thing I have ever done.  I even wrote in breakfast and lunch ideas so that, even if I chose to deviate, I had up to three less decisions to make in the overall course of a day.

In my opinion, December is the worst month for shopping (the stores are insanely busy), so I decided that year to buy all my dinner items in one big shopping trip and make them into freezer meals to simplify my meal planning even more.  Now I realize not everyone can do this.  My husband gets paid weekly so it is an option for me.  If he got paid bi-weekly, I might buy only half the month one week and half the month another week.  But this worked and I totally fell in love with it, to the point that I was still doing it two months later.  Things were tweaked here and there, but, overall, the idea stayed the same.  I learned not to think too big and to just stick to the idea that less is more.

That November, I found a website that had an amazing idea for planning out your meals each week (although I can not endorse the entire site, this post is the one I found useful).  I liked the idea of the themes, but, I found we started eating similar meals over and over and they got boring (I’m not a repeat person).  You can see the first week’s menu here.

In December, with the freezer meals, I decided to make things as simple as possible and I made two of most of them (I split them between chicken and beef) and filled in with things like sausages, chicken nuggets, etc.

The MEALS:

Cabbage Rolls (from the THM book for the crockpot)

Hamburgers (I make them THM with no fillers – just some onion and spices for flavor)

Meatballs (again – no fillers, just onions and spices)  I make my own sauce and put over rice.

Taco Pie

Lasagna (with noodles for the family and with spinach for me)  I also added carrots to make it a little healthier for the family.

Chili – my mom’s recipe.  It’s super yum and I MIGHT share the recipe at some point (if she lets me, haha).

For the chicken meals, I put a whole chicken in the crockpot and made stock first, used part of the stock for Chicken Soup and used 1/4 of the chicken….then broke up the rest of the chicken by 1/4’s into:

Chicken Fried Rice (in the crockpot)

Chicken Enchilada Bake – I also added a layer of rice to make this go farther

(I forget what the last meal was – I have a feeling I just froze the chicken to make Quesadillas with but I’m pretty sure the packaged chicken is still in the freezer, haha.)

Making Homemade Chicken Soup

The Chicken Noodle Soup was from a website that is no longer available – but was just a simple recipe that, so far, everyone has loved.  You make the stock by cooking a chicken in the crockpot with carrots, celery, bay leaves, and pepper on the bottom – covered with water to within an inch of the top of the crockpot.  I cooked mine on low overnight.  After removing the whole chicken, I took out some of the liquid, leaving enough to make my soup with.  Then I added back in 1/4 of the chicken chopped into small pieces.   That’s it.  Sooo simple for a very yummy, good-for-you chicken soup.  You can add any other spices that you choose.  I’ve made this twice now and it really is very good.  If you prefer noodles in your soup, I would cook them and add them as you fill your bowl.  I find noodles just get too soggy if they are left in soup bases.  Personal choice, though.

Super Easy Freezer Meals #QuietWorkings

That was December’s freezer meals session.  I did it over the course of two days. Doing the beef one night.  It took me about 3 hours with prep, cooking, and clean up.  The chicken probably took about the same amount of time.  I forgot to document that part of it, but I think it was about the same.   Creating the meals while I was making supper made the time pass better and it didn’t seem so labor-intensive.

These are just a few more ideas to add to last week’s menu plan…I’m going to be adding two more weeks worth of meals in the next little while and share about how I’m using Epicure to simplify my meals and make them healthier for the family.  I’m trying to get my kids away from heavily processed foods and I’m loving Epicure’s meal options (but more about that another day).

Have you tried meal planning?   What are the pros and cons for you?

Freezer Cooking and Meal Plan – January/February

 

Freezer Cooking and Meal Plans #QuietWorkings

I thought this week I would share with you my month-long freezer meal plan from January and the one I made for February.  At the beginning of January I took a look in my freezer and realized that we had almost a month’s worth of meals already sitting in there.  Leftovers from December and meals that hadn’t been used for one reason or another.  Bonus for me!  Haha.

I’ve gotten lax at making breakfast and lunch meal plans but Ireally need to get back into those because I’m starting to get lost with those meals again.  A friend of mine posted this week about how breakfast is the worst meal of the day, because who wants to make anything when they’ve just gotten out of bed – and I totally agree!   So in thinking about that this week I realized that I am going to have to be intentional about starting breakfast at night before I go to bed (whether it’s a crockpot thing, making muffins the day before, starting pancake batter, etc).

I’m also working harder at staying on the Trim Healthy Mama Plan (I’ve not been 100% on plan for a while) so that has changed a few things.  Some of the meals are not THM but I can make them THM for myself so they are still okay.  I might explain the different meals when I show them to you.

One thing I have not been as vigilant on is having one meatless day a week (I had started that in November and it does cut down on cost).  But one meal we all love is French Toast – and I just have to tell you,that although you can use sprouted or Ezekiel bread from the store, the Bread in a Mug THM recipe makes a mean French Toast – soooo yum!  I’m not a fan of that recipe unless it’s toasted after it’s cooked.  It’s just a soggy mess (IMO) otherwise.   So it makes really good grilled cheese and french toast (just sayin’).

In January we were able to utilize leftover Lasagna from December.  One pan makes way more than my family can eat (usually we get 3 meals from it).  We also had cabbage rolls leftover (from the THM cookbook)…and I still have some in the freezer leftover.   We’ve enjoyed a lot of rice meals but I realize that doing meat balls and rice is, probably, more of a crossover.  I’m not a huge rice person so I have put mine over salad greens.  We also did meatball subs and I did the same there, instead of eating the bread I just put them on a salad.  We did  some chicken noodle soup again, using a whole chicken that allowed me to also make chicken fried rice, with some leftover for sandwiches for the husband.   I cooked a turkey this month as well (we go to my in-laws at Christmas so I hadn’t cooked one then).  This gave us 2 turkey meals, I made a sweet and sour turkey over rice and hot turkey sandwiches (again, bread is not really on-plan but then I wasn’t completely on-plan at this point – you could use sprouted bread, but I think the gravy would put you off-plan anyway or at least into crossover or s-helper territory).  I’m not great crunching meal numbers so I can’t always figure out how the meals work (yet).  I am working on figuring it out so that I can put my meals together better.  I also made homemade brown beans (I use coconut palm sugar as it’s easier on my budget than the on-plan sweeteners) and we had sausages, fish, and a couple other stand-alone meals like that.  No Frills sells boxes of meat for $25 and we picked up one of those that included sausages, a small roast, meatballs, and something else (but I forget).

Now, because I had most of my dinners already in the freezer when January started, I was able to go ahead and plan for February.  This meant that when I went grocery shopping I was actually picking up items for February (minus breakfast and lunch items for January).  I thought this was pretty awesome.  Each week I tried to pick up a few things that I could put away and keep for February.  And some of the meals for January didn’t end up working out so I could rearrange some for February (which I’ve already had to do since I haven’t picked up all the chicken I need for this month).

I decided to plan some different meals for this month because I can’t stand eating the same things over and over.  I get bored way too easily.  So I looked up some THM freezer meals (I chose quite a few from Mixing With Michelle – she has over 12 different freezer sessions and labels the meals with their THM letter – you can find the number for each session at the bottom of the blog post) and picked a number of recipes that we haven’t tried before.  I’m really excited to try them out.  One of the ones I made last week already called No Potato Beef Stew was soooo good.  I cannot even tell you.  Even my husband was surprised.  He didn’t even mention the lack of potatoes (which means he didn’t notice, haha).  The recipe calls for 4 small squash, diced, but I used one large butternut squash and it was enough for 2 meals.  Really, the recipe is written so that you make two, but you put them into bags and freeze them.  I cooked both portions at the same time (because I had already frozen my meat together and had to thaw it all – therefore, cook it all) so we had tons.  I also added peas and carrots and did not add turnip because I didn’t have the full amount of green beans it called for and I don’t like turnip.  It was actually really good.  The carrots were diced so I think it would still make the recipe okay.Freezer Meals #THM #QuietWorkings

February Freezer Meals (with Links):

No Potato Beef Stew

Crockpot Beef Stroganoff – keep in mind when you see just a couple of Tbsp of flour in a recipe it’s just there as a thickening agent and xanthum gum can do the same thing without the bad carbs.

Crockpot Beef Gyros – I’ll just put mine over a salad

Crockpot Hawaiian Chicken

Meatball Subs

Chicken Wings  – used my Epicure steamer with the insert to make these since I don’t have baking racks and they were uh-mazing!  Just sayin’.

Crockpot Ribs

Crockpot Turkey Breast – just add a can of cranberry sauce – delish!  (and yes, I realize cranberry sauce has sugar – use homemade if you’re going to quibble, lol)

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Homemade Brown Beans – if your beans are old they might take 3 days to cook, not speaking from experience or anything.

Roast Chicken

Hamburgers – THM style with just spices and onions no fillers

Chili – my mom’s recipe

Sloppy Joes – make it using on-plan sweeteners/no sugar tomato sauce – and put over salad greens instead of on a bun

Pasta

Most of these meals will make 2 meals per (some a bit more that my husband can take for lunches).  I’ve written everything in twice and then will just fill in with other meals as needed – like pasta, etc.  I try to stay away from pasta but I have to admit that it is the one meal I adore and I haven’t found a good substitute yet.  I do use spaghetti squash on occasion when I’m working hard at staying on plan.

Valentines Day is also this month so I’m sure we will have one meal out.  And the last Sunday of every month is potluck at our church so I usually take something that everyone will enjoy (not necessarily THM, although I do try).    With February’s meals, I didn’t necessarily make them all ahead of time and freeze them.  I buy my ground beef in a bulk bag of 6-7lbs so I do separate that right away and brown or make it into recipes.  So I had done 2 – 1.3 lb batches of hamburgers, meatballs, 2 packages of browned beef for pasta, 1 pkg of browned beef for sloppy joes, and 1 pkg of browned beef for chili, bagged them separately and froze those to go in recipes.  Then I also made a meatloaf and froze that (uncooked) which we actually ate in January.  That was the extent of my “freezer” cooking for February.  That being said, when I make each meal, I double the recipe and freeze half for another meal.  So one meal is all ready to go.  Basically, the second half of the month will be a little easier than the first half.

Feel free to download my freezer meal plans from January and February – keep in mind that if you’re doing strictly THM you may want to tweak a few of the meals.  I have also included spaces for breakfast and lunch.  I did not fill those in but I may do posts on breakfast and lunch ideas in the future.    I’m also including a blank meal plan sheet that you can print off.  They’re nothing fancy.  I don’t need fancy.  I just like having something streamlined that organizes me.  Maybe I’ll make a fancy one sometime in the future.

January 2016 Meal Plan

February 2016 Meal Plan

1 Month Meal Plans

 

Let me know if you have any questions.  Next week I’m going to share with you some of my favorite tools and spices for making these freezer meals (hint: most of them are from Epicure!)

Happy Freezer Cooking!