Ready Or Not, It’s Coming.
That’s right. September is coming. Back to school is happening in a few short weeks.
On my long list of things to get done before we return to our homeschool schedule, this is an item of grave importance:
Make Freezer Meals So You Don’t All Starve In September.
Yep, I wrote that down, and I meant it. As a Remedial Homemaker, I know that a shift in our routine throws my family for a loop and I’ll take a while to adjust. We are launching into a new phase of our homeschooling, and it will demand a lot of my attention and time. Every year, as we are readjusting to our school schedule, I find myself floundering in the kitchen. Regardless of your educational decisions, all families face this transition and I bet I’m not the only one finding myself at 4:45 thinking, “Uh…so, how is it that I can’t seem to remember that these people need food, like, every day??!”
Enter: The Magic of Freezer Meals
Look you food snobs, don’t quit scrolling because you think I’m talking about some nasty homogeneous casserole ok?? A point of fact: tator-tot casserole is actually pretty freaking delicious, so there. But, given that bit of food-snob-repellant information, I actually do try to make all my freezer meals as close to simple whole food as possible. There is no canned cream of things or cheese-like product in the freezer meals I choose and very few are casseroles. It’s not that I hate those things, it’s just that I know there will already be several nights I’ll be sending this text: “Husband I love and adore? Would you please bring home a pizza or…any food? It seems I’ve fractured my sanity and require assistance.” Amiright?? Since I know there will already be events and circumstances I can’t control, and some days will just get away from me, I try to ensure that the freezer meals I plan are minimally processed, and most are fairly lean…except the one I’m making today, which has pesto and bacon and pasta! It’s going to be delicious. Girls, sometimes you just gotta go for the comfort food.
Methods of Freezer Cooking:
There are three main ways people do freezer cooking: fully cooked meals, main ingredient prep, and recipe base prep. I do all of these with different foods. I feel so much better about my day when I can at least say I got a good meal done. These methods help me do so in a fraction of the time, with minimal effort. Today I am going to show you how to do a fully cooked freezer meal. I will post parts two and three as I prep those meals over the next few weeks.
Here’s the deal, I prefer to do one big day, kill myself off in the kitchen making 35 meals and putting them in the freezer, then crying, hating my sink, having sore feet, drinking wine, ordering take-out, and finally, not having to think about it for like three whole months. The day I do it is a pain, but afterward, the rewards are great. However, I don’t have time for that in the next couple of weeks so I need to start smaller. I call this method “Make Three Freeze Two”.
Today I will be making only one recipe, but I am making a triple batch and freezing two whole dinners which will feed my family of four for two dinners, and probably a lunch as well. That means I will get nine meals of food out of one cooking session. One set of dishes. One chopping session. One big mess. Nine meals. Then on the day’s I need them, all I have to do is pull one out of the freezer and pop it into the oven or Instant Pot. There will be no mess at all. It’s glorious.
Seriously you guys, remedial homemakers everywhere need to have an Instant Pot. I love mine so much I wanna marry it. I would cry if it broke. You will see more about why as I show you how I do the other forms of freezer cooking in parts two and three of this series. It has changed my kitchen experience and yes, I CAN cook. Of all the homemaker skills, cooking is my strong point. Some people assume if you use an Instant Pot frequently you must just be a mediocre cook. Gasp! I call bogus on that. Hooey. Big Fat Nopity Nope. Don’t pre-judge me man, my biscuits will make you weep for joy, and I’m sooo good at soups now. True story.
Little TMI marriage secret:
The two rooms my husband cares about most in his life are the kitchen and the bedroom. If I’m good in those two areas (ahem) he thinks I am a wildly irresistible success regardless of what the rest of the house looks like or what else got done that day. Pro Tip: Find out what makes your husband feel like he has an amazing wife and just lean into those areas. In the vast majority of cases, his list for you will be shorter than yours. Way shorter. Kitchen? Bedroom? Those make me a winner for my man, the rest is a bonus.
Fully Cooked Meal Prep
This Baked Chicken Pesto Alfredo is my meal for the day. I stocked up on chicken breast when it was on sale recently and just froze the whole packages. I defrosted one whole package for today and it’s about four and a half pounds.
First, cook the chicken. I will use this method of making shredded chicken in the Instant Pot. It’s easy and fast and won’t require me to stand over my grill or heat up my house. You can cook the chicken any way you want. Or, go get two rotisserie chickens, debone them, and use that instead. Easy Peasy.
As your chicken is cooking, bake a whole pound or two of bacon in your oven, or do this a couple days before like I did. 400 degrees, foil lined baking sheet, bake for 15-18 minutes. Frying bacon is a pain in the butt. It’s greasy, takes time, and then there’s always more left in the fridge to use up if you only needed a couple pieces. From now on, just make a sheet tray or two in your oven, use what you need, and freeze the rest. Then, whenever you need some bacon for
happiness a recipe, it’s already made. Just reheat it in a pan, or saute it with your aromatics and enjoy.
While the bacon and chicken are cooking, make your pasta in a big pot and cook it slightly underdone. It will cook more in the oven. If you normally cook it for nine minutes, try six or seven.
After the chicken is done, shred it or cut it up, crumble your bacon, and drain your pasta. Mix all the rest of your ingredients in a big mixing bowl or even a clean dish pan if you need more room to stir. Portion it into a 9×13 pan for today, and two disposable foil baking pans (or plastic freezer bags) for later.
EDITED: This recipe tripled actually easily made FOUR pans of pasta! Bonus points! So make sure you have three disposable baking pans or plastic freezer bags.
Top with parmesan, panko bread crumbs seasoned with Italian seasoning, and a little bacon and then bake the one you are eating today. For the other two trays, cool them, cover with foil, label and write out the baking instructions (on the recipe I linked).
Now all you have to do is add a side salad or vegetable and tonight’s dinner is done and probably tomorrow’s too. Also, you know you have three more meals waiting on a busy day, or for hospitality. When my freezer already has prepared meals in it, I am much more likely to be able to bring dinner to that discouraged friend, that new mom, the family in need of blessing etc.
So, that’s the basics of fully cooked meal prep. Plan a meal around your protein, pick some meals you like, and just make a lot at once. It doesn’t hardly take any more time or electricity to make three times the amount. This is a super efficient way of making dinner that saves you time and is a real life saver for busy days and opportunities to image God’s heart for families by serving others. Think through your recipes and see what you can double or triple to save time.
What else could you save shredded chicken for? I save it in small portions for quick additions to salads, tacos, or a chicken veggie frittata. Ooh, I almost forgot that I also save it for barbeque chicken over instant pot sweet potatoes. Ehrmergherd you guys, that’s so yummy. You can follow that link for oven directions as well.
The only other meal I make and freeze fully cooked is enchiladas, and I will discuss how I do those in Part Two: Main Ingredient Freezer Cooking. Go ahead and click “Follow” on the menu bar to the right so you don’t miss it.
Come join us on The Remedial Homemaker Community Page on facebook so we can share more ideas with you!
May your aprons and Bibles both be well-worn,
The Remedial Homemaker
P.S. Raw potatoes and mushrooms don’t freeze well. They get weird. Your welcome.