I feel like this post has been a long time coming, and I have been very anxious about the work it was going to take to get it done. Well, after a long day of grocery shopping and cooking- the freezer meals are complete!
Really and truly if you are organized and have a good system set up, this can be easier than it seems. I didn’t make the best system and sort of got overwhelmed, but overall I can’t complain. For one day of hard work I am saving myself a lot of time, money, and energy for at least the next month (maybe more)
First, I am going to share my process of shopping and cooking.
1. Decide which recipes you are going to cook and how many of each recipe you are going to make. Next to each of my recipes I put a (#) to let you know how many I made.
2. Categorize ingredients and figure out how much of each thing you will need, depending on the amount you are choosing to make. If you are making similar recipes or have a lot of ingredients that overlap, I would make sure you know exactly how much you need. This can save money, because you can buy the larger sizes of certain food items.
3. Grocery shop. I found my chicken at Sam’s for 1.97 a pound, which was the best deal I could find. I ended up buying way more chicken than I needed because each chicken breast was so large.
Don’t forget to buy freezer bags and cooking trays. I would double check the freezer bags to make sure they are BPA free. I would recommend getting gallon size bags. Also, the aluminum trays I bought came with lids, but sadly I wasn’t able to use them. Our apartment freezer is tiny, so the lids took up too much precious space. Make sure you double check your freezer space before you buy!
4. Strategize: this is really important. Decide what you are going to cook first, or what can cook while you are assembling other things. I decided to put the pork roast in first because that cooks for 6 hours and I could do other things.
I cooked in this order:
Pulled pork, let roast for 6 hours
Shredded chicken- I put 4 breasts in the oven around the same time I put in the pork so I could use the chicken for the pasta dishes. If you didn’t know and you hate shredding chicken (I HATE shredding chicken) you can shred chicken with your kitchen aid mixer! Victory!
Chicken tacos- I got this out of the way because it didn’t require any cooking, just dumping things in a bag.
Taco soup- this was third because it required very little cooking, just ground beef and dumping things in a bag
Spinach lasagna roll ups- I let the noodles boil as I was putting together the chicken tacos, taco soup. I also set the spinach out to thaw at the beginning of the day
Pesto chicken shells- I had leftover spinach mixture so I stuffed a few shells with the mixture
Chicken alfredo- I had leftover penne noodles and leftover pesto chicken so I combined the two for another meal.
5. Get cooking! Turn on whatever music puts you in a good mood and get to work. It is a process, but it is definitely work it in the end!
Next, I am going to share the recipes I used for this cooking extravaganza. In my ideal world I would have made a multitude of different recipes and Nat and I wouldn’t be repeating our meals all month. I’m not living in the ideal world today, so there are repeats, but oh well, I would rather eat the same thing two or three times a month than stress over what I am going to cook each night.
There were also a lot of repeats, or similar meals, because I didn’t want to waste anything I bought/opened. I had to get creative and most of the time I used different pasta with the same filling.
Recipe 1: Oven Roasted pulled pork
I borrowed this recipe from Food network. Super easy and it is making my apartment smell amazing! I put this roast in at the beginning of my cooking, and just let it roast while I did everything else.
I bought a five pound shoulder, and it is currently in the oven. I am planning on eating some for dinner tonight and then freezing the rest. This will be good for sandwiches, potatoes, etc.
Recipe 2: Chicken Tacos (2)
* Let me forward this recipe, and all recipes involving chicken. I bought my chicken from Sam’s Club and the chicken breasts were humongous. For this recipe I only used one chicken breast, but you may need to adjust based on the size you find and how many people are eating
1 large chicken breast
1 can corn
1 can black beans
1 can rotel
1 taco seasoning
I cut the chicken into small pieces and dumped everything in a ziploc freezer bag and shook it up.
Recipe 3: Taco Soup (2)
1 lb ground beef
1 onion, diced
1 can tomato sauce
1 can black beans
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can diced green chiles
1 can corn
1 package taco seasoning.
Ground the beef and saute the onion, drain, set aside to cool.
Combine all other ingredients in a ziploc freezer bag. When meat is cool, add to bag and stick in the freezer
Serve on tortillas, over a potato, salad, etc..
Recipe 4: Spinach/Lasagna Roll ups (3)
* I am giving you the recipe for 1 serving. I ended up making 14 roll ups, and I just estimated the measurements.
9 lasagna noodles
15 oz ricotta cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
32 oz spaghetti sauce
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese (for the top of the rolls)
Cook the noodles according to the directions given. Spread 1 cup of spaghetti sauce on bottom of pan. Combine the ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, spinach, and egg. Scoop 1/4 cup of mixture onto each noodle. Roll up the noodle, and place folded side down. After putting together all noodles, pour more sauce on top, and cover with mozzarella cheese.
Recipe 5: Pesto Chicken Shells (2 +1)
1 jar basil pesto
1.5 chicken breasts, shredded
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 package pasta shells, cooked
Combine pesto, shredded chicken, and mozzarella cheese. Scoop mixture into individual shells.
*I had leftover penne from my alfredo bake, and I combined the penne with the chicken mixture to create a hybrid recipe.
Recipe 6: Chicken Alfredo Bake (2)
1 box penne, cooked
1.5 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 jar Alfredo sauce
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Combine chicken and mozzarella cheese. Pour cooked noodles on bottom on pan, stir in chicken, pour Alfredo sauce on top. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top of mixture.
I also cooked up the rest of the chicken I bought and didn’t use in any of the recipes. I feel like I use shredded chicken almost every other day, so I know it won’t hurt to have some on hand for sandwiches or salads or tacos, or whatever.
Because this is my first time ever doing freezer meals in such a large quantity, I am making an educated guess of cooking times, etc.
For all of the pasta dishes I will cook straight from the freezer. I bought aluminum cooking pans, so I could just stick it straight in the oven. I will cook the pasta dishes until they are warm all the way through and the cheese is melted. I would assume they would take about an hour.
For the chicken tacos, I will take those out of the freezer the night before I am planning on having it for dinner. Warm on stovetop until heated through.
For the taco soup, take out of freezer the night before. Warm in crock pot.
For the pulled pork, take out of freezer and warm on stove top with sauce of choice (BBQ).
For the shredded chicken, take out of freezer the night before, warm up on either stove top or in microwave, or use in whatever recipe you choose.
Total it up:
Overall I made 12 meals and had enough shredded chicken and pork to make another 7 meals.
The total cost for this cooking event was $104, which means each meal cost about $5.50!