Sunday, March 22, 2015

One Month of Freezer Meals in One Day

I love to eat. And I try to cook and eat healthy whenever I can. But I'm also super lazy about food. I hate recipe planning, shopping, and cooking. My most recent solution?
A month's worth of freezer meals in just one day!
My friend Jessica and I got together one Sunday a while back and spend the entire day preparing healthy, yummy meals for our freezers that lasted an entire month!
Here's how we did it.
We started by choosing seven recipes that we thought would work well as freezer meals.
{click titles for printable recipes}
Then we doubled each recipe and compiled a shopping list in Excel that incorporated all of the ingredients we would need. It ended up having 55 line items (not including some items we already had at home in our fridges, pantries, and spice racks).
While shopping, we also stocked up on disposable aluminum freezer trays and gallon size Ziplock freezer bags.
$180 later, we were ready to start cooking.
We started by organizing our recipes and ingredients, washing our produce, and dividing up the recipes between the two of us. We still weren't quite sure how long this was going to take, or exactly how much we had committed to...
 Then we spent some time chop chop chopping while we pre-cooked the breasts of about a dozen chickens.

We each took on three recipes and worked alongside for about six and a half hours, teaming up at the end for the final recipe. By that time we were definitely over cooking, but we were glad we pushed through and finished everything.


Each dish got a specific label including cooking/re-heating instructions so they could easily be popped in the oven or slow cooker by a spouse as needed.

We were curious to see if freezing, thawing, and re-cooking would have any effect on the dishes.

{click titles for printable recipes}
Cheesy Chicken and Rice Bake -- Yay!
This recipe might have been the least healthy of the bunch, which is probably why it was so delicious. It made a TON, which meant meals for several days, and although it got a little dried out with re-heating, adding some sour cream, guacamole, or salsa fixed that right up.
Creamy Chicken Quinoa and Broccoli Casserole -- Meh.
This one had a lot of promise and probably would have been very good fresh. Unfortunately, freezing and re-heating really did a number on the broccoli, which was mushy and yucky by the time we ate it. In hindsight, I probably would have made it without the broccoli and then served some fresh veggies on the side instead. That being said, this one was pretty labor intensive and the portions weren't very big, so I probably wouldn't make it again.

Pizza Quinoa Casserole -- Boo.
I had made this recipe before and absolutely loved it. However, it did not make for a great freezer meal. Upon reheating, the quinoa got super mushy and the veggies seemed much less fresh. I ate it the first night we made it, but after that I couldn't choke down any more (although Stew did finish a bit more over the next couple days). Jessica said she had better luck by cooking it in the oven for much longer to dry it out a bit. But I'd say this dish is definitely better enjoyed fresh.
This was definitely my favorite of the bunch (but I'm a sucker for mac 'n' cheese in any form). I don't know how "skinny" it actually was (it sure used a lot of cheese) but it was so ooey-gooey and delicious. For some reason the broccoli didn't seem to get as ruined by re-heating in this recipe as it did in the others. But just to be safe, I would probably skip the broccoli when making this again and just add fresh veggies on the side.

Skinny Chicken & Broccoli Alfredo -- Meh.
I actually really liked this dish, but that may be because we ate it the week after our freezer meal prep marathon, which means I never actually froze it. Jessica ate hers a few weeks later and said that the pasta got really dried out. Additionally, this recipe was pretty labor intensive and didn't make huge portions, so I think we'd probably skip it as a freezer meal in the future.

Slow Cooker Quinoa Chicken Chili -- Yay!
I've made this one before as well. Slow cooker chilies are my favorite, so I was pretty excited about having some on hand in the freezer to just dump into the Crock Pot. As a freezer meal, it turned out really well! Basically all we had to do was combine all the ingredients in a big pot and then portion it into freezer bags. After a quick thaw under running water one morning before work, I just dumped it over some chicken breasts and then when I got home we had delicious chili ready for dinner. It was better cheese added on top (of course).

Thai Red Curry with Chicken and Snow Peas -- Meh.
This is another one I have made before and absolutely loved. But unfortunately, it didn't turn out so well as a freezer meal. My main problem with it was that the snow peas got all yucky after being frozen and thawed. However, I think you could make the curry sauce, freeze it, and then add fresh chicken and veggies when you re-heat it later, and that would still be yummy.


A quick cost/benefit analysis clearly shows that our little cooking adventure ended up being worth our time.

Each freezer meal ended up costing $12.89 on average. However, many of the larger ones provided a couple rounds of leftovers, which brought the cost of each meal down even further. For example, Stew and I had enough Skinny Baked Broccoli Mac and Cheese to eat over three different sittings (so six good-sized portions overall). That breaks down to just $2.14 per person, per meal (complete with protein, healthy carbs and veggies) -- a steal!

Granted, we had to take into consideration the cost of our time. It took time to research recipes, develop a grocery list, shop, and then do the actual cooking. But overall, everything probably didn't take any more time than one typical workday. And as a reward, we had a bunch of healthy, delicious meals on hand -- a wonderful alternative to picking up fast food or eating out. We didn't eat freezer meals every single day, but chose to space them out over a month, heating one up every few days or so when it was most convenient.


We did learn a few things. When we do this again (which we plan to), we will definitely do some prep work on our own in advance. Pre-cooking chicken breasts, quinoa, and brown rice the night before would definitely have saved us some time.

We also learned that unless the meals were pulled out of the freezer in advance and thawed overnight in the refrigerator, cooking times needed to be dramatically increased.

In the future, we'll definitely be a little more selective about the recipes we choose, making only those that are actually meant to be frozen and eaten later. Or, alternately, if recipes call for veggies, we would leave them out and then make a note to add them when the dish is re-heated instead.

Overall, I definitely think our first adventure in freezer meals was a huge success. We learned a few things for next time, had a really fun day hanging out, and looked like domestic goddesses to our husbands every time we served another delicious meal with seemingly almost no prep.

Yum Yum!
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  1. I have a GREAT cookbook for freezer meals. Of course I am not at home so I can't post it but it helps for you to cook a ton of meals and gives you grocery lists etc. Love this post though, freezer meals are my fav! Especially with busy lives and kiddos

  2. Oh wow! This is such a great idea. I know a lot of people do freezer meals and I want to do this now! Thanks for not only the recipes but your reviews as well!!


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