I’m in a fun cooking group on Facebook, and I shared a picture of my latest triumph in the kitchen: a stack of freezer meals all assembled and ready for cooking over the next 2 weeks. After we chatted about how crazy easy this was, my friend Katie at Oh So Mom asked me to share the details in a blog post, so here we go. 🙂 When I got married nearly 12 years ago, I received a “once a month freezer cooking” book. It had some great recipes in it, but the idea of cooking and freezing meals always overwhelmed me. However, after having my twin girls 3 years ago and going from one kid to three overnight, I had to change my ways. I learned that devoting some time to meal preparation is well worth it in the long run, and I tried quite a few methods. I’d cook a double portion of dinner and freezer half. I planned out menus and had fresh veggies chopped up and waiting in the fridge ahead of time. I’d set aside an entire day to bake a bunch of bread, muffins, and cookies for the week.
None of these methods helped much if I A) Forgot to take meat out to defrost. Or B) Was too exhausted by 4pm to even think about cooking. I’m sure many of you can relate. Yeah, I have all the ingredients in my pantry and fridge, but when you have two toddlers screaming against your legs, the idea of spending $10 on Taco Bell sounds well worth my sanity. The sad reality is, $10 here and there adds up quickly. We all want to save money, eat healthy, and be better prepared but boy its a lot of work right?!
Well, yes and no. I’m pretty confident I finally found an answer to all my prayers: a make-ahead method that involves very easy prep, no cooking, in which all the menus and recipes and grocery lists are in one spot, ready to print out and best of all its FREE. Enter the amazing website New Leaf Wellness. My friend Kristi introduced me to this page a year or so ago, and I love it. She does have cookbooks for sale and I plan on purchasing some, but I’m beyond grateful she has so many menus online for free. This one—30 Costco meals in 3 hours–is a huge favorite! http://newleafwellness.biz/2016/05/22/healthy-crockpot-freezer-meals-from-costco-30-meals-in-3-hours/
What I usually do is print out a few that look good and mark the ones my family will eat. I make one shopping trip to Costco (usually for all the meat), and one trip to HEB for everything else. I typically buy a pack of chicken and a pack of ground beef at Costco and plan the meals around that. I spend one afternoon shopping and the next day I put everything together. Because I do have 3 little kids running around, I get interrupted, so on average it takes me 2 hours to assemble my meals. I like to put all the chicken meals together at once, then do all the beef. Once you make these a couple of times, it becomes super fast and easy. All you do is place everything raw into your freezer bags, label and freeze! It could not be any easier! Each evening I look at my stash to see what sounds good, take it out and defrost in the fridge overnight. In the morning, I dump it all into the crockpot and that’s it.
On July 5, I made:
Ranch burger patties, Spaghetti sauce (x2), Vegetable beef soup (x2), taco meat, chicken philly cheesesteaks (x2), cranberry chicken, Italian chicken, ranch chicken tacos, and refried beans.
The refried bean recipe can be found here. This one does require a day of slow cooking the beans in your crockpot before portioning them out for the freezer, but I highly recommend it for several reasons: its incredibly delicious. The best homemade bean recipe I’ve ever tried, hands down. It’s cheap. It’s healthy, and it makes a ton. It freezes beautifully! I make a big batch, then freeze small portions to serve as a side dish to meals like tacos.
Predictably, life became quite chaotic this last week, and I’m very thankful I have these meals to fall back on. I haven’t had to do any extra grocery shopping other than a trip back to Costco for milk and eggs.
I love this freezer cooking method because everything tastes fresh on cooking day, nothing is being reheated like leftovers. Each meal feeds our family of 5 twice (dinner with leftovers for lunch the next day). It saves me SO much time and money, and its actually doable. Trust me, I get easily overwhelmed, plus I’m always dealing with both exhaustion and physical pain. If I can do it easily, anyone can. 🙂
Here are a few more links to menus we’ve enjoyed. This site is so user friendly, and the free printables are clean and easy to read. It truly makes shopping trips faster and so much less stressful.
I love having dinner already cooking in the crockpot early in the day. It frees up more time for me to do more fun things…like bake cookies with my kids in the afternoon. 🙂
I love everything about this and I hope you’ll give it a try too! Happy cooking everyone!