Thursday, March 15, 2012

Freezer Meals Finale

Well like I said yesterday, I'm pretty much done making freezer meals like a crazed lunatic. I don't know if I punched myself out of gusto, room in the freezer or the nesting instinct is taking a back seat to still fighting this cold, but I definitely feel like now I am "ready" to say I'm prepared. It is not the sleep-deprived, body-morphing, zombie like state of having a newborn that I am slightly fearful of; I've done that a few times now and got through it pretty well. It is the thought of trying to manage the household with three small children, one of which seems to not get through a waking hour these days without finding some kind of trouble to get into. Baby proofing is on high alert! Sharpies have been moved again, doors remain locked, and toilet brushes have been hidden. Taking care of a toddler while meeting the needs of a newborn is what has me perplexed. I guess I will just have to figure that out too.

Anyway back to the whole freezer cooking thing. I felt like if I had things I could either throw in the oven, the slow-cooker (which has actually broken this past week but we'll be replacing next week thankfully!) or any other heating device without having to spend much time in the kitchen while still eating round meals makes me feel like I will still have control over something.
Kitchen in mid mini-freezer cooking in an hour session. Chicken defrosting, manicotti being stuffed, homemade french bread cooling... one load of dishes.

Below is a list of all of the food I have prepared or frozen in preparation of meeting little Warner in somewhere near 8 weeks.

Freezer Meals and Starter Ideas
Black Beans x 3
Chicken Pot Pie
Sloppy Joes
Beef and Rice Casserole
Hamburgers
Chicken Enchiladas
Shredded Chicken
Homemade Chicken Broth x 3
Teriyaki Marinade x 2
Dinner Roll Dough
Chopped Onions (double bagged, they are smelly)
Twice Baked Potatoes
Refried Beans
Enchilada Sauce
Spaghetti Sauce
Taco Meat
Beef and Bean Burritos x 2
Porcupine Meatballs x 3
Precooked Beef Crumbles x 2
BBQ Pork x 2
Lentil and Brown Rice Casserole x 2
Crock Pot Chili x 2
Vinaigrette Chicken x 2
Pork Chops
Moroccan Stew
Manicotti x 2
Meatloaf x 2 + Meatloaf Veggie Mixture
Mexican Casserole
Cheesy Bean Enchiladas
Chicken Curry x 2
Cooked White Beans x 2
Cooked Rice
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Chicken Divan
Stir Fry Veggies

So there you have it, more than 40 meal ideas started so I won't have a panic attack. I learned a few things in this adventure as well.
1. You don't have to do it all at once. A whole day of cooking without children underfoot? Yeah right! I double a dinner we enjoy and throw one in the freezer, spend an hour during nap time to put something together or even throw a batch of beans to cook in the slowcooker while I run errands around town.
2. Buy all the ingredients ahead of time, including gallon freezer bags, quart freezer bags, disposable 8x8 pans, tin foil and plastic wrap. Look for good sales and stock up. Having what you need before you start will save you time and frustration later.
3. Use big enough pans. If you are doubling a recipe, it's going to take up a lot of room so be prepared. Or you will end up with food in unintentional places.
Macaroni going everywhere.
4. Label what you prepare. I pulled a bag of meat out of the freezer without a label the other day and even after defrosting Shane and I still weren't sure what it was. We threw it away because we just didn't want to chance how long it had been in there. Don't waste your money on food you don't eat.
5. Figure out an organizational system that works for the freezer you have. I have seen people just use pans and tupperware they have but I personally just like stacking things in disposable pans or freezer bags.
Chest freezer full to the brim. This will go down as we eat some of the meat stacked there on the right in the next month or two, just couldn't pass on a great meat sale last week. 

Stacking allows for things to be frozen solid the arranged any way. 
6. Think double duty. While you have the oven on, throw in some chicken breasts too cook too. While you are cleaning up the kitchen after dinner, throw some beans in a pot to soak overnight. A little effort now saves time and energy in the long run.
7. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. I rarely wear shoes in our house but my feet might have felt better at the end of the day if I had thought about this even once.
8. Find some great recipes online or in books from the library (freezer cooking or OAMC is a huge phenomenon) or ask your friends if you don't have any go-to recipes. Then read and reread the recipes so you know what to do when so you don't skip or forget anything.
9. Since you've pretty much done the main cooking for a meal, you won't have as much clean up later. Just add a side of vegetables or starch if desired and bingo you're done!

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