A Little Meal Prep That Makes a Lot of Meals
Part 3: The Master Guide to Freezer Meals
This is Part 3 of a series of posts that explain in detail how I stock my deep freeze every 3 months. Here are links to other posts in this series:
This post is all about planning meals! In order to decide what meals you’re going to make with your current household inventory, you need to have an idea of what your goals are! In Part 6 of this series (coming soon!), I will spill all my recipes for the meals I routinely stock in my freezer, but the possibilities are pretty much endless! Stocking your freezer with meals is more about the method than it is about having a secret recipe for certain freezer meals. The reason stocking my freezer works so well is because through trial and error, I’ve found meals my family loves! It’s possible that your family may not enjoy the recipes I use as much as we do and that’s okay. The method I use will allow you to implement whatever kinds of changes your family needs. Over time, you’ll find the recipes your family loves (and requests) and then you’ll know what to put in your freezer!
One quick disclaimer is that my family is far from vegetarian. I’m sure you could find lots of vegetarian freezer meal recipes on Pinterest, Allrecipes, etc.; but it won’t be on my page (I’m sorry!) I grew up in Nebraska and my family pretty much focused on the phrase: “Beef. It’s whats for Dinner.” (That’s probably a bit of an exaggeration, we didn’t only eat beef, but you get the point!)
Before we dive into my method of meal planning, I think it’s important to explain what meals are like at our house. For lunches and dinners, I always try to serve a protein, a vegetable, and a carbohydrate. I feel that by keeping this mantra in mind, my family gets a “somewhat” well rounded meal. (I say somewhat here because I know there are people who eat far cleaner than we do; but we are a busy family, and I call it a win that my kids eat take out maybe once a month!) Below is a fairly typical picture of what I feed my kiddos. There’s a protein, in this case turkey Sloppy Joe meat, a vegetable, no sodium added canned peas, and carbohydrate, some dried cherries.
I stock my freezer with two types of meals: “one-dish” and “prepped proteins“. The one-dish meals are basically complete meals in themselves. For example things like chicken taquitos, hashbrown casserole, pasta dishes, or soups. The other type of meal, “prepped proteins,” is basically a protein (sometimes raw, sometimes cooked) that can be used in a variety of ways. Ultimately though, these prepped proteins make getting dinner on the table much easier and faster. Examples of prepped proteins include meatballs, meatloaf, diced chicken breasts, taco meat, and shredded beef roast.
Depending on the meal, (like whether its one-dish or a prepped protein), we sometimes need to add a carbohydrate or vegetable a la carte. When it comes to carbohydrates, I stock a variety in my pantry (and sometimes freezer), things like dinner rolls, tortillas, pasta, rice, quinoa, etc. For vegetables, I make it easy, I keep a variety of both canned and frozen veggies in stock.
By making combinations of various proteins, carbohydrates and vegetables, I keep our food interesting and rarely serve the same meal more than 2 days in a row.
Let me give you some examples of meals at my house. As you probably could guess by now, my family LOVES meatballs! Therefore I make roughly 150 every time I stock my freezer! When you think of meatballs, probably you think of pasta and meatballs, which is definitely one way we serve them at our house. (It’s a super easy meal, cook some pasta, grab a jar of sauce from the pantry, and microwave the frozen meatballs for 2-3 minutes – Poof! Dinner on the table in less than 15 minutes!) But we also use meatballs to make so many other things, which is why I say the prepped proteins can be used a variety of ways! We use them to make meatball sandwiches, meatball pizza, meatball quesadillas, or sometimes we just eat plain meatballs! To make all 5 these meals, I only use 7 items: meatballs, pasta, pasta sauce, mozzarella cheese, Flat Out Wraps, tortilla wraps, and hotdog buns. Doesn’t that sound easy?!?
As you read the above list, some of you might have thought to yourself “I don’t have time to make pizza!” But that’s the beauty of this method of meal planning, make a pizza that fits your needs. I’ve made pizzas by broiling a Flat Out wrap so it’s crunchy, adding a little pizza sauce and whatever toppings we want! (pictured above) It literally takes about 10 minutes (and a bonus is that its low carb!) I’ve also made pizza by making homemade dough in my bread machine, freezing the uncooked dough, thawing it out, and then crafting a masterpiece. In all honesty, our family also will eat frozen premade pizzas from Sam’s Club or Aldi and just pop them in the oven. All our families are different and we are all doing the best we can. The goal is just to find meals that work for your family and that your family loves.
Let me give you one more example. I like to make buffalo chicken in the crockpot. I put a couple raw chicken breasts in the crockpot and literally dump in some buffalo sauce (who needs to measure things!) After about 4 hours, the chicken basically falls apart. I allow it to cool in the crockpot and then store it in my freezer in quart sized freezer Ziplock bags. What I am going to do with this chicken? Whatever sounds good in the moment. To start, I never thaw the bag of chicken before dinner. I just remove the frozen chicken from the bag (sometimes using scissors) and place it in a Pyrex bowl. I use the microwave to thaw out the chicken and can now use the chicken in a variety of ways. For example, sometimes we make buffalo chicken pizzas, toasted sandwiches (or sliders), quesadillas, nachos, or salads. Don’t all of these sound DELICIOUS (and remarkably easy?)
Maybe you don’t like buffalo chicken, but you could do the same with your favorite BBQ sauce. Stocking your deep freezer for 3 months at a time requires no secret recipes, you just have to get creative with the simple things you already have on hand!
I hope you have found some inspiration in this part of my meal planning series. Part 4 will show you in detail how I use my household inventory to decide what meals I will stock next in my freezer!
Feel free to contact me (by either email or Facebook messenger) to ask me any questions you have! I hope you will give my meal planning method a try!
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Did you enjoy this article? Here are links to the other posts in this series!