Monday, November 5, 2012

Stocking my freezer with make ahead meals! #menuplanning

Make Ahead Freezer Meals

A while back I shared some freezer meal planning pictures with you on Facebook and received requests for the recipes. I wanted to try them before I shared them and I have. I have had a lot of fun planning and preparing these meals. I also adore how easy my meal planning has become since starting freezer meals.

I have already shared with you the creamy chicken taquito recipe that my family raved about, now I am going to share with you another family fravorite recipes as well as my experience with a typical freezer meal prep day. I do one week of menu planning at a time, but thanks to freezer meals I am not spending a ton of time cooking each night.

Step 1 – Compile you recipes and make a grocery list. I searched high and low online for delicious looking freezer meals that did not require a doctorate to create. I took my recipes and made a grocery list of items I would need to create my freezer meals.

Step 2 – Go to the grocery store and purchase everything on your list {sounds silly, but I have forgotten items that were staring me in the face… so now I double check to make sure I have EVERYTHING}.

Step 3 – Start cleaning and chopping. I chop all my veggies up first and put them in separate bowls based on recipes. One large mixing bowl will have one recipe in it and another large mixing bowl will have another recipe in it and so on and so forth. I find this easier so that I don’t have to go back and guess how big one onion was or two green peppers…. It also helps me to work on multiple recipes at the same time. {I tried putting each veggie in a separate bowl and realized quickly I was just creating a larger mess for myself.}

Step 4 - Prepare the cooked recipes last so that you have more room to work.

Step 5 – Bag it up and label everything. I buy those Ziploc Freezer bags at Sam’s club in bulk and I use them for almost all of my freezer meals. I also use those 8x8 inch tin foil baking tins for my pastas so I can stack and store more efficiently in my freezer {they also get sealed in a Ziploc Freezer bag for freshness and to avoid freezer burn}. I write on address labels what I am making and directions for cooking. I also write with Sharpie directly onto the freezer bag – just in case those labels don’t stick.

Viola you are done. Now would you like some of my family’s favorite freezer meal recipes?

Jambalaya – Make in a Crockpot for dinner and freeze the remainder in portions to have at a later date {we usually get 4 meals out of one batch} To cook from frozen you simply take it out of the freezer the night before and let it thaw in the fridge for the day and heat it on the stove about 15-20 minutes before you want to eat.

Crockpot Jambalaya

Creamy Chicken Taquitos – So yummy that they are a new staple in our freezer! From freezer to oven to table in 27 minutes.
Creamy Chicken Taquitos Freezer Meal

Shredded Mexican Chicken – This can be used on super nachos or in tacos. We make it in the Crockpot and then shred it, divide it, and freeze it. To cook from frozen you simply take it out of the freezer the night before and let it thaw in the fridge for the day and microwave for a couple minutes when ready to eat.

Shredded Mexican Chicken Freezer Meal

Those are our top favorites. Here is another recipe that we have started to use pretty frequently as well.
Baked Ziti Make Ahead Freezer Meal

Baked Ziti (Makes 3 8x8 containers)

What you need:

1 box Penne Pasta
2 jars of spaghetti sauce
1 lb Sweet Italian Sausage
1 container of white mushrooms cleaned, de-stemmed, and sliced {optional}
1 cup part-skim ricotta
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
1 cup shredded mozzarella

Make it:
  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add penne pasta, and cook until al dente, about 7-8 minutes; drain.
  2. In a large skillet, brown Italian sausage over medium heat. Add mushrooms {optional} and spaghetti sauce, and simmer 20 minutes.
  3. In a separate container combine egg, ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, and half the mozzarella cheese.
  4. In baking tins pour ½ of the spaghetti sauce mixture into the bottom of the tin, add the penne noodles, add the cheese mixture, and cover with the remaining ½ of the spaghetti sauce. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella cheese over the top and either cook or freeze.
  5. To cook: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and bake for 30 minutes uncovered.
  6. To cook from frozen, take out the night before and let thaw and follow above directions.

The baked ziti recipe is super easy to make and even easier to incorporate into our menu planning. We love all of these recipes and use then frequently. Right now I am on a Mexican food kick and am on the lookout for some yummy freezer make ahead meals to satisfy this new hunger… I will be trying one soon that has a relish that gets sprinkled on top; should be interesting! I am also trying out some BBQ recipes as well as chili recipes. I will keep you posted!

#MenuPlanning with make ahead freezer meals

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