|Photo Credit: Freefoodphotos.com|
Way, way long ago, when my husband and I lived on an imaginary budget (read: we spent whatever we wanted), we would visit this place where you would pay a ridiculous amount to go in to their shop where they've prepped all the ingredients for your chosen meals. You'd put them all together into Ziploc bags, take them home and freeze them. It was so nice to have all those meals at our fingertips each night. The problem with those was that you still had to "cook" the meals, and they often involved several steps.
This weekend I took that concept and applied it to my crockpot! It's a mix of menu planning, freezer cooking, and crockpot cooking. Or in other words, it's saving lots of time and lots of money.
I was able to make 29 freezer friendly meals that were (mostly) for the crock pot for UNDER $135!!! That works out to about $4.70 per dinner for my family of 5! And most of these meals will have leftovers, which means lunches, too! (And actually, I only paid $97 because I had so much frozen meat on hand, but I factored in the cost for those meats for you so it would be a fair and accurate total). This cost also includes gallon and quart sized ziplocs!
Want to give it a try? Here's what I did:
1. I took about 1 hour to find the recipes that I wanted to do. I made a list of all these recipes, and decided which ones I would make double or triple batches.
2. I took about 30 minutes and wrote down every ingredient. Then I went through my cabinet and freezer to see what I had on hand. I then re-wrote my grocery list by section (produce, meats, dairy, frozen, canned, etc.) with the total amounts of each ingredient needed.
3. I went shopping. Without my 3 kids. I left my house, shopped, and returned in under 1 hour. Here's most of my loot:
4. When I got home, I got to quick-soaking my black beans and kidney beans, making a double batch of rice, and cooking 3 pounds of ground beef. If you wanted to save time (but loose a little money), you could easily buy canned beans. I didn't mind spending the time cooking them, and every penny counts in our house right now:
5. I began assembling my meals, starting with the easiest ones. Label EVERY bag with the meal name and any instructions. When filling bags, try to find something like a pitcher. You can fold the top of the bag over the edge, and it keeps your zipper clean, and your bag from toppling over and spilling your ingredients ALL OVER. Your welcome for that.
6. Freeze! I used one for dinner right away (hey, I had been working for 4 hours, I wasn't about to prep another meal!) and left two in my fridge for the next two nights (and lunches!).
I'm sure you're now wondering what I made. Here's my list:
For the crockpot:
Salsa & Taco Seasoned Chicken (for tacos) X3
Taco Soup (will make 2 meals, but prepped in one bag)
Whole Chicken w/Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, and Carrots (1 bag/chicken, will make 2 meals)
Meat Stew X2
Teriyaki Chicken X2
Cheesy Broccoli Cheddar Chicken X2
Pulled Pork X3
Pork w/Apples & Sweet Potatoes
Other that are prepped for the stove top or oven:
Sauce & Beef for Spaghetti (just need to cook noodles)
Seasoned Ground Beef for Tacos
Chicken Fettucini Alfredo (just need to cook noodles)
Pizza X2 (I made a huge batch of pizza bites to freeze, the other batch is not actually prepped, just sitting in my fridge)
In total, this took me about 5 hours from start to finish (including my kitchen being put back together). This will last us over a month for dinners (we eat with our church once a week, plus there's enough food to do a leftovers night once a week). Utilizing the crockpot will save me a ton of time cooking at night as our meals will already be cooked and warm when it's dinner time.