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December 4, 2014

My Tips for Low-Stress Freezer Meal Preparation (Recipes Included)

Today, I want to give you a glimpse in to how I do our freezer meals. There are so many great posts out there that show you how to make loads and loads of meals of once, but this is a low key approach that is realistic for me and works for our family on a consistent basis. I have included some of my go-to recipes, a few of my favorite supplies, and a little bit of encouragement that I hope will help you as you get started. 

My Tips for Low-Stress Freezer Meal Preparation
Freezer Meal

1. Gather Supplies: I love disposable foil pans (typically from Dollar Tree, Wal-mart, or couponed at Target) for most casseroles, etc. and gallon-size storage bags (usually couponed at Harris Teeter) for soups, prepared meats, etc. I also keep a Sharpie marker close by to use for labeling, etc. 

 2. The first thing I do is prep my protein. In one session, I will brown 2-4 lbs. of ground beef. That morning, I will also have filled my crock pot with chicken tenderloins - allowing them to cook on low throughout the day. 
If I'm feeling extra energetic, I will do everything in one day; but other times, I will prep my protein on one day, and then complete the meals the following day (placing the cooked meat in the fridge until I'm ready to finish the meals). 

3. On the day I compile the meals, I boil a few different kinds of pasta.
Below you will see a couple of go-to pasta meals: 

Chicken Penne Pasta Mixture:
Penne Pasta Noodles
1 Jar of Alfredo Sauce
1 Can of Drained Peas
4-6 of the cooked chicken tenderloins (sliced/diced/shredded/or cubed)
*Pepper to Taste

Baked Spaghetti:
Angela Hair Noodles
1 Jar of Spaghetti Sauce
1 lb. of cooked ground beef
Top with Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
 4. Sometimes I place the entire mixture in to one large 9 x 13 disposable foil pan, but I also like to divide the entrees up into these smaller pans. There is enough in each of these pans for two to three servings - which is usually perfect for our family to pair up with a side salad and my hubby's favorite dinner rolls. 

5. After dividing the meals up in to my pans of choice, I use my Sharpie Maker to label the pans. Sometimes I will date them, but not always - It depends on how quickly I'm planning to use them. When I'm preparing for a new baby, I make lots and lots of freezer meals - labeling them with dates. However, I'm typically just preparing freezer meals to use as needed over the next couple of weeks or so, and when doing that, I typically forgo including the date. 
 I love using another pound or two of that ground beef to make Taco Soup.
You can find my recipe for that here. Sometimes I make it in the slow cooker, but other times I simply thaw/warm it up after I have frozen it.
If I have another pound of ground beef leftover, I will add taco seasoning and freeze it in a gallon size bag to use for taco night. If I have any chicken leftovers, I will shred it up - adding taco seasoning to a portion of it (to use one night for chicken taco salads) and bbq sauce to the rest (to use for bbq night.) These prepared proteins are great to pull out and warm on nights when you are short on time.

One more tip for bbq night: Drive through Chick-fila and order a "Serve-Four Cole Slaw" (not on their menu). Their cole slaw is delish! Tastes just like my Granny's! Serve it with your shredded bbq~ My hubby likes to add King's Hawaiian roles to this medley of fun. 

*You can also freeze plain shredded cooked chicken to use in this yummy Tostito Chicken Casserole.

I love how easily the smaller pans (as well as the flat gallon size bags) store in the freezer. 
My freezer meal routine most definitely varies - depending on what's going on in our lives at the time - but these are my go-to meals, and I hope you will enjoy giving one or two of them a try!