First, I checked out a few websites for resource information. Here was very helpful for thinking about what I want to store my food in (i.e., foil baking pans, freezer bags, crockpot liners, ovenware, etc.), and, more importantly, how to approach your own recipes for the freezer.
I've done those meal assembly deals where you pay for a package of meals and then go into the store and prep them yourself for the freezer. They can be a great first step toward having lots of meals in the freezer for your family, and it even saves you from having to plan the grocery list and prep and cook the food. However, you can certainly do it cheaper if you can set aside a few more hours. After doing it a few times, I'm sure it'll go a lot faster, too.
After sifting through a few other websites here and here, I sat down with my cookbooks and recipe cards to pull out meals that A) I knew we'd eat, and B) were conducive to freezing. We're big salad eaters, but darn if they don't get soggy after defrosting. Har, har, har.
I should also add that we try to follow the Paleo diet for optimal health, but we are still easing into it and therefore cheese and grains do get thrown in there once in awhile. But a lot of these meals are Paleo-friendly. Here's the list of meals I came up with and ended up preparing:
- Tomato Bisque Soup (8 meals) - base is carrot juice and cashews, but it is to.die.for!
- Sirloin Stir-Fry (4 meals)
- Mustard Dill Salmon (3 meals)
- Hoisin Pork Tenderloin (1 meal) - Hoisin sauce has sugar, need to find one w/o
- Sante Fe Chicken (2 meals) - does have a wee bit of honey in the marinade
- Turkey Meatloaf (1 meal) - breadcrumbs are whole wheat and there's no sugar, aka, Ketsup
- Healthy Lasagna (2 pans) - made w/ ff cottage cheese, whole wheat noodles, and part-skim mozzerella
- Steamed Kale with Cashew Sauce (8 meals as side dish) - also TDF
- Green-Chile Chicken Enchiladas (1 pan) - this will be for hard days or a weekend night
- 2 Organic Chickens to cook and shred (saved and froze stock) - perfect to throw into a salad or add to the bisque for more protein
That's 26 meals, not including the shredded chicken and kale. Now, we won't be eating these straight in a row for 26 days, but it sure fills up a big chunk of the monthly calendar. I'd say that's a good start for my first attempt and keeping things healthy. None of these meals were found in a "freezer meal" section of a cook book. I simply looked at the recipe and figured out how far I could prep the meal before needing to freeze it while also considering what I needed to do once I thawed it. For example, the salmon was the easier, by far. I bought a large piece of salmon, cut it into approximately 6 oz side portions, made the mustard dill marinade, brushed it on top of the salmon, then wrapped it up in foil, stuck two in a freezer bag and labeled the outside. For the Sirloin Stir-Fry, I cut the meat into small chunks, seasoned it with chinese 5 spice, and threw it into a small freezer bag. Then after rinsing and cutting the veggies (red bell pepper, broccoli, snap peas, carrots, mushrooms) I loaded them into a gallon freezer bag. Finally, I made the sauce and put it in a quart size freezer bag, and along with the meat bag, put it into the gallon bag with the veggies. All in one freezer bag, but sectioned off into separate baggies for thawing and cooking separately.
Something I need to get better at is finding recipes that share more ingredients so that the prep gets easier. My recipes were pretty different from one another, so I made these over the course of two days (thanks to my MIL who watched E the whole time).
Okay, now the fun part where I show my loot!
Ah, a freezer full of healthy food! What a great way to start off the New Year, huh?
If anyone wants the recipes to some or all of these, just let me know and I'll get them to you somehow. I hope I've inspired someone out there to freeze up some meals in order to free up some time. It's worth it!