Let’s talk busy weeknights. Since becoming a mama, I value easy, weeknight meals that are pre-prepped and even semi- homemade! And the best way to get dinner on the table quickly is a freezer, crock-pot meal. For me, the easiest way to do this is to choose a variety of meats and ingredients that can be used in several meals.
Recently, we visited Adam’s cousins who are preparing for their first baby in February! I asked what I could do to help her get ready, and we came up with the freezer meal idea. We went shopping together and after 2.5 hours in the kitchen, we had more than ten meals prepped in the freezer! And get this- we only spent $85. Please note: we used two very large chicken breasts per recipe, which is more than enough for 2 people in the household. Adjust for your own family size!
I’m going to share links to all of my favorite meals below, and here are 6 tips to help with your freezer meal planning!
- Freezer Meals should be Comforting: I don’t like to make “healthy” freezer meals. Everything I make is warm your insides kind of meal from the crockpot. The more you look forward to the meal, the more you’ll actually use what’s in the freezer.
- Outsource anything you can: Whether this is chopped, frozen onions, or having your husband chop the meat while you assemble, use all the help you can get!
- Semi-homemade is the way to go for me: I used pre-made spaghetti sauce, frozen meatballs and cream of chicken soup. If you don’t like these ingredients, you can make your own versions easily!
- Leave the veggies on the side: I don’t put veggies in my freezer meals because many of them will get too soggy in the crockpot; I suggest adding them toward the end of the cooking, instead.
- Shop the sales or use a wholesale club (BJs, Costco or Sams) for your meats! On this shopping trip, we scored reduced chicken breasts for $8.61, and it made four meals!
- Re-stock as you go! Adam’s cousin Kira had a great idea to replace the freezer meals they used: every time she went to the store, she’d buy ingredients to pop one more freezer meal in the deep freeze, and always have something available for a quick meal!
BONUS TIP: Label all of your bags first with the name of the meal, any directions you’ll need to cook it, and the date. Freezer meals are usually good for up to 6 months!
THE PROCESS: I started by getting my meatball dishes out of the way first, because they only needed to be added in with sauce, labeled and laid flat to freeze. Next was the ribs- toss those bad boys in the bag with your bottle of BBQ sauce and you’re done. Beef stroganoff is next, and you’ve got four freezer meals down already!
If you have someone helping you, get them started on browning the ground beef and sausage for the burritos while you assemble the other dishes.
Then, I went with the chicken dishes because they also just needed to be put into the freezer bags with their respective sauces. The most time you’re going to spend is on your ground beef, enchiladas and beef dishes.
Here are all of my favorite, (semi-homemade) freezer meals: perfect for a cold, wintry day, or a busy weeknight when you’ve got a million other things to do and don’t have time to fret over dinner!
- Meatballs & Pasta Sauce– or you can just use a jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce!
- Sweet and Sour Meatballs – frozen meatballs + Kikkoman sweet & sour sauce & chopped garlic
- Country ribs (ribs purchased for $7 at Aldi) – ribs + BBQ Sauce
- Beef stroganoff (stew meat purchased for $6 at Aldi)
- Cream cheese ranch chicken
- Teriyaki Chicken
- Salsa Chicken
- Lemon Garlic Chicken
- Taco Bake
- Beef enchiladas– I used ground beef instead of shredded! (this made 2 pans)
- Sausage egg and cheese burritos
- Baked Ziti
The main takeaway to freezer meals is: HAVE FUN! Cook what you like to eat, and cook smarter, not harder. Don’t get carried away with fancy recipes, which will add time and money to your budget. Just keep them simple and enjoy a warm meal at the end of the day!