Freebie Friday!

Freezer Meal Planning Workbook

As I mentioned last week, I wanted] to offer you some help for getting your freezer stocked with ready-to-go meals to keep you out of the drive-thru. Let’s hear it for saving some dough. 😉

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Freezer Meal Planning Workbook

Here’s how I use these forms. After selecting my 10 meals, I make a list of all the ingredients I will need to purchase on the grocery list form. I try to shop 1 or 2 days before assembling the freezer meals so that I don’t have to freeze the meat and the produce is nice and fresh. For the very simple meals that I use, the main part of most of my menus is proteins and veggies. There are occasionally jarred items such as artichoke hearts or sun-dried tomatoes. Or perhaps oats and eggs for meatloaf. Be sure to add these to the shopping list.

The next page is for the assembly day. The Freezer Meal Worksheet. Here I list all the meals, and label freezer bags with the corresponding number. Then I take a few minutes to read over all my recipes to find out what all chopping, slicing, and dicing I may need to do. So for example, let’s say 3 of my recipes need onions. But some should be in chunks to put on skewers for grilling, some should be finely diced for that meatloaf, and some are in slices for fajitas. I will mark it on the chart like this.

Veggies Preparation Amount Bag
Onions Sliced 1 medium 2
Diced ½ medium 5
Chunks 2 medium 8

I complete the chart with all my veggies and proteins. This makes assembling and clean up so much quicker since I handle all the onions at once (along with a few tissues to wipe away onion tears). Then I move on the next veggie, get it cut and sorted, and so on.

The last chart page is for you to keep in your planner or on your freezer to remind you of what you have in your freezer, as well as a checklist for things you might need to finish out your meals (like buns for sloppy joes or spaghetti for bolognese).

I sure hope you find this helpful. If so, please let me know in the comments below.

Meal Planning Mondays: How to save yourself from Mealtime Madness

I’ve had 8 children. That’s meant a lot of time being pregnant, and a lot of time recovering from childbirth. During these seasons, I learned the immense value of planning ahead (admittedly, not my strong suit). The BEST thing I ever did for myself during these times was putting meals in the freezer for those days when I was just too tired to get in the kitchen. When most of the work had already been done, spouse and/or children could even pitch in to help.

The main problem I had with the meals, however, is that they were often lackluster. Food that I cooked prior to freezing had the distinct flavor profile of leftovers. I don’t mind eating leftovers for lunch, or if I plan for them (I’m talkin’ ’bout you, holiday leftovers). But I wanted more from my freezer meals. They just didn’t excite me.

That’s when I discovered the beauty of UNCOOKED freezer meals ~ taking raw ingredients, slicing, dicing, and seasoning them up to your heart’s desire (or to the specifics of a recipe, to be on the safe side), plopping them into a labeled bag, and tossing them into the freezer. THESE meals taste great! They can be cooked in a variety of ways: oven, grill, stove-top, crockpot, and even instant pot.

I rarely cook a meal start to finish anymore. The time I save chopping, prepping, and cleaning up just ONCE for 10 meals instead of 10 different times for each meal means I have more time for other things (like writing this blog post). So, to introduce you to the joy of “fresh” freezer meals, I’ve documented my mini-session from this week.

Freezer Meal Mini-Session

I call this a mini-session, because a full session for me is 10 meals. Since we have pizza on Fridays, baked potatoes on Sundays after church, and a pot of beans usually once a week, a 10-meal plan lasts me just over 2 weeks. But the full session takes 2 hours, and I rarely am able to dedicate that much time for it during the school day. A mini-session is a cool 1 hour. I can do that.

So I start off by choosing my recipes based on what I have on hand and in the freezer (yeah, this was slightly unplanned ~ that’s how I roll). So, these are the meals I decided on.

The pictures are from the handy recipe cards that came with my original freezer meal workshop. More on that later.

First things first: setting up. I read over the recipes to see what all I needed. I gathered meat, veggies, utensils, measuring cups & spoons, mixing bowl, and scale. I don’t need a lot of space for this. I worked at the small L-shaped bar area in my kitchen so I could keep an eye on homeschool happenings.

Notice my sous-chef waiting for a taste of veggies! These are all the veggies for this session. When I do 10 meals, I will prep all the veggies first, using a chart to help me keep track of what veggies go in what recipe and how they need to be prepared. Since I was only doing 5 meals, and 2 of them didn’t even have veggies, it seemed easier to me to just do one meal at a time.

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The first meal I started on was Mediterranean Roasted Vegetables and Chicken. Since I’m feeding 10 people my bags are always VERY full, so I like to mix things in a bowl. This bowl proved to be too small. No worries. I have learned to be fLeXiBle. 🙂

All I had to do was put the veggies into the prepared bag, measure out the seasonings, and divide the seasonings equally between the bag of veggies and the chicken in the bowl. I mixed the veggies by “squishing” (technical jargon) the ZIPPED UP bag until all the veggies were fairly well coated with seasoning. I tossed the chicken by hand and then transfered it to the bag, and struggled a few minutes before getting it zipped up. That bag of food weighs roughly 6 pounds. Ten people eat a LOT!

I followed the same basic pattern for the remaining meals: mixing in a bowl with seasonings, and transferring to a gallon zipper bag.

And drum roll…

The finished product! That is one happy freezer, folks! It was down to 1 lonely, little meal! Next month, I plan to actually SHOP for food for my freezer meals. And probably do a full 10-meal session.

If you would like specific recipes for these meals, including the particular seasonings I used, or if you would like help in putting together your own freezer meal workshop, let me know in the comments below.

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P.S. Soon, I will have a download of the handy chart I use for keeping track of the ingredients for the freezer meals. Keep your eyes open!