Monday, February 10, 2014

We pause from our regularly scheduled deep thoughts to bring you...

The much requested post about my freezer meals since returning to work.

I am a graduate student, full-time teacher, and mommy. I used to be busy. Now I'm just crazed. I'm also doing this thing where I'm trying to lose the last eight pounds of the fifty I put on with the Sweet Potato, so in addition to doing the Bikini Body Mommy workouts (found here), I'm trying to eat at home more.

*as I type this, I'm eating from a pint of dark chocolate gelato. it has antioxidants, right?*

I get home around 4, just in time for Sweet Tater's last nap of the day. No way on this green earth am I going to bang around pots at pans at this time, or I will face the wrath of a Grumpy Baby and ain't nobody got time for that.

She wakes up around 5:30, and I wash out her bottles from the day, workout next to her while she tummy-times-it-up, nurse her, bathe her, and put her to bed. At this point, I lesson plan or do homework and pass out at 8:30. So yeah, cooking is low on the totem pole of priorities.

We're over a month into this new system, and here is what has worked. Twice now I have had a marathon cooking session wherein I destroy my kitchen and stock my freezer.

A few notes:

1) I don't have recipes for everything. I'll link to the ones I have, but mostly, the meals are easy and made up.
2) I use a lot of cheap and quick ingredients. Russet potatoes instead of red, fresh kale, jasmine rice instead of brown (cooks faster), and ground beef instead of stew beef. I also buy canned beans like they're going out of style, even though dry are cheaper. But not faster. You catching my drift?
3) I bought those foil tins from the Dollar Tree and also some gallon freezer bags. Bags of soup sounds gross but it is what it is.
4) Sides include Jiffy cornbread (can't beat 33 cents a box), sweet potatoes (sounds eerie now, eh?), and bagged salads if they're on sale.

Round one 
Buy the huge tube (ew) of ground beef and brown it all. Divide into half lb or 3/4 lb portions. Whatever you don't use can be frozen and used for a quick pasta and meat sauce dinner. I ended up with 6 bags from a 3 pound tube (ew). I also buy the bags of frozen chicken. They honestly gross me out unless I put them in the crock pot and they're cooked to shreds. Then I used them for the chili and tamale pie. Roasted red peppers are super easy, so when bell peppers are on sale I buy a ton. Then I throw them in pretty much every recipe.

Black bean pie (I added a little ground beef)
Beef chili (Three bags)
Tamale pie (I made two)
The Pioneer Woman's Mac and cheese (This was more to satisfy a took a little too long, but I made three pans)
Baked Ziti
Chili pie (basically the small amount of chili I had left in a pie crust with cheese on top)
Oatmeal breakfast bars *
Roasted red pepper quiche**

*I've made these a few times and am obsessed. They're really cheap and easy. Unlike me. Ha. I mash up 3 bananas, throw in oats, a little sugar, 2 eggs, and whatever random baking ingredients I have (chocolate chips, coconut, cranberries, etc). I ran out of vanilla so I used almond extract. And, because I'm nursing, I added four tablespoons of brewer's yeast and a few tablespoons wheat germ. It makes them kinda bitter, but I can smear peanut butter on them in the morning and for about 350 calories, I have a pretty filling breakfast.

**Quiche is one of those catch-alls. I just throw my leftover veggies, meat, and cheese in with four eggs and about a cup of milk and pour it in a pie crust. So I don't really have a recipe, but I make it all the time.
Sometimes I make extra filling and bake it in muffin tins, sans the pie crust. It's a quick breakfast that way.

Total for groceries was about $180, including our breakfast and lunch stuff.

Round Two
Chicken pot pie (2)
Bacon and Red Pepper Quiche (2)
Potato and kale soup with bacon (if you puree boiled potatoes with chicken broth in the blender it turns out like a creamy soup!)
Beef stroganoff (2)
Beef and rice casserole (3) (made from leftover rice, veggies, and ground beef)
Chicken and dressing casserole (3)
Chicken Pesto Alfredo Pasta (4 pans!)

I came home from grocery shopping ready to tackle round two of freezer meal cooking. It was a little hectic, but here's what I did:

-In the oven, I put bacon, cornbread, red peppers, and chicken breasts to bake. It was a little crowded in there!
-In the crockpot, I added a bag of that frozen chicken.
-I browned 3 lbs of beef,  boiled two boxes of pasta, and boiled a bunch of potatoes.
-When I had room on the stove top, I made stove top stuffing, sauteed celery and a bag of chopped onions, made rice andd two bags of mixed veggies.

As things finished, I put them in large ziplocs or tupperware in the fridge. The next day, I threw the components  together. For example, the pot pie is basically chicken, mixed veggies, celery, and a cream of chicken soup.  The pasta was some mushrooms and tomatoes (I didn't even cook them...), chicken, pasta, a jar of pesto and a jar of alfredo, and some shredded cheese. 

I labeled the tins and threw it all in the freezer. I'm amazed if you stuck with me this far!

Here's your prize: a picture of my freezer:
Happy cooking!

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