Make Ahead Freezer Meals | Eating Healthy On A Budget (recipe links included)
When people hear that we homeschool and are living on just one income, inevitably the question always arises: how can you afford to do that?
When you add in that my husband's work is seasonal and slows down greatly in the cooler weather, I sometimes ask myself that same question! hahaha
Because we have been doing things this way (homeschooling and living off of one income) for many, many years, I have gotten pretty darn good at tightening my belt when the going gets tough.
This past winter was extremely hard because it was our first year of owning our own full-time business and living off of nothing but that income (usually Antonio gets a second job during the cooler months...but this was the first year that he did not).
Here is one tip that I will be doing for the first time this year that I think will be an enormous help:
Freezing homemade meals
I've heard of other moms doing this (like Jamerrill)...and today's blog is going to explain how I plan on doing mine.
For the last few months, we've been freezing some dinner leftovers and putting them in bpa-free freezer-safe containers (like Chinese food comes in)...
I got mine cheap off of Amazon. Then, on nights when I'm not up to cooking a whole meal or we've happened to run out of bread for lunch sandwiches, we just take a container out of the freezer and warm it up!
This year, while business is going strong and money is coming in regularly, I am going to begin preparing 1-2 extra slow cooker meals a week. These meals I will probably be storing in gallon-size freezer bags, not the plastic containers. Ideally, I'd like to freeze 80 meals. That will yield 5 dinners per week for 4 months. Doing the math....holy moly...that means I'd have to do 5 extra meals a week NOW for the next 4 months. Or 4 extra per week for the next 5 months.. Yikes... Well, maybe I'll have to lower my expectations a bit... hahaha We'll see...maybe just doubling each dinner recipe I make every week..buying ingredients in bulk saves money...but could you imagine when money is tight, you're covered, dinner-wise, for 5 nights a week for 4 months?! That would be AWESOME! But even just one meal a week would be a blessing when you need it!
Budget Bonus: By making the meals vegetarian (or vegan), you'll save a lot of money over buying meat.
Double Budget Bonus: Look ahead to when you'll be eating these meals. Will you have a baby eating baby food at that time? Save more money! Prepare these meals, like normal, and as long as they aren't spicy...and then toss a baby-sized portion in a blender with a little water. No need to buy the jarred baby food! And baby will grow up a more adventurous eater, eating what everyone else in the family eats.
Instead of chopping the veggies and tossing them in the slow cooker, though, I'll toss them into a freezer bag instead. Be sure to look at your recipe and see if anything needs to be sauteed first (like onions) and do that, then let it cool before putting it in the freezer bag with the other ingredients.
Label your bag with what the meal is and when you prepared it and toss that baby in your freezer for when your grocery budget isn't quite as large as your menu requires! (the day before you're going to eat it, take it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge to thaw out)
That way, even if your wallet is looking like this
Your dinner plates are looking like this
(you'd have to wait until the day you're making it to do the black pepper biscuits...but everything else can be made ahead of time and frozen!)
(you can easily add meat to this recipe by browning a pound of ground beef, letting it cool and tossing that in the freezer bag with the rest of the ingredients, minus the toppings! The toppings like sour cream and whatnot will have to be added on the day you're eating it)
So maybe now you're wondering things like
How long can you store these meals in your freezer? Will they last until I need them?
Freezer meals may last a long time in the freezer...but probably shouldn't be kept in there forever. Especially if you're wanting your food to taste good!
If your meal is uncooked when you freeze it, it should stay good for about a year!
I hope you found this post to be helpful! I am so excited to begin making these meals...and I'm sure I'll be even happier when money is tight and I open my deep freezer!!
Let me know in the comments if you make freezer meals, too! What's your favorite recipe for freezer meals?