At the start of 2020 I decided that one of my goals for the year (and every year following this one) is to be better about having dinner on the table ESPECIALLY because I work from home now. Stephen works long, crazy hours and I’d always feel a sting of guilt when he walked in the door (pretty late, by the way) and I didn’t have at least something started. He typically would end up just start putting together himself. It breaks my heart just saying that. It seems quite stupid to me that I struggle with this at all but typically what happens is I get into a work mode in the afternoon where I lose all track of time and before I know it it’s 7:00 PM and I’m like “BISCUITS! What are we going to eat?!” Also, hate to be blunt but it’s just the two of us right now. I don’t have a little one telling me they’re hungry or the mindset to automatically remind myself of that. Well… Except for the pups and they take two seconds to feed. HA!
I analyzed my habits and why I struggle with this and I *think* I might’ve come up with a solution – freezer meals. There are a few reasons that I think these might be a great solution:
I can prepare multiple meals at one time. It makes things super super efficient.
We’ll still be able to eat a home-cooked meal. We don’t eat out often but it’s definitely tempting when we have nothing prepared to eat for dinner. Not only does this save us money but I’m also able to have more control over the food/ingredients we are consuming.
It’s much less expensive compared to something like those meal prep services. For example, Home Chef, Freshly, Green Chef, etc.
I did quite a bit of searching on Pinterest and stumbled upon THIS POST titled, “40 Pre-Baby Freezer Meals” (and no, I did not prepare these meals because of a baby). Within this post, there is a button that says “Click here for all of the free recipes and grocery lists”. Click that button to receive that FREE download in your inbox.
You by no means have to make all 40 meals. However, I figured if I was going to do this I was going to go big. So I did. It also made it super convenient to just get what was on the shopping lists and not have to pick and choose.
I purchased about 80% of the groceries at Lidl and the last 20% at Walmart. The total cost of the groceries and materials was $360. It felt like a lot at the time but when you break that down it’s $9 a meal, $4.50 per person. Since it’s only Stephen and I right now, I would bet that we’ll both eat dinner and have at least enough for one of us to eat the leftovers for lunch. If that’s the case, it’ll equate to 120 meals, making it $3 per person. Not bad!
I’m going to tell you right now – this process takes quite a bit of energy. All pieces of it. However, I believe putting the work in on the front end is worth it for the time saved and stress reduced on the back end.
Before going shopping or ordering your groceries, take a full of inventory of the food you already have. Don’t worry about making the recipes exactly right. Utilize what you have and try to get rid of as much as possible!
If you can order your groceries online and pick them up or have them delivered, it’s going to save you so much time. Grocery shopping took me about 3 hours total. I usually like grocery shopping but this was a bear. I’d avoid it next time if possible.
ENLIST A PARTNER. I can’t emphasize that enough. Even if you double the number of meals that you make, it’ll make this process much more efficient (and enjoyable).
Buy vegetables pre chopped or buy a vegetable chopper (I linked the one below that I use).
A lot of people really love using these handy bag holders that I linked below. I did NOT use them but I did have a disaster where a bag fell over and that was not cool whatsoever…
Start by labeling each gallon sized freezer bag with the name of the recipe, the number, and the instructions for cooking. I used a Sharpie directly on the bag and it has held up fine in the freezer.
Only do one section of meals at a time and then reevaluate. I started with the 15 beef and pork meals then moved onto the chicken then finished with the “casserole” type of meals.
Sort all of the ingredients into stations. For example, all of the canned goods together, all of the spices together, all of the dry goods together, all of the meat together, etc.
Following basic efficiency principals – cut all of the vegetables at once, trim all of the meat at once, etc. An easy way to think about this: touch every item the least number of times possible… Ideally once.
Keep a big “trash bowl” next to the cutting board.
Add in as many extra vegetables as possible!
After testing out multiple different methods of doing this, I learned it was most efficient to fill all of the bags with one section of ingredients at a time (following along with the point above). For example, fill bags 1-15 with all of the meat then move onto the spices and fill bags 1-15 with all of the spices, etc. until the bag has all ingredients necessary.
Based on the suggested amount of spices in each recipe, I suggest adding a bit more. This is depending on your taste of course but I know for us we prefer more seasoning so I just used my better judgement.
Remove as much air from the bags as possible, flatten the bag, and place them in freezer with plates in between each bag. This is really important!
Once the bag is completely frozen, remove the plates and stack the meals like books in the freezer.
** I think a second freezer is most likely necessary to make all 40 meals.
So far we have tried two of the meals and they were delicious! I’m excited to try the rest of them and to make dinner time so much easier. I definitely think I’m going to do this again! I should get more and more efficient every time I do this. I’ll keep you all updated. Let me know if you have any questions!