About a month before my 3rd child was born I had a panic moment realizing that I was going to be busy with caring for kids and babies and would never have time to do anything else. Ok so maybe I exaggerated a little bit in my mind but it did get me into “go mode” thinking about how I could still feed my family at home, healthfully and on a budget. I scoured the internet for ideas and read blogs about how other people had gone about it. Every approach had been a little different and each was modified to their needs and what was available in stores. This is what I did and it worked GREAT for us. I was able to find a deep freezer on Craigslist and they guy sold it to me and delivered it for $50. Score. After that, what I penciled out what I knew I needed for this to work:
- It had to be cost effective, I did’t want it to be significantly more than prepping a normal meal would be
- I wanted the food to be like what we were already eating. We don’t eat a lot of casserole, one-pot dump meals. Living in California we like fresh!
- The meal needed to be pretty close to ready when I pulled it out of the freezer.
- I didn’t want to spend a ton of time, being 8.5 months pregnant at the time I needed to maximize the time and get it done in a day.
Here is what I made and the Quantity (I made extra for each so that I would have enough for Gavin’s lunch the next day):
- Verde Pork Tacos serves 6 (x4)
- Tequila fajita steak serves 6 (x4)
- Honey Pork Chops serves 6 (x4)
- Cranberry Chicken serves 6 (x4)
- Sweet and Sour Chicken serves 6 (x4)
- Chicken Enchiladas serves 6 (x4)
- Shish-kabob Beef serves 6 (x4)
- Teriyaki Sauce (2 quarts for fridge)
- Taco Meat Cooked (10 Pounds)
- Bolognese Sauce Cooked(10 pounds)
- Sloppy JoeCooked (10 pounds)
- Breakfast Burritos (24)
- Smoothie Bags (12)
- Banana Bread 4 loaves
Looking at the list it was ambitious! but I got it done shopping and all in about 6 hours. The key to success was prepping the protein uncooked. When all the shopping was done I was able to portion out the meat into 4 Gallon Ziplock Bags (write on the bag FIRST with cooking instructions) make the marinade, pour in, seal. DONE! The sauces or marinades came together quickly. The nice thing was that for most of the meals the meat could be grilled or baked. I loved having the flexibility. When everything was prepped I made sure the air was out of the bag and laid it flat. I stacked them 4 high, in a 9×13 pan to catch any leaks, as flat as possible and put in freezer. When they were completely frozen I stood them up in plastic bins to make it more efficient and removed the pans.
In the morning, I would grab one out, put it in the fridge in a bowl, by the afternoon it was thawed and ready to cook. I filled the freezer with frozen veggies, bread dough rolls, frozen rice etc. so the “with-its” were ready to go.
Lets talk about the cooked meats. I was hesitant to cook the taco meat because its not hard to make the day of. All the things I read assured me that I would love having it, and we did. It defrosted beautifully and tasted great and took less than 5 minutes. Having it made I was able to put it on: tacos, baked potatoes, nachos, eggs, burritos and more. it was so versatile. I had never made sloppy joe’s before but the meat was great to have. We had it for lunch after church, stirred into chili, added to meat sauce if needed, since it was tomato based it was more versatile than I expected it to be. All was labeled and bagged by 1 pound portions in a quart size bag and frozen flat. I chose to just make and freeze spaghetti sauce and boil pasta as needed. I find that defrosting/cooking spaghetti bakes take a LONG time, way longer than just boiling some noodles.
The teriyaki sauce was amazing to have, it kept forever the the fridge in a mason jar and we LOVE chicken Teriyaki bowls. Rice, chicken, frozen veggies, sauce.
I will do a follow up in a few weeks when I do this again, add pictures and a shopping list but this should get you started thinking about it and what would work for your family. I still cooked along the way but it was great to have them in the freezer, we used them in about 3 months. Some weeks we had them every night, others we didn’t have any, either way I felt like I had conquered the dinner monster.