Thursday, March 7, 2013

For a Friend; Meal Planning & Frozen Dinners

Today I'm talking food::

I am all about freezer meals and crock pot meals. I was at first skeptical about it. Would it really save me money? Would it save me time & work? Would it be something I could keep up with? Would it taste good? The answer is yes to ALL.

When I first started it felt a little overwhelming. In order to not succumb to freaking out I initiated a plan.

1. I would only select meals that were simple, meaning almost no prep work. Just toss all the ingredients together and done!
2. I wanted meals that could all go in the crock pot so I didn't have to do any work & would cook on a day I was out of the house.
3. I wanted meals that were all easy to freeze so they would last a while if I wanted them to.
4. I would double up each recipe. {Believe me, this IS less work, less ingredients, less to organize, less meals to figure out.}
5. I would ONLY start with a weeks worth of food.

I basically picked out 3 meals, doubled up the recipes and ended up with 6 days of food. I planned one meal to actually cook at dinner time which was Breakfast for dinner. It's easy and it's cheap.
The only downfall is that it feels rather repetitive having doubled up meals for only a weeks time. BUT I wanted to try the whole deal out without feeling overwhelmed because if I did then I'd forget the whole idea and the purpose is to help me be less overwhelmed.
The girls just won't allow me to cook, they are attention hogs. Both of them!

So let's pick three meals.
(I used pinterest to find meals mainly and would pin them to my freezer/crock pot board)
{also note I may not be writing all the recipes exactly as written because I just decided to go without certain ingredients for us- so there is a link to each recipe from it's original home}

1. Easy Crock Pot Potato Soup
From Pearls, Handcuffs & Happy Hour
  • 30oz bag of Frozen Shredded Hash Browns
  • 3 (14oz) Can of Chicken Broth
  • 1 Can of Cream of Chicken Soup
  • 1/2 Cup of Chopped Onion
  • 1 Pkg of Cream Cheese  
Add all the ingredients to the crock pot except the cream cheese.
Cook 6-8 Hrs Low
1 Hour prior to serving, add cream cheese and heat till melted.
Top with Bacon bits, cheese and chives (if you want)

2. Mandy's Big Mess
From Crockin' Girls
  • 1lb Smoked Sausage (sliced)
  • 1 Bell Pepper (chopped)
  • 1 Purple Onion (chopped)
  • 1 Can of Pineapple Chunks (drained)
  • 1 Jar of Sweet & Sour Sauce
  • 1 tbsp Tabasco sauce
Place all in the cooker, cook 3-4 hrs low.
Serve over rice or with salad.

3. Mexican Chicken Taco Chili
From Skinnytaste
  • 1 Onion (chopped)
  • 1 Can Black Beans
  • 1 Can Kidney Beans
  • 8oz Can of Tomato Sauce
  • 10oz Pkg of Frozen Corn Kernels
  • 2 (14.5oz) Cans of Diced Tomatoes with Chillies
  • 1 Pkg of Taco Seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp of Chili powder
  • 24oz of Skinless, Boneless Chicken Breast
Add all and cook 10 hours Low or 6 hours High
30 min prior to serving, pull out chicken and shred. Add back into the soup and stir.
Serve with salad or with chips- yum!!

We're going to write our grocery list now, I am going to double up these recipes.
{another note: The Potato Soup and Mexican Chili serve about 10 people each recipe. I am doubling it anyway just for this example and it will make PLENTY of food and left overs}

Shredded Cheese (optional)
2 Pkgs of Cream Cheese

48 oz of Skinless Boneless Chicken Breast
2 lbs Smoked Sausage

Canned Goods:
2 Cans of Black Beans
2 Cans of Kidney Beans
2 Cans of Pineapple Chunks
2 (8oz) Cans of Tomato Sauce
4 (14.5oz) Cans of Diced Tomatoes with Chillies
6 (14oz) Cans of Chicken Broth
2 Cans of Cream of Chicken Soup

2 (30oz) Bags Frozen Shredded Hash Browns
2 (10oz) Bags of Frozen Kernels

2 Onions
2 Red Onions
2 Bell Peppers
Chives (optional)

Seasoning & Other:
Taco Seasoning
Chili Powder
2 Jars of Sweet & Sour
Tabasco Sauce
Bacon Bits (optional)
Gallon Size Freezer Baggies

Copy and Paste this onto a word or note type file and print it. There is your grocery list.

When I make a trip to the store, because it's usually a months worth of dinners, I'll do one night of shopping and then the next night dedicated to prepping the food.

Label your freezer bags, two for each meal, with the meal name, and small directions like...
ex: 'Potato Soup, 6-8 Low Add Cream Cheese 1 Hr Prior' per bag (which is 2 bags)

Instead of throwing it all into the crock pot like the directions say- toss it into the freezer bag {EXCEPT the ingredients that are not suppose to go in until the end}

This should make 6 meals. But like I said the Potato Soup & Mexican Chili will be enough for possibly two dinners or left overs.
For US, this would make us 4 meals from the Mexican Chili, 4 from the Potato Soup and 2 with lunch size left overs from Mandy's Big Mess.
So 10 meals!!!

Start with just planning out ONE week. Do it like that till you feel comfortable and confident to go to two weeks- or prepping 6 meals that are doubled plus Breakfast for dinner twice or planning to have left overs for dinner a couple nights to make it to two weeks.
Then brave 3 weeks or 9 meals.
Then 4 weeks, 12 Meals.

 Thank goodness for Daniel- he helps me prep meals

We also do simple FAST hardly any work meals, like Pizza night, which is pre made refrigerated pizza dough and then let the girls decorate the pizza, or taco night. OR once in a while let the girls have a separate meal and then make dinner for Daniel and me after they go to sleep to enjoy a quiet meal we both like (& the girls probably wouldn't) Like Salmon with Asparagus.

Planning out meals made it that we didn't buy more than what we needed. We had a plan of attack and didn't need to guess what we may need. It has saved us money.

I write all the meals I find in a little dollar Journal I got at Michael's. I try to keep up by going back to the recipes and marking how much we all liked them- kind of like a star system.

 Because I did one week at a time to two weeks and finally a month it never felt overwhelming or too much to handle.
I really love it- I've merged into freezing casseroles, breakfast burritos & other breakfast food, and other things that can be used for the month or longer. Less work, more time for me and no worries of having my munchkins attack me because I'm in the kitchen cooking, instead I just get to spend my day and time with them :)