19 October 2015

31 Days - Freezing Dinners

Baby prep just wouldn't be baby prep without some serious meal planning! I did no meal planning with Abigail and very little meal planning with Eleanor, but thankfully family and friends filled in the gaps by bringing us ample dinners. While I do anticipate a few people bringing us some meals (I'm hoping for a week's worth!), since this is my third baby and I'm all cozily settled into my apartment for the winter, I figure I should probably dedicate some effort to filling up my freezer with pre-cooked meals.

Right now I am 34 weeks pregnant. With both girls, I gave birth at 38 weeks and my doctor doesn't think I'll make my due date this time either. So that puts birth in the second week of November. Since spending lots of time on my feet the week before I deliver a baby is low on the list of things I enjoy, I want to have my freezer filled by the end of October.

Over the past two weeks, I've been doing lots of cooking with stuff in our freezer to empty it out and lots of brainstorming about what kinds of dishes I want to fill in the empty space. I then planned to eat those same meals over the course of the next two weeks. Each time I make dinner, I'll just double the recipe and freeze half.

Since I have this rather small apartment fridge and no space for even a small chest freezer, I have to be judicious about what I put in it.

Here is my list of pre-cooked meals I'll be making in the coming weeks. Each of these dishes will provide two day's worth of dinners:
-Chicken pot pie
-Shepherd's pie (I'd say my chicken pot pie and shepherd's pie are restaurant quality. I asked Matt this morning for verification and he responded, "Oh yeah - without a doubt.")
-Taco casserole
-Cheesy beef and rice casserole

In addition, I'll prep three slow cooker meals. I'll put all the ingredients I need in gallon-sized Ziplock bags so I just dump a bag in and turn on the slow cooker. Each of these should provide two day's worth of dinners too:
-Chili (my chili is one of my favorite dishes!)
-Pot roast
-Taco soup

That's a total of seven meals times two dinners, giving me 14 nights worth of food. If I can get a week's worth from family and friends, with a few just-in-case frozen pizzas, I'll have three weeks worth of dinners!

In order to make things easier for the budget, I'll be halving all the meat and supplementing with beans. For example, the cheesy beef and rice casserole calls for one pound of beef. If I'm doubling the recipe, that'd be two pounds. Instead, I'll sub in one pound of black beans. So each dish will have a half pound of beef and a half pound of beans. I do this all the time and my family doesn't mind. When I'm feeling super frugal, I'll start with dry beans, which are so cheap, the budget barely even notices I bought them. When I'm feeling super pregnant - which I happen to be feeling now - I use canned beans. Even at $.85/1lb can, it's still significantly cheaper than meat.

I also bought a few disposable tins to store and cook the meals. The less postpartum dishes, the better.

Once I finish all my dinner prep, I envision making burritos and quesadillas, wrapping them up in individual servings, and stashing them in the freezer for microwavable lunches. I think somewhere in my over-ambitious brain, I'd also love to make and freeze some waffles and pancakes. But energy levels plus freezer space are ensuring that I take things one meal at a time. First up? Dinner. I'll post updates as my freezer begins to fill.


~Katherine~ said...

I'd love to see your Shepherd's Pie recipe, if you don't mind sharing!

I've been enjoying your nesting posts, too! :)

Jacqueline said...

I'm so flattered! Yes - here is the recipe:

-Make mashed potatoes however you best like them. I use 4 medium baked potatoes (skins and all) mixed with a dash of milk, 4T cream cheese, and 1/8 cup chives

-Brown 1# ground beef and saute one diced onion in the same pan
-Stir in 2 cups veggies of choice (can be fresh or frozen), 1/2 cup beef broth, 1t worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper to taste (I never measure them)
-Simmer for about 10 minutes
-Spread meat mixture in the bottom of a 2qt casserole dish, top with mashed potatoes
-Sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese and bake at 400 for 30 minutes.

I find that the fresher the ingredients, the better the dish tastes. Grass fed beef, veggies you just chopped (I often use celery and carrots because they are crazy cheap - gotta make up for the price of the beef somehow ; ), and block cheese that I just grated make for an awesome dish.

~Katherine~ said...

Oh my goodness, that looks so easy, and I know that even my (sweet but picky ;)) DH would LOVE it! Thank you!