This post is very late in coming. And out of season now. But oh well. I’m posting it anyway.
Eating well is important to me. I am by no means the healthiest person on earth but I’ve worked really hard over the past few years to develop more healthful ways of eating. Most of my philosophy is centered on eating as much unprocessed food as possible. Though I certainly enjoy dining out, I like to do it as a treat and not just because I didn’t plan and cook a meal. In fact, how we’re eating has pretty much become a sign of how in of control I am of my life in general. When things get out of hand, I often try to re-focus by menu planning and grocery shopping.
When I was still pregnant, I worried about how we’d handle meals once the baby arrived. Knowing that I feel better when I eat better, I wanted to make sure we were prepared. A quick search on Pinterest offered many make-ahead and freeze meal options. But a lot of the recipes were just for chicken with some kind of sauce (which means it’s just as easy to sprinkle on some spices and throw it on the George Foreman grill…) or otherwise used ingredients I usually wouldn’t.
So, unhappy with those options, I embarked on the fun task (I’m being serious in case that isn’t coming across well in writing – ha!) of planning how to prep and freeze a few of our favorite fall/winter recipes plus a few new recipes that I thought would work well with this plan.
Here are the recipes I decided to try:
- Lentil soup split into two gallon bags (which were 2 or more servings each)
- Minestrone soup split into two gallon bags (which were 2 or more servings each)
- Chicken tortilla soup split into two gallon bags (which were 2 or more servings each)
- Chicken pot pie (ok, so maybe chicken pot pie is never *that* healthy…)
- Veggie and rice skillet
- Inside out stuffed peppers (from an old-fashioned cookbook! but one of my faves so maybe I’ll blog it eventually)
- Beef stew (see my important note below about potatoes before you try this one!)
First, I made an Excel sheet (Yes! Excel! I told you this was fun! And again, I’m being serious…) of all the ingredients I’d need, the prep-in-advance steps for each recipe, and then the instructions for what to do once we wanted to unfreeze and eat the meal.
A few weeks before Claire was born, we went to Costco, stocked up on all of the ingredients, chopped up all the veggies (I kept everything sorted in individual bowls by recipe and had the freezer bags ready and labeled), sautéed, poured in stock, canned tomatoes, etc, added in spices, divided into the gallon size freezer bags, and froze. Whew!
It was several hours worth of work and I nearly chopped off a finger at least twice while dicing onions. Yikes! I’m not sure it necessarily saved time overall (it did save time when it came to actually getting dinner ready though) except that we only had to wash the cutting boards, knives, and pans once. But, by the end of the day, our freezer was stuffed (maybe a little too stuffed!)
Given all of that, I wouldn’t necessarily plan on being this ambitious very often. However, having 11 plus meals ready to go was amazing. Between what we made and our kind and generous family and friends, Claire was over a month old before I even had to worry about what to eat.
But you might be wondering how things turned out. I was definitely a little worried since I hadn’t tried anything like this before. Here’s my quick recap:
All great. When possible, I’ll probably start doubling or tripling those recipes when I’m already making them as I think that will save time and cut down on wasted ingredients. I think this would be a more reasonable way of prepping in advance going forward.
Chicken pot pie & Veggie skillet
Both OK. A little runnier than usual. I probably needed to adjust something along the way to account for the freezing and did not.
Inside out stuffed peppers
A little mushy. Since this is one of my favorite meals, I’ll stick to making it fresh when I want to eat it.
So, apparently, you can’t freeze cut potatoes without doing something to them first or they turn black. Oops. Learn from my mistake. If you’re going to try to freeze potatoes, google it first and figure out the right way. I may be too scarred to ever try again or I’d figure it out for you.
It is important to us that we continue to eat well and prioritize family meals even now that Claire is here. I know that how that all comes together is going to need to change and we’re still trying to figure out our nightly schedule. I’d like to come up with some set weekly meal plans so I’m not starting from scratch each week but I just haven’t gotten there yet. And I definitely need to figure out how and what to prep in advance (frozen or not) so I can get dinner on the table quickly after work. We’ll see how it continues to evolve!