Saturday, December 1, 2012

Prepping for baby #6: Freezer meals!

I am a momma of many. I have 5 children all born in the last 8 yrs, three of those children are toddlers right now (twin 2yr olds and a 18mth old). I am also currently 8mths pregnant with our 6th child. I understand what it means to be busy and tired. I thought I would share one of my trade secrets. How do we survive life with a newborn, no family in the area for support, and 5 older children who need attention? One of my biggest tips is to have three months of meals in my freezer before the baby is born. I love not having to cook for months at a time and still be able to feed my children good wholesome meals. I know it seems overwhelming to think about. Three months is a lot of food! I thought it might be helpful to do a blog series following my planning, prepping, shopping, and cooking as I prepare for the birth of our 6th child.

The first thing I do is decide how many meals I am going to be making. I like to do three months of meals at a time. We also plan to eat leftovers every 4th day, this allows me to have less in our freezer and also makes sure we use up all the leftovers in our fridge as we go. So for 3mths of meals I need to make 69 meals.

I also like to make a one month repeating meal plan. So day 1 of month 1 is meal "A", that meal will also be day 1 of month 2, and day 1 of month 3. This also cuts down on my cooking time, as well as the amount of money I need to put out upfront for the meals. I take one recipe and triple it. Divide it among three bags and freeze. This save a a fortune since you can buy in bulk (costco anyone?!) and then divide the large bulk item by three.

Once I know how many recipes I am looking to make I look through my recipes and get some ideas for meals my family likes, that will freeze well, and take little to no prep to cook the day we plan to eat them. I tend to go for meals that can be put frozen into the crockpot in the morning and be done by dinner time. No muss no fuss.  Pinterest is a great resource for finding freezer meals. I go through and find the recipes and copy them into a word document which I save on my desktop.  Once I am done finding recipes I format the document so that it is easy to read and recipes are not broken between pages. I don't want to be knee deep making a recipe and not be able to find the second page of instructions.

A inventory list is also very helpful to have. Here is the inventory sheet I made for my current freezer cooking project
 Qty    Meal      Date Frozen   Amt. Used      Notes
3 Meat Stew

6 Spaghetti Sauce

3 Pork Roast with Veg

3 Sausage and bean supper

3 Chicken tortilla soup

3 Chicken Taco soup

3 Creamy Farmhouse Chicken

3 Teriyaki Chicken

3 Savory Vegetable Beef soup

3 Healthy BBQ Chicken

3 Cilantro Lime Chicken

3 Cincinnati Skyline Chili

3 Honey and Spice Glazed Pork chops

3 Chicken Enchiladas

3 Hot ham and cheese pinwheels

3 Alfredo Wraps

3 Honey Sesame Chicken

3 Crockpot pulled pork

3 Crockpot Buffalo Chicken

3 Whole Roasted Chicken with Veg

3 Italian Chicken

3 Pizza Casserole

As I use a meal I mark it on the sheet. This allows me to know at a glance what is in my freezer without having to dig around  and freeze my hands off.

I then print the recipes out and start working on my grocery list. This is not fun. I tend to write it all out by hand at first. Once I have all the total amounts down I like to type it up in a word document so that it is easier for me to read in the store. I like to shop at three different stores when I am doing a big bulk shop like this. I like to go to Aldi, Costco, and my local commissary.  I get the majority of my supplies from Aldi and Costco and fill in any items I can't find by going to the commissary. I find that it is cheaper for me to shop for bulk items at aldi and costco.  When I do my grocery list I divide my grocery list by store, then by food type. So all of my boxed items are together, all of my meats together, etc. I don't want to be shoving that massive shopping cart back through the store when I have forgotten something!

Lastly I like to print out labels for my freezer meals. I don't know about you but when I am making 69 meals I get tired of writing on all of those bags! I buy some sheets of shipping labels (I use the ones with 10 labels per page). On each label I put the name of the meal, anything that needs to be done to the meal at the time of cooking (such as add more broth), and what accompaniments are recommended (such as serve with rice). I type this all out on the first label and then copy and paste it on to the remaining two labels. Print it out and I am good to go!


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