Prepping For Little Bear – Freezer Meals –

Wednesday was my freezer meal day. I knew I was going to be absolutely exhausted after making all of the recipes, and I was, but it was one of those things I really wanted/needed to get done. I spent a few hours last month coming up with a list of the recipes I wanted to make and then the accompanying grocery list. It almost felt “too easy” once I had put everything together! I think planning out freezer meals is one of those things that once you sit down to actually do it, it’s relatively easy to put together. However, it is quite daunting even thinking about doing it!

So, what I want to do is explain my process, the tools I used, and then why I picked the recipes I did.

** I will say, as a side note, that I did do some freezer meals before Little Monkey was born. I realize now that I didn’t prepare very well for those freezer meals, nor did I plan out the recipes well either. In all honesty, we ended up throwing out 70% of the meals I made because they either a. didn’t freeze well and tasted weird when we reheated/cooked them and b. I didn’t know I/we had any food intolerance and most of those recipes included ingredients that didn’t sit well with us. **

Okay, pulling from my previous experiences with freezer meals, I set out looking for recipes that I knew would freeze well. Here’s what I mean about that; any recipe that includes products like a dough or flour aren’t typically going to freeze well. Unless you have enough moisture/liquid in the recipe, you will be stuck with a really dried out meal by the time you reheat it or cook it. Some of the things that will freeze well are soups, chilis, burritos (oddly enough), and SOME casseroles. Again, it really depends on how much liquid you can put in or the recipe calls for. Another food item that I’ve noticed freezes really poorly is rice. Which is why I removed a chicken, broccoli, and rice dish from my list because every single freezer meal I have ever eaten that consisted of a base of rice was horribly dried out and tasteless. (I do have one recipe that has cooked rice, but I felt like there was enough moisture/liquid in the recipe to compensate for the dryness of the rice. I also have two recipes with GF noodles, so I’m kind of going against my own advice…we’ll see how it reheats though!)

As usual, I turned to trusty ol’ Pinterest for my recipes. I researched specifically “Gluten Free Freezer Meals” as well as quick and easy freezer meals. I ended up on one of my favorite mom blogs called Diary of a Fit Mommy. I have a lot of posts from her saved on various boards on my Pinterest and I like her style of writing. When I stumbled upon her freezer meals post, I found that almost all of the recipes were simple, easy to put together, AND the most important thing, would freeze well. [Here’s the link to that post] I have one recipe I’m not sure where I found, I didn’t save the link, but the rest of my recipes came from that blog post. The ones that weren’t specifically GF, I modified to work for our dietary restrictions.

As a pregnant mama and with a rambunctious toddler at home, I looked around at our local stores and found that I could get a pretty decent deal having Walmart deliver the groceries instead of shopping for them myself. Also, I found that Walmart’s prices were not only cheaper than the local grocery store, but the choices of Gluten Free products far outweighed the local store too. I am not sure if Walmart Grocery is something available every where, but if it is, I highly recommend it for busy moms who don’t feel like traipsing around the grocery store with squirming kids.

Now, without further adieu, here’s my list of recipes and grocery list.

Recipes

Cheesy Taco Bake –

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 20 oz lean ground beef
  • Green pepper,chopped
  • 1-2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 T Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp Oregano
  • ½ tsp Thyme
  • 2 tsp cuminhow we budgeted for the groceries and then 
  • 1/3 cup Cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9X13 baking dish with EVOO, set aside.
  2. Boil brown rice in water on stovetop. Set aside
  3. In a 12” pan, spray with EVOO or cooking spray, add onion & garlic & sauté over medium-high heat for 1 minute.
  4. Add ground beef, breaking it up as it browns. Cook for about 5 minutes & add peppers. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until meat is no longer pink.
  5. Add lime juice and seasonings. Stir to combine. Adjust seasonings to taste.
  6. Remove from heat – add rice, tomato sauce, & 1/4 cup of cheese to the skillet and stir to mix well.
  7. Pour mixture into baking dish. Top with remaining Cheddar, cover, and freeze.
  8. To cook while frozen, cover with foil & bake for 40 minutes.
  9. Remove foil & bake an additional 10 minutes or until cheese is melted & edges are bubbling. Remove from oven & let cool for 10 minutes.

NOTE: I added more cheese and seasonings to this recipe before I put it in the freezer. I made sure to taste as I went because there is nothing worse than a bland casserole! Feel free to adapt or change the seasonings as you like. I used a rather large pan (ordered the wrong size) but this is an easy recipe to split between two 9×9 disposable casserole containers and will feed at least three people per container.

Tuscan Chicken Pasta

Ingredients

  • 1 (16oz) box of bowtie pasta
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed through a garlic press
  • ½ tablespoon dried basil
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened and cut into 8 pieces
  • 8-ounce jar sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed, drained and chopped
  • 2 cups milk
  • 6 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 2 cups)
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt, more to taste, if needed
  • 1 cup of chicken, cooked and cubed (I used three and a half chicken breasts, cooked in the oven)

Instructions

  1. In a medium pot or skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring the whole time. Stir in the dried basil. Add the cream cheese, stirring with a whisk until the mixture is smooth. It will look curdled at first, but with constant whisking for 2-3 minutes, it will become a smooth creamy paste. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes.
  2. Over medium heat, add the milk and whisk quickly and constantly until it becomes into the sauce. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, pepper and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the cheese is melted and the sauce is the desired consistency, 5-10 minutes. Serve over hot, cooked noodles. I put my chicken on top, or you can mix it in. You actually don’t even need chicken you don’t want it!
  3. When making them into freezer meals – put the noodles and sauce into two 9×9 foil tins. Wait until it cools down a little, place foil on top, and stick in the freezer.
  4. To cook when frozen: Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until heated through
  5. To cook when frozen but then thawed: Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until heated through.

NOTE: I found the sauce created a lot more than I thought it would, so I split it between two pans. Combined with the chicken, noodles, and sauce, I don’t think I ever would have been able to fit the entire dish into one pan! I also put mozzarella and Parmesan cheese on top of the dishes as well to melt when it’s time to cook them up.

Freezer Mac & Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 1 to 2 boxes elbow pasta
  • 3/4 a stick of butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 eggs beaten
  • Stir together, then add:
  • 16 oz mozzerella cheese
  • 16 oz cheddar cheese
  • Add some salt and pepper to taste and stir well.

Instructions:

  • Cook elbow macaroni noodles as directed, drain and rinse and return to pot.
  • Add remaining ingredients to the pot and stir well until cheese is melted.
  • Spray a foil pan {these are so much cheaper if you buy them in bulk} with cooking spray and dump the pasta mixture in. You can freeze it at this point if you want to deliver it frozen.
  • Bake at 350 for 1/2 an hour to 45 minutes {if this is frozen it will probably need to cook longer}

NOTE: I used 2 boxes of elbow pasta and probably about 2/3s the amount of cheese the recipe called for. I have already defrosted/cooked one of the pans of this recipe and it actually cooked up well, the noodles weren’t too dry, and Little Monkey actually ate it, which is a big plus.

Pepperjack Chicken Taquitos

Ingredients:

  • 8oz. cream cheese
  • 3 c. chicken, cooked & shredded
  • 1.5 c. shredded pepperjack cheese
  • 1 6oz. can green chilies or 1/2 cup salsa verde
  • 20 small tortillas
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 tsp. cumin

Instructions:

  1. Melt cream cheese in a bowl. Mix in the spices, lime juice, chilies (or salsa), chicken, and cheese.
  2. Add 2 tbsp. of mixture to each tortillas and roll.
  3. To freeze, place on wax paper on a cookie cheet and stick in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  4. Remove from cookie sheet and place in a ziplocked gallon bag.
  5. When ready to cook, bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

NOTE: okay, so I tried something that didn’t work with this recipe. I put almost all the ingredients in the crockpot to let the chicken cook down so I could shred it. It worked well for the chicken, but there was so much juice from the chicken that I lost the rest of the cream cheese and such. I then followed the recipe otherwise after that and mixed a new set of ingredients together to make the taquitos. I used small corn tortillas and when I tried rolling the taquitos with the tortillas warmed, I found that they didn’t crack, and when I cooked a few up in the oven, I was pleasantly surprised to find them quite tasty and not at all soggy or bland from the corn tortillas!

(SLOW COOKER) Maple Dijon Glazed Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts
  • 1 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Place all ingredients in a resealable gallon-sized freezer bag. Mix together and zip bag closed.
  2. When ready to eat, remove from freezer and thaw in fridge for 24 hours. Cook on LOW for 8 hours (or HIGH for 4 hours). Sprinkle with fresh or dried rosemary for serving.
  3. Serve over rice

NOTE: I used whole ground mustard instead of Dijon mustard…well, I used up the rest of the Dijon mustard I had in the fridge (about 1/4 cup) and then the rest was the whole ground mustard.


Chunky Beef Chili

Ingredients:

  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 2lbs ground beef
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 1 c. water
  • 2 cans tomato paste
  • 1.5 cups onion
  • 1 packet chili seasoning mix

Instructions:

  1. Brown beef on stovetop and mix in remaining ingredients.
  2. Place in freezer bag to freeze.
  3. To cook, thaw and place in crockpot on low for 4-6 hours.
  4. Serve with sour cream, chips, and cheese to melt on top

NOTE: I modified this recipe as well. I added a second cup of water as well as some of my homemade taco seasoning as I found the finished product was still too bland. I will probably need to add a bunch more salt and seasoning when I cook the meal up at a later time. I also split the chili up into two gallon freezer bags so that’s two plus meals right there. I also added a can of black beans as well.

Teriyaki Chicken Thighs

Ingredients:

  • 8 chicken thighs
  • 1 c. teriyaki sauce
  • 1 c. water
  • 2/3 c. light brown sugar
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • ginger slices
  • 1 can pineapple chunks
  • 1 green pepper chopped
  • 1 red onion, sliced thinly

Instructions:

  1. Add contents to freezer bag and place in freezer. Make sure to get rid of any extra air in the bag.
  2. To cook, thaw and dump contents in crockpot and cook for 4-6 hours on low.

NOTE: This is the recipe I made the most modifications too. The original recipe did not call for the last three ingredients. I added the can of pineapple tidbits, sliced red onions, and chopped green peppers. Also, when the chicken has been cooked fully in the crockpot, I recommend removing the chicken and adding 1 tablespoon of cornstarch/water to the sauce left and letting that thicker to serve over the chicken and rice.

Grocery List

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Meats

1 bag frozen chicken thighs
1 large package of fresh chicken breasts (the package was roughly 4.75 lbs)
4 chubs ground beef
1 large bag cheddar
2 bags mozzarella
1 bag pepper jack
2 bag parmesan cheese
4 8oz packages cream cheese (came in two packs)

Pasta/Grains

1 bag jasmine rice (I didn’t end up needing this bag of rice as I already had rice in my pantry, but it is nice to have as I now won’t have to buy rice for awhile!)
1 box rotini pasta (Walmart was out of this pasta, so I picked up a box of GF penne pasta)
2 boxes elbow pasta
20 corn tortillas

Seasonings

1 packet chili seasoning (Walmart carries GF non-GMO chili seasoning packets)
1 bottle maple syrup
1 bottle whole ground mustard
1 8oz jar sun dried tomatoes

Fresh/Canned

1 bunch of cilantro
2 green peppers
1 can green chilis
1 bag of red onions

Containers

5 disposable foil pans

Already have – 1 can pinto beans, 1 can kidney beans, 1 can tomato sauce, 2 cans tomato paste, 2 onions, spices

Alright, I changed up my grocery list several times, so my original list is a little outdated. I forgot to add the pineapple chunks to the walmart order, so I had to run to the grocery store to get those before I started my cooking. Beyond that, everything else that isn’t on the list are ingredients I already had in my pantry. I’d say that with taking my time to keep on top of dishes and make sure I did each recipe correctly, it took me about 5 hours to put together all of the recipes. Now if you had multiple people helping, possibly a slightly bigger kitchen, and probably more energy, that time could be cut in half. However, that length of time included taking a break for lunch, playing with Little Monkey every so often, and washing dishes between recipes so I didn’t use ALL of my pots and pans and that meant that by the end of the cooking, my kitchen wasn’t a total mess!

So that’s basically how I made 7 recipes, have 12+ meals in the freezer, and did all of that for roughly $100. Feel free to ask questions or let me know your tricks for doing freezer meals!

 

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Author: caleigh

Mama to Little Monkey and Little Bear

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