Recipe Rut

I have always been pretty good about meal planning/cooking ahead/freezing/etc. I had to have a plan when I was a full time working mama. It was the last thing I wanted to do when I got home from work was figure out what to have for dinner. Now that I'm at home I still want those precious minutes spent doing other things- not prepping for dinner.

This is the first time I have ever attempted a prep this large! I planned 25+ meals to freeze so they would be ready to pull out at any moment.

I must say that I was a little inspired by my future SIL Fallon. She runs her own business that's a casserole/take and bake business. She has a little cafe for lunch specials and she caters, but I love the casserole side of her business!

I'm not a HUGE fan of crockpot meals. Of course they are convenient, and I can handle them once a week or so, but I wanted to go a different direction with these meals. Many of the items are raw meat that has a simple marinade. I also wanted to try different recipes. Don't we all get in a recipe rut?

I started on Pinterest. I scoured so many sites that I have no idea where many of these recipes came from. I don't think I am but my husband says I'm a picky eater so I had to search through recipe after recipe finding something that sounded half good. We don't eat onions at all so any recipe that included them was changed.

I wrote everything thing down. I wrote down the old faithful meals and the new recipes I found. I decided how many meals each recipe would yield. Many times people post recipes that 4 chicken breasts=1 meal. For us 4 chicken breasts=2 meals. I figured out if the food would be frozen in a Ziploc bag or a casserole dish. Most importantly I shopped our pantry. Since we're at my parents house we are really trying to eat through all our "Toccoa" food so this was the perfect way to use through that stuff. After seeing what we already had and pulling it all out, I made my shopping list. This is what we already had:
I mainly hit Sam's for my ingredients. YES it's typically cheaper to find meat on sale at your local grocery store. YES I could wait for sales and score some of this stuff cheaper than I got it. BUT most of the ingredients I already had were free or very cheap (that's why I had a surplus). I did get my chicken and pork on markdown. I was going to pick up the chicken and an older man told me they were about to mark down. I came back 15 minutes later and he was right! I saved about $12 just for waiting for the markdowns! I counted my other losses and decided I have the time NOW to do this, so it's worth it to me to buy the rest at regular price. Did I mention free babysitting? check.

Next was prep. I pretty much used my mom's whole kitchen. I made sure the sink was empty and the counters clear. Then I started my assembling marathon. It was actually kind of fun! I was armed with my recipes and I just kind of went for it.
If 2 recipes had the same ingredients, I did them together (like greek chicken and cilantro lime chicken and taco soup and chili). I followed my notes and some recipes went in a Ziploc and some went in a foil casserole dish.
It was critical that each bag was frozen flat. This makes storing a breeze after everything is frozen. Make sure your freezer shelf is FLAT. Alot of freezers have wire shelves and the liquid can seep through them and freeze around them in the bag. It's a pain to get off if that happens. I learned the hard way. My freezer had wire shelves but I popped a flat box in there so there was no wonky freezing.
Baggies with alot of liquid can freeze almost like a bubble. Sticking it in a cereal box allows it to freeze into a rectangle which makes it easier to stack bags once it's frozen.
Probably the most important part of this whole process is labeling. I labeled what each item is, the date, how to cook it (crock pot? low or high? time? stove temp. and any ingredients that needed to be added at cooking).
All total I made 29 meals in just under 5 hours. #yesitimedit

I still have ingredients left to make some marinades to freeze. I will be back with another post of the recipes I used!

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