Freezer Meals for the Busy Bees!

It is no secret that life is going about 100mph right now for me! We are just a few weeks out from the wedding and boy do we have a laundry list of things to do. A few weeks ago I wrote a piece about how I’ve tried to maintain a good workout schedule, while spending lots of hours at the office and working on wedding stuff (see Multitasking Workouts)…now let’s talk about eating!

As some of you may recall, The Caveman (my fiancé, for those of you that don’t remember) is a long-standing Paleo subscriber, and as such our meals have to be somewhat specific. We try to minimize foods with preservatives and the majority of our groceries are meat and vegetables. The result is great, nutritious, and “clean” food, but a lot of daily prep for our nightly meals. Add our new house and a long commute to our lifestyles and it was becoming a major recipe for eating out and unhealthy take-out.

One night I was scanning Pinterest and came across a posting about “Freezer Meals.” This peaked my interest and after a little researching, I thought I would give it a try. The result has been an amazing success for me—including healthier meals and less daily prep for our dinners.

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Here are some of my tips for getting you started.

Plan Your Menu: The first step is to plan your menu and determine what ingredients you need. For me, this involves a lot of Internet-searching for healthy recipes or ones that I can “adapt” to remove the starchy carbs. Pinterest is a great resource and typically anything that says “casserole” can be adapted.

  • Look for recipes that have a “sauce base,” such as a marinara, or an enchilada sauce. They freeze well and provide a good liquid base to marinate your ingredients in, while they are cooking.
  • Get creative! Sometimes, I just look in my fridge for leftovers that I have and try to come up with something that makes sense. It may not be worthy of Top Chef, but it typically does the job for The Caveman and me.
  • Stay balanced and look for a protein and vegetable (starch too—if you’re a starch eater). This minimizes how much extra cooking you have to do, beyond your meal.
  • Consider using ingredients that can be used in different dishes. For example, consider replacing pasta in a normal Pinterest recipe for spaghetti squash.

Shop for your Ingredients: When you’re at the store picking up all the good ingredients you need, don’t forget to add your freezer meal items. These include:

  • Disposable aluminum pans (I would recommend the “sheet cake” pan, which not only fits well in the freezer but disperses the meal so it heats up quickly)
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Sharpie Pen

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Find Time to Cook: This is a very important (and often missed step in the process)–it’s important to set aside the time to cook. I try to make (at minimum) two freezer meals per session. On a good day, I have made up to four and a few “side dishes.” Especially if you are doing different recipes, it can take some time.

For example, this past Sunday, I was really short on time, but in about 1 hour, I was able to roast a spaghetti squash and put together a “Spaghetti Squash Marinara” and “Spaghetti Squash Alfredo with Spicy Chicken.”

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Label Your Meals: After your meals have cooled, take some time to label your meals and remind yourself on the contents. This not only helps you keep tabs on “What’s for Dinner” but also allows you to add notes about how long to heat the meal or if you need a side dish to supplement the meal.

Make sure to write the instructions on the aluminum foil before packaging it up. If not, your pen might poke through your foil into your newly created dish!

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Heat and Enjoy: Depending on the contents, this is the typical defrost and heat schedule:

  • MORNING: I typically take my freezer meal out in the morning (before I leave for work), then leave it in the fridge. By the time I return in the late afternoon it’s partially defrosted and perfect for the oven.
  • AFTERNOON: Preheat the oven. Get changed into running / workout gear. Put the dish into the oven. Go for a quick 45-min workout. When I return, I have a piping hot meal in the oven ready to eat!

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While I have yet to perfect my recipes, this method has saved me major time. It’s also so nice to get home from my long commute and know that my kitchen prep is minimized.

How do you save time on your meals? Do you have a favorite freezer meal tip or recipe? Share it here!

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