About a year and a half ago, my lovely friend Kayla and her husband had a baby they called Beckett. Unfortunately for me, this was about 3 days after I moved across the country to Toronto to go back to school. Luckily, over the last 16 or so months, I have been able to spend a significant of time with them and really get to know this amazing little fellow. He has a ton of energy, loves food and puppies, laughs all the time and is just one real cool kid! I am so happy to be a big part of his life. A while back I wrote this post for Kayla’s blog (The Aspiring Something) about my new role as auntie.
When Kayla’s maternity leave was finished, she was planning to head back to work as an elementary school teacher and Beckett was off to learn French at his new pre-school. I knew it was going to be quite the adjustment for the whole family and that it would be a pretty busy time so I wanted to do something to help out. It’s hard to not be near your friends and be able to help them in these more challenging parts of life. One way I thought I could be of some assistance was to cook a few freezer meals for the family so that Kayla at least didn’t have to worry about dinner every night in that first month.
Since I was making four separate meals, I had to be pretty organized and efficient. I came up with a system that sped up the process a bit and I wanted to share it here with the rest of you. Regardless of if you want to make them for yourself or to give them as a gift to someone you love, hopefully this helps make it a bit easier!
I decided to make four recipes with chicken because that is the protein of choice in Kayla’s house, as well as it made it much easier for prep. For her, I adapted the following recipes: Chicken Fajitas, Cilantro-Lime Chicken, Honey Sesame Chicken, and Lemon & Garlic chicken.
First things first, I got out all the necessary ingredients for all four meals. I decided to prepare the meals all at once but focus on each type of ingredients (veggies, protein, sauces). First I prepared the freezer bags and wrote the ingredients and directions for each recipe, then I chopped all the vegetables and herbs for all four meals, then made each sauce and after that, prepared the chicken.
From that point on, I organized the vegetables and meat for each recipe on a plate or in a bowl and I was ready to compile! I simply took the bag for the first recipe, put the chicken and veggies in, then dumped in the sauce or spice, mixed it around, double checked the ingredient list and then sealed it. I then moved on to the next recipe and so on. Spending a little extra time on preparation made the assembly of the meals super quick.
If you’re looking to save some money, remember that you can use less chicken than suggested, especially in the ones where you shred the chicken at the end. You will still have enough protein, especially if you’re serving with beans or protein-rich veggies!
I followed the recipes mostly, but I will let you know the changes that I made for each one.
This was also from this compilation of recipes which I followed closely, only adding in some oil as well as more garlic. If you want to use dried beans instead of canned please see this post and make sure you soak them for 6 hours or overnight before putting into the freezer bag.
This recipe was designed to go straight into the crockpot. So, instead of combining in the crockpot, I combined in the freezer bag and then sealed it. I added a tablespoon or 2 of sesame oil as well as sesame seeds which was a bit different than the original.
Lemon & Garlic Chicken:
This recipe was the easiest and arguably the healthiest recipe of the bunch with very few ingredients. All I changed here was that I used fresh parsley from my garden instead of dried. I would make sure to serve with some veggies though because it doesn’t have any in the recipe!
After they were all compiled, I froze them flat to save room in the freezer.
It’s definitely a lot of work to prepare, but the reward of a quick dinner on a busy night is totally worth it. This way there is also less dishes because you prepare it all at once! I would suggest to have frozen veggies on hand for some of the meatier dishes and you can just prepare those quickly as a side to your meal to make sure it is well-balanced.
For more freeze-ahead crockpot recipes you can check out the following links. This Buzzfeed article inspired the whole adventure and has a few really good ideas. For a huge selection of crock pot dinners organized by protein visit this link by Lauren Greutman. For some of the recipes that I used plus a bunch more visit Ashley Noel Barnes.
For those of you who are vegetarian or are looking to eat less meat, Supper in the Suburbs has a week full of meat-free freezer crockpot meals that look so tasty and cheap!
Stay tuned for a guest post later this week from Kayla about her experience in cooking these meals I prepared with photos of the final products. Here is a little spoiler of her Honey-Sesame chicken:
Please let me know if you try any of these recipes, I’d love to hear your feedback! You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Facebook!
All photos by Laine Young except where indicated.