I keep pinning these crazy articles on Pinterest about prepping enough freezer meals in one day to last until the End Times, but I had never done anything with them. However, as I realized that our chicken from our last processing didn't fill the freezer quite as full as I'd anticipated AND the cold weather means that I'm no longer hauling in tons of fresh backyard veggies to put on the table AND I came across an article on freezer CROCKPOT meals (you know how I love my Crockpot!) AND they're all "clean" recipes . . . it seemed the stars had aligned, and I was ready to embark on this crazy adventure.
First, if you're not familiar with the clean food movement, you should do a little research. Basically, it's an effort to eat natural foods as close to their natural state as possible and avoid highly processed foods.
I set out to make 12 freezer meals that could be dumped into the Crockpot in the morning and would be ready by dinnertime. To do this, I used 5 different recipes, carefully chosen based on my family's tastes and the food I already had on hand.
In fact, because I had so much on hand already, I only spent an additional $18.29 at the grocery store (including the cost of the gallon-sized freezer bags) before beginning. If you do the math, that's about $.31 to feed each of us.
Now, in fairness, because of our backyard farm, I did already have all this on hand:
frozen stir-fry mix
frozen grated zucchini
Before I could start bagging things up, I had some basic prep work to do.
Many of the recipes are vegetarian, but I was able to stretch just 2 chickens enough to be used in 6 of the meals and to make my own chicken broth for use in the soups.
Every part of the thawed chicken was used in some way (from left to right):
bones, back, neck used to make broth, cubed breast and leg meat for the recipes calling for boneless chicken, wings and thighs for the recipes calling for bone-in chicken.
And, I had to soak and cook some black beans (this is a day-long activity).
I separated the chicken parts intended for broth so that I could make two batches. Several of the recipes were soups. Some called for broth to be added to the bags, but many of them just need broth to be added to the Crockpot. I was able to make about 30 cups of broth.
Finished product -- 12 bags that look a lot like this!
Since these recipes are all new to our family, I'll share them as we try them. I'd hate to waste your time and mine by posting a recipe that's no good! (If you absolutely can't wait, see the recipes here.)
The process, though, was not bad at all. Sure, I was in the kitchen most of the day, but I just kept reminding myself of the time I was saving down the road. I had the giant mess all cleaned up and put away by the time the girls got home. Girl 1 was very confused when she got home from dance practice and discovered that it was leftovers for dinner: "I really thought I saw beans cooking in here this morning?!" I let her wonder for a minute about whether or not she was losing her mind, then I filled her in on my day. ;)