Super Productive Freezer Cooking

I am so excited!  I have been trying to get on a schedule and devote just a few hours a week to getting some meals in the freezer.  I do pretty good with breads and cinnamon rolls right now, but it seems that I have trouble getting actual dinners in the freezer.  Well, yesterday was been a SUCCESS!!  I made 8 dinners, 4 dozen butter horn crescent rolls, and a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip muffins!

The dishes I cooked  were 2 batches each of: Chicken Enchilada Casserole, Quesadilla Casserole, Jambalaya Casserole, and Beans and Rice.

I have found some awesome resources of women who are sharing tried and tested freezer recipes and I have started venturing out on my own with some of our favorite recipes.  I will be sharing links to those resources and make notes on the ones I have tweeked to work for me.  For example, I don’t care for the texture of rice in dishes after they have been frozen, so I make the complete recipe and then simply let it thaw, cook rice, add to the sauce, and bake.

The first time I shopped to freezer cook, it took almost my entire budget of $400.  I was skeptical about this endeavor saving money, but I stuck with it and no more than the meager few items I had made and put in the freezer, when I made my meal plan and grocery list for the second shopping trip, two weeks later, I saved $160!!  I did plan meals with what I already had stocked in the pantry and freezer and I shopped at places like Costco and Sam’s.

I watch and compare prices from the five major places I shop: Costco, Sam’s, Aldi (the bulk of my groceries come from Aldi), WalMart, and Kroger.  I also clip coupons of items I normally use.  I don’t feel it is a savings if I buy things I don’t use, just to use a coupon.  I did use the remainder of my budget at Walgreens sales and Walmart sales on things like cereals, trash bags, freezer bags, deodorant, shampoo, personal items, and stacked some store deals, store coupons, and manufacturing coupons to get things at a super cheap price, like name brand shampoos for less than $2 a bottle. This jumpstarted my stocking products that do not spoil.

My last shopping trip, I saved $50 from my budget, so in a month, I saved $200!!

If I get to stick with my plan for this week, I will have 9 meals in the freezer for the next two week meal plan, and about 4 for the one following that.  I will only have to buy groceries for 6 meals.  I will buy enough to double those recipes and that will make 10 for that following two week period.  Can you see how this will begin to save money and time??

Ok, let’s get down to the good stuff!!  I sat down on Monday and decided what I was going to cook first.  I looked at my meal plan for this two week cycle and the products I had enough of to double those recipes.  I looked over the recipes and decided the best way for me to approach the day.  I planned on doing this Tuesday, but it just didn’t happen.  I did start the process, but had to be away from the house for a volunteer job I do, and then I got a notice that our house was going to be shown.  That put a halt on my cooking plans for the day, but I did get two batches of cinnamon rolls done with the help of my bread machine, and I put about three lbs. of boneless skinless chicken breasts and thighs in the slowcooker until it shredded easily.  I also made two batches of Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffin mix in the freezer.  I found the recipe for the muffins at Money Saving Mom.  She has been such an inspiration to me!

My family prefers fresh baked items to those that have been cooked and frozen, so I decided to put all of the dry ingredients together in a gallon sized zip top bag and freeze that.  I wrote the name of the muffins, date, and instructions on the front of the bag.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins             Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins printable recipe.

In a gallon sized zip top bag mix together:
1 1/2 cups oats (old fashioned or quick oats)
2 2/3 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

To freeze, place bag in freezer. Write the following instructions on the front of the bag:

Add into mixture:
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup oil or melted butter
6 ounces chocolate chips

Fill greased or paper lined muffin tins 2/3 full with batter. Bake at 400 degrees for 16-18 minutes.

Makes 18 muffins

Note: In one batch, I used milk chocolate chips. In another, I had about three oz. of chocolate and 3 oz. of white chocolate, so I mixed those together! Use the flavor of your choice.

photo-142                           photo-144

 

I cooked one batch of muffins this morning and when my family enjoyed them so much, I refilled the bag and put it back in the freezer!

I used the chicken from the slowcooker to make Chicken Enchilada Casserole.  I adapted a recipe was found at Joyful Mommas Kitchen blog called Layered Chicken Enchilada Casserole. I used what I had in the pantry/freezer to make this, so I had to make a few changes.

This is how I prepared the dish for my freezer (this makes 2 casseroles):

CHICKEN ENCHILADA CASSEROLE             Chicken Enchilada CasserolePrintable recipe
In a large bowl mix together:
4 cups cooked, shredded chicken (put about 3 lb. of boneless skinless chicken in the slow cooker for about 4 hours for easy cooking)
2 cans beans (red beans, chili beans, or pinto beans work great)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can rotel
1 8 oz cream cheese

Divide this into two gallon sized zip top freezer bags.

IMG_0816

To prepare, take out one of the bags of filling to thaw. You will also need, for each casserole:
2 cups shredded cheese (your favorite or a combination of)
3-4 tortillas

Use an 8×8 or deep dish pie pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray.
Place 1/3 of the chicken filling on the bottom of the pan.
Top with one tortilla, add more filling and cheese, then repeat layers, ending with filling and cheese. Bake in the oven on 350 until bubbly and golden brown.

Lori’s Note: I use a 9×13 and 3 tortillas. I use 1/2 of the filling, sprinkle on some cheese, top with tortillas, remaining filling and cheese.

While I was putting together the chicken filling for the Enchiladas, I cooked 2 pounds of ground beef with 1 chopped onion.  I had a few minutes left before the beef was finished cooking, so I began chopping a 3 lb. pack of smoked sausage and got out the remaining ingredients for the Quesadilla Casserole.  It is also found at Joyful Momma’s Kitchen.

Again, I make up the filling and freeze in a bag, rather than freeze the whole casserole.  This is how I did it:

QUESADILLA CASSEROLE                 Quesadilla Casserole Printable Recipe

IMG_0819The photo shows a double batch.

Cook together:
1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion

In a large mixing bowl, mix together:
meat and onion mixture
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried minced garlic
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
16 oz tomato sauce
1 can (15 oz) red, black, or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (8 3/4 oz) whole kernel corn, undrained
1 can (4 1/2 oz) green chilies, undrained

Place in a gallon-sized zip top freezer bag and freeze.

IMG_0820                     IMG_0821

On the day you are ready to cook, thaw the meat mixture and place in the bottom of a 9×13. Top with
2-3 flour tortillas (8 inch size)
2 cups shredded Cheddar Cheese
Bake at 400 until bubbly and cheese is melted and golden brown.
I served this with Seasoned Rice.

photo-145 photo-146

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Then, I used the sausages to make two batches of Jambalaya Casserole and 2 batches of beans and rice.

JAMBALAYA CASSEROLE                      Jambalaya Casserole Printable Recipe

1 large onion, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 lb smoked sausage, quartered and sliced
2 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp hot sauce
1 tbsp liquid smoke
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups chicken/vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups rice

In a skillet, saute onions,green peppers, celery, minced garlic in a nonstick pan sprayed with cooking spray until veggies are tender. Add seasonings.
If freezing, allow mixture to cool, place in a zip top freezer bag and freeze. On day of cooking, allow to thaw and continue to follow directions.

IMG_0824

Bring broth to a boil, add rice, cover and simmer on low for 12-15 minutes. Put the meat mixture and rice together.

Note: This is the same mixture I use to make beans and rice. I just mix in 2 cans of red beans and a large can of pinto beans.

IMG_0822

I also made a batch of butterhorn rolls from Money Saving Moms.  I do these in my bread machines.  I have two and do half of the recipe in each machine.

What are some of your favorite recipes??

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