Thursday, January 15, 2009

Food Friday: Frustration and Freezer Meals

I had a request to explain a little more about how I work my freezer meals. I love the questions, because then I feel like people really are interested in what I am writing about, and I'm not such a loser! So thanks, Sarah!

Like I said before, now that my freezer meal supply is built up to my goal of 30 meals, once a week I make a meal that will freeze well, and make enough for 3 meals. We eat one the night I cook, and I freeze the other two. Then, two other days during the week, I pull one of the meals from the freezer and we eat that for dinner.

In the past I have made more freezer meals, or done different things, but this works really well for us now. It is easy to do and makes sense for us. If you want to see my current inventory to get some ideas of meals that freeze well, there is a sidebar on my menu planning blog that you can look at.

Sarah specifically asked about how I store my freezer meals. I pretty much only use the ziplock bag method. I buy the nice freezer ziplock bags, and then bag whatever my meal is. The picture below shows several different ways to bag up whatever you have cooked:

Starting at the top, I have pizza rolls. Those are already baked, and I just throw them in the bag, suck the air out with a straw, and I'm done. Next are cottage pies. These are also already all cooked, but I usually heat them in the oven. So I take the pan that I will be using to cook them, and line it with foil. I put the pie in the foil, then lift the foil pack out, put several in a bag, suck out the air, and done.

The middle row is spaghetti sauce- just wait until it is cool, spoon into the bag, compress the air out and freeze. Next to the sauce is a meatloaf. It is not precooked, so I line the pan I will use for cooking with foil, put in the meatloaf, then lift out and place in a bag. Also, this meatloaf has a sauce to go on top halfway through, so that is in a separate bag, next to the meatloaf.

On the bottom row is individually wrapped chicken enchiladas. When I make recipes like burritos or enchiladas, I make most of them into family meals in a 9x13 pan. But I save a few out and wrap them individually in plastic wrap. These make great lunches, or dinner for one. I put all the individual ones into the same bag, and take them out as needed. Next to that is broccoli cheese soup, following the same method as the spaghetti sauce.

Here they are lined up in the freezer. This is 6 meals, in a very small drawer. If you make sure your bags are laying flat during the freeze, once they are frozen you can stand them up or easily stack them. In our old house I just had a small freezer above my fridge, and with some planning, I could have 2 months worth of meals in that freezer.


Now for the frustration.

"Build a small supply of food that is part of your normal, daily diet."

Sounds easy, right?? A 3 month supply of foods that your family normally eats.

Yeah. I keep my brain running in circles on this one. I mean, it has to be mostly non-perishable things, because we eat a lot of carrots, but those won't keep for 3 months. So then I came up with an entire menu of food that we could eat, with recipes and all, and calculated all I would need to buy, and kept the list in my purse to use at the grocery store.

But there have been a few problems. Mainly, that some of the non-perishable food that we eat a lot of (like canned tomatoes) were under represented on the list, and some food that we never eat or buy (like crackers) were overly represented. So I needed to tweak it a little more, to make sure that a lot of the food we are buying/storing is food we normally eat, and we don't store food that we never eat.

Another part of this is changing a little of what you eat to be more representative of what you are storing. So we have been trying to add in more bean recipes, and experimenting with different foods and dinners to see things we like and how we can incorporate these foods into our normal life. I'm sure eventually it will be easy to do this, but for now it is really giving me a headache!

And then, this week, 3 different days I discovered I was out of key ingredients for something I wanted to make, and had to either run to the store (with all 3 kids), or make something else. And all 3 things were things that should be or are on my 3 month supply list. Grr!! If only I had my 3 month supply already built up, I could have just gone to the cupboard or basement to get what I needed.

I recognize the need, and I have the desire, so now I just need to get it done! (And find the cash). So, tomorrow Kydon is off work, and we are taking some of the money I had been saving for my long term storage and we are heading to Aldi's (a discount grocery store). I still want to get the long term storage items, but I think my priority for now should be the 3 month supply, then work on the long term stuff as I go. So far, the 3 month supply of food goal has been pretty frustrating for me to accomplish, but hopefully we will see some progress. You can see my list of what I am storing here. I will report next week!


Also, this week we tried a recipe for Pasta and Garbanzo Bean Soup, and it was delicious! Everyone loved it and asked for more! We will be adding some garbanzo beans to our supply, since we loved it so much. The link will give you a step-by-step tutorial with recipe and pictures.


Jen said...

Thanks for sharing some tips on the freezer meals! I haven't ever been diligent enough to get too many done at once. I do good for a few meals and then we end up eating them of these days. We are the opposite of you on the food storage. I have quite a big of long term stuff (but not 100% yet) and haven't really had the 3 month supply on my radar. I'm trying to figure out how to do that one too. All while trying to keep spending at a's no easy feat. Good luck!

Shanna said...

We end up eating them a lot too. I have to be pretty diligent to keep my 30 day supply on target.

Also, that is my other frustration with the 3 month supply- I will get something built up, and then we eat it! I know that is what we are supposed to do, but it is frustrating to keep getting it depleted.

Schmutzie said...

You are being featured on Five Star Friday!

Cecilee said...

Shanna, your ideas and comments are inspirational. Thanks for sharing. It always makes me want to do better with food storage and freezer meals. How do you keep up the motivation?

Shanna said...

Actually, writing it on the blog has been huge in helping me stay motivated. There are plenty of weeks when I don't feel like doing anything, but I look for something I can get done so that I can blog about it. The accountability has been really key in helping me get a lot of this done.

Sarah said...

Thanks so much for answering my question, Shanna! Really good information. I also get frustrated when we eat all of 3 month storage--that's why I like the long term so much better. We don't go through nearly as many beans as we do cereal!