Sunday, January 5, 2014

Learning to Love the Freezer

I finally decided to try out a cook-all-day-and-freeze meal plan, and I'm super excited about it!  When I open my freezer, I hear angels singing!

Several people asked about how I did it and if I saved money, so I thought I'd go through the whole process.

The blog post I found is called Make 50 Freezer Meals in One Day; I chose 6 of the recipes she listed and got 16 meals...50 sounded a little overwhelming to try for my first time!  All 16 meals took about 4 hours to prepare (however, my two beautiful, energetic, destructive, needy boys were present, so I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have taken that long if they were perhaps at time!)

I picked the following recipes (the numbers in parentheses are how many meals I got by either doubling or tripling the recipes):

Slow Cooker Broccoli Chicken Alfredo (3)
Chicken Parmesan Pesto Shells (3)
Slow Cooker Beef Barley Stew (3)
Cilantro Lime Chicken Tacos (2)
Lasagna (3)
Pulled BBQ Pork (2)

The first thing I did when I got home from the store (after putting away the groceries and beginning with a clean kitchen) was put the pork shoulder in the crock pot...I cooked 3ish pounds on low for about 6.5 hours...then Josh and I got to work on everything else. The slow cooker meals were a breeze to put together (we tried the beef and barley stew tonight and it was really good!  I made some Jiffy muffins to go with it).  The rest took a little more effort, but none were too taxing.  When the pork was finished cooking, I shredded it, added BBQ sauce, and portioned it into two bags.

The following morning I made about 15 breakfast burritos to freeze.  I cooked 1 lb. of breakfast sausage (Jimmy Dean Natural), 2 lbs. frozen southern-style hash browns (just diced potatoes basically), 8 scrambled eggs, and some shredded cheddar cheese.  I assembled my burritos, individually wrapped them in tinfoil, and put them in a freezer bag.  I ran out of sausage and eggs, but I have several tortillas and a good amount of hash browns left, so I'm going to make some bacon and some more eggs and make a few more to throw in the freezer :} I haven't reheated one yet, so I'm not sure about microwave time, but a friend (check out her blog, Me and My Soldier Man) recommended wrapping a burrito in a paper towel, heating 1 minute on one side, then 30 seconds on the other.

I spent an estimated $200 on the items for the freezer meals, including foil, freezer bags, and aluminum pans.  That comes out to roughly $12 per meal.  I bought a few other food items not related to freezer meals, such as cereal and snacks, a few frozen veggies and packages of different rices to use on non-freezer meal nights, so that added approximately $80 to the total.  I was going to the store once a week and spending $100-150 on groceries , so I can see the savings already!  I figure I'll still go grocery shopping once a week, but only to pick up perishable things like milk, eggs, and fruit, and a few things to add to my meals for that week like hamburger buns and fresh veggies.

I am definitely going to do this next month, too.  The time I will save trying to think of what to make for dinner, preparing it, and cleaning up afterward is pretty invaluable!  And I had fun in the kitchen with the husband :}

The recipes I used can be found at Happy Money Saver.  If you decided to try this, don't forget to take doubling and/or tripling the recipe into consideration when planning out your shopping list...and let me know how it goes, and if you discover any new recipes or food storage tips and tricks :}