Do you know what feels really amazing? Knowing that you have a month’s worth of meals prepped and ready to go in the freezer! Freezer meals or freezer cooking is seriously awesome. If you have not tried it, I highly recommend doing so! There are so many situations where freezer meals can come in handy.
I made freezer meals when I started teaching, knowing that I would be too exhausted to cook dinner every night when I got home – especially in the first few months. I made freezer meals before my first daughter was born and thought it was a LIFESAVER in the weeks and months afterward. This time, I made my largest amount of freezer meals ever in preparation for the birth of our daughter.
I made 13 actual freezer meals and 5 different bread items. When we tallied how many dinners we could get out of those 12 meals by estimating portion sizes, we have approximately 35 nights worth of dinner all stored up in our freezer (not to mention all the small items we have stocked up over the months!)
I am not naive, I know that this time around I will probably be even more exhausted than last time with two kids to take care of! I wanted to make as many meals as I thought feasible and really stock up our freezer so that we would not have to worry about cooking for a good while. I also found that if you have family or generous friends around, then you might score a few free meals that way, which makes your stash last even longer.
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How did I plan for my freezer meal extravaganza?
I had been telling myself my entire pregnancy that I wanted to be sure to stock up our freezer. Of course, major procrastination took over and I found myself almost 37 weeks pregnant with just a couple small items in the freezer that we stashed instead of eating them as leftovers.
One day I decided that unless I just sat down and made a list of all the freezer meals I wanted to make and all the ingredients I needed, I would never get the ball rolling. Around the same time, I saw a post over on one of my favorite blogs, Fun, Cheap, or Free, about a healthy freezer meal e-book. I took that as an additional sign to just get started!
I wrote down some recipes that we had tried before and loved, looked up a couple new ones on Pinterest, and after downloading the e-book, I went through and picked out all the recipes that I was interested in. Next, I made a grocery list for all the ingredients that I would need to make ALL the items that I had listed. After looking over my list of 18 “meals”, I felt like I was being a little too ambitious with 3 weeks left until my due date. But I decided to go for it.
I used my favorite Wegmans app and plugged in all the items I would need to buy so I could get an estimate on what the cost would be. After figuring that out, I spoke with my husband about increasing our grocery budget for the month of March (okay, almost doubling it) to cover the costs. He agreed that it would be beneficial in the long run and we should be spending less money each week after the baby comes since we will be eating food we have already bought and prepared.
I hit up Costco on a Friday night (super exciting) to see if I could find anything cheaper there and ended up buying all my ground turkey and some of the produce. I loved being able to check the prices against what I already knew it would cost at Wegmans!
The next morning I went to Wegmans at my usual early morning Saturday time and got the “big” cart in anticipation of my 100 item grocery list! I usually never have more than 25 or so items on my list. As I filled up my cart, I realized that I should never have come to the store alone. Being super pregnant and pushing around a cart that is about to overflow will a) get you some strange looks and b) make you worry even more that your greatest fear of going into labor JUST as you spend hundreds of dollars on food that needs to be cooked might actually come true.
Luckily, it doesn’t seem to matter how much activity I do, this one is stubborn enough to stay through to the end! Not only did I make it home, but I was able to finish making all the meals that I set out to make.
What freezer meals did I make?
Below I have included a list of all the meals I made with links to the recipes if you are interested in trying any of them. Most of these recipes we have actually tried before or we ate some of the food as I was making it because it made such a large amount. Many of these recipes came from the healthy freezer meal e-book that I mentioned above. If you are interested in downloading it, I would check it out fast as they are only giving away a limited number of free copies.
Chicken Freezer Meals
- Chicken Lime Enchiladas (e-book recipe) – The filling for these enchiladas was cooked in the crockpot and then made into the enchiladas to freeze. We did not try these yet, BUT they smelled amazing while cooking and there was a whole gallon sized amount of the filling leftover that we froze for additional Mexican night goodness 🙂
- Chicken Taco Dump (e-book recipe) – This was the easiest of them all to make. All you have to do is dump all the ingredients in a freezer bag and when you are ready to cook them, dump the contents into a slow cooker and then fill your favorite taco shells with the deliciousness.
- Honey Garlic Lime Chicken Kabobs (e-book recipe) – Another fairly easy meal to prep. You do have to cut a lot of chicken into bite-size pieces, but all you have to do when ready to eat is grill these on some skewers and eat them with your favorite side.
Pork/Beef/Turkey Freezer Meals
There is a section for both pork and beef recipes in the e-book. To make the recipes healthier, they suggest using ground turkey for many of the recipes instead. We did this for all but I think one recipe. It was also cheaper just buying the ground turkey in bulk than buying a bunch of different meats.
- Beef and Bean Enchiladas (e-book recipe) – These made 12 enchiladas and so we ate a couple of them for dinner one night. They were my favorite enchiladas I have ever made! I am a huge fan of beans in Mexican food, and I think that really adds to the dish.
- Turkey and Spinach Meatballs – This is a recipe I have made a few times, both for a party and to freeze and use for different meals. We made one batch and were able to use them for meatball subs (twice), gyros, spaghetti and meatballs, and just as an “appetizer” dipped in sauce. That is 5 different meals! I am not usually a fan of spinach, but these taste amazing and I feel healthy eating them 🙂
- Lasagna – Believe it or not, I have never made my own lasagna before. I found this recipe on Pinterest and I am excited to try it out. Plus who doesn’t love some great lasagna?
- Fiesta Casserole (e-book recipe) – This is a pretty cool recipe that I am excited to try. Basically, there are two stacks of tortillas to make up the bulk of this amazing-looking recipe. I have never tried that before, but I guess it will be similar to a lasagna, Mexican style? Plus, it makes a large casserole dish which equals lots of leftovers!
- Spinach Stuffed Pasta Shells (e-book recipe) – I had always wanted to make stuffed shells, so I went for it! The recipe is for 24 shells but we made a few extra shells and then ate those for dinner. These were an awesome tasting twist on Italian night and I bet they would be a great hit with kids!
- Bolognese Sauce (e-book recipe) – This was something I chose to make because I have never had bolognese sauce before. While I have not tried it yet, it is a little heavy on the vegetables, so we shall see how that goes. I can always doctor it up with more sauce or meat if need to, but I am glad to have a large amount of sauce on hand for easy pasta nights!
- Venison Chili – This is a recipe from my Dad and also my favorite chili recipe. You can use any kind of beef, but I really think it tastes best with venison that has been browned just enough on the outside. Chili is one of my favorite comfort foods, so I made sure to make up a batch of this to have for later.
- Bacon and Egg Cups (e-book recipe) – These are really great for an easy breakfast option. I made them one morning to freeze and we decided to eat a couple for breakfast and they were sooooo good. I really enjoyed the addition of broccoli to the recipe. The one thing we might try next time is cooking the bacon just slightly before putting the strips in the cup, as it was not cooked quite as much as I would have liked – but overall the taste was still great
Vegetarian Freezer Meals
- Broccoli Cheese and Potato Soup – This is my third time making this soup since I found it just a short while ago. It is delicious. If you like broccoli and cheese soup, then you will LOVE this. I especially enjoy the addition of potato. I also took her up on her suggestion of using an immersion blender to make the soup thicker and creamier. This soup is quick and easy to make and a GREAT comfort food, of course!
- Macaroni and Cheese – This is my own recipe and what I like to do is make the sauce and freeze it in a gallon size bag. Then all I have to do when I am ready for some delicious cheesy goodness is boil the noodles and bake the whole thing. It works great and seems even fresher than freezing the noodles.
Bread to Freeze
I recently became really into making my own bread. I have still been buying sandwich bread, but mostly out of convenience because we use it every day. But I found some great recipes for “specialty” bread like burger buns and flatbread that are easy to make and a fraction of the grocery store cost!
- Homemade Naan or Flatbread – We first used these to make gyros and they turned out wonderful. I also made myself a flatbread pizza for lunch one day with the extras – the possibilities are endless!
- Brioche Burger Buns – These are probably my favorite new burger buns EVER. They are tough enough to handle a large burger without falling apart and taste so good that they make you enjoy the bread along with the burger. I have also used them for breakfast sandwiches and regular deli sandwiches. We usually make a batch for burgers and then put the rest in the freezer to pull out as needed.
- Buttermilk Biscuits – I have made these numerous times now, but I originally made them to surprise my husband with homemade sausage gravy and biscuits. They did not disappoint. These are great as breakfast sandwiches, smothered in your favorite gravy, or just a good old biscuit with butter or jelly!
- Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread – This is a new recipe for me, but when it came out of the oven, it smelled heavenly! I almost cheated and ate a slice, but in the end, I resisted and I am excited to have some backup sandwich bread on hand.
- Fruit and Veggie Muffins – These muffins are solely for my daughter, but I have made them many times and she loves them. She does not eat many veggies so this is a great way to get those in her. Plus, they are sweet from the cinnamon so they don’t taste too bad either 🙂 I make them in mini-muffin form and take a few out of the freezer at the beginning of each week to have on hand.
How long did it take me and how much did I spend?
In the grand scheme of things, it took me a little less than two weeks to finish all the recipes. In the first two days, I made 6-8 of the recipes so that was a pretty large chunk. This was on the weekend when I had backup with my toddler. After that, I tried to make a recipe or two each day that I had time. Being super pregnant was not a great motivating factor though as I would get exhausted from standing for any length of time.
I took a few days off before making all the bread, justifying my decision with “even if the baby is here, I can easily make bread while they sleep on me”. Luckily, I eventually got my butt in gear and finished every recipe that I had set out to make just before my due date!
Long story short, you could easily get this done in one or two weekends, depending on how much energy you have and if you have anyone helping you.
I spent about $220 on all the ingredients needed to make all 18 recipes. This is about $100 less than our monthly budget and we should be able to get about 30-35 actual dinners out of all the food. I say that is a win. It might be a little much for your family to spend all at once in a single month, but if you get planning ahead and make a couple recipes each month, you can stock up your freezer in no time!
If you are strapped for time during the week or have an especially busy season of life coming up, I highly recommend trying out some recipes to make as freezer meals. You will need to take some time to do some planning of which recipes you want to try and what ingredients you need, but in the end, it is so worth it.
Do you make freezer meals? What are some of your favorite items to freeze?
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