My Precious Pennies

I will be AWAY until late February as we do this moving thing...again.

Ginger from Attention Target Shoppers & Tricia from 1stopmom
will be holding down the fort in the meantime - thank you so much, ladies!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Guest MENU PLAN: Freezer meals!

On account of utter mommy exhaustion, there will be no menu plan this week. I've been banned from even looking at the menu for Thanksgiving, and after my parents and grandma fly in on Thursday night, they're probably going to want to cook themselves or we'll all go to eat out. Either way, it's seemingly pointless to menu plan this week, not that I have the energy to anyway.

But fear not! I have a GUEST Menu Plan in store for you. Today's awesome guest post on freezer meals comes courtesy of Amber from Random Thoughts and Musings! Thank you Amber!

We have a very chaotic life and do our best to be as frugal as possible. I have three children, one on the way, and a husband who is gone for work quite a bit. I am a full time college student and work at home mom, so time is precious. Several months ago I realized that we were doing an excellent job of staying within our grocery budget, but were eating out way too much. It was totally destroying our budget, and had to be fixed quick! I did some research and decided to try freezer cooking. The way it works is you cook meals that can be quickly heated or cooked directly from the freezer. It saves all the meals out when you are in a hurry, don't feel good, forget an appointment, or have unexpected company. Not only is the meal ready to go when I need it, but I have fewer dishes to contend with on a stressful day. I have found that is also an excellent time to involve the little ones and have quality time with them.

Note on the kid's participation: my little ones are all toddlers, so you will need to adapt for older children. And as always, keep in mind that there are hot and sharp items in the kitchen!

This week we are cooking a few things for the holidays, several meals, and snacks for traveling. Here is what is on the agenda:
  • Brown ground beef with vegetables
  • Banana nut muffins
  • Breakfast burritos
  • Meat for gumbo
  • Chicken green bean casserole
  • King Ranch Chicken

Ground Beef with Veggies
We keep cooked ground beef in our freezer for soups, tacos, burritos, spaghetti, and any other meal that calls for it. I buy in bulk (8-10lb packages) to get a cheaper price. I run a small onion, two carrots, and four celery stalks through the food processor before I start. This is mixed in with the meat before I start browning it. We cannot tell the difference in taste, and it is a great way to sneak in extra vitamins and make the meat stretch a little further. I brown the meat/veggie mixture two to three pounds at a time, then drain in a colander for at least fifteen minutes. Once it cools, I freeze it in freezer bags in approximately one pound batches. When it comes time to cook, all you have to do is throw a little water in the pan, add the block of meat, and heat on medium until thawed. Then you continue the recipe like you normally would.

Kid's Corner: They love to help “squish” the veggies into the meat. They also like putting it in the bags. I always let them color on the bags once I am done with a washable marker. It doesn't hurt, and they feel like they are really big!

Banana nut muffins

I use the recipe from Simply Recipes. They freeze wonderfully once cooled and thaw out in just a few seconds in the microwave.

You will need (for 12 muffins):
  • 3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp espresso or strong coffee (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cup of flour
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (toasted or raw)
  • No need for a mixer with this recipe!
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Mix in the sugar, egg, espresso and vanilla.
  3. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in.
  4. Add the flour, mix until it is just incorporated. Fold in the chopped walnuts.
  5. Pour mixture into a prepared muffin tin. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin. If it comes out clean, it's done. Cool on a rack.
Kid's Corner: I let the little ones mix the batter and help dip them into the muffin tins.

Breakfast burritos
These are quick and are great for a breakfast or snack on the run. You can add or subtract just about any ingredient without a problem.
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 1 pound sausage
  • ¼ pound cheese, shredded
  • 14-18 flour tortillas
Scramble the eggs and brown the sausage. Split evenly between tortillas. Sprinkle with cheese. Wrap up, wrap with saran wrap and freeze. These can be put straight into the microwave, plastic wrap included, for about 30 seconds and they are ready to eat.

Kid's Corner: They love to stuff the burritos, but expect a mess! :)

Meat for gumbo
Gumbo is a staple in our house. We use the Louisiana Gumbo Mix (usually around $1.50) for when we are in a hurry.
  • 2 chicken breasts (bone in) boiled
  • ½ lb sausage, steamed
Chop up chicken and sausage in bite size pieces. Cool and freeze all together in one bag. Save chicken bones for stock! When it comes time to cook, just add about 15-20 minutes to total cook time to allow meat to thaw. Super easy! This also works great to add to Jambalaya or Cajun Red Beans and rice. (Think Kroger's/Dillon's sales)

Chicken green bean casserole
This is super easy, tastes great, and freezes well.
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can cut green beans
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • pepper to taste
Mix canned ingredients together, put chicken on top. Cover with foil and bake at 350degrees for about 25 minutes. Allow to cool, cover, and freeze. When ready to serve, bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes until hot.

King Ranch Chicken
This is a delicious, quick meal.
  • One whole chicken, boiled and chopped into bite size pieces
  • One can cream mushroom soup
  • One can cream chicken soup
  • One can enchilada sauce
  • One small onion, chopped
  • ½ bag Nacho Cheese Doritos, crunched and crumbed
  • ½ pound shredded cheese
Mix all ingredients together in large pan. Bake at 350 until cheese is melted and it is hot.. Chill, cover, and freeze. Re-heat directly from freezer at 350 for about 30-45 minutes until hot. Serve over Doritos. We sometimes serve refried beans on the side. Don't forget to save your bones for chicken stock!

I know it sounds like a lot of work, but it really pays off in the end. You have lots of meals to choose from and can fix them with very little work. It saves us a lot of money because we do not eat out as much and I can plan our meals around what is on sale and we have been able to stock up on. Don't just let your freezer hold ice and Popsicles... let it be your frugal friend!

Make sure you check out Amber's site Random Thoughts and Musings for more awesome recipes and tips!


Jerri - Simply Sweet Home said...

Everything here sounds delicious!

Anonymous said...

I need to do more freezer cooking too. Thanks for the suggestions.

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