Thursday, February 21, 2013

How Freezer Meals Can Keep you Sane!

As a lot of you know, I am a bit of a Pinterest junkie. I do spend a fair amount of time on this site but I do think it benefits me in a lot of ways. I think its far better than sitting on a computer playing computer games until unhealthy hours of....sorry I am getting side tracked! That being said I come across so many amazing things that make me love the world and human beings, so how can that be bad?

I first came in contact with the concept of freezer meal cooking about 3 years ago. I liked the concept but wasn't committed, so it fell by the way side. I then came across the concept again last year on Pinterest when I was searching for slow cooker meals. It was then, that I decided I really should take this concept on and give it a go. I don't work full time but I am a primary school teacher that works on call, and sometimes I fill in for teachers on a week to week basis. So sometimes I am on the ball and have meals organised and other times I am driving through drive through or cooking hot dogs or having eggs on toast. I would like to have my meals more organised and less relying on Uncle McDonald or Mr Pizza Hut for my back up plans.

Since I began organsing my meals and freezing them, we have eaten far less take out and its always a pleasant feeling knowing by early evening that dinner is sorted out. I found that I have wasted far less food, because my meals were made straight away with all my produce, so nothing was left forgotten and going off in my fridge. I like how I don't have to head back to the store often to get extra things for dinner. I found that when I had meals prepared for my kids, I could make a healthier option just for me, that I knew the kids would not have a bar of! With their meal sorted, it allowed time for me to stay healthy and keep to my healthy eating plan as it didn't feel as though I was making and preparing more than one meal on the night. Freezer meals can really help with budgeting too. I want to share my experiences to far with preparing my meals for the month ahead as it has made my life easier. With one less thing to worry about for the day and has actually helped keep me a little more sane...well I think so anyway and my kids aren't allowed to access my blog!!!

I really had anticipated that I would be cooking all my meals for the month in one day, as other bloggers reported. However, this was not the case for me. I made about 6 meals in the space of about 4 hours. I then made a couple of meals over the next couple of days. I do have to mention it was summer holidays for us, so no normal routine to obey. For me, I think my future bulk cooking days will be Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Whatever I can't squeeze into those days will have to be done whenever I can fit it in. I am planning and cooking meals for 6 people and I have 3 boys who eat like crazy, so I have bigger meals to make, which is why I think my meals have taken me longer to  prepare. Some of the blogs I came across were preparing meals for smaller families and smaller eaters so perhaps that is why they got more done!! It might also be, that I precooked a lot of my meals. If you aren't precooking, it will definitely take you less time.

Pinterest sent me to a couple of interesting blogs but I also googled some and the below list are the blogs that gave me the most information, ideas, and inspiration.

Happy Money Saver

Six Sisters Stuff

Freezer Meals for Us

Once a Month Mom

I also purchased the following books:

 "Frozen Assets" by Deborah Taylor-Hough
"Don't Panic - Dinner's in the Freezer" by Susie Martinez, Vanda Howell, and Bonnie Garcia

I found the second book a littler better than the first, but both are good resources for a variety of ideas. Please note that both books are American, so some of the recipes and ingredients are quite different to Aussie taste buds, but you can incorporate the concepts into your own recipes or ideas, which you will have to do with some recipes because some of the ingredients you can't actually get here anyway. There are a lot of Mexican recipes, which don't bother me at all, but its good to note if you aren't big on mexican. You will also find that some freezer meals are good for crock pot/slow cooking as well.

 If eating fresh food is really important to you its good to note that you don't have to eat a freezer meal everyday of the month. When you do use a freezer meal you can always add a fresh salad, steamed vegetables, or other side dish to mix it up so that you are still saving time and eating fresh as well.

Below are a list of the freezer meals that I made this time round. All of these are from my own recipe repotoire. I will branch out next month and trial some of the recipes I have come across. I know my kids love these meals and I wanted to make sure I made something they would eat, so I played it quite safe this time round! I will see how it goes for next month - it won't be too out there though!

Lasagne x 2
- I add chopped vegetables and a can of legumes to each lasagne mix to bulk it up. 

Tuna Pasta Bake
- with corn and peas

Tuscan Meatballs x 2
- one meal was with pasta

- one meal I made meatball subs (like Subway but 100 time better)

Lamb Burgers
-  fresh bread rolls with salad
I wrapped each burger individually in plastic and froze them altogether in a zip lock bag. To the mince, I added grated zuccini and carrot, dried onion,  pepper, and a good dose of cummin. I also added one egg and some crushed up pretzels.

Twice baked Load Potato Skins x 2
-  these freeze so well

Turkey Enchiladas
- I purchased two turkey legs on special and slow cooked them for the flesh to make the enchiladas. I mix the cooked shredded flesh with a can of cream of celery soup, a little bit of sour cream and some ranch dressing. Wrap a portion of the meat in a burrito and lay on a tray foil tray and freeze. When defrosted pour salsa over top with grated cheese in oven on 180C for 15mins or until cheese melts.
 - use turkey stock for another meal.

Marinated Chicken drummies x 2
- I make a fresh salad to go with these and I made my own teriyaki marinade.

Pork and Vege Stir fry
- add brown rice

Apologies for not having pictures of all my freezer meals, I will try to have it for next months lot. Admittedly, this time round I didn't make enough for a whole month, however I made enough to get me through especially for later in the month when the money gets less and less!! I worked the last two days of this week and it was so easy to take dinner our to defrost for the day and pop it in the oven when I got home. The other option is to make slow cooker meals and have dinner ready at the end of the day.

Most of the meals above were stored in desposable foil trays. I also use zip lock bags, and other containers that are freezer friendly.

If you are interested in the full recipes for each meal, leave a comment and I will get to it!


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Née Say said...

I really need to start doing this more. I had good intentions last year but didn't happen. Now that I'm pregnant, working & studying with two small boys, I think it would help lots on the organisation front!

Housewife in Heels said...

Love this! My family lives off freezer meals- I started doing this about 6 months ago, and found it changed my life- not having to try and cook whilst managing my toddlers. I generally cook about 4 meals each Saturday- and rotate through different frozen meals for the week. To date, I've mostly made lasagnes, pies (shepherds, chicken, steak and mushroom) and soups. My husband's been starting to complain about the lack of variety, so will give some of your meals a go!

Yvette @ Little Bento Blog said...

I just ate dinner and am now hungry... loaded skins were my fav pub grub food in the UK!!!!

I need to get back into freezer food.. must find my recipe books - great post!

#fybf :)

Claire Justine said...

Great ideas, ooh I love Pinterest too, I can spend hours on there :) Thanks for joining us at the weekend hop, new follower by gfc and twitter. I also do a creative Mondays hop, would love you to share some of your recipes on Monday? :)

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