Freezer Meals for February

On Monday night, six of us met to assemble six dishes. I had taken a couple months off to clear out the stash of food in our deep freeze(r?), and I was excited to be back. The food for this month was also more grain-free/Paleo-friendly than previous. Score!

Granola Bars



These didn’t even make it to the freezer because I knew I wanted to bake them immediately for breakfasts and snacks this week. They are super yummy! I plan on wrapping most of them up individually and freezing them, because while Finley and I could polish these off pretty quickly, we probably shouldn’t. Also, if I make these again in the future, which I already plan on doing, I’ll use coconut oil instead of vegetable oil.

Chili Chicken, Kale and Quinoa Casserole

I’m looking forward to making this one because it looked really pretty! Normally casseroles are ugly – right? This also sounds like it would be a good spring or summer dish, so maybe if it’s a winner, I’ll make another one to store in my deep freeze for after Baby is born.

Zuppa Toscana

  • 1 lb sausage, browned (I used mild ground Italian sausage)
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 3 cups potatoes, peeled and cubed 
  • 16 oz spinach (frozen is fine)
  • 5 cups broth
  • 8 oz heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tbs minced garlic
  • 2-3 slices cooked bacon (optional)
  • salt and pepper

Cook on low for 6 hours.

*Don’t include the potatoes. Keep them in your pantry until you make the soup. You also don’t need to include the broth in the bag.

Meatball and Veggie Soup

This was such a colorful bag of soup when it was finished! Check out all the veggies in it. This also could be a nice warmer weather soup. And by warmer I mean 30 degrees or higher. 

  • 32 oz bag of meatballs (don’t add to gallon ziplock bag – it won’t fit with everything else – just keep in freezer until you’re ready to make the soup)
  • 6 cups Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cups carrots, sliced
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 16 oz spinach (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 cups green peppers, diced
  • 1 cup each summer squash and zucchini, diced (store in separate smaller bag and add to soup for the last hour of cooking – this can be frozen though)
  • 64 oz tomato juice (don’t add to gallon ziplock – keep in pantry and add the day of cooking)
  • 1 tbs minced garlic
  • 1 tbs dried oregano
  • 1 tbs dried basil
  • 1 tbs dried parsley
  • Salt and pepper

Cook on low for 4 hours, adding the squash and zucchini in the last hour.

Sweet Garlic Chicken

I made this for dinner Wednesday night and was pleasantly surprised. Other than slow cooker chicken that is shredded, I’ve had not so good luck with whole breasts. They end up dry and blah except for the sauce on the outside. These were a smidge dry but still tasty. Next time (because I only cooked one pound) I’ll reduce the cooking time even more.

  • 2 lbs chicken breasts
  • 1 tbs BBQ seasoning
  • 1 tbs Garlic and Herb seasoning
  • 1 tbs Asian seasoning
  • 2/3 cup pomegranate balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tbs cornstarch 
  • 1/2 cup water

Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

So ya, I disagree with the cooking time. While I did have half the amount of chicken, mine were done on low after four hours (or maybe less). Also, the sauce wasn’t very thick, so I took it out, heated it over the stove, and added a tapioca starch/water mixture to thicken it. You could use cornstarch but I didn’t have any.

Chicken Wings (no link or original source provided)

  • 2.5 lbs chicken legs and/or wings
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbs ketchup
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Place (thawed, if frozen) marinated chicken in a 9 x 13 baking dish and bake for one hour.

Happy cooking and eating!

Question:

Anyone out there also in a freezer meal group or make freezer meals on their own? 

Today Thus Far

Today has went like this: 

-an early morning wakeup call (5:50am, and Finley has been on a cherry juice strike – coincidence?) 

-a trip to Woodmans for groceries for the week, including a huge vat of strawberries in the clearance section for 99 cents 

-a denied entrance to Play N Learn (a free play group funded by United Way) because we were five minutes late and they were already at capacity 

-an impromptu play date with Finley’s friend Noah and my friend Amber at their house 

-two phone conversations with nurses regarding sore throats and coughs (Finley and I are both under the weather) 

-a delicious lunch of salad with leftover crispy chicken and a small bowl of loaded baked potato soup from Costco 

-a short walk with the dogs while Finley napped

-the discovery on said walk that water was streaming out of a spigot on the side of our house

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-a visit from the company who winterized our sprinkler system, who realized the valve wasn’t turned off (or was turned back on) 

-a sleeping toddler on my chest (she’s been sleeping another 30-60 minutes after she wakes up from her nap if we hold her…which we won’t be able to do for much longer so I’m enjoying the snuggles)

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How’s your day going?

Meal Plan for Sunday, Feb. 8 – Saturday, Feb. 14

I’m posting this on an odd, likely non-shopping day for most folks, but you may always be looking for new recipes. I bookmark mine and go through them when I meal plan.

Also, this post was mostly done on Sunday, but I forgot to finish it and add the links. If you’re anything like me, though, mid-week you realize you’ve forgotten something you need for the week (truth #1) or run out of milk (truth #2).

Sunday: pineapple cashew fried rice

Monday (Brody’s birthday!!!): pork burgers and roasted cauliflower

Tuesday: kielbasa (roasted garlic kind from Costco) and roasted potatoes

Wednesday: oven baked chicken fajitas

Thursday: sloppy Josephines (like sloppy joes but with some veggies snuck in)

Friday: Asian-style ground pork in lettuce cups

Saturday: steak and potato salad

*These last three meals are recipes I’m testing for a friend writing a cookbook geared towards feeding toddlers healthy, good food. How cool is that!

My meals are also interchangeable throughout the week (as long as the meat is thawed or can thaw quickly). I’ll ask Brody what he’s in the mood for based on the options; sometimes he has an opinion and sometimes he doesn’t. If possible, I’ll do some or all prep during Finley’s afternoon nap since 5-6pm can still be somewhat of a witching hour for her.

Let me know if you try any of these!

Meal Plan for Saturday, January 31 – Thursday, Feb. 5

Happy Sunday!

I did my meal planning on Saturday morning because I knew I’d have the opportunity to grocery shop alone during Finley’s nap. Brody’s dad is visiting from Switzerland, so while he and Brody watched a documentary about The Basement Tapes (amazing by the way!), I drove to Copps in Middleton.

I prefer to do my grocery shopping at Woodmans, but I knew it would be busy and I didn’t feel like driving into Sun Prairie for the fifth time in a week. One benefit of this store is there’s a Starbucks in the same strip mall area, so I picked up a decaf Americano with a few pumps of skinny mocha.

This week’s meals are nothing spectacular and include lots of leftover nights because Brody will be gone skiing and my mom will be visiting. This was a chance to make a couple things Brody doesn’t love or won’t eat that I will enjoy and make for good leftovers.

Saturday: carry out from Salvatore’s (we had the Forestiere and Forza)
*Brody’s dad loves their pizza like we do, so we knew we’d have it one night he was here. We picked it up after taking Finley ice skating for the first time.

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Sunday: Ohio Farmhouse Sausage Chili (from The Joy of Cooking), cornbread, and side salad

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Monday: leftovers and/or something from the freezer

Tuesday: Emily’s sloppy joes on baked potatoes

Wednesday: The Pioneer Woman’s chicken spaghetti

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: leftovers

Are you watching the Super Bowl? We will be, although I may be hitting up a prenatal yoga class from 4:30-5:30pm. Then I’ll come home to watch football, chase Finley around and eat yummy food.

Meal Plan 1/11/15-1/17/15

Brody and I have let our preferred way of eating slide over the last couple months. We both felt great sticking to a mainly grain-free diet, and as I mentioned, Brody dropped a significant amount of weight.

Then I got pregnant. All I wanted to eat for the month of October was carbs. Tortilla chips (GF, but still). Bagels with cream cheese. Bread. Cereal. I went to town. I felt nauseated almost every day for a month, and the thought of food, especially meat, would make me want to hurl (which I never did, thank goodness). I could barely meal plan. I’d go to Costco and come home with Aussie bites (which Finley ate most of), mozzarella sticks, fish sticks, pre-made Caesar salad and tomato basil soup.

My grain-loving self then rubbed off on Brody, and he found himself “cheating” more.

The last straw was the holidays. There’s no avoiding all the sugar, carbs and booze (unless you have an allergy and/or are pregnant).

Now that life has returned to normal and my appetite is back, Brody and I are trying to get back on track. Much of this falls on me since I’m the one who grocery shops and meal plans. While pregnant, though, I’m still going to keep some grains in my diet. They do not cause me discomfort, I’m not looking to lose weight, and they make me happy.

Lunches (for me): beef and barley soup
*I used the broth, which had been in our deep freezer, I made from the leftover rib roasts from Christmas.

Sunday: Calzones (from Brittany Angel’s book, Every Last Crumb)

Monday: Steak stir fry

Tuesday: Crock Pot ginger chicken (a freezer meal) and roasted broccoli

Wednesday: Smoked kielbasa (from Costco) and roasted potatoes

Thursday: Pork Szechuan stir fry

Friday: Wing it/order takeout

Saturday: Dinner at The Immigrant Room at The American Club in Kohler!!!

Sorry I don’t have many actual recipes this week, as this was kind of a “clean out the freezer” week. Next week maybe I’ll be more adventurous and interesting.

Christmas Cookie Frosting Tradition

It’s December 17, and I have yet to bake a Christmas cookie. Whaaat?!?! As someone with a giant sweet tooth, that is so very wrong. Normally I do a cookie exchange with two teacher friends I met during my semester long stint at a high school in Janesville, but that didn’t happen this year. Also, Brody’s office has been a sugar bomb lately, and the last thing he wants to come home to are cookies. Or does he…?

Growing up, my grandparents (my mom’s folks) would come over before Christmas every year to help my sister and I frost sugar cookies. My mom would make the dough, cut them out, and bake them (and maybe we helped?), while Laura and I got to do the fun stuff with Grandma and Grandpa.

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Sweet rollers, huh?

*Random fact: My grandma’s name is Shirley, but my grandpa calls her Kate. It’s more of a “pet” name, but I’ve never heard him call her by her real name.

Even when my sister and I were in college, we’d find time to continue this tradition.

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There’d be frosting made from milk, butter and powdered sugar of all different colors, sprinkles, and red hot candies. My grandpa would show us his “Indian trick” where he’d swirl two different colors of frosting on one cookie. We’d end up with snowmen, Santa Clauses, Christmas trees, boots, stars, and angels all in various colors.

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Of course the tradition of it made this so special. I hope to continue this with our kids, whether they frost cookies with Brody and I, their grandparents, or aunts and uncles. But, I’d say the other special part of making cookies was eating them. My mom’s sugar cookies are incredible. She sent me a text picture of her recipe, and you lucky people are going to see it now, in all of its buttery glory.

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Can’t you see the love and happiness in the worn and torn edges?

This afternoon while Finley napped, I made the dough.

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My plan was to make a half batch, but I accidentally forgot to halve the sugar, so in went two more sticks of butter. Because we have plans this afternoon post-nap, I didn’t make any of the cookies. I think I’ll bake and frost some tomorrow to bring to a kids’ holiday party through my weekly play group. Maybe this weekend, Finley, Brody and I can all frost cookies together.

I Whine for a Bit and Then List Ten Happies (not a real word)

Like everyone, I’m in shock that it’s August already. In my previous life as an English teacher, this is when I would start to freak out/get excited about the beginning of a new school year. I’d be planning units, getting my classroom ready, and reconnecting with colleagues. I miss that. Whoa – I didn’t intend for this post to get all down-in-the-dumps so quickly, but it’s been a little rough around here lately.

Big “first world problems” happening in our household. For one, as I explained already, we sold our house. Fast. Now we don’t have a new house to move into…that is unless you count our friends’ basement. We’ve been packing up the last seven years of our lives, and our dining and living rooms are filled with boxes. The walls are empty and closets are half full. It’s sad, but I’m okay. We are so incredible fortunate to have amazing friends who have offered up space in their house to live and/or store some of our belongings that we don’t want in storage.

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This week, we were THIS close to having a great house. The house was on the market last year, didn’t sell, and was for sale again. We put in a few informal offers, and it seemed like she may accept. Then she changed her mind. And then we almost had it again. And then she said she was going to take it off the market. Hope, sadness, hope, sadness. After this last rejection, Brody and I have both moved on and realized this house will not be our forever home.

Our options now are to either wait for a house (in our price range that we like) to come on the market in the one neighborhood (fully developed, elementary school, pool, sidewalks, green space, etc.) we like, or build in a different neighborhood (which is also a really nice area but still being developed obviously). If we build and commit by September 1, the house would be complete by January 15. Such big decisions.

Another “first world problem” we’re dealing with is Finley. Oh my. Fevers, crabbiness, runny noses, night wakings, and did I mention crabbiness? I keep reminding myself of how horrible she must feel. I’ve heard that if adults experienced the pain babies feel when their teeth come in, we’d all be on high strength pain killers.

There have been some very good moments too in the past couple weeks. It’s not like me to be such a Debbie Downer, so here are ten awesome things about my life:

1. Finley is becoming a walker! It’s so cool to see her moving like a person.

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2. We took a family trip to the zoo (on Finley’s super crabby day), and we had a great time. It’s some good and interesting people watching there on the weekends! Finley seemed to like the ostrich the most.

3. As we pack, we’ve also been purging. Lots of trips to Goodwill and lots of crap thrown away (we bought a Bagster and will have Waste Management pick it up before we move).

4. I’ve had a few good long runs alone and with friends. However, Brody and I have decided to not run the Madison Mini anymore. This was going to be a race we ran together, and with him getting sick and injured and us moving, we’re not ready. We’d like to do a fall half marathon instead.

5. My mom sold her condo and is moving up north to the cottage permanently. She’s officially retired and will be living in a beautiful house on the best lake ever.

6. I made a delicious dinner two nights ago: PaleOMG’s Thai Pork and Veggie Meatballs. The sauce is ridiculous. If I wasn’t trying to clean out the random food in my freezer, I’d buy more pork and curry powder and make it again soon.

7. Finley loves her Radio Flyer. Every time we walk past it in the garage, she points and grunts. She holds on to the handlebars, and it’s pretty much the cutest thing ever.

8. Starbuck’s iced caramel machiaccto with whole milk = yum. I crave these all the time. I mean, why wouldn’t I? It’s the perfect combination of sugar, fat, and caffeine.

9. Today Brody and I are taking a pasta cooking class at A Pig in a Fur Coat with a bunch of other friends. We went in with two other couples and bid on the class through a raffle at a charity event. Yes, I know pasta is a grain and not Paleo/Primal. It’s a conscious cheat and will be worth it.

10. I read a book! My friend loaned me A Fault in Our Stars, and I really enjoyed it. I haven’t read a book for MONTHS (my previous English teacher self is scolding current SAHM self), and how I missed it. I once owned this book, but a student borrowed it and never returned it. Anyways, I’d like to see the movie now. Ha! Like that’ll happen.

Happy Saturday folks! Have a good weekend!

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Friday Five

1. I made Against All Grain’s paleo honey biscuits this afternoon. When I made them a month ago, they had great flavor but were still a little mushy. In the comments, Danielle said to avoid Bob’s Redmill’s almond flour, and I actually found a different and cheaper brand at my grocery store. I also baked them for 16 minutes. They’re cooling on my stovetop, and we’ll see how long I can hold off on sampling them.

2. Two “big” changes in the world of raising the babe: 1) I have stopped tracking everything Finley does on the baby app. It’s slightly embarrassing that I held on to this habit for so long. It was unnecessary for me to be recording every diaper change and bath. After the look I got from a friend this week when I told her I was still tracking all this, I knew it was time to let go. It feels good. The only issue is I forget what side to start nursing on. 2) Last night I didn’t dream feed Finley. She eats dinner at 6pm, and then I nurse her at 6:45pm. She hasn’t really been taking in much for the dream feeds recently, and she also wakes up when I pull her out of bed (although she does fall back asleep while nursing and/or when I put her back in her crib). Finley slept through the night like nothing had changed. I had a little leakage on the left side but no discomfort.

3. Yesterday Finley and I spent seven hours at a friend’s house working the garage sale. There were eight families (us included) who contributed. They’ve developed quite the system: color coded stickers and sheets and three and a half hour shifts (everyone was asked to work two). Baby and kids’ clothes seemed to do the best, and I had none of that to offer. My contributions included men and women’s clothes and household stuff. My guess is I make $50.

4. It’s been raining here all week, and while it’s great to see green grass, I am ready for sun and warm temperatures. Plus I have some yard work to do, and the rain makes that unappealing.

5. Brody and I are going to run the Madison Mini half marathon in August! We haven’t signed up yet, but he’s agreed. I showed him Hal Higeon’s novice 1 training plan, and I think we’ll both loosely follow it. We’ll do our long weekend run together with Finley. If by chance she’s not a fan of being in the stroller for that long, we may have to get creative with it: Brody runs five miles, we run five miles together with Finley, and then I run five miles. Now let’s hope we don’t have a scorcher of a summer – running in heat and humidity stinks. *Yes, I realize I slightly contradicted myself in 4 and 5.

Happy Friday!

April’s Freezer Meals

Hey hey! How are things? I’m checking in to share the recipes from this month’s freezer meals group and talk a little about what’s going on with food in our household.

The group skipped March, and like me, I’m guessing everyone had empty freezers ready to be stuffed with delicious meals. Seven ladies were in for this month, and we met on Monday night for assembly. After putting Finley down, I grabbed my meat in gallon baggies, some food I prepped ahead of time for assembly, and a cookie sheet and headed out the door.

Before meeting, the super woman who organizes this whole operation informed us we’d need to bring the following meats: 2 lbs raw chicken breasts, 2 cups cooked diced chicken, 1 lb cooked Italian sausage, 1 lb cooked ground turkey, and 3 total lbs of cooked ground beef. On Monday morning, my mom (who was visiting for the weekend), Finley and I made the trek to Whole Foods in Madison to buy meat.

To back up a smidge, the super woman who did the shopping dropped off 10 lbs of onions, 2 heads of celery, and 7 boxes of chicken flavored rice for me to prep before Monday. It was quite fortunate that my mom was in town and likes doing stuff in the kitchen, because she helped me with the dicing and sautéing. 

The assembly took only an hour or so. I was responsible for putting together the bags of food for the Pasta Fagioli and labeling the cans of broth and kidney beans with everyone’s name and the meal it goes with. Everyone had come with gallon baggies with their names and the meal on each. This system, or each person putting together all seven of the same meal, works well, and as I said, went really fast.

So the recipes – here they are! I haven’t made any, so I can’t vouch for what’s good or not, but they all sound great.

Breaded Ranch Chicken

Pizza Casserole

Pasta Fagioli

Poppyseed Chicken Casserole

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Emily’s Sloppy Joe Recipe (no link)

  • 1.5 lbs. ground beef
  • 3/4 cup finely diced green pepper
  • 3/4 cup finely diced onion
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 can Healthy Request tomato soup
  • 1/2 cup BBQ sauce
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 tbs yellow mustard
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • small drizzle of maple syrup
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions: Saute green pepper, onion, celery and garlic. Brown meat. Add all other ingredients. Let simmer for 30-45 minutes.

Italian Rice Bake (no link)

  • 1 package chicken flavored rice
  • 1 lb Italian sausage (sweet)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 1/2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese

Instructions: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare rice according to box. Brown the meat, sprinkling with onion powder as it cooks. Combine rice, sausage, marinara sauce, and seasonings. Put into greased baking dish. Pour extra sauce over top if desired and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Sadly, some of these freezer meals may sit in our freezer for a while, as Brody and I have officially started eating Paleo/Primal. We’re not 100%, especially me – I’ve cheated a bunch. Brody, though, has been. From what I’ve read, following this lifestyle is quite personal – what works for you may or may not work for others. In essence, we’ve cut out all grains and processed foods. We’re still eating dairy, and I highly doubt will ever go the raw route.

I had already been transitioning into this way of eating, and it hasn’t been very difficult. Being home full time, I’m surrounded by the food I buy, so as long as a package of Oreo’s or Wheat Thins doesn’t end up in my shopping cart, I don’t have access to it. Brody, on the other hand, has faced some obstacles. On Monday he sent me pictures of amazing looking desserts from his office, and on Wednesday he went to the Brewers game to which he was handed a beer as he walked on to the bus.

I’ll keep you posted on our journey and on the freezer meals we eat.

Happy Friday!

I’m in Another Monthly Food “Group”

If you’ve been reading about my life for a while, you know that I get together with a fabulous group of women once a month to eat food, share the recipes, drink wine, and enjoy each other’s company. I love our monthly Wine and Recipe get togethers!

Two ladies in this group are also in a Freezer Meal group. They explained it to me and suggested I give it a shot. After speaking to Brody about it, I told them to count me in.

This was my first month doing it, and I sadly couldn’t even attend “the” event (explained later), but here’s the gist of it.

One (super) woman in the group compiles recipes from everyone else as possible meals for the month. Last month there were categories, like breakfast, Crock Pot, and soup, with two options in each. We have a private Facebook page, and everyone voted for their favorite option.

Once the meals are decided, said (super) woman does the shopping for the majority of the ingredients. Considering there are nine ladies in the group, that’s a lot of food! She also tells us what we need to bring to “the” event. This month, everyone had to bring one pound of raw chicken breasts, two cups of cooked cubed chicken, one pound of cooked Italian sausage, and one pound of thinly sliced raw steak. The meat cost me about $25, and we all owed (super) woman $28! Only $28! Seven meals for under $60!

This month’s night of assembly met on the last day of February at 7:30pm. You can tell these are all moms because it starts after the kiddos go to bed. Unfortunately, this was the day Finley had a fever and went to the doctor. It ended up being teething and has been the beginning of a very rough time for her (and us).

Anyways, back to the food. My meals were put together by the rest of the group, and a friend dropped them off after around 9:30pm. Apparently the whole production is like a well-oiled machine, and I can’t wait to be a part of it in March.

Here are the recipes and links to the freezer meals from February:

Teriyaki Pork Chops
*I used chicken breasts but they dried out a little. I’d like to make this again but with boneless pork chops.

Szechuan Steak Stir Fry
*I made this already and it was really good. However we used frozen veggies, and if I made it again, I’d use fresh or somehow get some of the water out of the frozen.

Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup
*I’m making this for dinner tonight!

Chicken Pot Pie
*This one is SOO good! I made it for dinner on Sunday and have been eating it for lunch. Not the healthiest but great comfort food.

Parmesan Sage Meatloaf

Baked Brownie Oatmeal
*I’ve been eating this for breakfast and loving it. This morning I heated up a square and then added a dollop of peanut butter to the top. Finley likes it too!

Quinoa Chili

If I didn’t add a comment under the recipe, it’s because I haven’t made it yet. This month I’ve been a little too excited to try everything – next month I may need to pace myself and spread the meals out. Or not.

It’s been so convenient to have these meals all ready to go in my freezer. Although it does require a little planning ahead (i.e. taking the food out to thaw), everything is done! No extra runs to the store for a missing ingredient. Not that that’s ever happened to me. Not like that happened last week when I was making tacos and didn’t have seasoning…and had been at the store earlier that day.

I hope to share the freezer meals I come home with every month.

Questions:
Do you stock your freezer with food or meals?
Are you or do you know someone in a freezer meal group?