There’s something about routine that keeps all of us going and feeling productive, organized and healthy. One part of my routine that wasn’t making me feel that way was making dinner every. single. day. Same routine, different day, always a chore. Always scrambling.
The hours between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. are always crunch time in our house. That’s the time when I get dinner started, hungry kids get off the bus, and most nights we have basketball practice and/or scout meetings. And every night we have homework, which would be much more successfully done if completed early.
Yes, I realize that 4 pm is kind of early to be starting dinner, but we started eating at geriatric dinner hour when the kids were really little and it’s kind of a habit now. One or more members (not Greg, thank goodness!) of my family will go into meltdown mode if dinner isn’t ready by 5:30. We get the hangries.
That time block needed to be freed up, so I would have more time to prepare for other things, help with homework or anything else that came up.
So here’s what I came up with. My mom and my sister volunteered to help with this experiment. Each of us will make 3 meals of the same recipe. If I choose to make chili, I’ll just triple the recipe and divide it among 3 containers. We get to keep one of our meals, then pick a time to swap the other two. This leaves me with 3 freezer meals for the week. Like I said, this is an experiment. We may decide that we want to tweak the process, the amounts, etc. We may decide to add more members to our group…who knows.
My goal is to track this process, see what works, see what doesn’t, and take you along for the ride. Here are a couple of the resources I’ve used while researching freezer meals – thrivinghomeblog.com, happymoneysaver.com, and sweetpeasandsaffron.com,
What To Make
You can make anything you want! Well, I take that back…some foods do not freeze well. Things like fresh greens, some dairy, eggs in their shell, potatoes, cooked cheeses, and crumb toppings just don’t hold up when reheated.
Make sure you check for food allergies or sensitivities in your group. My dad eats mostly gluten free, so I’ll have to make some modifications to some of my meals for him. Also, I have a dairy sensitivity. I can eat some, but not a lot. You’ll have to find out and take into consideration all of these factors when planning your menu.
We decided that to start, we’ll each pick out our own meal to share. No voting necessary for our trial run. So, my meal is going to be tuna noodle casserole. Boring you say?? Ummm, if you make this you will most definitely change your mind. It is the best tuna casserole I’ve ever had. It’s Valerie Bertinelli’s recipe. Remember her?
She’s actually an amazing cook and has 2 cookbooks. She shared her tuna casserole recipe on The Chew the other day and I HAD to try it. Guess what? No canned cream of mushroom soup required. She makes her own and it’s so fresh and so tasty. I made a few modifications to lighten up the dish and it was still amazing. Instead of tuna packed in olive oil, I just used tuna in water. I also used 2% milk (Lactaid – remember dairy sensitivity!) instead of whole milk and added about 3/4 tsp of salt because she didn’t specify the amount in the recipe. Also, about that topping…just save it in the pantry and add it right before you throw it in the oven.
Please make this. It’s so stinkin’ good.
How To Store Freezer Meals
There are lots of storage containers out there. The variety is endless. However, if I’m going to commit to making this a lifestyle, I would like to use containers that…
- Are Reusable!
- Don’t absorb the taste and smell of my food (ie. no plastic).
- Can be transferred directly from freezer to oven or microwave.
- Are able to be stacked in the freezer.
That basically means that the container needs to be either glass or silicone and have to have a flat lid. Silicone pans with lids are hard to come by, so that basically leaves us with glass.
I did a fair amount of research on food containers that meet all of the specs above and I have to give you one warning. Not all glass is oven safe! Check and recheck care and use instructions to make sure your glass is oven safe and ALWAYS thaw frozen food in the fridge for 24 hours or on the counter for no more than 4 hours. If you transfer a completely frozen casserole into a preheated oven, the glass might explode. Yikes!
So, I’ve found a couple of containers that are oven safe and meet all of my personal requirements above.
This is a Glasslock 18-piece set
This one is an Anchor Hocking 16-piece set.
I have a 9 x 13 Anchor Hocking glass dish and a 8×8 Pyrex baking dish that I will be using for this first trial round. I may have to invest in either the 18 or 16 piece sets above in the event that I become addicted to freezer meals, which is a huge possibility, ha!
I’ll probably make good use of some Ziplock Freezer bags which will come in handy for any meals that I want to throw in the crockpot or soups that I want to heat up on the stove.
Some other blogs and websites use the freezer meal method of taking an entire day to make a months’ worth of meals. That’s a little overwhelming and I think I’d rather make 1 meal a day than do that. So, the system I developed seemed to work much better for me.
We probably eat out once or twice a week and I can cook the other two nights from recipes that don’t really freeze too well, but that my family loves, like homemade pizza. That leaves me 3-4 meals a week that could be freezer meals which means that ideally I need at least 3 people in my group.
Decide on a time to swap meals. You could meet once a week, twice a month or find a time that’s convenient for everyone.
This looks like a boring meal swap to me. I might liven it up with a little wine and schedule it on Monday night so we could watch The Bachelor, hahaha!
However you decide to do it is completely up to you and your group. Has anyone else ever done a freezer meal swap? Let me know. I’d really love to know what works, what you would change, meals ideas and anything else you’d like to share.