I don't know about you, but after a long day of work, I'm ready to eat dinner... and if you didn't catch that, I'm ready to eat dinner - not make dinner. ;) I absolutely love to bake, but when it comes to weekday cooking, I'm not a huge fan, and to be honest, it feels like tacking on more work to my day!
So, to help prepare for my transition back to work (and anticipated lack of interest in meal prep), this past weekend I made 12 freezer meals for John and me to eat throughout the month. The total cost of the 12 meals was about $135 (including the disposable baking pans that I bought)... so about $11/meal. Money aside, I decided to do this for the convenience of a tasty post-work meal with basically no day-of work required!
To make things easy, I used chicken for all 12 of my meals, but if you are feeling ambitious, you can most certainly prepare a variety of meats. All in all, I used about 10 lbs of chicken.
- Chicken pot pie (2)
- Pesto ravioli and chicken (2)
- Chicken and wild rice casserole (2)
- White chicken enchiladas (2)
- Swiss chicken (2)
- Chicken parmesan (2)
For the majority of these recipes I used the Dream Dinners cookbook, but there are plenty of resources and recipes on Pinterest that provide similar information for freezer meals.
Tips for meal prep:
- If the recipe calls for cooked chicken, cook your chicken in the crock pot the day before... this way it requires very little prep work, and it will shred very easily. Or, buy a rotisserie chicken - even more yummy!
- Prepare the meals in dishes that can go straight into the oven (and then be disposed of, if you are clean-up lazy like me!).
- Serve the meal with something fresh, like a salad... we always buy the salad kits (again, it's a convenience thing), but I realize it is way cheaper (in the end) to buy all of the ingredients separately.
- Label everything! Label what the dish is and how to prepare it. For example, specify whether the dish must be thawed first, or if it can go straight into the oven.
- Since you will be essentially assembling a large number of meals in a single day, it will take some time. Invite a friend over to join, turn on some music, pour a glass of wine, and enjoy the process (these 12 meals took me about 4 hours in total).
- Once the meals are assembled in baking dishes, wrap them in airtight foil, plastic wrap, or freezer paper... proper packaging will help maintain quality and prevent freezer burn.
Tips for tasty meals:
- Carrots, zucchini, onions and celery are vegetables that freeze best.
- Dice vegetables no smaller than 1 inch; larger chunks will freeze and reheat better than smaller pieces.
- Cream cheese will dry out when frozen if not blended with other ingredients (instead, try a yogurt-based spread).
- Heavy cream and mayonnaise do not freeze (substitute with sour cream which freezes better).
- If you plan to freeze cooked pasta, do not fully cook the pasta. It should be a bit firmer than al dente.
- If any of your meals have a finishing sauce, freeze the sauce separately from the rest of the meal so the food does not get soggy.
Have you made freezer meals before? Any go-to recipes?!