Monday, January 2, 2012

Freezer Meals, My Way

A major resolution I made for 2012 is to get meal planning and cooking into a zen-like place for my family. Hand-in-hand goes making food that's healthier and easy to throw together. I'm sure I'm the first mom ever to tackle this never-ending saga of "what's for dinner," so I thought I'd put together a little blog post sharing my process of making meals to freeze.

First, I checked out a few websites for resource information. Here was very helpful for thinking about what I want to store my food in (i.e., foil baking pans, freezer bags, crockpot liners, ovenware, etc.), and, more importantly, how to approach your own recipes for the freezer.

I've done those meal assembly deals where you pay for a package of meals and then go into the store and prep them yourself for the freezer. They can be a great first step toward having lots of meals in the freezer for your family, and it even saves you from having to plan the grocery list and prep and cook the food. However, you can certainly do it cheaper if you can set aside a few more hours. After doing it a few times, I'm sure it'll go a lot faster, too.

After sifting through a few other websites here and here, I sat down with my cookbooks and recipe cards to pull out meals that A) I knew we'd eat, and B) were conducive to freezing. We're big salad eaters, but darn if they don't get soggy after defrosting. Har, har, har.

I should also add that we try to follow the Paleo diet for optimal health, but we are still easing into it and therefore cheese and grains do get thrown in there once in awhile. But a lot of these meals are Paleo-friendly. Here's the list of meals I came up with and ended up preparing:

  1. Tomato Bisque Soup (8 meals) - base is carrot juice and cashews, but it is to.die.for!
  2. Sirloin Stir-Fry (4 meals)
  3. Mustard Dill Salmon (3 meals)
  4. Hoisin Pork Tenderloin (1 meal) - Hoisin sauce has sugar, need to find one w/o
  5. Sante Fe Chicken (2 meals) - does have a wee bit of honey in the marinade
  6. Turkey Meatloaf (1 meal) - breadcrumbs are whole wheat and there's no sugar, aka, Ketsup
  7. Healthy Lasagna (2 pans) - made w/ ff cottage cheese, whole wheat noodles, and part-skim mozzerella
  8. Steamed Kale with Cashew Sauce (8 meals as side dish) - also TDF
  9. Green-Chile Chicken Enchiladas (1 pan) - this will be for hard days or a weekend night
  10. 2 Organic Chickens to cook and shred (saved and froze stock) - perfect to throw into a salad or add to the bisque for more protein
That's 26 meals, not including the shredded chicken and kale. Now, we won't be eating these straight in a row for 26 days, but it sure fills up a big chunk of the monthly calendar. I'd say that's a good start for my first attempt and keeping things healthy. None of these meals were found in a "freezer meal" section of a cook book. I simply looked at the recipe and figured out how far I could prep the meal before needing to freeze it while also considering what I needed to do once I thawed it. For example, the salmon was the easier, by far. I bought a large piece of salmon, cut it into approximately 6 oz side portions, made the mustard dill marinade, brushed it on top of the salmon, then wrapped it up in foil, stuck two in a freezer bag and labeled the outside. For the Sirloin Stir-Fry, I cut the meat into small chunks, seasoned it with chinese 5 spice, and threw it into a small freezer bag. Then after rinsing and cutting the veggies (red bell pepper, broccoli, snap peas, carrots, mushrooms) I loaded them into a gallon freezer bag. Finally, I made the sauce and put it in a quart size freezer bag, and along with the meat bag, put it into the gallon bag with the veggies. All in one freezer bag, but sectioned off into separate baggies for thawing and cooking separately.

Something I need to get better at is finding recipes that share more ingredients so that the prep gets easier. My recipes were pretty different from one another, so I made these over the course of two days (thanks to my MIL who watched E the whole time).

Okay, now the fun part where I show my loot!

Ah, a freezer full of healthy food! What a great way to start off the New Year, huh?

If anyone wants the recipes to some or all of these, just let me know and I'll get them to you somehow. I hope I've inspired someone out there to freeze up some meals in order to free up some time. It's worth it!


  1. This is such an inspiration. Two questions--first, you can freeze steamed kale? And second, is that your primary freezer, or do you have a separate freezer for this type of thing? Part of our remodel includes a second freezer in the basement (once we get the old heating system out of there) but till then we just don't have room! Oh, one more--are there links to any of these recipes?

  2. Thanks, Beth! To answer your questions: 1) not sure about freezing the kale, because we've been gobbling it up non-stop I realized we'd eat all that I made during the week. However, I doubt it would taste as good. 2) this is my primary freezer. That's perfect that you have a second freezer coming down the pike, but I just decided to clean out and had lots of room leftover. 3) no links to recipes, but let me know which ones you're interested in and I'll scan them or let you know via email. The tomato bisque and kale recipes are from the book "Eat to Live."

  3. You also forgot to mention you were having a manic episode when you prepped all that food. Kidding, kidding-looks great! I like to freeze things like pre-marinaded meat, enchiladas, soups, etc. I have a hard time getting into the frozen veggies- I would rather take my meat out of the freezer and throw it on some fresh veggies...but it's really functional! I want the tomato bisque recipe, please!

  4. I just picked up a book called "Cook & Freeze" by Dana Jacobi from the libary and then came upon this post. We share a brain! Let's get together and cook sooner than later.

    Love you.

  5. I would LOVE the recipes for kale and the hoisin pork!

  6. MegO - Yay, you figured out how to comment or well, how to get it to work. :) Thanks! Yeah, I sort of agree about the veggies, too. We had the sirloin stir-fry last night and the recipe is much better with fresh veggies. But, having marinaded meat ready to go any old time is the best!

    Beth - Recipes are on their way. I'm gonna try and figure out how to post a few, but maybe I'll slip some old fashioned recipe cards in the mail, too, just for fun! ;)

    Rona - That cook sounds perfect. Can't wait to hear if you picked up any tricks I should know about from it. And I already knew we share a brain. If only we could get together and cook....I'll settle for a phone conversation. Ha!

  7. Very impressive, Jill! Deciding what to make is always a tough moment in my day. I always want to be more planful and purposeful. I have a subscription to The Six O'Clock Scramble - and have had lots of yummy dinners from her - they're easy and minimal prep is involved. I think she has an option to search the archives for freezer friendly recipes. It might be worth a free trial membership (mention me when you sign up!) to see if the recipes are things you guys might like to eat. Will you be in DC anytime soon? I'd love to meet E (although I feel like I have from all the pics and stories!).

  8. Very cool, Jill! Sounds like some super yummy and healthy eats. Great to see you blogging again, too!