The second go at the freezer meal preparation was a success, with one small mitigating factor – during the process, I forgot to take photos!
…with the exception of this lovely composition of white button mushrooms and mini Portobello mushrooms. I like to mix mushrooms in my recipes. It gives a subtle extra note of flavor to the dish, and just look how beautiful they are together!
I did, however, remember to take notes. What worked well, what didn’t work well (or at all!), how to “fix” the procedures, and what I want to try next are the ideas I am sharing with you today.
This month, I did a few of the preparation needs differently than last time, lessons learned (see the August First Friday Freezer Fest here). I wrote out not only the meals I wanted to prepare and a shopping list, I wrote out how each item needed to be prepared before beginning. That helped tremendously! As a matter of fact, as Friday came closer, I realized that I had two other obligations that day. On Thursday, I did the preparation steps a little at a time throughout the day and put it all in the fridge. Friday morning, everything was ready for assembly, saving me a lot of time and stress.
Other helpful hints that I discovered, some the hard way:
- Put aluminum foil or waxed paper between the stacked bags in the freezer. If possible, don’t stack until frozen. Several times last month, I would pull a meal out of the freezer, only to find that I could not read all of the directions written on the front of the bag. This happened because I stacked the bags directly on top of each other, and when the bags froze, the Sharpie® ink froze to the bag on top of it. Removing/prying apart the bags removed part of the ink. I had to look up the recipes again to find the missing information in order to have dinner!
- Place a second label or write the recipe name at the top of the bag where the zipper is or across the bottom of the bag. This way, the recipe name can be seen without having to dig through the stack of meals to find the one you are looking for, or to simply see what you have at a glance.
- When choosing a freezer meal to prepare, make sure you allow yourself enough time for the meal to thaw completely before cooking, especially if the meal is an oven-baked meal. With the crockpot meals, this step is not as vitally important. Choose your meal the day before and let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Otherwise, you could end up with some raw chicken in your otherwise delicious dish.
- If this is your first time making a recipe, follow the instructions and ingredients exactly. My husband and I almost invariably feel that most of my recipes I try need tweaked a little, but I only tweak them after the first try. For example, most of the recipes that call for a can of tomatoes we agree could use more tomatoes. I will try that the second time around, but not the first.
- In recipes that call for fresh potatoes, parboil them first for about 5 minutes, then drain and immediately rinse them in cold water. This will keep them from turning brown and/or mushy in the freezer.
- When preparing vegetables, go ahead and chop/dice/slice some extra and freeze them, either by the cup or by the individual vegetable. This helps in two ways:
- When preparing a non-freezer meal during the week, if you need a cup of chopped onions for a recipe, you have the onion chopped and ready to use.
- You will have less waste from foods going bad before you have used them.
Recipe List, Grocery List, Prep List
Cheesy Enchilada Quinoa (we like to add cooked and chopped chicken breast to this one)
Chicken Marsala Meatballs (my husband wished for extra sauce)
Turkey Parmesan Meatballs (I substituted ground turkey for the chicken)
Greek Turkey Burgers ( I accidentally put in cilantro instead of spinach – don’t do that! Blech…)
Veggie soup (personal recipe)
Hot hamburgers (personal recipe)
Stuffed peppers (personal recipe)
Smoked sausage and sauerkraut (personal recipe)
Beef chuck roast, 7 pounds beef round stew meat, 1½ pounds
Ground beef patties, 8 ground beef, 2 pounds
Ground turkey, 3½ pounds chicken breast, 10 pieces
Chicken thighs, 16 pieces ground chicken, 1 pound
Smoked sausage, 1 pound pork chops, 1 pound
Pork sausage, 1 pound eggs, 3
Green onions, 2 black beans, 1 can corn, frozen, 4 cups
RoTel tomatoes, 2 cans onions, 10 bell peppers, 7
Diced tomatoes, 2 cans carrots, 4 pounds celery, 1 bunch
Red kidney beans, 1 can great northern beans, 1 can zucchini, 4 pounds
Green beans, 2 cans spinach, fresh, 3 cups chili beans, 2 cans
Mild pepper rings, 1 jar tomato sauce, 1 large can sauerkraut, 1 jar
Tomatoes, 2 baby white potatoes, 12 red potatoes, 22
Mushrooms, 1½ pounds peas, frozen, 2 cups lentils, ½ pound
Sun-dried tomatoes, 1 package red onion, 1 cucumber, 1
Tomato paste, 8 Tbsp sun-dried tomato pesto, ¼ cup lima beans, 1 cup
Orange, 1 lemons, 2 lime, 1
STAPLES AND SEASONINGS
Beef broth, 3 cups vegetable broth, 4 cups chicken broth, 15 ¼ cups
Brown sugar, 1¼ cups minced garlic, 1½ cups ginger, 2½ tsp
Onion powder, ½ tsp white pepper, 1 tsp cornstarch, 4½ Tbsp
Chili powder, 3½ Tbsp cumin, 7½ Tbsp cilantro, 1 cup
Oregano, 1 Tbsp rosemary, 1½ tsp bay leaf, 4
Red pepper flakes, 1¼ tsp poultry seasoning, 1 tsp Greek seasoning, 1 tsp
Thyme, 2 tsp ranch dressing mix, 1 pkg parsley, 1 Tbsp
Bread crumbs, 1½ cups flour, 1 Tbsp nutmeg, 1/8 tsp
Basil, ½ tsp stuffing mix, 1 box dill, ¼ tsp
OILS, VINEGARS, SAUCES
Soy sauce, ¾ cups sesame oil, 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar, 1 Tbsp
Sriracha, 1 tsp salsa, 2 cups enchilada sauce, 1 large can
Orange marmalade, ¾ cup BBQ sauce, ¾ cup hot sauce, 1 cup
Worcestershire sauce, 4 Tbsp white wine, 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, 5 Tbsp
Vegetable oil, 1 tsp olive oil, 2 cups Marsala, 1 cup
Pizza sauce, 1 can cream of chicken soup, 1 can
GRAINS AND PASTA
Sesame seeds, 1 tsp quinoa, 1½ cups ditalini, 1½ cups
Rice, 2 cups barley, 1 cup spaghetti, 1 pound
Dry tortellini, 1 pound
Mexican cheese shreds, 4 cups parmesan cheese wedge, 1¾ cups
Heavy cream, ¼ cup ricotta cheese, 1 cup
Mozzarella cheese, 1 cup butter, 2 Tbsp
Greek yogurt, 1 cup feta cheese, ¼ cup