AVOID BRAIN FREEZE WHILE FILLING YOUR FREEZER: A STRATEGIC GUIDE
subtitle: how to keep your sanity while preparing to make a bunch of meals all at once
Before I had each of my babies I set aside one weekend a few weeks before my due date to make twenty freezer meals. I have done this periodically throughout the years, and each time, I have become more efficient. This past time, my daughter got sick, so I had to move as quickly as possible to get everything done while my husband cuddled her. Through this experience, I came up with some useful steps for preparation.
Step One: List out each meal you plan on making and the ingredients included. I look at the quantities in which I can buy ingredients the most cheaply and use that to determine how many of each meal I make.
example: 2 [meals] Chicken Quesadillas, 2 Beef Stew, 1 Chicken Tortilla Soup, 2 Lasagna, 3 Black Bean Soup, 2 butternut squash soup (list ingredients underneath each item)
Step Two: Put all of your ingredients together so you can see what you need from the grocery store.
example: 6 red peppers, 5 vidalia onions, 3 diced tomatoes
(brighter tip: list everything then add tally marks each time they are used in recipes)
Step Three: Group and categorize. How many recipes call for diced peppers vs sliced peppers? diced or sliced onions?
Step Four: Make a plan of attack! Know what recipes you can reasonably accomplish in one day. Sometimes I do my casseroles first if they have specific ingredients with fewer points of overlap with my "bagged" meals (soups, stews, slow cooker)
Step Five: Prepare all veggies. I always like to do veggies before meats when cooking. This helps avoid contamination in your fridge, and veggies are easy to store while you are wait to apportion them out between meals.
- slice 5 red peppers, dice 2 red peppers
- dice 8 ribs of celery
- dice 1 red onion
- slice 4 vidalia onions, mince 1 vidalia onion
Step Six: Start to assemble meals by doing one type of meat at a time. I like to buymy chicken in bulk and then divide it out among the meals. Some chicken needs to be sliced and some recipes I just trim and put it in the bag, so I'll do one prep method at a time to stay organized.
Step Seven: Assemble and Label: Label everything and date everything. Food safety.gov has a great resource on how long food can be stored in your fridge or freezer. https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/storagetimes.html
Step Eight: Make a list of canned ingredients needed for your meals and keep them on hand to minimize grocery trips. Sometimes I add the canned ingredients in the bag and freeze them all together, but other times it is easier to add the canned food when I'm actually cooking the meal.
example: 4 cartons of chicken broth, 6 cans of black beans, 10 cans of diced tomatoes...
Step Nine: MAKE A MASTER LIST. Put it on your fridge and cross out each meal as you use it. This is the most important step to ensuring that your meals get eaten instead of turning into a dehydrated monstrosity that you find when you excavate out your freezer after a year.
Step Ten: Enjoy a few months of easy-peasy meal planning! Congratulations