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Freezer Meals 101

I posted this photo on Instagram recently, and got lots of questions and blog posts requests:

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So, here’s the ins and outs of how my friend and I do freezer meals! I’ve read a ton of other blog posts about freezer meals, so this is nothing new. But, My friend Elizabeth and I feel like we’ve perfected our plan, so I know I need to share it with you!

First off, here’s my partner in crime:

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This is 1/5 of our beach buddy family. We’ve known the Dempsey’s for forever! They had their third kid in August. One night in the fall we got together and both talked about being so busy and having a hard time getting dinner together every night. Hence, the reason for freezer meals!

So, here’s how we do it:

1. Find a friend to do this with you. You have to both like the same things and have about the same size family or it would get too confusing!

2. We pick a day. An ENTIRE day. We cook from around 8am to 5pm on a Sunday. The dads take the kids to church, out to eat, and then home for naps. We switch houses each time, so the dad that arrives at the cooking house for nap time gets the kids down and then is on dishes duty for the rest of the afternoon! {This is key! You need a third set of hands for dishes!}

3. We pick our meals. About a week before we each pick 3-4 recipes that we want to make, and that are good for freezing. I’ve found them everywhere- blogs, cookbooks, etc. We email each other the ideas just to make sure there are no dislikes in the recipes and so we don’t double up on the same thing.

4. Double each recipe you are going to cook and make a grocery list for yourself, and your friend does the same for her recipes. Doubling the recipe means you will get two 8X8 pans or 1 9X13 pan for yourself, and two 8X8 pans or one 9X13 pan for your friend. Make sure you have enough pans, plastic wrap, foil and freezer bags for everything you are cooking.

5. Cook! Again, we spend the whole day cooking. A few hints we’ve found along the way:

  • Buy pre-chopped onions instead of chopping them
  • Pre-shred your cheese or buy shredded cheese (I’m not a fan of buying shredded cheese, so I just buy block cheese and shred that morning)
  • Each of you pick one recipe at a time and work on it, but also look at other recipes that may call for the same thing that you can go ahead and do. {For example, if three recipes call for ground beef to be browned, do it all together and then separate for each recipe.}
  • While one continues to cook, have the other go grab a quick, easy lunch. No need to try to fix a meal while you’re cooking!
  • You don’t need to buy lids with your pans. For best freezing, put food in pan and let cool. Then wrap entire pan a few times in plastic wrap. Then wrap both ways with foil. Write on foil any cooking directions. This has prevented any freezer burn. Also, some things we can just wrap in plastic wrap and foil and place in gallon freezer ziploc bags.
  • If you can, divide your portion into two 8X8 pans, that way you come away with more meals. If you put recipe in 9X13 pan, just plan on eating it leftover a couple of days after you have it the first time.

6. Place all meals in Freezer! We ended up buying an extra fridge/freezer off of Craig’s List to accommodate all of our freezer meals, but it was well worth it! We usually come away with 10-12 meals each, depending on how we split the recipes.

7. Don’t cook for the rest of the month! Actually, we do spread the meals out a bit. I try to use 2-3 meals per week, then cook the other times. But man, it is AWESOME to know I can pull a freezer meal out that morning, bake it that evening, and viola- dinner is DONE.

Here are a few recipes we have used and they were a hit with both families:

Neely’s Baked Ziti

My Momma’s Chicken Enchiladas- recipe coming soon!

Black Bean Cheesy Chicken and Corn Waffles– similar to this one, but the one we use has black beans in it, so I’d add a can to this recipe. And we just use a few boxes of Jiffy cornbread mix and use the waffle recipe on the side- we freeze the chicken part in pans and the waffles wrapped in foil and Ziploc bags.

Chicken Spaghetti (any recipe)

Cheese-stuffed Meatloaves– similar to this recipe but we made them into little loaves and put them in one pan (see top left pan of picture below)

Broccoli Rice Muffins

Southwestern Pasta Bake

Chipotle Chicken Chili Mac & Jalapeno Corn Muffins

Lasanga (any recipe)

Black Bean Burritos (individually wrapped)- I made a crockpot of black beans the night before (similar to this recipe but I added a couple of strips of bacon for flavor), then wrapped beans, shredded cheese, and taco-seasoned ground beef in flour tortillas, then individually wrapped in plastic wrap and placed in large ziploc bag.

Homemade Salsa (I make and freeze this ALL. THE. TIME. Way better than store-bought salsa!)

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Whew! I hope this helps explain how we do it! I’m sure I’ve forgotten something, so if you have questions, leave a comment and I’ll be sure to answer!

Yay for freezer meals! Our Cooking Sunday is hard work but so much fun, and so rewarding weeks to come. It is well worth the 10 hour cooking day!

 

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