It’s true. We are some of “those people” who make ahead freezer meals. While we don’t eat them EVERY night, they are a lovely option when I don’t want to waste time thinking about and cooking a healthy family dinner.
Last year, Brad and I attended a couple clean cooking classes through our gym, which were awesome. They were taught and prepared at Hy-Vee. We really liked the prep classes because meals were paleo style and healthy, which basically means they did NOT include and pastas, rice, etc. This helped serve my thinking for home prep later on. Although these classes are still continuing once a month, we can’t always make the class and budget factors in as well. In November, I got to thinking that maybe I could create my own clean meals as well. It’s actually not as hard/time consuming as it sounds. Most of my combinations include minimal ingredients. I also, cook them in a skillet once they have thawed. I add sides to them as needed the night of (depending on what we have and what people want!)
My sister and I completed a Sam’s run just the other day, and while we were in line, she asked me some questions about my meal prep, so hopefully her questions (answered) will help you should you decide to try and take this leap of faith!
My MUST HAVES for “make ahead” meals and “clean meal” prep:
- Gallon Freezer Bags. (Invest in some decent ones – although currently I have been using generic Target brand!)
- Permanent Marker. For labeling the bags.
- A good knife or two and a cutting board.
- Table or counter space. (Although, as you can see by my pictures, I make due!)
Literally what my counter looks like during one of my prepping sessions!
- Ipad, tablet, tv, computer, radio. I set up my Ipad like a little t.v. and have some of my netflix shows going at the same time so I can catch up on some of “my t.v.” vs. Phoenix shows!
- Olive oil.
- Your top favorite seasonings. Garlic, onion powder, tumeric, cumin, rosemary…(Personally, I could not do without my Tastefully Simple Seasonings. They are simply the best! If you want to try them – start with Rustic Herb Seasoning, Garlic Garlic and Fiesta Party Spice – These are used sometimes daily in our house!)
My “go to” spices.
- Veggies/Sides. Easy ones include baby carrots – I choose these because you don’t have to cut them!, onions, peppers, zucchini, potatoes, broccoli, veggies, and whatever type of veggies you prefer.) Corn would probably be good, but since Brad cannot eat corn due to his Crohn’s, that is a side I reserve for just Phoenix and I.
- Fruits. I use pineapple and apples in some of my recipes to add some sweetness.
- The meats. You could use chicken breasts, chicken thighs (I use skinless), pork chops, fish, ground meat, steak, etc. etc…
- Oh yea – Recipes. I usually scroll through pinterest and my recipe cards, but do whatever works for you!
Where to shop?
Honestly, Sam’s is the place for me, but that’s because I can get a lot at once there. I usually always get my chicken breast, chicken thighs, fish and whole chickens there. They have hormone/cage-free whole chickens there that are great to use (2 per a package). Hy-Vee, as well as Aldi’s are also my other “go-to” stores.
Where to Begin?
Hopefully, before you went to the store, you thought about some meals you like or would like to make ahead of time. Personally, I do not shop and make my meals on the same day. Too overwhelming. The day of, get your list (or an idea in your head) of the meals you want to try and prep/make. Honestly, I usually do this in my head because sometimes I change my mind as I’m going through chopping and mixing spices – but that’s just me!
First Things First?
Get all your ingredients out and organized – except for the meat! You will save this for last. I make a grouping of spices, bags/marker, and veggies. Now is also a good time to start your music or show if you plan to have that going! If you know the exact meals you’re making, you may want to just label your bags now before food goes in. However, if you’re like me – like I said – you might not know what kind of meals you’re coming up with!
You can use bowls/plates/whatever to make your piles of peppers/onions/veggies/fruits.
Putting It All Together
Usually, I dump in the veggies/fruits/spices/olive oil first. I kind of get an assembly line going of stacked up bags. I just eye ball, what I think would be enough for us. Once I get them all lined up, I clean up/move all those items out of the way. I have to make room for the meat! You want to do one meat at a time because of cross contamination. Also, I try and have the garbage can out to throw stuff away so I don’t have to touch doors/etc. Some people opt to use gloves when cutting meat. I do not. However, I wash my hands LOTS of times, because I don’t want to touch chicken and then other things. Once it’s all in the bag, I seal it and squish all the ingredients together.
Some meals just waiting to be thrown in the freezer!
How to cut?
I sometimes leave my chicken breasts whole, but you could also cut them into chicken bites, strips, etc. Same goes with the chicken thighs.
After cutting – dump them into your bags, zip, seal and freeze!
The glory of these type of meals, is that you can add sides if you want, but if you think in your head, “meat and veggies,“ you can add any combination of items that sound good to you.
Child Household Top Make Ahead Meal Options:
Roasted Veggies and Chicken
– Chicken (strips, breast or thighs)
– Carrots/Zucchini/Vegetables of choice
– Olive Oil and Seasoning (Tastefully Simple’s Rustic Herb Seasoning is great for this!)
Coconut Chicken Nuggets
– Cut up chicken breasts (simply freeze these until you need them)
– Shake them in coconut flour the day of (after they’ve thawed)
– Fry them up in some olive/coconut oil
– Tomato Paste, Mustard
– Olive Oil and Seasoning
– Squish together…It’s great to do a big batch of this because you could make one big loaf for meatloaf, and another loaf for meat balls. Just wait until it thaws to make them into the meatballs.
Whole Chicken in the Crock Pot
– 1 whole chicken
– Apples (I love to stuff these in the chicken and put around in the crockpot)
– Olive Oil and Seasonings (Again, I use rustic herb, garlic, barbeque, rosemary a lot with these)
– Put a little water in bottom, and cook all afternoon.
– This usually lasts us two meals, and then I will pick the chicken off and make either chicken salad or chicken pot pie with the remaining chicken so nothing gets wasted!
What’s the Hardest Part?
The hardest part with meal prep is honestly remembering to take the meals out of the freezer the night before or day of. I use a dry erase calendar on my fridge to list out our meals for the week. Do we always stick to it? No. But it at least helps us a majority of the time!
Do you have any favorite freezer meals? I’d love to hear!