Sunday, July 27, 2014

60 Freezer Meals, 3 Days, $300



About a month ago my super sweet mother-in-law (seriously she is the nicest person I know) asked me to help her make a meal plan for three weeks. My sister-in-law comes up every summer to visit from Arizona and the last few years I have helped her plan the meals for them while they were here. Most of the time they only stay for 7-10 days so we just plan easy oven recipes and what not. We were also living with her, my mother-in-law, the last time she visited so it was easy for me to just throw everything together everyday. That wasn't the case this time and with planning double the amount of meals I decided to go the easy route... for both her and I. That's why I chose to do everything freezer meals.

So far things are going great; they've been here about a week and my mother-in-law says it has been nice just being able to pull snacks, lunches and dinners out of the freezer and go (She has pancake mix she is using for the breakfasts). I thought it was going to be easy making all the meals... And it would have been if I didn't have two crazy little boys who decided to not take naps the week I was preparing the meals. I have a hard time focusing on things when I have two cuties wanting to play with me ;)

All in all though it only took me about ten hours to plan, shop and prepare all the meals. Now if you are only preparing a few meals it will probably only take you an hour or two so don't get overwhelmed :) The easiest meals to prepare were the chicken recipes because all they required was mixing sauces and throwing everything in the bag. The ground beef and roast required more time and planning.

This was the first time I have ever done freezer meals and I will definitely be doing them again. It is nice to just be able to pull dinner out of the freezer and not have to worry about what to cook. If you know someone who is expecting or is having surgery making them a few freezer meals would be a great gift!


A few tips before we get started:
-It's best to label the bags BEFORE putting food in.
- When labeling bags I put what is inside, the date I made it, cooking instructions and what to serve with it (i.e. side dishes, toppings, etc.)
- When you put your bags in the freezer it's best to put them on a cookie sheet while they are freezing. That way they will freeze flat and you can fit more in the freezer.
- If you are putting meals in freezer safe casserole dishes or pizza pans its best to cover with plastic wrap first and then aluminum foil.
-Because I was cooking so many meals with chicken I opted to use frozen tenderloins from Costco vs. chicken breasts. If you prefer to use breasts a good conversion rate is 3-4 tenders = 1 breast.
  *If you do use chicken breasts cook for longer amount of time in crockpot (For example if it says to cook 4-6 hours, cook 6 hours).

Alright let's get into the good stuff! Here is a list of all the meals I planned out. Not all of the lunches and snacks are freezer meals; but the ones that are I have the recipes for below. You'll notice I didn't create 21 of each category. For lunches and snacks I made a list of 7 or 8 things and then they can rotate through them as they want. For dinners I only created 17 options. I knew there were going to be nights where they ate out or had other plans. Also almost all the dinners were made so that they could feed two or more families of 6. That way if family or friends wanted to stay for dinner there would be plenty. Recipes with an * denotes meals prepared for more than one family.

Lunches:
Homemade Spaghettio's
Spinach & Black Bean Wrap
Homemade Uncrustables (frozen PB&J)
Quesadillas
Tuna Sandwiches
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Peanut Butter & Honey Sandwiches

Dinners:
Orange Chicken*
Black Bean Taco Soup*
Teriyaki Chicken
Sweet BBQ Chicken*
Spaghetti*
BBQ Chicken & Veggies*
Superfood Rotini*
Pepperoni & Black Olive Pizza (one on wheat dough and one on white)*
BBQ Chicken Pizza (one on wheat dough and one on white)*
Garlic & Brown Sugar Chicken*
BBQ Beef Sandwiches*
Sloppy Joes*
BBQ Shredded Chicken Sandwiches*
Hawaiian BBQ Pulled Chicken
Chicken Tacos
Cafe Rio Chicken*
Garlic Honey Chicken*

Snacks:
Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
Hard Boiled Eggs
String Cheese
Otterpops
Fruit Snacks
Cinnamon Sugar Popcorn
Frozen Grapes


Black Bean Taco Soup: 
Recipe from Six Sister's Stuff

Ingredients:
1lb. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 package taco seasoning (about 1/4 cup)
1 can diced green chiles (4oz)
1 can corn 
1 can black beans
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce (8oz)

Directions:
Brown ground beef and onion and drain fat.
Stir in remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.
Let simmer on low hear for 20-30 minutes.
Let cool and then place in a labeled Ziplock bag.

Reheat Directions:
Let thaw in fridge for at least one hour before cooking.
Cook on low in crockpot for 2-3 hours.

Serve with tortilla chips, sour cream, cheese, salsa etc. (Anything you would put on a taco basically)



Sassy Sloppy Joes:
Recipe from Fabulessly Frugal

Ingredients:
2lbs. ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 Tbsp butter
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp apple cider vinegar (any vinegar will work if you don't have apple cider on hand)
1/4 tsp dry mustard

Directions:
Saute onion in butter for about 3 minutes. 
Add ground beef and brown. Drain fat.
Add remaining ingredients and let simmer on med-low heat for 30 minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool.
Place in labeled ziplock bag.

Reheat Directions:
Let thaw in fridge at least 3 hours before serving.
Heat over medium low heat in a skillet until warmed through.

Serve on hamburger buns with Baked Macaroni and Cheese (see recipe at bottom) and green beans.




Superfood Rotini:

Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs. ground turkey
2 zucchini, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 cups spinach, shred
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 can tomato sauce (15oz)
2 cans diced tomatoes 
1/2 bag of rotini (or any medium sized pasta)
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp cumin
1 cup water

Directions:
Combine all ingredients except rotini in large bowl.
Split up evenly between 2 labeled ziplock bags.

Reheat Directions:
Thaw in fridge at least one hour before cooking.
Cook in crockpot on low 6-8 hours (if you are only cooking one of the bags cut the cook time in half)
1/2 before done add rotini.

Didn't have any side dishes planned with this meal since it is already packed with veggies and pasta.




BBQ Chicken and Veggies

Ingredients:
16 chicken tenders
2 green bell peppers, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
6 red potatoes, diced
4 tsp minced garlic
1 can tomato sauce (15oz)
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 bottle bbq sauce (about 18oz)

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
Split up evenly between 2 labeled ziplock bags.

Reheat Directions:
Let thaw in fridge at least one hour before cooking.
Cook in crockpot on low 6-8 hours.

Serve with rice.



Orange Chicken
Recipe from Six Sister's Stuff

Ingredients:
16-20 chicken tenders
1 cup orange marmalade (When we were at Winco they didn't have orange marmalade.. Ugh! Instead of making a special trip somewhere else we got apricot pineapple marmalade. I actually tasted the finish meal and it tasted just fine)
1 cup BBQ Sauce
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp minced garlic

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
Split up evenly between 2 labeled ziplock bags.

Reheat Directions:
Let thaw in fridge at least one hour before cooking.
Cook in crockpot on low 4-6 hours.

Serve with Rice and Steamed Broccoli.




Sweet BBQ Chicken
Recipe from Over The Big Moon

Ingredients:
16-20 chicken tenders
1 1/2 cup BBQ sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 tsp garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne powder

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
Split up evenly between 2 labeled ziplock bags.

Reheat Directions:
Let thaw in fridge at least one hour before cooking.
Cook in crockpot on low 4-6 hours.

Serve with sweet potato fries and green beans.




BBQ Shredded Chicken Sandwiches
Recipe from Budget Savvy Diva

Ingredients:
16-20 chicken tenders
2 cups BBQ sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp pepper
2 tsp onion flakes

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
Split up evenly between 2 labeled ziplock bags.

Reheat Directions:
Let thaw in fridge at least one hour before cooking.
Cook in crockpot on low 4-6 hours.

Serve on hamburger buns with baked macaroni and cheese (recipe below) and green beans.




BBQ Beef Sandwiches (I forgot to take a picture before I started cooking the roast)
Recipe from Fabulessly Frugal

Ingredients:
3-4lb. boneless beef roast
2 cups BBQ sauce
1 can tomato sauce (8oz)
1 tbsp pepper
1/2 tsp basil leaves (original recipe called for oregano but I ran out earlier that day and didn't want to run to the store)
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Directions:
Cook roast in a crockpot on low for 8 hours.
Let cool and place in a labeled ziplock bag.
Mix remaining ingredients in a large bowl and pour over roast in ziplock bag.

Reheat Directions:
Let thaw in fridge at least one hour before cooking.
Cook in crockpot on low 1-2 hours.
Shred beef.

Serve on hamburger buns with baked macaroni and cheese (recipe below) and green beans.




Pepperoni and Black Olive Pizza

Ingredients:
Pizza Dough (you can make your own or buy it store bought. Winco has premade dough in the deli section for $1.50. They offer both white and wheat. I made 2 of these pizzas one on white dough and one on wheat)
Pepperoni
1 can of black olives
1/2 jar pizza sauce
2-3 cups mozzarella cheese

Directions:
Grease a disposable aluminum pizza tray and roll out dough to edges.
Cover dough with pizza sauce.
Sprinkle about 1 cup of cheese all over pizza.
Add as much pepperoni as you'd like.
Add black olives.
Sprinkle remaining 1-2 cups of cheese.
Cover with plastic wrap.
Cover with aluminum foil.

Reheat Directions:
Preheat oven to 400°
Cook pizza for 15-20 minutes.




BBQ Chicken Pizza

Ingredients:
Pizza Dough (you can make your own or buy it store bought. Winco has premade dough in the deli section for $1.50. They offer both white and wheat. I made 2 of these pizzas one on white dough and one on wheat)
4 chicken tenders
2 cups BBQ sauce
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
2-3 cups mozzarella cheese

Directions:
Cook chicken tenders and either shred or cut into small bite size pieces.
Grease a disposable aluminum pizza tray and roll out dough to edges.
Cover dough with BBQ sauce.
Sprinkle about 1 cup of cheese all over pizza.
Add chicken.
Add red onion.
Add cilantro.
Sprinkle remaining 1-2 cups of cheese.
Cover with plastic wrap.
Cover with aluminum foil.

Reheat Directions:
Preheat oven to 400°
Cook pizza for 15-20 minutes.





Spaghetti with Homemade Marinara Sauce
Recipe from: Recipe Girl

Ingredients:
2 cans of crushed tomatoes (28oz each)
8 tsp minced garlic
4 tsp basil leaves
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Directions:
In a large pot heat olive oil over medium-low heat.
Add garlic and cook until golden brown.
Add basil leaves.
Stir in crushed tomatoes and bring to a boil.
Add kosher salt and let simmer on low for 45 minutes.
After 40 minutes stir in balsamic vinegar.
Let cool and divide into 2 labeled ziplock bags.

Reheat Directions:
Let thaw in fridge at least one hour before cooking.
Heat over medium-low heat until warmed through.

Serve over spaghetti noodles with Parmesan Zucchini



Garlic & Brown Sugar Chicken
Recipe from Raining Hot Coupons

Ingredients:
16-20 chicken tenders
1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cups white vinegar
1/4 cup Sierra Mist
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp corn starch
1 tsp pepper

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
Split up evenly between 2 labeled ziplock bags.

Reheat Directions:
Let thaw in fridge at least one hour before cooking.
Cook in crockpot on low 4-6 hours.
Shred Chicken and let cook on warm for 30 more minutes.

Serve with rice and brown sugar carrots.



Chicken Tacos
Recipe from Budget Savvy Diva

Ingredients:
8-12 chicken tenders
1 packet taco seasoning (about 1/4 cup)
1 can of Rotel

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
Split up evenly between 2 labeled ziplock bags.

Reheat Directions:
Let thaw in fridge at least one hour before cooking.
Cook in crockpot on low 4-6 hours.
Shred Chicken and let cook on warm for 30 more minutes.

Serve on taco shells with your favorite toppings and black beans.




Cafe Rio Chicken 
Recipe from Oh Sweet Basil

Ingredients:
16-20 chicken tenders
1 bottle of Zesty Italian Dressing
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp chili powder
3 tsp minced garlic

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
Split up evenly between 2 labeled ziplock bags.

Reheat Directions:
Let thaw in fridge at least one hour before cooking.
Cook in crockpot on low 4-6 hours.
Shred Chicken and let cook on warm for 30 more minutes

Serve over rice or in taco shells with Parmesan Zucchini




Garlic Honey Chicken
Recipe from Saving Your Dinero

Ingredients:
16-20 chicken tenders
1 1/3 cup ketchup
2/3 cup soy sauce 
1/2 cup honey
6 tsp minced garlic

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
Split up evenly between 2 labeled ziplock bags.

Reheat Directions:
Let thaw in fridge at least one hour before cooking.
Cook in crockpot on low 4-6 hours.

Serve with rice and Parmesan Zucchini




Hawaiian BBQ Pulled Chicken
Recipe from Budget Savvy Diva

Ingredients:
8-12 chicken tenders
1 can of pineapple tidbits +1/2 the juice (12 or 20 oz depending on how much pineapple you want)
2 cups BBQ sauce
2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne powder

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
Pour into a labeled ziplock bag.

Reheat Directions:
Let thaw in fridge at least one hour before cooking.
Cook in crockpot on low 4-6 hours.
Shred Chicken and let cook on warm for 30 more minutes

Serve over rice with steamed broccoli




Teriyaki Chicken

Ingredients:
8-12 chicken tenders
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 1 tbsp cold water
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp garlic

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
Pour into a labeled ziplock bag.

Reheat Directions:
Let thaw in fridge at least one hour before cooking.
Cook in crockpot on low 4-6 hours.

Serve with rice and Parmesan Zucchini



Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
Recipe from Lauren's Latest

Ingredients:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 cups oats
1 cup rice cereal
2 tbsp chocolate chips
1/2 tsp vanilla

Directions:
In a pot over medium-high heat melt butter, honey and sugar until it comes to a boil. 
Reduce heat to medium and cook for 2 minutes.
Stir in vanilla.
In a large bowl mix together oats and rice cereal.
Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and mix well.
Pour into a greased jelly roll plan.
Spread out until its about 1" thick
Sprinkle chocolate chips on top and lightly press down.
Let rest on counter for 2 hours and cut into bars.
Wrap in parchment paper and store at room temperature.




Spinach and Black Bean Wraps
Recipe from Skinny Ms.

Ingredients:
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
6 cups spinach
1/2 cup chopped romaine lettuce
1/2 cup grated cheese
1/2 cup salsa
6 tbsp greek yogurt
6 burrito size tortillas

Directions:
Place spinach in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
In a skillet cook black beans and spinach over medium heat until spinach is wilted (about 3 minutes)
Spoon about 2 tbsp black bean/spinach mix into center of tortilla.
Add with 1 tbsp lettuce.
Add 1 tbsp salsa.
Add 1 tbsp yougurt.
Top with 1 tbsp cheese.
Roll up like a burrito and cover with tinfoil.
Place up to 4 in a labeled ziplock bag.

Thaw before eating.



Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Recipe from 30 Handmade Days

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni (One 12oz bag)
2 cups half and half
2 cups shredded cheese
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp pepper

Directions:
Bring water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente. (about 8 minutes)
Drain pasta.
Melt butter in saucepan and add pasta.
Stir pasta in butter so pasta does not stick to pan.
Add in cheese 1/2 cup at a time and stir until melted.
Add in garlic powder and pepper and stir to combine.
Pour into disposable aluminum casserole dish and cover with plastic wrap.
Cover with aluminum foil.

Reheat Directions:
Preheat oven to 400°
Bake for 30 minutes.



Homemade Spaghettio's
Recipe from Super Healthy Kids

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup "O" pasta (a.k.a. Aneletti pasta) I couldn't find this ANYWHERE in Utah so I used salad macaroni
1 can diced tomatoes 
3 carrots, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
salt

Directions:
Place tomatoes, carrots and celery in a pot and bring to boil.
Let cook for 15-20 minutes until carrots and celery are soft.
Bring water in a second pot to a boil and cook pasta in salted water until al dente. (6-8 minutes)
Add veggie mix to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.
Drain pasta and add to veggie sauce mix.
Let cool and place in labeled ziplock bag.

** This makes about 6 one cup servings and I made 3 batches.

Reheat Directions:

Let thaw in fridge for at least one hour before cooking.
Heat over medium low heat until warm all the way through.


My absolute favorite part about this whole thing.... The cost. To make everything listed above (including the snacks and lunches that are at the top) was under $300! $272.88 to be exact. There were still a few things my mother-in-law bought after all was said and done. (hamburger buns, fruit and veggies for sides and snacks, etc.) But even after that was purchased she still spent less than $300. How awesome is that?! You can feed a family of 6 for at least a month, not just dinners but 3 meals a day plus 2 snacks, for $300!


We spent $131.27 at Winco                                     And $141.61 at Costco

The only receipt I don't have is for the bread... it got thrown away :( But I buy all my bread, buns, rolls from the Franz Bakery Outlet. I LOVE that place. They sell loaves of bread for $.79 and if they have loaves that are going to expire that day or the next, which they have had every time I have gone, you get one for free. So you get two loaves of bread for $.79! I've never had a loaf get moldy on me before the best by date and they usually last a few days after. The free loaf I usually make Uncrustables with since they are going in the freezer anyways.


Below are some camera phone photos during my journey. I totally forgot to take our camera to my MIL's house when we delivered all the food so camera phone quality is the best I got of the final project.





Baked Macaroni and Cheese ready for freezing

Granola bars setting up


This was such a great learning experience for me and I'm so grateful my mother-in-law let me practice my freezer meals skills on her. If you have any questions or tips I can use when I do my next batch of freezer meals let me know!