It’s been a little bit since I’ve sent out a blog post. Been busy getting the free 4 week shred up and running…if you haven’t checked it out yet head HERE to get your FREE copy of 4 weeks worth of workouts that you can do right at home!
If you follow me over on Instagram (coconutpersonalfitness), you know I’ve been dabbling in the freezer meal realm.
I wanted to try freezer meals for a couple of reasons…
- We’ve been trying to see where we can pinch pennies in our budget and groceries always seem to be the one category that’s so easy to go over in. I wanted to see if prepping multiple meals in advance would help decrease this area of the budget.
- I wanted to ease stress around dinner time because that’s typically when Madeleine is at her neediest and/or waking up from a nap cranky, which makes taking time to make dinner difficult.
I’ve seen freezer meals everywhere and have always been overwhelmed by them. I think because every other blog post I read about them, the people are cooking 17 different meals in 5 hours. Bah! Why! I definitely don’t have a need for that many freezer meals nor do I have the time or willpower to take that much time to prep.
However, I was still intrigued by it because 1. It would make life easier if I could just pull a meal out of the freezer and pop it into the oven or Instant Pot and 2. Could it actually save us money?
So I came up with a game plan…pick 4 freezer meals to try and double each of them giving us 8 dinners total. That usually gets us through 2 weeks because we normally go out to eat once a week and have leftovers 2 sometimes 3 times a week.
There were a few criteria that I needed for the freezer meal to be ‘approved’…
- It needed to have vegetables in it in some form. That didn’t mean it has to been encased in kale but it needed to have some sort of whole food vegetable in it.
- It needed to have some form of protein in it, whether that’s animal or plant based.
- It needed to have a cheap, bulk staple item. Things like rice, potatoes, squash are all inexpensive and can easily bulk up a meal to make it more filling and last longer (hello, leftovers).
- It also needed to have normal ingredients. No crazy spice that you’ll use once, that costs $30 for a tiny amount that you need to drive to Timbuktu to get. I needed to be able to find all the ingredients at either King Soopers or Sprouts (my normal grocery haunts).
So here are the 4 recipes I chose for my first 2 weeks of freezer meals (the original blog post for each is linked)…
Instant Pot Jambalaya (this one was a winner! A little spicy but yummmeeeee!)
Instant Pot Greek Chicken and Veggies (this was ok but not enough sustenance. I put it on salad but prob should’ve put it on rice or in a wrap or something)
Instant Pot Sausage, Rice and Beans (this was ok, not a repeat recipe for us)
Freezer Chicken Tenders (we’ve made these before and I know they’re ‘family’ approved)
My game plan was to make 2 batches of each recipe and see if they not only got us through dinners, but if there were enough leftovers for a day or two (for Andrew to take to work).
It took me a total of about 2.5 hours to make, prep, and clean up everything on afternoon/evening. This includes time to get M up from her nap and get her a snack and start the dinner we were having that night. All the recipes were super easy to just take out of the freezer and either thaw them that day or just throw them in the Instant Pot still frozen and cook. Saved time and stress! All in all it was definitely worth it to take the stress off of me during dinner times and after doing the math we saved $80! $80! You guys, that’s HUGE! That’s some serious date night money or out to eat money or saving money! That’s a big deal! So I’ve since decided that this is definitely going to be continued in our household. I just finished up another 2.5 hours prep sesh and we have 6 meals sitting in the freezer waiting to be cooked. I’ll finish the last 2 tomorrow. This round we saved about $50…not at much as $80 but considering we have a few baking items we need for different events, that’s still a significant saving! (Heck, if we saved 20 bucks, I’d be ecstatic!)
In doing this, I did learn a few tips that I thought would be helpful if you want to try incorporating more freezer meals into your meal plan…
- You don’t need to make 16 different recipes for two weeks just because a lady on a blog did. Pick just a few you think you’ll like, and double each recipe.
- Find recipes that have filling, inexpensive staples like rice, potatoes, squash, etc. These will stretch the recipes more and are good for the budget.
- Find recipes that have some vegetables in them. I’ve hunted around, and a lot of freezer meals are heavy pasta-based, cheese-based, meat-based, etc casseroles, which there’s nothing wrong with, but having that every night won’t help your tummy or energy level feel very happy. So try to find meals that have at least 2 servings of vegetables in it.
- Find recipes that have a good source of protein, whether animal or plant-based. This will ensure the meal is more filling and therefore, may last longer (leftovers!).
- Soups are a great option (especially now that fall is here) because they are easy to throw everything in a bag at once and usually there’s very limited prep work involved. For example, for the two soup recipes I prepped today I only had to chop up some veggies and boil water for chicken broth. #easypeasy
- Don’t get stressed out about the process if you don’t finish everything in a certain allotted timeframe. You can always do it later, or do the whole process in little pieces throughout the week. Nothing says you have to finish everything in a 2-3 hours timespan.
- If you need to prep with kiddos around, and things are getting hectic (cuz, let’s face it, you know they always do), get them involved! Let them help chop, pour, stir, whatever! It’ll go much smoother (albeit, messier 😉) if they’re involved and interested in what you’re doing.
- Do the things that take the longest first like roasting veggies, cooking big batches of things (like rice), making pie crusts or fillings, etc.
- Write down the title AND cooking instructions on whatever container you’re using to freeze, or on labels if you’re using glassware. You’ll think you’ll remember how to cook that new recipe…trust me, you won’t. 😆
- On that same note, write down the title and instructions BEFORE you put the ingredients and meal items in that container. Unless you’re using a glass container with a lid, it’s so much harder to write the title when you’re pushing the marker up again food on the other side of the ziplock. 🤦♀️
- Mix any ingredients together first, and then add them to your container. OR if you’re using a ziplock bag, mix everything up in the bag when sealed to ensure the seasonings and flavors get all mixed together before you freeze.
- For soups, or anything with broth or liquid, add the liquid LAST. Don’t need to tell you what happens when you add it before you’ve finished with your other ingredients. #ididntspillyouspilled
- Clean up as you go, as much as you can. Obviously, there will be things that you can’t clean up until the end, but cleaning up what you can as you go along, will help the final cleanup not be so overwhelming.
- Don’t be overwhelmed with all the cleanup at the end. Although it may look like a massive and scary task, it really only usually takes 10-15 minutes to clean up everything. Your kitchen will be messy, just accept that fact and take a deep breathe, and know it won’t actually take as long as you think to clean up.
- And finally…you can always pair your prepped meals with a salad or a side dish. That freezer meal doesn’t have to be the only thing you eat for dinner on any given night.
You WILL feel like a rockstar when you’re done…so if nothing else, do it for that ‘Beyonce feeling’. 😆
I hope these tips were helpful for you and if you do want to start incorporating more freezer meals into your weekly routine, let me know! Reach out and email me for any other questions you have at firstname.lastname@example.org
I’d love to know what’s cooking!
In health & love,