Freezer Meal Fun

My friend, Dalia, is getting ready to have a baby soon, and when I asked her what I could do to help her get things ready, she said that she wanted to make a bunch of freezer meals. I had been putting off making meals in preparation of going back to work, so it was just the motivation I needed to get things in gear. First, I made a list of all the possible meals I would want to make:

Baked Spaghetti
Sloppy Joes
Chicken Pot Pie
Beef Stroganoff
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Chicken Parisienne (white wine, mushrooms, cream of mushroom, sour cream, etc.)
Honey Pork Chops
Homemade Pizzas
Pizza Pies
Chicken Tetrazinni
Spaghetti Carbonara (bacon, peas, heavy cream, parm cheese, parsley, pepper)
Baked Blueberry French Toast
Farmer's Casserole (breakfast casserole)
Pulled Pork
Baked Penne with Ham, Peas, and Jack Cheese
Ham, Mushroom, and Egg Noodle casserole

I emailed Dalia the list, and she chose five meals to make (fyi - because you always let a pregnant woman chose what to eat - it's a courtesy!):

Sloppy Joes
Beef Stroganoff
Spaghetti Carbonara
Baked Penne with Ham, Monterrey Jack, and Peas

Ryan picked up some foil containers with lids from my friend, Beckie, who bought them from this website. For $132, she was able to purchase 500 pans (approximately 26 cents per pan). They are big enough for 4 servings and stack perfectly in your freezer because organization is key! I made out my list of ingredients for all five recipes, marking out what I already had in my pantry and refrigerator. Dalia sent me her list, and off to the grocery store I went.

Dalia came over around 7:00 p.m. a couple Saturdays ago, and after eating some Jimmy Johns (YUM!!), we were zooming all over my kitchen. Since Dalia is on moderate bedrest, she took the job of slicing and dicing vegetables and meat, while I worked on preparing the dishes. We started with the beef stroganoff because it is one of the more involved recipes. Sloppy Joes were a great second dish because they are super easy and quick! Next we worked on the Chicken Enchiladas since they are more involved, too. The penne pasta was the last dish we made that evening, and it was super easy and quick. By the time we had all the dishes washed (thanks, Dalia!) and put away, it was 1:00 a.m. I made the spaghetti carbonara the next day in about an hour. It was very easy!

By the end of the cooking-freezer-meal-marathaon, we had 26 meals and split them between the two of us!!

5 pans of Enchiladas
3 pans of Sloppy Joes
6 pans of Beef Stroganoff
6 pans of Spaghetti Carbonara
6 pans of Baked Penne with Ham, Monterrey Jack, and Peas

We did 5 hours of cooking the first night, and then I did the additional hour the second day. So, six hours of hard work for 26 meals. Not bad!

A couple things to consider when making meals. First, you have to cook meals that will actually fit inside your cookware. For example, I used a skillet and my largest pan for my stove. Those two items allowed us to double each recipe we were making (with the exception of sloppy joes b/c they take up very little room. You could duplicate this recipes several times). Second, we could have saved lots of time had we been a little more prepared. For example, if we would have written down exactly how much onion we needed TOTAL rather than cutting it per recipe, that would have saved some prep time. Same goes for the meat. Had we cut that up prior to getting together, that would have saved us considerable amount of time.

I would LOVE to have bi-monthly freezer meal preparation days with a bunch of girlfriends at once. The tricky part would be having enough space to cook, as well as space in your cookware. For my kitchen and cookware, two people is probably the limit. If we had another skillet, there is a good chance we could've made enough to triple each recipe.

One idea, if you are interested in making freezer meals, is to find 5 other friends who want to be part of a freezer meal group. Each person chooses 1 recipe and makes enough for 6 families (one for each friend and one to keep for yourself). Then, you trade meals, which allows you to acquire 5 new meals to add to the one meal you made yourself. Make sense? I did this with some girlfriends a couple years ago, and it worked out great! The tricky part for me now is that I buy my meat in bulk (quarter cow, half hog, bulk whole chickens and chicken breast), and this meat doesn't contain hormones, antibiotics, etc. I spend a little more to have this kind of meat, but it's totally worth it! If you question that, just watch Food, Inc. It will change your life. Anyway, to participate in a freezer meal group with friends, we would all need to be cooking with the same meat or it would defeat the purpose of us buying it. So, for now, I just continue to make meals on my own, and that works just fine. It just takes a little more self-motivation because I don't have anyone waiting for a meal from me. I think I will order some foil pans of my own soon, and this time, I might get the 6 cup serving pans. You get 250 pans for $115 (46 cents a pan), which would give us some for leftovers. We'll see, though! If anyone is interested in ordering this size and wants to split the cost $23 for 50 6-cup pans or $26.40 for 100 4-cup pans (if four other people are interested), let me know!

Also, let me know if you have any questions or want any recipes! Cooking ahead like this will save you so much time and energy on nights where you just don't feel like cooking anything. I love it!


Shannon said...

I've been thinking about doing this in late September to prepare for a mid-October baby. But, my self motivation isn't there yet :) Everything I freeze always seems to get freezer burnt, so I've been apprehensive about freezer meals. I KNOW it is a fantastic idea. I don't know why I'm still dragging my feet! :)

cblack said...

Amy, sounds like a productive saturday night! I would like to go in on freezer containers if you have any other takers. Let me know...I'm sure Jess would be into it. Claire

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