So we have been eating out entirely too much lately. Usually the reason is because we are very busy and don’t have time to plan and cook meals for the week. About a year ago I had prepped 14 freezer meals. They were not crockpot meals though. It took me about 6-8 hours of cooking meat, chopping vegetables and doing everything that needed to be done to get the meals prepped. I did this twice (two weeks in a row) before quitting saying that it was too much work.
Prepping crockpot meals, however, is MUCH easier than meals you would bake in the oven, or skillet. I do not have to cook the meat ahead of time (saves me HOURS) and I can just chop up the vegetables and throw the ingredients into bags! It is as easy as that!
Now, depending on the recipe you use, you may need to blanch your vegetables before you freeze them. Because of the vegetables I used (red and green onions, carrots, onions and already frozen corn) I did not really need to blanch them. See this link for more info on blanching http://foodpreservation.about.com/od/Freezing/a/Blanching-Vegetables-Before-Freezing.htm.
So, how do you prepare for making 1-2 (or more) weeks worth of freezer meals?? First start out by assessing your freezer space. How many gallon bags can you fit in there? The bags can lie fairly flat, so you can stack them easily (although they do become slippery when stacked on eachother before they are frozen, so be careful when opening the freezer for the first couple hours after filling it!) We have the standard apartment refrigerator with the freezer on top. We don’t have a ton of space in there, but I can usually fit (at max) 14 gallon bags of prepped meals. I do have to leave room in there for my husbands ice cream and my frozen fruit for my shakeology drinks!
Next you need to do a little bit of research. Look up crockpot recipes that sound good to you. This is a good opportunity to branch out and try new things that aren’t in your regular cooking rotation. The first time I did this we found a TON of recipes that tasted great and we continued to make after that. Print all the recipes (or if you are like me and are out of ink for the printer, save all the links in a “freezer meal” bookmark folder on the computer). For these couple weeks I made Mexican Beef Wraps, Tex-Mex Chicken, Chicken Bolognese, Hawaiian Chicken Sandwiches, and Salsa Chicken. I didn’t realize it when researching the recipes but the Tex-Mex chicken and the salsa chicken are pretty similar. There are some ingredients that differ though, so they aren’t completely the same.
Here are the links for the recipes I used: http://www.sidetrackedsarah.com/2013/01/mexican-beef-wraps-for-the-crockpot/
Now write out everything you need in a shopping list. I like to double the amount and just make two meals out of each recipe (it saves prep time). Usually I estimate 1 breast of chicken for each family member per bag. If I want to have leftover I may add 1 large or 2 small extra chicken breasts (our daughter doesn’t eat a whole chicken breast anyway). For our baggies I usually don’t add the total amount of onion that the recipe calls for. This is because I am the ONLY person in the house who loves onions. My husband, Ryan, and daughter, Olivia, hate them. So…I still add them for flavor (and for me hehe) but just not as much. Make sure you have everything and the right amounts on your shopping list. It sucks to need to run to the store in the middle of prepping meals. I had to have Ryan stop at the store for more chicken and red peppers. I would have had enough red peppers originally, but two of the peppers I bought had been bad. I threw them out.
Next after you bought everything it is time to start prepping!! Get your ingredients and recipes organized. When you add ingredients to the bags you are mainly adding the vegetables (or fruit), meat, sauce and seasoning to the bags. You don’t want to add toppings or cheese to the bags. Unless you find a specific freezer recipe that states to prep it that way. 🙂
I like to start by chopping the vegetables that I will be using for multiples meals (usually the onions) and place them into bowls. Oh and I was temporary blind after chopping these onions. My eyes were burning so bad I couldn’t open them. This was despite trying the burning candle and cold water tricks.
The first recipe I made were the Mexican Beef Wraps. This recipes makes the filling that you use to fill tortillas. It just takes 2.5-3lbs of chuck pot roast for the meat. I cut that into 4 different pieces and seasoned it.
I placed a couple handfuls of onion into two separate bags (not the full amount because of my onion haters) along with 3 garlic cloves (I used the pre-minced garlic cloves). As I’m writing this I just realized that I forgot to add 1/2 cup of salsa to each bag…OOPS!! That’s okay, when I go to add it to the crockpot it will be simple enough to add it then. This is what the finished bags look like (minus the salsa).
I sqeeze as much air as I can out of the bags (so they fit better with my limited freezer space) and I put those in the freezer. Then I move on to the next recipe!
I did the Tex-Mex chicken next. This was very easy to prep. I spit a bag of frozen corn between two bags. Then I cut up two green and two red peppers (1 of each for each bag). Then I added 2 tbs of flour to each bag and split a jar of salsa between the two bags. I also added 2tbs of taco seasoning to each bag (we buy our taco seasoning in bulk). For this recipe I will serve it over rice, so I will just prep some rice right before it is time to eat. I will also need to add 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese to it right before serving. One tip I have is to write any extra things that need to be prepped on the outside of the bag. So maybe write “serve over rice” or add 1 cup of cheese on it. These are my finished bags for the Tex-Mex chicken.
The bags went directly into the freezer.
Next up is the bolognese chicken! I have no idea why I didn’t just use baby carrots or some easier time saver…but oh well. I chopped up 4 large carrots. Sometimes carrot pieces would shoot off the cutting board and onto the kitchen floor. This was causing the dogs to chase them around trying to be the one to eat them first. Then I chopped up 2 celery sticks per bag. I already had the onions chopped up, so thankfully I didn’t need to chop up anymore onions. I split these all up and added them to two bags. In each bag also went 1 jar of pasta sauce (of your choice) and 1/4 cup of Italian dressing. Then some fresh chopped basil. I put 3 chicken breasts into each bag. This gets served with penne pasta and cheese, so I wasn’t worried about making extra chicken.
These bags were next to go into the freezer.
Okay next was the other recipe that was similar to the Tex-Mex chicken. This one does have 1 can of black beans added to each bag, plus green chilies. It was pretty easy though. Just split a bag of frozen corn in between two gallon bags. Add 1 can of diced tomatoes, 1 can of black beans and 1 can of green chilies to each bag. Then Split a jar of salsa between the two bags. Then I added 2tbs of taco seasoning to each bag. This recipe is great served over tortilla chips (or Fritos too!), or rice. I squeezed the air out and put them in the freezer.
Oh and apparently I didn’t take a picture of the finished bag…just the bag with corn and black beans.
Last bag!! Hawaiian chicken sandwiches! Obviously this makes just the filling for sandwiches. I bought some “Kings Hawaiian mini sub rolls” to have with this. I didn’t have chicken broth, but I added 2 chicken bouillon cubes and 2 cups of water to each bag. Then I added 1 small can of pineapple to each bag. I had to wait for my husband to get home at this point with the rest of the chicken and the two red peppers I needed. Did I mention before to MAKE SURE you have all the ingredients before you start?? LOL This is why. I chopped up the red peppers and added that and the chicken to the bags. I also added about 1/3 cup of onion to each bag. This was all!
This made 10 different freezer bags with the potential for 2 weeks worth of food (including leftovers). There are many websites that have tons of recipes for freezer meals. Pinterest is also great for ideas. Even if it isn’t a specific crockpot “freezer” recipe you can always turn it into a freezer meal. Just add the veggies, seasoning, sauce and meat. Leave out any toppings and cheese (or rice and pasta of course) and combine them in a bag to freeze! Make sure you don’t need to blanch your vegetables first as well!
I forgot to mention that this didn’t leave many dishes either! I just used 2 cutting boards (1 for veggies, one for the beef), 3 bowls, a spoon and 2 knives. I definitely can’t complain about that! Plus with the slow-cooker liners it saves you from doing SOOOO many dishes!! Woohoo! 😀