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Saturday, January 9, 2016

more freezer meals: winter edition

So many moms are asking about how to make different, new, interesting meals for dinners. It's always a question of ours: how do we make something that's easy, cheap, quick to whip up on busy evenings, that also our picky eaters will eat?! Never enough time!

Since August, I've been making a big batch of freezer meals once a month and it's been making all the difference with our dinners! I am a busy working out of the home mother. I do not want to spend the little time I do have with my children at night working away in the kitchen. I'm too tired. We're rushing here and there, practice, games, ballet, meetings, etc. Dinner became one more annoying thing in my busy day.

I started meal planning more than a year ago, after learning from some experienced moms in the Mommy Stories Facebook group. That was awesome! Once a week, usually Sundays, I write on my white board in the kitchen, what we're planning to eat this week for dinner. There is always a "leftovers" night and a "breakfast for dinner" and something easy like pizza or tacos, grille cheese. That takes care of 3 nights. Then I'm just planning for 4 nights, not too bad.

Since August though, by adding in the once a month freezing plan, dinners have gotten even easier to figure out! I'm loving it!  I hope these ideas help you out, too.

Once a month freezer meals
So once a month I write out a list of recipes I'm going to try and the ingredients I'll need. I go shopping on a Friday right after work, before picking up the kids, or during nap time on the weekend. I shop at Market Basket- best quality and cheapest produce around! I only do this on a weekend where I KNOW I'll have the time to cook. It takes a few hours two separate times. For example, this month, I cooked for about 3-4 hours on a Sunday (during nap time and in the evening when the kids were asleep) and then I cooked an extra meal two separate nights during the weekdays, to make about 8 meals for the freezer and a couple for the week! 

When you're shopping, you'll need to pick up extra things:
  • more spices - since I cook in bulk, I go through spices quicker, so make sure you have things on hand. 
  • ziplock freezer bags- I freeze mine in double bags, so make sure you buy enough, various sizes. 
  • aluminum trays - for things like casseroles and meat dishes - WITH covers.
  • a black Sharpie marker- to write the date and the meal title on the outside of the bag or tray. 
  • extra wooden spoons - this sounds silly, but when cooking up a few different meals, things get dirty and you run out of utensils! So I just recently asked for more wooden spoons for Christmas and it worked wonders this month when cooking in the kitchen. 
  • a few cutting boards - I have three. You need a few, especially as you work with chicken and vegetables, you want separate boards. 
You'll want to make sure the dishwasher is empty and the sink is clean before you get started, just to give you more room and make clean up easier after cooking. 

This works well for me to do this once a month since I have a huge extra freezer, but if you don't have one of those and just a regular refrigerator with freezer attached you could try cooking twice a month so that you have enough room in the fridge. 

Above 2 pictures : Pioneer Woman Chicken Mozzarella Pasta

Below: Pioneer Woman Bowtie Chicken Alfredo

Favorite recipes
I keep a binder of recipes I've cut out of magazines. I organize them by type - salads, soups, appetizers, desserts, breakfast, dinner, etc. I also then have lots of cookbooks. Whenever I get a new cookbook, I go through it immediately, putting post-its at the top of pages of meals I know my family would enjoy or I'd like to try. This saves time later when you want to cook something - you don't have to go through the whole cookbook, rather just find the posted pages and pick something. 

My favorites come from Rachael Ray - such easy and delicious meals, LOVE her cookbooks! And for Christmas I got two of the Pioneer Woman's cookbooks, LOVE them! This month I made ALL Pioneer Woman recipes, so delicious! 

Above: Pioneer Woman Sloppy Joes

Below: Pioneer Woman Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Loooove Ree Drummond! These were a few great recipes I found in the Pioneer Woman's cookbooks this time around:
  • Chicken Tortilla Soup
  • Barbecue Chicken Pineapple Quesadillas
  • Beef Stew with beer
  • Salisbury Steak

Here are a few other great recipes for freezer meals that I wrote about back in September, including Pioneer Woman's Chicken Spaghetti- a favorite!

It takes time and planning, organization and a little more time... but I promise you it's WORTH it to spend a few hours once a month cooking rather than every single night struggling to figure out what to cook and losing time with your kids because of it. 

So plan ahead, write it on the calendar, and you'll be whipping up some healthy, delicious choices for meals that you can eat any time when you're super busy and rushing to and from places. 

Happy meal freezing! 

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