16 Freezer Meals in a Weekend
Well, technically 21 meals, but 16 for our family. Last month my moms’ group had a freezer meal exchange. It was genius and we all loved it so much that we scheduled another one for June. In the interim, I decided that I loved it so much that I wanted to do more, but I wasn’t sure if we’d have enough room to do a ton. Like magic, our neighbor came over to ask if my husband would be willing to power wash her deck for her in exchange for her extra chest freezer that she wasn’t using. He would have done it without the offer of anything, but it was a definite yes! We got it this past Friday night and I made plans Friday night and shopped Saturday to make a bunch of meals this weekend and it feels so great to have a stocked freezer. I broke it up over two mornings (Sunday and Monday) because of our schedule, but it could have definitely been done in a day if we hadn’t had afternoon plans on Sunday.
I started planning on Pinterest and narrowed down meals based on what would work well together. A bunch that needed similar ingredients to make prep a bit easier, but would be different enough to not bore us. Some are crock pot meals, some aren’t. I also needed to pick one for my meal exchange next week and make 6 total (1 for us, 5 for others) and made the Pork Tenderloin with Apple and Cranberry Sauce for all of them, too. I only planned to make a few meals, but figured I might as do a little more work for a few more meals while I was doing the shopping and prep anyway! So, 16 for our family + 5 for other families = 21 meals in a weekend. Not too shabby for a few hours of work.
Somewhere along the way, I remembered reading a tip (likely Pinterest) that you should write down what you put into a chest freezer so that stuff doesn’t get forgotten at the bottom. So I made myself a list and I’m already glad that I did. In addition to the meals, I also added a few meals worth each of cooked farro, brown rice and black beans and froze a bunch of fruit. Plus pb&js frozen to grab on a picnic or pool day (just put peanut butter on both sides of the bread with jelly in between to keep the jelly from getting the bread soggy by lunch time.) It’s not like it takes so long to make a pb&j, but it really is nice to have them made and ready and just throw them in a cooler and have them ready by lunch time.
So here’s what I made. I can’t make any promises yet on them since I haven’t tasted (I’ll try to update with notes after we eat them, if I remember) but there’s not a ton that could go terrible awry. I tried to play it safe a bit, we’ll see how it goes! Before I got started, I went through the recipes to do what prep work I could ahead of time and chopped a whole bunch of garlic, onions and carrots to have them ready. Here’s a link to a pdf version of the recipes in case that’s easier for you to have and/or save. They’re not formatted perfectly, because I’m lazy, but they’ll work:)
Beef and Bean Burritos
Chicken and Dumplings
Chicken Fried Rice (x2)
Easy Meat Sauce
Marinated Tilapia for Grilled Fish Tacos
Ham and Bean Soup
Lentil and Sausage Soup (x2)
Pesto Pasta Bake
Pork Tenderloin with Apple and Cranberry Sauce
Vegetable Corn Chowder (x2)
Zuppa Toscana (x2)
Put it all in a freezer bag and mix. Thaw for up to 24 hrs before you want to make it and bake at 350 until cooked. (This one didn’t really need a recipe:)
Beef and Bean Burritos
3/4 cup rice (brown or white)
½ lb. ground beef, cooked
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Coarse salt and ground pepper
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cans (15 ounces each) beans, drained and rinsed (I used one kidney and one black bean because it’s what I had already. The original calls for pinto. Any would we good!)
1 bag frozen corn kernels (10 ounces)
6 scallions, thinly sliced
8 burrito-size flour tortillas, 10 inches each
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Salsa and sour cream, optional
Cook rice according to package instructions; set aside.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add onions, garlic, jalapeno, and cumin; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Add tomato paste, and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
Add beans and 1 1/2 cups water; bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 10 to 12 minutes. Add corn; cook to heat through, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in scallions.
Heat tortillas according to package instructions; fill with rice, bean mixture, and cheese.
Assemble: Mound 1/4 cup rice, 3/4 cup bean mixture, and 1/4 cup cheese on one side of tortilla. Fold sides, and hold them in. Starting from filled end, holding sides in as you work, tightly roll into a bundle. Place on a baking sheet, seam side down, and prepare remaining burritos.
Serve immediately, with salsa and sour cream, if using, or wrap per freezing instructions.
Wrap individually in plastic and freeze up to 3 months.
To reheat from frozen: Remove frozen burritos from plastic wrap. Place on a microwave-safe plate; microwave on high for 3 minutes. Transfer to baking sheet; bake at 450 degrees until crispy, about 10 minutes.
If only using a microwave, remove from plastic wrap, and place on a microwave-safe plate, covered with a microwave safe bowl. Defrost at high power for 3 to 4 minutes; uncover, and microwave on high 3 to 4 minutes longer. If only using oven, remove burritos from plastic wrap; re-wrap individually in aluminum foil. Place on a baking sheet; bake at 450 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove foil, and bake to crisp, 5 to 10 minutes. (To reheat defrosted burritos, remove any wrapping and bake for 10 minutes).
Chicken and Dumplings (Crock Pot)
3 Medium Size Chicken Breasts
2 Cans Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup
2 Medium Golden Potatoes
1 cup frozen peas and carrots
1/2 Cup Diced Onion
1 TB Parsley
2 TB Butter
Enough Water to Cover Ingredients
Place Chicken in crock pot. Add 2 Cans of Cream of Chicken Soup, then remaining ingredients (potatoes, peas, onions, parsley, butter.) Cover with water. Put lid on..and put on high for 4 hours. Near the end shred the chicken. After 4 hours cut up the biscuits into 9 pieces each.. drop into crock pot and mix. Cook for 30 more minutes.
Chicken Fajitas (Crock Pot)
6 Chicken Tenders or 1 lb. Chicken Breast
1 medium onion sliced
1 medium green pepper sliced
2 cups of salsa
1 can of green chiles
1 package of fajita seasoning
2 T. olive oil
Place all items in freezer bag. Toss and freeze flat. When ready to cook place all ingredients in crockpot and cook for 6 hours on low or 4 hours on high. Remove chicken from mix, shred and then add back into the mix. Serve with warm tortillas and top with salsa, guacamole, shredded lettuce, sour cream and shredded cheese.
Chicken Fried Rice
NOTE: I’ve halved the original recipe and this makes 8 servings. The original was 16 and a bit too much for our freezer space since I wanted to do other meals, too.
2 cups frozen peas and carrots
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
6 cups brown rice, cooked and cooled
¾ lbs cooked chicken(about 2 cups)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 dashes pepper
1. In a large bowl, combine the peas and carrots, rice, onion, parsley flakes and chicken. Mix well.
2. Pour into 2 bags (enough serve 4) or less for family size.
3. Seal, label and freeze.
4. Thaw bag of mixture in refrigerator up to 24 hours before you’re ready to cook meal.
5. Heat 1 Tbs oil in a large skillet.
6. Pour rice mixture into the skillet.
7. Cook and stir over medium heat, breaking up any chunks of rice, until hot, about 5 minutes.
8. Push rice mixture to the side of the skillet.
9. Add 1 Tbs oil to the empty side of the skillet and add the eggs.
10. Cook and stir until eggs are thickened but still moist.
11. Combine eggs with the rice mixture.
12. Turn off heat.
13. Stir in soy sauce and pepper and serve.
Easy Meat Sauce for Pasta
½ lb ground beef
2 cloves minced garlic
½ onion chopped finely
1 jar favorite spaghetti sauce
1 can plain tomato sauce
Brown the beef, then add the onion until translucent. Add garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add jar of pasta sauce and can of plain tomato sauce and heat for 10ish minutes. Freeze until you’re ready to eat. Alternatively, you could just brown your meat and throw a jar of sauce on top and call it good and freeze it:) Or even just brown your ground beef and freeze alone and heat it and throw a jar of sauce on top when you’re ready to eat.
Marinated Fish for Grilled Fish Tacos
1lb Tilapia fresh or frozen
2 limes or lemons, juiced + 1 lime for squeezing on tacos when ready
⅓ cup olive oil
1 large or 2 small garlic cloves minced
Place lime juice, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper in a freezer bag. Mix everything together well, add fish to the bag and freeze. When you’re ready to make, defrost fish in refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Grill the fish, grilling corn tortillas to warm them while the fish cooks. Garnish with cilantro, avocado, shredded cabbage, hot sauce and sour cream and serve.
Ham and Bean Soup (Crock Pot)
-1 ham hock
-1/2 bag bean soup mix (about 10 oz of dry beans)
-1 can diced tomatoes
-1/2 onion chopped
-1 clove garlic minced
-6 cups water or broth
Put all ingredients except liquid and beans in freezer bag and freeze.
Throw it all in the crock pot and add beans and liquid. Cook on high for 1 hour, then low for 7 hours.
Lentil and Sausage Soup
(cook, then freeze)
1 pound lentils
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups diced yellow onions (3 large)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (2 large cloves)
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 cups medium diced celery (8 stalks)
3 cups medium diced carrots (4 to 6 carrots)
3 quarts chicken broth
2 cans diced tomatoes
1/2 pound cooked sausage
2 tablespoons dry red wine or red wine vinegar
In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat the olive oil and saute the onions, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, and cumin for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are translucent and tender. Add the celery and carrots and saute for another 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, and drained lentils, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour, or until the lentils are cooked through and tender. Check the seasonings. Add the sausage and red wine and simmer until the hot. Divide into freezer containers and freeze.
Pesto Pasta Bake
Note: This is a throw-together meal. Use what you have. Substitute any meat or add veggies, use tomato sauce instead of pesto…go nuts. It’s an easy meal to use up ingredients in your fridge.
1 lb. cooked pasta of your choice – cook to less than al dente
½ lb cooked sausage
¾ cup pesto
3 cups spinach chopped into small pieces
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 garlic clove minced
Mix all ingredients in large bowl, then put in freezer bag or covered baking dish for baking. Freeze. When you’re ready to cook, thaw the dish in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours and bake at 350 degrees until completely heated.
Pork Tenderloin with Apple and Cranberry Sauce (Crock Pot)
2 lb pork tenderloin (not in a marinade)
1 t salt
1 t pepper
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 T cider vinegar
1 t ginger
1 t cinnamon
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3 peeled and chopped granny smith apples
Directions: Season pork with salt and pepper and add all ingredients to freezer bag and freeze until ready. Thaw slightly and cook on low for 6-8 hours until pork is tender.
Vegetable Corn Chowder
(The original recipe calls for cooking, then freezing, but I threw everything in a bag ready to cook when I want to make it because everything in the recipe freezes well. The potatoes might be a wild card, but we’ll see! This would also be really great with chicken or shrimp if you want to add a meat.)
3 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups)
2 medium red bell peppers, seeds and ribs removed, diced (2 1/2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups milk
2 medium baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 cups frozen corn
Coarse salt and ground pepper
3 cups frozen green beans
Hot pepper sauce, for serving (optional)
Directions: In a Dutch oven or 5-quart pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, bell peppers, and thyme; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Add milk, potatoes, and 5 cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer, covered, until potatoes are almost tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in corn, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Simmer until corn is tender, about 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer 3 cups of the solids to a blender; puree until smooth. Return to pot; add green beans. Bring to a simmer; cook until beans are tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Season again with salt; serve with hot pepper sauce, if desired.
To freeze, cool chowder completely before transferring to airtight containers; leave 1 inch of space at the top. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator, then reheat over low heat (or in microwave).
Zuppa Toscana (Crock Pot Olive Garden Knock-Off)
Makes about 8 servings
5 1/2 cups chicken broth (or 3 cans)
2 cups whipping cream
2-4 cups chopped kale
2-3 potatoes sliced thin and quartered
1 lb sweet Italian sausage
2-3 shakes of red pepper flakes (or more if you like more of a kick)
salt and pepper (to taste)
Combine the chicken broth and heavy whipping cream in the crockpot.
Chop up kale into bite size pieces or, if you are like me, buy a bag of pre washed and chopped kale! I didn’t really measure it but grabbed about 3 large handfuls. I would certainly suggest grabbing more than you think you need as it cooks down A LOT. I almost filled my crockpot to the top with kale and still felt I could have added more. Wash and cut up the potatoes with the skin on. I used 3 large potatoes and felt the soup ended up being too potato heavy. I would suggest 2 large or 3 small baking potatoes. Add both potatoes and kale to crockpot.
Brown the sausage and break apart into small chunks. Season with a touch of salt and pepper then add to crockpot.
Mix all ingredients together and add more salt and pepper for taste as well as a few shakes of red pepper flakes. I don’t like things spicy but I didn’t feel this made it spicy at all. It just gave it a much needed kick to cut the heaviness of the cream base.
Set your crockpot on high for 3-4 hours until the potatoes break apart easily with a fork.
Cool to room temperature, then divide into desired servings and freeze. Reheat on the stove or in the microwave.