March 16, 2017

Baby Prep: Freezer Meals

**After I wrote this, I realized how looooooong it is.  So just a warning.  I wanted to link to all of the recipes we used, so there's a lot in there--feel free to breeze on by**

My main focus this week has been stocking our freezer with lots of ready to go meals.  Trying to plan out dinner every night is frustrating enough for me right now, so I know it'll be 1000 times more difficult once Cooper is here.  So I decided to use some of my time to get our freezer stocked.  And I think it was a success since the deep freezer that we bought a few weekends ago now looks like this:

And our freezer in the kitchen is full too!  So I just thought I'd share a little about the process and which recipes we used.  

I started pinning freezer recipe ideas on Pinterest a few months ago.  There were several that sounded interesting but that we hadn't tried before.  So I decided to make those over the last few months to make sure we liked them before stocking our freezer with them.  So we had lots of new dinners over the past few months and then David had to rate them and help me decide which ones to make again.

After we had our list of meals, I compiled my list of groceries.  Since I have a lot of spare time right now (which I know is coming to an end very soon!), I took my list to Aldi, Walmart, and Sams to find the best prices for each item.  I even made a spreadsheet to compare the price per unit at each store and then color coded which one we were getting from which store.  Yep, it was a little crazy.  But it definitely helped.  I found that Sams has the best prices on meat by far--they are significantly lower than the other stores and since I needed a lot of meat to stockpile the freezer I didn't mind buying that in bulk.  Aldi has the lowest prices for almost everything else.  Except (randomly) potatoes.  Russet potatoes were significantly cheaper at Walmart than they were at either Sams or Aldi.  Also, a random side note on that--when I went to buy the potatoes this week, the 5 lb and 10 lb bags of potatoes were a great deal, but the 8 lb bag?  Not so much.  It actually cost more to get 8 lbs of potatoes than to get 10 lbs.  So weird.  I also had a few things on the Walmart list that you can't find at Aldi.  I love shopping at Aldi, but I almost always have to go somewhere else afterward to get a few random things--but the savings I get at Aldi are worth it to me.  

So I went to Sams a few weeks ago and got all of the meat.  Then last weekend I had David go with me to Aldi to stock up on most of the other groceries so I could get to cooking this week.
Our cart full of groceries at Aldi.  While we were standing in line, I made David guess how much we were going to spend because I am always shocked by how much lower my final bill is than what I expect.  And Sunday was no different.

Monday morning I went to Walmart and picked up the last few items and planned out my week of cooking.  As much as I love doing all of it in one day, I knew that wasn't feasible with my current energy level.  So I spread it out over the week.  Monday evening I made Twice Baked Potatoes-- we ate a few for dinner and then froze the rest.  We did half with Pulled Pork and half that just have bacon bits on them.  

Tuesday I put the chicken in the crockpot with a little water to cook so that I would have cooked chicken ready for all of the meals.  I then shredded some and cut some and refrigerated it for the next day.  I also spent Tuesday afternoon making Pizza Sauce (we love this recipe Jen Hatmaker shared on her blog a few years ago--so I doubled it and we now have a bunch to freeze).  I also used the sauce to make these Homemade Pizza Pockets.  I love this recipe because it is one that you can freeze and then microwave and they are ready in a few minutes--most of the freezer meals you have to thaw or cook for a long time, so it's nice to have a few options that can be ready quickly.

Wednesday afternoon I spent a few hours working on our chicken dishes with the chicken I had cooked on Tuesday.  I put some more chicken in the crockpot to make this Cowboy Chicken (salsa chicken with a few extra flavors).  This is hands down our favorite crockpot chicken to use for tacos, nachos, enchiladas, etc.  Then I got to work on a few other things.

 First up were chicken pot pies.  This recipe is from The Pioneer Woman's Dinnertime Cookbook.  She has a whole freezer meals section and I used her recipes for these pot pies as well as for Taco Meat and Grilled Chicken to have on hand in the freezer.

 Next were some Pepperjack Chicken Taquitos.  The recipe came from this blogpost 15 Freezer Meals before your Baby Arrives.  I also made some smoothie freezer packs that she has listed in this post.

 And lastly-- a couple pans of Tuscan Chicken Pasta--we left out the sun dried tomatoes because we didn't like the texture of them in there the last time I made it.  

David had salsa chicken nachos for dinner and then we packed away the rest of that to use later.

Thursday I spent about 3 hours straight in the kitchen and knocked out most everything else.  Once I got started, I just wanted to finish everything.

 First up were these breakfast sandwiches.  We substitute the ham in the recipe for sausage since David prefers that and I use a jumbo muffin tin to cook the eggs since I don't have ramekins.  I actually had made these once before and David really liked them.  He works from home on Thursdays, so I started my day with these so he could have a fresh one for breakfast and then I froze the rest for later.

 Next were 3 dishes of Pioneer Woman's Sour Cream Noodle Bake.  We tried this one for the first time a few weeks ago and we both really liked it--I think it's one of my favorite baked pasta dishes.  It has a little tomato sauce, but not too much.  I also made a few helpings of our favorite Sour Cream Enchiladas.  One pan has turkey taco meat and the other has Salsa Chicken.  After I made these, I portioned out the rest of the salsa chicken into freezer bags to have ready to go for tacos later on.

I also made a few side dishes--sweet potato fries and carrots.

A few other recipes we included that I don't have pictured/that I made before this week include: Oven Fried Parmesan Chicken Tenders, Banana Pumpkin Muffins, Blueberry Muffins, and Freezer to Crockpot Chicken Fajitas.

We also have a stockpile of chicken breasts, ground turkey, ribs, and pork roast ready to be included in some crockpot meals.  When I've tried some freezer to crockpot meals in the past, I didn't love how they thawed and turned out, so I figured I'd get a stockpile of the meat and the staples that we need for them (BBQ sauce, Seasonings, etc.) and then we'd have an easy crockpot meal to throw together.  We also stocked up on frozen vegetables to have with our meals.

And now I am ready to take a nap :)  But I am so glad that I had time to get all of this put together, grateful for extra freezer space, and I know that we will be really glad we have these on hand once Cooper is here!

No comments: