Now for the cooking segment….
I started by putting 5 packs of chicken breasts (15 pieces total) in a stock pot with water, to boil them all for the meals I needed. I used the biggest pot I had and boiled them all.
While the chicken was cooking, I used another pot and began to brown 12 pounds of ground beef (in a smaller stock pot.) Once all the ground beef was cooked, I drained it all and added 1/4 of it back to the pot to make my marinara.
Meat Marinara Recipe
3 pounds ground beef, cooked and strained
1 medium onion, diced finely
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 large cans of crushed tomatoes
1 12 oz. can tomato paste
1 huge (the double size) jar of good store bought marinara
1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 Tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
Salt to taste (1 1/2 Tablespoons or so)
Pepper to taste (3/4 of a tablespoon)
To the ground beef, add in the garlic and onions and let cook until onions are soft. Add in the rest of the ingredients and cook for 45 minutes or so on medium heat, until flavors are combined. I used the marinara to make 5 small lasagnas in 2.5 pound size aluminum pans.
Easy Lasagna Recipe
(makes 5 freezer meals)
Ricotta Cheese (largest tub)
1 large egg
1/2 Tablespoon ground black pepper
1 cup grated Parmesan
No bake lasagna noodles (2 boxes made all of mine)
Shredded mozzarella cheese (the bag kind totally works for me) – it’s hard to say how much, but I used about 10 cups total
In a small bowl mix together the ricotta, egg, pepper and Parmesan until thoroughly combined.
On the bottom of your pan, ladle in enough sauce to lightly coat the bottom of the pan with a thin layer. Using a small spoon or tablespoon scoop, add in dollops of the ricotta mixture (I did 5 drops on each layer, one on each corner and one in the middle). Add more marinara onto and around the ricotta, sprinkle a thin layer of mozzarella, then add another layer of noodles. Do three layers, topping it off the final layer of noodles with sauce and good layer mozzarella cheese and cover with cardboard top. Set aside to cool before putting in freezer.
When you’re ready to cook, take off the top, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes at 375 degrees, take off aluminum and cook for an additional 10 minutes or until top is lightly browned and bubbly.
Add a salad and some garlic bread and you’ve got a meal in just a few minutes.
After I made my lasagna, I put the rest of the marinara into gallon Ziploc bags, two cups in each, then squished all the air off and froze them flat in the freezer. When I want to make spaghetti, I cook the noodles, warm the sauce, add a salad and some bread and I’m done.
Easy Chili Recipe
2 pounds of ground beef
1 onion, diced
3 cans of chili beans
1 can Rotel tomatoes
1 can of diced tomatoes (14 oz can)
2 packs of chili seasoning
1/2 table spoon salt
2 cups water
Put browned ground beef into a pan with onions and cook until onions are soft. Add in all the other ingredients (including the juice of the tomatoes) and cook for 30 minutes or so until flavors have combined.
It’s hard to measure, but I used two gallon bags to put in 1/3 of the mixture into each, and then split the rest up into a couple smaller quart bags for chili dogs or chili chips and cheese (things where chili is not the main meal.)
Easy Cheeseburger Casserole
(makes 3 freezer meals)
For the topping:
2 pounds of ground beef (again, mine was pre-cooked)
1 onion, diced very finely
Six cups Cheddar Cheese, grated
For the crust:
5 cups of self rising flour
3/4 cup of sour cream
1 cup (more or less) of water
In a saute pan, cook together the ground beef over medium high heat until onion is soft. Set aside to cool.
Make the crust first by combining the flour, egg, sour cream and enough water to bring it together into a thick, but spreadable consistency.
Spray the pans (I used three round pans) and spread a layer of the dough into each one. Sprinkle the cooled meat mixture over the dough, then top each one with about 2 cups of cheddar. Top with lid. To cook, bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until cheese is lightly browned and bubbly.
For a variation, you could put some of the marinara on the dough, and have a cheeseburger pizza casserole. We sometimes use marinara for dipping – it’s the perfect finger food! For the rest of the ground beef, I divided it up into a couple of quart Ziploc bags for sloppy joes or tacos.
Now let’s work on the chicken recipes. I shredded all of the chicken and used it in several of the recipes below. After they were all made, I put the rest of the shredded chicken into quart size Ziploc bags and froze them flat for Chicken Tacos, BBQ Chicken sandwiches, etc.
Broccoli Cheddar Chicken Pasta Bake Recipe
(makes 3 freezer meals)
3 cooked, shredded chicken breasts
2 boxes of pasta (I used penne), cooked and draine
2 cans of Campbell’s cheddar soup
2 cups of chicken broth (I used the broth from cooking the chicken)
2 bags of frozen broccoli
1 Tablespoon Salt
3 cups of shredded cheddar
Combine all ingredients except shredded cheddar into a bowl, divide out into three pans, the top with cheddar cheese. When ready to cook, bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until warm and bubbly. Because I’m getting carbs, veggies and protein all in one dish, I usually add another veggie and some garlic bread and that’s it. So yummy!
Tex Mex Chicken Casserole
(makes 4 freezer meals)
4 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
8 cups of cooked rice
2 can of Rotel tomatoes
2 packs of taco seasoning
2 cans of whole kernel corn, drained
2 cans of black beans (undrained)
1 small can of black olives, drained
6 cups of cheddar cheese, grated
Mix together all of the ingredients in a bowl, except the cheese. Divide out into four pans, then top each with the cheddar cheese and top with cardboard topper. To cook, remove cardboard piece and bake at 350 until thoroughly heated and cheese is melted (all ingredients are already cooked, so it’s just a matter of heating it well.) I serve with sour cream and salsa on top and tortilla chips on the side.
Basic Chicken Casserole Recipe
(makes 3 casseroles)
4 shredded, cooked chicken breasts
5 cups of cooked rice
2 cans of cream of chicken condensed soup
1 cup of chicken broth
2 bags of frozen peas and carrots (I used mixed, but you could use one bag of each)
1 Tablespoon of salt
1/2 Tablespoon of black pepper
3 cup of French’s onions
3 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
In a small bowl, combine the cheese and onions together – set aside (for the topping)
In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients together, then separate into pans. Top each one with 1/3 of the topping mixture and freeze. When ready to cook, bake at 350 until thoroughly warm and cheese is melted (everything is already cooked in the casserole.)
Chicken & Dressing
(makes 3 freezer meals)
A big pan of cornbread (use your own fave recipe) cooked and crumbled
2 cans of cream of chicken soup
1 can of chicken broth
1 medium onion, finely diced & sauteed in butter
2 Tablespoons of ground sage
1 1/2 Tablespoons of salt
3/4 of a Tablespoon of ground black pepper
2 cups of cooked, shredded chicken
*you can also add a couple of stalks of celery, however we don’t like it – so my dressing doesn’t have it.*
Mix all of the ingredients together, put into pans and freeze. When you’re ready to cook, bake at 350 degrees for about an hour. Make sure to have chilled cranberry sauce and basic chicken gravy for the side, because that’s what a good southerner would do
My total freezer meals recipe stash:
2 bags of pre-made marinara (for spaghetti)
2 bags of chili (plus 2 additional small bags for chili dogs/nachos)
3 cheeseburger casseroles
3 broccoli cheddar chicken pasta bakes
4 Tex Mex chicken casseroles
3 basic chicken casseroles
2 bags of ground beef (ready for sloppy joes, etc.)
3 bags of shredded chicken breast (ready for tacos, etc.)
Plus the original Chicken & Dressing that started it all
Grand total – 28 meals (plus two small bags of chili)
1) Make sure your kitchen is clean to start. You don’t want to have to clean then cook, because you’re going to be washing dishes while cooking at a rapid fire pace.
2) Think about what you want to stock up on. You can start with what’s in your pantry and build from there. It’s a great way to make the most of what you have.
3) Clean your freezer. I thoroughly cleaned out my freezer and found that once it was all cleaned up, not only did I have enough room for all those meals, I even had a leftover shelf to fill with my favorite ice cream (which I totally did.)
4) Stock up on freezer bags and aluminum pans. Those 3/$1 pans come in all shapes and sizes. I bought ones that hold about 2 pounds of food. Buy good plastic baggies (I recommend Ziploc) in both gallon and quart size.
5) Wear comfortable shoes. I did it barefoot and my feet were killing me at the end of four hours.
6) Have help, if you can. I wish I had done it on a Sunday when my girls were home to help wash dishes, open cans, etc. I did the bulk of the work when they were at school, but by the last hour I had help and it made my life much easier.
7) Remember this isn’t a fairy tale. Half way through you’re going to start thinking “Why did I think this was a good idea?!?” When you’re up to your elbows in marinara and casseroles, putting stuff into pans over and over again, you’re going to question the whole mess. It’s worth it.
8) Sharpies are your friend. You can mark every meal with the name and date, so you don’t have to wonder when it was made or what in that dish.
9) Prep in batches. Need onion for 4 recipes? Chop it all at once to make your life easier. Poach all your chicken in one pot (which will also give you some decent broth). Brown all of your hamburger together then divide it out for the different meals. If you’ve got to do a lot of it, do it all together.
10) Free pep talk. I think that’s all my tips, but wanted to throw in one more to just say if you really want to do this you TOTALLY can.