now, i wanted to post about something that many of my irl friends have asked me about- meal planning and prepping freezer meals. how to get about 12 meals put together in just a few hours. this has been such a life saver for us- and something that has helped so much, that now i kind of feel like cooking is stressful. this was something i started planning for while i was pregnant with Isla- but when she came early, i wasn't able to get my meals made. i decided to go through with prepping the meals, and once we had moved into our new place- i was finally able to get things together. the meals from my first go-round lasted us a couple of MONTHS! so here's what you need to start meal prepping like a pro:
1. choose your recipes and make your grocery list. pinterest has tons of ideas and there are bloggers who blog specifically about freezer cooking. look and pin! for my first foray into freezer meals- i chose to do these 12 easy paleo-ish meals from graciously saved. i actually ended up doing all 12 of these meals- which made it easy because i didn't have to look at several different sites. a lot of these sites will provide your grocery list for you- but i find it easier just to make my own list because a lot of times i have some of the items on hand already.
2. set time aside to prep and go grocery shopping. you want to make sure that you are going to be doing your prep within 24 hours because you want to make sure your veggies are as fresh as possible. don't forget gallon sized freezer bags (and a marker if you don't have one).
3. pre-prep. some pages recommend doing all your veggie chopping the night before- but i prefer to just do everything at once. first step- label your bags! i label my bags with the name of the meal, cook time, and any other instructions (sometimes things need to be added in at cook time).
4. prep time! i sometimes work from top to bottom of the page when doing recipes, but sometimes i skip around and work on recipes that have the most like items in them. regardless, i like to do all my veggies first. i will chop veggies for one meal at a time, then add them to the bag. after that, i move on to sauces/spices and then finally i do the meat last. it's best to do the meat last because the meat normally needs to be on the bottom of the crock pot. my favorite part is that most of the time, you don't have to cook the meat first (ground beef is an exception).
5. double check everything and freeze. the last step is to go through and make sure you have added in everything, or that you have made sure to write down anything that has to be added later. once you've done that, you can seal your bags and get ready to freeze. we were so lucky that our house has a 2nd kitchen in the basement that includes a freezer, so the meals don't take up room upstairs. i think my only issue so far has been figuring out the best way to freeze them- since the meals have a lot of stuff in them, you can't necessarily lay them flat- so my problem has been that the bags freeze with parts of them sticking through the grates in the freezer and that is such a pain. my other problem is that they stick together (which was a big issue in freezing breastmilk too). i think if i can figure out how to prevent that, that my process will be seamless.
i think the only other issue is finding a time to do everything. the first time i did this, i was up until 3am prepping everything- so i was exhausted the next day. the second time i prepped, i did it as soon as the kids were finished eating breakfast- they will usually play together during this time before Isla wants to eat again- so it was a good time to get things done! nap time is another good time- if your kids take regular naps, or a weekend or evening when you have someone to help keep an eye on the kiddos.
this is obviously a huge time saver because if you take just a little bit of time (usually less than 3 hours depending on how many meals you do)- then you can be set with dinners for at least a month or longer. when i'm ready for our next meal, i take a bag out of the freezer the night before, and in the morning i throw it into the crock pot. there's absolutely nothing else i need to do unless the meal needs some kind of side (just don't forget to turn your crock pot on). this also saves money because you are spending less just getting the supplies ($100-$200 depending on what you need). i find that we spend so much less on groceries when i have meals prepped because all i need to buy in between are things for breakfast, lunch and snacks.
hopefully, this covers everything, i don't thing i missed any steps! let me know if you have any questions on how i shave time and money by prepping freezer meals!
(my last batch of freezer meals)