I started this blog, in part, to share what it is like to run an orchard and farm market. I was an elementary school teacher for 12 years before I married Chris and joined the family business. I did not really know what I was getting into! Running this orchard takes A LOT of hard work and A LOT of time, especially during harvest (May-November).
I am not alone…so many of us wish we had more time. I am always looking for ways to optimize time spent on daily chores. My goal is to get work done so I have as much time as possible to spend with my family, doing the things we love. Today, I want to share a method that helps me find that time. It changed the way I meal plan and cook at my house.
My secret? Freezer meals. They changed the game.
When I get up in the morning, I pull out one of my freezer meals, soak the bag in water for a few minutes, and pour it in the crock-pot. When I come home, the house smells amazing, the food is cooked, and I have very minimal work left to put together a healthy meal for my family. I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to come home at 6:00 PM with a homemade, ready-to-go meal!
The inspiration and genius of the freezer meals recipes I use come from KELLY MCNELIS, an amazing woman I found on Facebook. She runs a blog called The Family Freezer and I came across a video of her making several meals in one hour. It sounded amazing…but I was very SKEPTICAL, so I watched her video. I was INTRIGUED. I tried her method and I am OBSESSED. You guys…if I use her method of food prep, it takes me about two hours to make about 20 dinners (serving two people and a toddler–including leftovers) and 10 lunches. I know, I didn’t believe it at first either.
So how does this all work, you ask? Well, it takes a bit of prep and I would highly suggest getting a couple of key items before you start. I will link the products, but first, here is what a Sunday food prep session looks like for me. Enjoy!
First off, here are the meals I made this past weekend:
- Lemon Chicken with Baby Spinach
- Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin
- Chicken Curry
- Cilantro Lime Chicken
- Ground Beef Stroganoff
- Beer and Beef Chili
- Beef Fajitas
- Chicken Alla Vodka Sauce
Now, if I include the time it took to shop, prep, assemble and store all these meals, it would be about three hours total. But honestly, it is worth it for the time it saves me in the long run. The shopping took me an hour, I prep in the morning (20 minutes), and make the meals while Abbie naps(ish).
I have used this method four times now over the course of five months and made a total of 30 freezer meals. The hardest part is getting everything ready, but once you are organized, it’s actually fun to assemble the meals.
First, I pick out 8-10 meals I want to make. I usually pick a variety of meats (there are vegetarian options too!) I print out each recipe (Kelly has a bunch of free ones. Here’s one for 14 Healthy Meals You Can Make With Ingredients You Already Have in Your Kitchen. Note: this is NOT an advertisement. I am in no way getting paid for suggesting Kelly’s method.)
I make a master shopping list of everything I need. When I get home from the store, I put ALL the food (except the meat, which I leave in the fridge) and supplies on my counter. Also, before you start, make sure you make room in your freezer for the stack of meals!
Here are my supplies:
- Gallon Freezer Bags– Ziploc or reusable (I use these from Amazon)
- Bag Holder Stands– They seem silly, but they make all the difference. (These are the ones I bought from Amazon)
- Can opener
- Measuring spoons
- Measuring cups
- Trash can and recycling bins close by for quick clean up
- Apron– It can get a little messy.
- Crockpot (needed for making meals later)
Now the fun begins! You basically go through each recipe and dump all the ingredients into the bags. Make sure to label the bags with an index card or piece of paper. Kelly recommends putting the meat in last so you don’t have to keep washing your hands, which I found to be a great tip.
Now, you might be overwhelmed by this process! It does seem like a lot, but I find that if put away items once I am done using them, clean up as I go, recycle cans and throw away garbage as I am working, the mess at the end is not too bad! One thing I love about this method is I never have half a can or jar leftover with some beans or some sauce. You use the whole can and am never left wondering what I am going to do with the rest!
Once all the ingredients and meats are in each bag, all that is left to do is seal them up, label them, and put them in the freezer!
Chris and I have a deep freezer in our basement where I store our meals. I like to plan them out on our wall calendar so I can stack them in the order I will use them.
Basically, I use a freezer meal every Monday morning, which is our day off, and pop it in the crock pot. This way I spend the day with my family without worrying about cooking dinner. The most I need to do is make rice or pasta, salad or vegetable to compliment the main meal. Tuesday or Wednesday is usually leftovers and lunch so that takes care of two days of meals for the week!
We have so many items in our store that can be used in freezer meals. Obviously, it depends on which recipes you make, but I go through spices a lot faster when I use this method. I am lucky to have a large selection of Wildman’s Spices at my fingertips in our store. I have found that Chili Powder, Paprika, Garlic Powder and Onion Powder are used for many of the meals. I also like the Essenhaus Chicken/Beef Bases because I don’t always have stock on hand, but can always mix some up when I need it.
I hope some of you found this helpful. I know it is not a method that works for everyone, but I cannot tell you how good I feel when I’m done and have 8 meals ready to go in my freezer. I am especially looking forward to prepping meals for harvest season (you can use these meals up to three months after you make them) when we barely have time to eat, let alone cook!
Please let me know if you guys use freezer meals or want to try this method. I want to create some of my own freezer meal recipes and see how I can convert well-loved recipes, like my mom’s chili. I will share with you if any of those work.
I also think these meals are wonderful to give to family and friends who need a little extra help. My neighbor is having a baby in February. I asked her to pick out five recipes. After the baby comes, she will have five meals ready to go in her freezer!
I hope everyone has a wonderful week. Thanks for reading this and making it to the end! We have some exciting things happening in our family soon, so stay tuned!