Why freezer meal prep
Freezer meal prep can be a life saver. Does “what’s for dinner” seem like it’s a broken record at your house? Do you cringe at the cost of eating out too often when you’re too tired to answer that question? Does feeding your family healthy meals seem unattainable? Do you run through the drive through too often because you don’t feel like you have time to cook every day? Does a busy extracurricular schedule demand meals ready when you walk through the door?
Freezer meals can save you time, energy, money, and help stay on track for healthy eating. In an ADHD affected household, this is even more vital. For bonus points, and added buy in from kiddos, have them “help” dump in simple ingredients. If kids are involved in food prep, they are often much more excited to try it. Below are some tips and tricks to simplify freezer meal prep and unveil yet another super mom power. Check out healthy snacks on the go here for in between meals.
How do I get started
Start small. Pick 5 “dump” recipes that meet your dietary goals that you think your family will enjoy. Dump recipes are recipes that simply require dumping ingredients in a freezer bag. Can’t get much easier than this. Simple recipes can still be flavorful and healthy. If the recipes are easy, you can do 2 of each recipe, and usually have 10 meals in your freezer in about an hour!
It is an amazing feeling to have a small stockpile of meals to grab from! “What’s for dinner?” becomes easy. If 5 recipes still seems too much, try just throwing a second meal in the freezer when you are prepping dinner. The ingredients are out, and you only have to clean up once.
Set yourself up for success
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Okay, so you’ve picked some recipes. If your house is a whirlwind of activity and distractions like mine can be, you can prep in steps if needed. Start with empty trash cans. Clear a space in the freezer. Label your freezer bags with your selected recipes, dates, and any ingredients or steps that need to be completed towards the end of cooking. This might be something like shredding chicken, or adding pasta or something that can’t handle the heat all day.
I like to group as many of the non-perishable ingredients, paired with the bags I’ve labeled and a printed recipe. If you have several recipes with like ingredients, specifically the meat portion, lay those out in a row. That sets things up to go super fast once I get started. Other time saving hacks include things like using dried minced onions, jarred minced garlic, ginger, etc. The less time I have to spend cutting and chopping, the better.
Ready, set, prep
If you have any vegetables to chop, do that now, before pulling out your meat. Often my meals just contain mainly just the meat portion with sauces and marinades. Other than soups, many vegetables can become mushy and unappealing cooked in the crockpot all day. To keep my meals balanced, I keep lots of the steamer bags of veggies on hand. They can be ready in the microwave in just a few minutes for a fresh side. I was introduced to Bird’s Eye vegetable made pasta on Ibotta (deals vary but saving money is always a plus). This was great when we needed to cut carbs!
There is no need to precook the meat for crockpot freezer meal prep. However, I will often brown ground beef prior to dividing between bags. This is personal texture preference for ease of even mixing. I will often brown about 4 lbs of ground beef at a time, in my large electric wok. I will add any shared seasonings like black pepper and minced onions, for 2 recipes.
After the like meat is divided between bags, add the rest of the ingredients. Freezing bags flat can make it easier to store upright for space and ease of viewing available meals. Make sure to squeeze as much air out as possible for space and to reduce freezer burn.
Mistakes to avoid
Before choosing the number of recipes to prepare, consider the amount of fridge and freezer space available. Adequate space to safely store the food is vital. If time is tight, choose mostly recipes without much chopping or browning of meat. You can also pair just a few more labor intense recipes with recipes that just require opening cans or jars to add to the meat. Potatoes turn black in the freezer unless submersed in liquid. Black potatoes are edible, but definitely not pretty!
More time savers
If chicken needs to be shredded for serving, and electric mixer is a fast and easy way to accomplish this. No burning fingers trying to shred with forks. If you forget to put dinner in by lunchtime, many slow cooker recipes will work as instapot(it doubles as a slow cooker) recipes as well. If you don’t need dinner to be ready as soon as you walk in the door like we often do, this can work as well. Thick sauces may stick more on the pressure cook setting, and if it’s a device that senses food burn, this is one drawback.
If I don’t remember to thaw a meal in the fridge overnight, I’ll usually just cook it on high for at least an hour or so to get it past the temp zone before turning it to low. Know your equipment, and make sure to follow safe food practices. Most meals even frozen will cook for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low depending on your crockpot. A lot of the meat only recipes work as flavorful salad toppings.
Time for some recipes
Here is an example of a grouping of 5 kid friendly recipes that should be an easy start. This would be a grouping that I would generally be able to completely prep 10 meals in an hour. That includes set up and clean up. WooHoo!
Taco Soup (We prefer black beans over kidney. Great served with shredded cheese, sour cream, and eats well as a “dip” with tortilla chips.)
Tater tot casserole– This one can be frozen as a casserole to bake, but I usually prep it for the crockpot. I usually add frozen mixed veggies in at prep time on top of the meat mixture to make it a complete meal. For extra flavor I like to use A1 sauce with the meat in place of ketchup.
Spicy chicken legs– We love Franks sauce, cause its not too spicy. My 5 year doesn’t tolerate very spicy, but begs me to cook this regularly. She loves to dip it in blue cheese or ranch. Dip makes everything better.
Chicken and gravy– Great comfort food over noodles or toast.
Ranch chicken tacos– Great topping for a Mexican flair salad, or tacos with whatever toppings are desired.
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The content in this post is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is merely opinion based on personal research and experience.