Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Freezer Meals Round One

I have been pinning and pinning in anticipation of trying some freezer meals. When I found Jessica over at Loving My Nest , I thought I would try some of her recipes. She does a great job of preparing not just freezer meal plans, but Crock Pot Freezer Meal plans!!! Yayyyyyy :) I literally couldn't have been more excited. What would be easier than following her shopping lists and instructions and then just popping the meal in the crock pot in the morning?


One great thing about Jessica is that her meals include whole foods with little to no dairy, no prepackaged ingredients, and very little gluten. It was a great way to jump start a healthier eating plan in our life (especially when we eat at home). I ended up mixing and matching recipes from her three rounds of croc pot meal plans. If you wanted to go straight from her, you could easily do it (and she provides a shopping list). I wasn't a fan of all of the meals on any of the three lists, so I chose the following eight meals:

Beef Stew
Curry Chicken and Cabbage
Jambalaya
Enchiladas
BBQ Chicken
Bacon Wrapped Chicken
Beef Stroganoff
Mexican Bean Soup

Since I was going to have to come up with my own shopping list, I put all of the ingredients in an excel sheet and then organized by section in my grocery store that made sense to me. I did not double any of the recipes, but it would've been easy to do so. I wanted to try each of the meals before having two of something that we may not enjoy. I also have limited freezer space *until I clean out some of that processed food that I may be trying to avoid* and couldn't do much more than 8-10 meals at a time.

The organizing the menus and shopping list took me about thirty minutes. It made sense to me to keep the recipe items separate on my list so I knew that I needed 1 can of mushroom soup for recipe A and two for recipe B. You could easily combine (as I did for the meat section). Here is the list I used:

Meats:

2 lbs stew meat (separated)
9 Chicken Breasts (6 and 3)
4 lbs Chicken (I used frozen strips--separated 1, 2, 1)
1 pkg Andouille sausage
6 slices bacon
2 lbs ground beef
Fresh Items: (Note--I just bought a bag of onions and chopped them, grabbing hand fulls for each recipe rather than knowing I was using "one onion" per recipe)
1 chopped onion
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 cups chopped onion
1 small onion, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large onion chopped
1 onion chopped
2 large peeled and diced potatoes
2 medium carrots chopped
3 celery stalks diced
3 cups green beans (optional)
4 bell peppers
1 bell pepper chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
2 large green peppers, cubed
2 large red peppers, cubed
1/2 head of cabbage, chopped
2 cups okra
3 medium unpeeled sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, about 2 cups
2 zucchini, chopped
2 cups milk
3/4 cups cheese

Canned:
1/2 can of tomato paste
1 cup beef broth
1.5 c. (x 2 – see directions) chicken broth
1 large (32oz) can of diced tomatoes (leave the juice)
1 large (28 oz) can Enchilada sauce 
1 can olives (chopped)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 15oz cans of tomato sauce
1 can cream of mushroom
3 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cans (15-1/2 ounces each) hominy, drained
2 cans (15 ounces each) Ranch Style beans (pinto beans in seasoned tomato sauce)
1 can (16 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chilies

Sauces and Spices:

2 cloves of minced garlic
2 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tsp dried parsley
2 TBSP apple cider vinegar
2 tsp curry powder
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 bay leafs
2 tsp Cajun Seasoning
Minced Garlic
Black Pepper
Rosemary
4 tablespoons\brown sugar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire 
2 tbsp ground yellow mustard
2 clove garlic, finely minced, about 2 tablespoons
1 teaspoon salt
2 tsp beef bouillon granules 
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/8 tsp ground red pepper
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 envelopes taco seasoning
1 envelope (1 ounce) original ranch dressing mix
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

I spent around $125.00 on these ingredients. I don't coupon shop, but we have a store in our area that sells fresh produce and close to date canned goods for a lower price. I planned two hours to prep.

The produce filled my sink and the canned goods filled my countertop. I'm not going to lie--it was a little overwhelming.




I started by washing, chopping, and splitting all of the produce. I then opened all of the cans. This forced me to keep going and not quit halfway through ;)


The overwhelming mess about halfway through! I followed my excel sheet, which linked me back to each of the recipes and told me what to do. It would've been nice to copy/paste them all into one Word Doc and then just scroll down the whole time. I also labelled my bags as I went. In hindsight, I would've labelled the bags before starting.

On each bag, I wrote:
Item, Date, Crock Pot Instructions, any additional ingredients to add on cooking day.


Some of the finished products:


It did take me about two hours plus the one hour I spent grocery shopping. I think the fact that so much of the meals was fresh and had to be washed, prepped, and chopped took awhile. However, it is part of what made these meals so yummy. 3 hours....10 meals (because two of the recipes was already doubled).


After eating all of the meals, here are my reviews:
Beef Stew -- I would eat it again. It was yummy. The veggis got a little bit mushy after the crock pot time.
Curry Chicken and Cabbage -- wouldn't do again. This was very curry-ish and we just weren't fans.
Jambalaya --really really yummy! This was probably our favorite.
Enchiladas -- we ate this over rice rather than in tortillas. It was good! I would probably add cheese at the end if I made again.
BBQ Chicken -- okay. The sweet potatoes became soufle√© like because of the extensive time cooking.
Bacon Wrapped Chicken -- this was a fail. I'm not sure what I did here, but the bacon never really cooked.
Beef Stroganoff -- so good! My second favorite. Would definitely do again.
Mexican Bean Soup -- yummy winter soup. I had had this before.

For the most part, these were yummy meals that I would include in my lineup again. It was a really great experiment. Chelsea and I just finished round two, where we used a pre-fab pinterest list. I'll let you know about it after we eat a few of the meals!



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