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Update to the Freezer Cooking!

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Wowzers… I truly wasn’t expecting that kind of feedback from my post on freezer meals!!

One thing I want to get out of the way nice and early here, is that I’m not some kind of ultra-organized, sale-hounding, high-energy type of person.  Seriously.  I’m pretty embarrassed by some of the comments and the attention, because the whole point of me doing these freezer meals, is that I can be pretty darn lazy.

I regularly don’t start thinking about dinner until close to 5:00.  It’s not unusual to have dishes still in the sink the next morning.  I am always amazed when I hear people say they have a certain day of the week that they always do their grocery shopping.  That is just not me.  I go to the store when we need food.  It’s very rarely before noon, because sleeping in is fun.  Yes, I clip coupons and watch for sales… but not to any extreme at all.

And this is why freezer meals are so awesome!  Because they let me be me.  I can have a lazy afternoon and not worry, because at least dinner is ready.  I can completely skip going to the store for 3 weeks (except for milk and produce runs), because I have enough food to last us for months.  Dishes aren’t a concern, because we just need to throw plates and cups in the dishwasher since there aren’t really bowls or pans.

And then when I do have that day where I have a burst of energy, I run to the store to grab my meat and I get cookin’!!  And, while I’m at it… a little clarification here… because I made 46 meals does NOT mean I made 46 recipes!!  I’m going to take a guess here and say I made about 7-10 recipes that day!  Remember, one batch of teriyaki marinade made 8 meals in about 15 minutes.  One batch of taco meat made about 4 or 5 meals.  My stockpot of chicken probably got me 7 or 8 bags of shredded chicken for meals.  And you use all these “meals” in different ways so it never feels like you’re having the same thing over and over again!

I did put a video together that shows me putting together some freezer meals…

…and I’ll attempt to answer some of your questions, but I really am NOT an expert… just cookin’ for my little old family so I thought I would share the way we do things!

Be sure to click on the Read More button to see the answers to the most FAQ!

Q: Can you share the recipes you use?
A:  The reason I didn’t post specific recipes (other than the teriyaki marinade and taco meat), is because I get them from published cookbooks, specifically Don’t Panic- Dinner’s In the Freezer, and since I’m not all up on the legality of this type of stuff, I thought it best if I didn’t post it!  If you plan on doing this, I really do recommend this book! It’s awesome and I just noticed it’s down to $8!! You can’t beat that! And you know, those authors spent a lot of time and effort getting their book published, so it would kinda be pretty crappy to just post them for free on here.

Q: I’m wondering logistically how to do you make use of all these freezer meals — do you need to think to thaw them out the day before. Are there some recipes that can go straight from the freezer to the oven/microwave etc.? How do you know? Any other tips for making use of all of your labors? 
A:  And this is what I mean when I say I’m not organized!! I would never give this a lot of thought!  I set things out the day before and let them thaw in the refrigerator overnight. I suppose you could transfer it to a microwave-safe container and thaw it in the microwave but I wouldn’t recommend that for marinated meats.  Letting the meat marinate as it thaws really helps it become more flavorful and tender.  You absolutely could microwave-thaw the bags of pre-cooked ground beef, taco meat and shredded chicken.   I re-heat my taco meat in the microwave all the time and it still tastes great!  When you’re thawing a soup, it can still be pretty slushy/icy when you put it in the pot to re-heat.  If I forgot to set something out the night before, I often will take a bag of tomato basil soup and put it in a pot of cold water to thaw. Then use the same pot to re-heat it.  Then I make 3 grilled cheese sandwiches (for all 4 of us), cut them into croutons and sprinkle on top of the soup.  My kids LOVE it and if we’re having a bowl of soup, we really don’t all need a whole sandwich!  I started doing it because I was low on bread and now it’s the only way we eat it!

Q: Do you have a generator?
A: Nope!  We really don’t live in an area that has a lot of outages and when we do, they don’t last long. I’ve been known to say to my husband, “Did the power just go off or did I blink too long?”.  It’s just not an issue around here, but if it ever did go off for long, well, yes… I would be crying.

Q: How did you get your meat so cheap?
A: The only real “trick” is that I know what day my grocery store marks their meat down!  Yes, it’s meat that is about 2-3 days from the “sell by date”.  It’s very rarely ever the same day that it expires and I’ve often put those packages back even if they are cheap. I just go to regular, chain grocery stores. My one store is significantly cheaper than the other one, but I’m able to find deals like this pretty much every Wednesday (if I decide to go that week).  A couple weeks ago they had their 1 lb. packages of ground chicken marked down to $1, so I picked up 4 packs of that. I try not to clear the shelves, because it tickles me to think that somebody else gets to come along and see that great price too! I don’t show up at any special time, usually I wander over sometime in the afternoon and see what’s left.  And, yes, I realize these are great prices and not all stores go that low (not even all of mine do), but most stores do have a specific day for markdowns if you just ask your butcher. My sister lives in a different state and she’s able to find great deals on her meat too, just because she checked on her store’s day.

Q: Do you have a deep freezer?
A: No, we just have a refrigerator in our kitchen and one in our basement. Both are the top/bottom style, so I have 2 “top freezers”.

Q: I’ve always been told that potatoes don’t freeze well?
A: I’ve found that to be true for many dishes that contain potatoes.  I once made 3 batches of scalloped potatoes and ham casseroles that smelled heavenly and looked delicious and I made the mistake of freezing them.  It was a disaster and it all got thrown away!  They were runny and the potatoes were brown and it was just plain yucky!  Since then I only make one batch of a new recipe before trying it out in the freezer!  But for some reason, the double-stuffed potatoes freeze beautifully!  They taste like you just made them fresh and the potatoes don’t brown at all!  I really don’t know why it works for some dishes and not others, but I’ve had great luck with the stuffed potatoes (plus I got the recipe from that cookbook, so they’ve been tested many times by many different people!)

Q: Where do you live?
A: Central PA, and that’s about as specific as I’d like to get!

Q: Will you come to CA and cook for me, niece?
A: Yes, Unc… gladly!  Get that wine chilling, I like cheap stuff! : )

Hopefully I answered your questions!  And what are we having tonight, you ask??  I’m about to pop 4 potatoes in foil in my oven (setting the delayed-timer is a great thing!) and I have taco meat thawed in the refrigerator.  We’re having Taco baked potatoes with a side salad!

If you’re interested in reading the original post, the cookbooks I used are mentioned at the bottom!  Thanks!

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If you haven’t visited Once a Month Meals yet, I highly recommend starting there if you’re interested in freezer meals! It’s a great resource for how to approach freezer meals and filled with lots of recipes for all different tastes. You can customize the recipes and choose meal plans that work for your specific tastes and family size.

Once A Month Meals

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Anna

Wednesday 13th of January 2021

I know for many people, strawberries are a summer fruit. I do agree, but California Strawberries begin their season in the spring. Living in Las Vegas, we have easy access to California Strawberries and once they start hitting the stores and the price start lowering a bit, I am buying them on almost every shopping trip (no joke). We’ll go through A LOT of strawberries between now and the end of the summer.

Strawberry Sorbet is an easy dessert that you’ll want to start making as soon as springtime hits. It’s so fresh and bursting with flavor that I think it make a lovely choice as you say goodbye to winter and hello to flowers and sunny days.

Carrie Piar

Friday 22nd of December 2017

Do you use seal a meal for your freezer meals??

Natalie

Tuesday 16th of January 2018

I actually don't, but I would recommend one if you keep your freezer meals for any length of time. We usually go through ours in about 4-6 weeks, so it isn't an issue. If you were to use a vacuum sealer, it would last much longer!

Anne

Friday 26th of May 2017

You are not that far from me! Saw you mention chocolate world :) we like to visit there too. <3 this blog (and the other one) I'll definitely be asking my grocery store what day discount day is for meat.

Geni

Sunday 16th of April 2017

Twiced baked potatoes freeze very well, but so do mashed potatoes. I just whip up about 5 lbs. worth of them and then using a large ice cream scoop (about 1/2 cup) I place the scoops of potatoes on a tray and freeze. Then store in a freezer bag. That way, I just pull out the # of servings I want and they thaw quickly. I reheat them in the microwave.

Kelley

Saturday 18th of March 2017

Natalie, I go back to your original post about every 2 to 3 months (for the past few years) and realized I never properly thanked you for literally changing my life. There are tons of freezer meal posts on Pinterest but your method was the one that best meets the needs of our family. I am a full-time commuting, working mom of 4 busy kiddos and what you taught me has allowed me freedom and flexibility to be a more, relaxed and prepared mom that feeds my kids healthier options than I would otherwise. I have used your method as a basis and experimented with other meal-prep freezer items but thanks to you, our lives our a little better. Thank you from Colorado!