Budgeting Food Lawyer Life Loving life

Area mom writes blog post at 8:30 p.m. thanks to this one weird trick!

Want more home-cooked food without the stress? I may have cracked the centuries'-old dilemma... or at least that's how I'm feeling this week!

How do you like that click-baity headline?!?!  Aaahhhh, I crack myself up.

Annnyway…. It’s 8:30 p.m., both kids are asleep, we’ve eaten (and cleaned up after) a lovely family dinner, and I’m sitting down to write a blog post.  HOW CAN THIS BE?!?!

Normally, by the time we get all these pieces in place and I have the chance to sit down, it’s pushing 10 pm and I’m so tired the idea of writing seems comically daunting.  So how did we do it?

BEHOLD:  the power of the bulk-made freezer meal.

The idea of cooking in bulk is not new – people who regularly cook for big families are experts at putting together that huge Sunday meal that the family can eat all week long.

StockSnap_3PS1GVU42N
Slaving away? Lighten up! It doesn’t have to be so tough!

And at times we’ve gotten on a roll with Sunday meal prep, often making a nice big crock pot stew that we can eat for a few days.  JackedFinance has a nice post about how great this can be for your budget.

Now, we’ve gone through periods of diligence with weekend meal prep, doing a big grocery trip, then chopping and setting everything up for the week.  Often we’ll make a big stew or soup that will carry us through a few days of lunches and dinners.  But it’s easy for even the most well-intentioned meal planner to get derailed by a weekend away, a weekend hosting visitors, a busy weekend, a weekend with unexpected work demands, a weekend of being sick or caring for sick family members…. which, when taken together, turns out to be MOST WEEKENDS!

A survival strategy so consistently disrupted is not much of a strategy at all.

So what’s a frugal-minded home cooking enthusiast to do??!?!

BEHOLD, the power of the bulk freezer meal.  These meals take meal planning and prepping to a new level of simplicity and eliminate the weak points.   Instead of just prepping your food on Sunday for the week, you prep food that can be frozen and successfully (and quickly) reconstituted at any time down the line.  This isn’t rocket science, but I always have struggled to think of recipes that don’t suffer for being frozen and also aren’t mushy and boring.

But a few great ideas have recently come to my attention.  A few months ago, a friend of mine sent me her Google doc entitled “Freezer meals.”  It had several recipes on it, including a few from a site called New Leaf Wellness.  These involve putting the ingredients for a crock pot meal together in a ziplock bag and freezing them raw, so that down the line you can take out your little concoction, defrost in the fridge overnight, and then put in the crockpot in the morning.  GENIUS I tell you!

I already tried one — white wine chicken with artichokes — and it was delicious!  I prepped a double batch, so we made one right away, and put the other in the freezer (raw) for a future date.  I’ve now eaten the one that we laid away, and can report that it did not suffer at all from being frozen as compared to the one we made and cooked immediately.  I served it with pasta into which I threw giant handfuls of spinach.  The result was quite fancy-feeling — we even had a glass of wine to go with it.  And it involved minimal effort when I got home from work to serve it all up!

I have now also prepped and frozen a double batch of this crockpot chicken chili.

Chicken Chili
It might not look like much now, but these babies are like little presents to my future self!

Again, everything was put into the freezer bags raw, and all I need to do when I’m ready for it is defrost the night before and start it up in the crock pot in the morning.

And finally, I made a double batch of these burritos (without chicken) and I have to say, they are amazing — especially when served with a bit of New Mexico green chili and some sour cream!  We ate a bunch and froze a bunch.  It warms my hungry, hungry heart to think of them all just laying in wait for me in my freezer for some glorious future day.

Are you as giddy as I am over this new method of meal prepping?!?  I feel like I now have a freezer full of GOLD.  These home-cooked beauties are healthier, cheaper, and, dare I say, much more delicious than fast food or freezer-aisle prepared stuff.  And, buying in bulk and making in bulk streamlines both the effort of buying and the prep effort, saving not just money on the ingredients, but majorly saving on prep time (and since time is money… it’s a double-whammy).

We’ve already witnessed the power of the laid away meal to forestall a week of chaotic eating (which usually winds up meaning lots of franticly-procured takeout).  This weekend we were away visiting family and didn’t get home until late Monday night.  I had no time to prep dinner for Tuesday… but my white wine chicken with artichokes was already there to save the day!

Couple the bulk freezer meal with my newfound discovery that you can make an entire week’s worth of oatmeal at once — not just overnight oats, but actual cooked oatmeal — and we are in turbo-super-delicious-frugal-eating-mode!!  We’ve been doing this “big batch oatmeal” using rolled oats for the past few weeks with great enjoyment.  We bring our pre-made oatmeal in to work and heat up our portions in the microwave each morning.  Then we dress them up however we like — dried fruit, nuts, fresh fruit, whatevs.  People have been quite jealous when they smell my cinnamon-and-vanilla oatmeal heating up in the microwave first thing each day…

Here’s to hoping these new strategies will make for a simpler, happier life going forward.  I highly recommend giving them a try!

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