Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Freezer Meals

I have always wanted to try making some freezer meals like I see constantly on Pinterest, but I wanted to do it with some friends because spending so much time in the kitchen seemed like it would be much more fun with friends than by myself. I rallied some friends together and we spent several hours in the kitchen. Our final product? 45 freezer meals. In case you are wondering what that looks like I graciously snapped a picture for you. 

Aside from the pizza and tinfoil wraps on the top shelf, that freezer was empty. 45 meals sure takes up some space! But I love it. Below, you will find our version of how beginners successfully completed the Pinterest freezer meal craze. 

It all started one day when I must have lost my marbles and ventured a question to my Facebook friends: "Anyone want to get together to try making some freezer meals?" I got 2 hits. See? I'm not the only one whose gone crazy. We set a date, time, and place. 

Then we had to come up with a plan. We decided on each of us coming up with 5 meals. To make sure no one overlapped on the same meal, we each took a different protein. To accommodate for food allergies we had ground beef, turkey, and other beef/meatless. 

Thinking that it would be easier to have one person do all the shopping, and then divide the bill into thirds, we got the list of necessary ingredients together. My list was two full pages, typed. Massive. The longest grocery list I have ever encountered in my life. It was interesting to compile though. Why on earth do recipes call for things like tablespoons when the product comes in ounces? Okay, don't answer that, they weren't expecting me, the math non-genious, to calculate for tripling several recipes that require that same ingredient thus needing an insane amount of tablespoons and turning it into ounces. This was only one example, there were so many I actually had to create a cheat sheet: ounces into pounds, cups into quarts/gallons, ounces in a cup, etc. etc. etc. you get the picture. The funny thing is that I became rather good at it. Except for the pasta, the pasta was a pain. The hardest part, however, was when some recipes called for one large onion or 2 cups of chopped onion. You know, since they don't sell pre-chopped onion, I had to guess on that. I think I did pretty good though. 

Shopping day finally arrived. I had to take out the third row of seats in my vehicle to make sure I had enough room. Because I live an hour away from the stores where I got the groceries, I needed some coolers, and no kids (Well, 1 kid out of 3 wasn't bad. She was a great trooper and helper!). I got most of the groceries from Wal-mart, and most of the fresh veggies and meat at Sam's Club. 

From this angle, it doesn't look like that much. It was though, it was a good 3 hours (at least) at 2 stores, 3 packed coolers, and tons of bags. 

The night before shopping day, I knew I would need room in the fridge for cold stuff so I cleared out a shelf and a half hoping that would be enough space. I also cleared off the counters and made sure the kitchen table was empty. By the time we got home from shopping, I dropped the non-perishable foods on the table, and shoved the perishable items in the fridge- totally unlike me if anyone knows me I like to be organized. I didn't even take the stuff out of the bags! Eek! But I was so tired, it didn't keep me up that night. =)

We planned to meet in the afternoon the day after shopping day. It just so happened that the genius that I am, I locked my keys in my car 30 miles away from home and was an hour-ish late to my house (And I didn't even get into my car until the next day! UGH!). Luckily, my friends knew how to get in, and they got started. I feel badly that they had to come home to a mess, but this is what I came home to. Such great friends!

After getting everything lined up, we chopped, diced, precooked the ground beef and noodles and had everything ready to grab for each recipe.

After all the amazing organizing, it was time to figure out how to complete the task of creating 15 meals tripled. The easiest way we could think of was to mix all the ingredients in a huge bowl. Because there were three of us and my hubby even stepped in after a while, we usually had about 2 recipes going at a time. 
We used those giant bowls to combine and mix all the ingredients. Without those huge things I really don't know how it would have worked.

The rest was fairly simple: combine, mix, put in a freezer bag or tin baking dishes.

The final product was about 47 or 48 meals (we had extra of a few recipes) in 6 hours which turned out to be $8.73/meal that feeds at least a family of 5. You can't even take the family out for that price. We each got 15 meals.

To add to the lovely chaos, we also had 6 kids running around. Luckily for us it was a beautiful day, and they spent much of it outside.  

Would I do it again? Heck ya. I tried to get them to commit to another round 15 days from then, but they didn't take. However, I do see that they are both pinning more freezer meal plans so it's looking good for me! 

Oh, and I can't not add this picture in:

I told ya we used a ton of stuff! 

Tips, Tricks, and Suggestions:
  • Because we got everything ready ahead of time, our noodles did start to dry out, but if you soak them in cold water before you use them, they soften right up.
  • Don't start in the afternoon. Start earlier, much earlier. 
  • If you are going to take on this huge of a task, you need to have a very large collection of bowls. Mixing bowls of various sizes, bowls to store stuff in, to chill, to set. Seriously, I have many many bowls an most of them were used. I was shocked at how many bowls I actually had. I've never seen them all used at once.
  • Do not use recipes that require you to cook milk and butter into some kind of cream sauce. It is way too temperamental and we burnt it the first time after spending about 20-30 minutes waiting for it to slowly simmer.
  • Don't leave the recipes that require some cooking of ingredients together until the end. 
  • Don't buy ingredients you already have. Between the three of us, we had most of the spices. Don't waste your money on that kind of stuff.
  • Make a cheat sheet for when you go to the store and take a calculator if you are not good at mental math like me.

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