Sunday, September 7, 2014

Four Exciting {& Healthy} Freezer Meals

As promised, I am sharing my freezer meal recipes. They are:

1. Skinny Chicken Enchiladas
2. Spinach Florentine Lasagna roll-ups
3. Angel Hair Tetrazzini, and
4. Chicken & Brown Rice Soup

In this article I will lay out what worked for me and what didn't whilst freezer meal making. I figure that could be helpful.

Before I jump into this, let me paint a picture of the beauty of freezer meals:
  • We paid around $100 for three weeks worth of healthy, homemade, high-quality dinners (more than that for us because each dinner feeds at least four people)
  • A lot of time in the kitchen, albeit doable work
  • Only one load of dishes at the end of the is that even possible??
As I've mentioned this was my first time making all my meals for the month in advance (I realize this doesn't add up, but that much food is excessive for us). I am so pleased with how everything turned out in the end. Making dinners in bulk is so worth it in my opinion. With Jeff in school and me working until 5:30 everyday, it's nice to have something I can throw on the stove for 20 minutes and be done. I consider it a very efficient way to do things. Anyway, off my soapbox. 

To make other lives a little easier, I will chronicle the things that really helped the process and the things I will avoid the next time around. 

What worked for me:
1. I bought vacuum bags and a pump 

I was skeptical when I saw these bags at the grocery store--not gonna lie; however, I had recently read up on freezer storage safety and understood that vacuum bags are a worthwhile investment. For three-ish dollars for a pump and some storage bags, I gave them a chance.

Basically, they suck air out of your storage bag, which allegedly prevents bacteria growth and loss of quality for longer. These puppies really do what they proclaim to do (way to go, Ziploc!). I am equal parts excited about preserving the quality of our food and about preserving space in our microscopic freezer (seriously. It is so small). 

These are worth picking up at your local grocery store. A word to the wise: I found it was more effective to store solids in vacuum bags and liquids in regular (and freezer-safe) bags. I placed enchiladas, lasagna, and shredded chicken in these. 

2. Cook all of your chicken at the same time. Frozen or thawed. In a crockpot. I learned this after thawing, cutting, and cooking five pounds of chicken. Right before going to bed, I thought, "I'll just throw (play Tetris to fit) all the rest of my chicken in my crockpot. I sprinkled the frozen chicken breasts with chicken bouillon and a tablespoon of seasoned salt (yeah, not healthy), put my crockpot on low, and went to bed. Aside from waking up to the pungent smell of dinner, this was the most effective labor-saving step, by far. 

For the record, I'm not a big meat girl. I get grossed out when I see, or chew fat or a caruncle (nasty!). This chicken was soft and flavorful. It was so tender I shredded all ten pounds with one fork in about three minutes--amazing!

3. Use recipes you trust (but don't be too worried about branching out, too).

A lot of these recipes are regular meals in our house. If I wasn't sure how well it would freeze, I'd just Google it. I learned that cream-based soups are not so great (but you can just add the cream or milk when reheating) and that some vegetables fair better than others, but that undercooking veggies can help. Anyway, there's a great deal of information out there on the internet, so that is a great tool while preparing freezer meals.

4. Use them up!

These little babies feel like masterpieces and I am tempted to save them for some rainy day. I've decided to chuck this mentality out the window because we want to enjoy them now! You should consider this, too, but everyone's needs and desires are different.

5. Freeze them flat.

Here's how I did this: I placed a cookie sheet or clean cutting board in the freezer and set the bag on top. I would smooth it out and let it freeze laying flat. Once the meal was frozen I would stack and organize them to make room for other meals. This is pretty awesome. Even if you have a teeny freezer like us, you should be good to go!

Well, I hope this helps!

Have a great Sunday!

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