Tuesday, January 15

Freezer Cooking on a Budget with a Small Freezer...

*Warning – This is a long post but seriously chocked full of good recipes and such. It’s totally worth reading all the way through!...despite the lack of pictures. J *

Have you been on Pinterest lately? There have been a good number of posts about freezer cooking and budget meal planning.  (I’m guessing it has to do with the start of the New Year and lots of resolutions to eat healthier and save money.) If you’re like me, you pin these things (and let’s face it, a ton of other things too) and they are never to be seen again.

But then I found a really cool blog through a post abouthomemade bread. I have really enjoyed reading through Andrea’s blog Pennies & Pancakes. Her angle seems to be making things yourself that you normally buy at the store either because it’s healthier that way or it saves you money or even both. I love this point of view and happen to completely agree with her. The first post I read was about making homemade bread – get this – without a bread maker! Woah now. I only ever make quick breads (like pumpkin bread, zucchini bread, banana bread, etc) and have never ventured anywhere near other breads because I thought you needed a bread maker…which I don’t have. This lady not only makes it without a bread maker, but she completely took away the intimidation factor. I’ll do a post on this later as I’m planning on tackling her homemade granola bars next. J  (But spoiler alert: The bread is delicious!!)

Maybe it was because I was feeling unstoppable after successfully making this bread (twice) that I felt I could attempt freezer cooking and a better budget meal plan. I feel I should take a moment to explain that I’ve read posts, lots of posts, about freezer cooking and how fantabulous it is. But these people have very nice very large freezers. They have room to prep 30-some meals in one afternoon and then freeze it all. I live in an apartment and barely have room for my usual freezer stuff. So after reading how awesome freezer cooking is, I move on without giving it any serious thought. And as for budgeting the meals – well, I do have a twice-a-month budget I have to stick to. And I did do a few posts about meal planning and all that. But then it fell to the wayside.

Back to the feeling of I-can-take-on-anything-because-I-made-really-yummy-homemade-bread. I read through Pennies & Pancakes some more and also read through some posts on freezer cooking that a friend pinned on Pinterest. Our next few paydays may be a little tight. So to do my part, I’m going to work harder at stretching our grocery money as far as possible. This should stick better than my last attempt because there is more riding on it this time, I’ve found really good inspiration, and I miss blogging regularly.

So here it goes. Payday (and so grocery shopping day) was Tuesday. I start by planning out the meals the day before payday.


Leftover Pancakes
Homemade Fish Sticks w/ mashed potatoes & side salad^
Easy Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas*
Homemade Pizza
Lentil, Tomato & Rice Soup***
Frozen Pasta Bake
Chicken and frozen Twice Baked Potatoes
Homemade Pizza
Soup and Sandwiches
Frozen Chicken w/ frozen Twice Baked Potatoes
Frozen Scalloped Potatoes w/ Ham – CrockPot
Homemade Pizza
(next payday/next meal plan)

^When I make the mashed potatoes, I’m going to make some for dinner that night and then enough for another batch to freeze for another night.
* For the Easy Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas I plan to make my own Enchilada sauce instead of using canned store-bought.

**When I make the Pasta Bake, I will make a double batch so that I have one to freeze for the following week.
***The recipe for the soup says it should make 8 servings. I plan on freezing half of the soup to use another time.

*^*When I make the Taco Rice Casserole, I plan to use chicken instead of ground turkey and I will also make a double batch – one to use that night and another to freeze for another night.

While I compile my meals, I simultaneously write my grocery list while I’m thinking of the ingredients for the meals. Then I add on to the list with anything else we need in the kitchen or around the house.

Grocery List

1 lb frozen white fish fillets
Potatoes (for the mashed)
4-6 russet potatoes (for twice baked)
Carrots (4lbs)
Broccoli crowns
Cheddar cheese x2
Mozzarella cheese, small block
Gouda cheese, small block
Laughing cow cheese wedges
Vanilla extract
16 oz can refried beans
2 cans diced tomatoes
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
Can of whole black olives
2 cans cream of potato soup
Ham steaks x2
Whole chicken
1 lb spaghetti
Peanut butter
Quick-cooking oats
Crispy rice cereal
Other cereals for the family
1 tin 9x13 pans
2 9x9 tin pans
Large bag frozen potatoes
Ranch dressing
Worcestershire sauce
And a few other around-the-house items (ziplock bags, paper towels, etc)


I ended up spending $161.50 at WalMart. Bear in mind that there are things I bought that aren’t accounted for specifically in the list above.

Here’s the breakdown of the meals and recipes:

Found on PenniesandPancakes.blogspot.com

1 lb white fish fillets
1 c. all-purpose flour
3 eggs, beaten
1 c. homemade dry bread crumbs
½ tsp salt
½ tsp paprika
1 Tbsp lemon juice

     Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
     Cut the fish fillets into fish-stick sized strips. It’s best to do this when the fish is still partially frozen because it makes the cutting easier.

     Coat a large baking sheet with non-stick spray.
     Set up your assembly line: the flour in one bowl, the beaten eggs and lemon juice in the next bowl, and the dry bread crumbs with the salt and paprika in the last bowl.

     Dip each fish strip into the flour, followed by the beaten eggs and then in the dry bread crumbs.  
     Place the fish sticks onto the baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes then turn them over and continue cooking for an additional 9 minutes. (I adjusted the baking times based on how mine turned out.) Let stand 2 to 3 minutes and serve.


2) Easy Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas
Found on Food.com

1 lb ground beef *I’m going to use leftover cooked chicken in my fridge

1 (1 1/4 ounce) packet taco seasoning *I’m going to use my own spice mix instead of a packet.

12 large flour tortillas  *Hoping to use homemade tortillas


1 (16 ounce) can refried beans

1 (11 ounce) can canned corn niblets *Nate can’t eat corn so we will be omitting this.

cheddar cheese

2 (10 ounce) cans red enchilada sauce *Going to use homemade instead of canned.

     Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
     Cook the ground beef in a skillet until brown. Add the taco seasoning and water (according to package instructions) and cook until beef is well coated and the sauce is thickened.

     Pour a bit of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 pan and spread evenly.
     Set up an assembly line: tortillas, refried beans, taco meat, corn, and cheese. Assemble the enchiladas: Smear a line of refried beans from the top of the tortilla to the bottom, then top beans with the remaining assembly line items.

     Fold in the sides of the tortilla to close the enchilada, then place in the pan side by side until the pan is full (it should hold 6 enchiladas).
     Top each enchilada with enchilada sauce, then cover with cheese.

     Place the assembled enchiladas into the oven and heat through.
     Repeat the process to make the next batch. Enjoy!

Original recipe found on EatingOnADime.com

1 lb spaghetti
2 cans of diced tomatoes
Italian seasoning
Garlic powder
Salt & pepper
2 eggs
Mozzarella cheese

     Cook spaghetti noodles according to package directions. Then allow to cool.
     Spray 2 9x13 disposable pans with nonstick spray. Pour the cooked spaghetti noodles equally into the pans.

     In a small bowl, whisk the 2 eggs. Separate into the 2 disposable pans. Stir with the fork to mix the egg with the noodles. Season your pasta with the Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
     Pour the cans of diced tomatoes evenly over top of the two pans of pasta. Top with shredded mozzarella cheese.

     One will be for dinner the night I make this. The other will get covered with foil and labeled – “Pasta Bake – Thaw and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour”.


4) Lentil, Tomato, and Rice Soup
Found in The Mom 100 Cookbook

4-6 slices bacon, sliced crosswise into ½-inch pieces
2 tsp olive oil
1 c. chopped onion
¾ c. peeled chopped carrots
½ c. rice
1 ½ tsp minced garlic
1 tsp dried thyme
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
5 c. low-sodium chicken broth
¾ c. dried lentils, rinsed & picked through
Kosher salt & ground black pepper
Parmesan cheese or cheddar cheese for topping (opt.)

     Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 2 tsp of the bacon fat from the pot, add the olive oil, onion and carrots and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes.
     Add the rice, farlic, and thyme and cook, stirring, until well combined, about 3 minutes.

     Add the tomatoes, chicken broth, lentils, and half of the bacon and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
     Let the lentil mixture simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the lentils and the rice are tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Feel free to add more liquid if you like a thinner soup. Serve the soup in bowls with the rest of the bacon and a sprinkling of Parmesan or cheddar cheese on top if desired.

*This can be made up to 5 days ahead of time and refrigerated or it can be frozen for up to 6 months. You may want to add water or broth when the soup is reheated as it thickens considerably when it is chilled.


Found on EatingOnADime.com

2 lbs ground turkey (or you could use beef) *I plan on using chicken
1 onion, diced
1 zucchini, shredded
2 cans black beans
1 packet of taco seasoning
2 cans rotel
4 cups cooked rice
Shredded cheddar cheese
2 9x13 disposable pans

     In a pan over medium heat, brown the ground turkey with the onions and zucchini.
     Once the meat has browned, add 2 cans of beans, one package of taco seasoning, and 2 cans of rotel. Stir to combine.

     Spray the 2 disposable pans with non-stick spray. Spoon 2 cups of cooked rice and spread into the bottom of each pan. Spoon the meat mixture evenly over the rice. (If you end up having leftover rice, spoon it into a freezer bag to use later.)
     Top with shredded cheddar cheese. Allow these to cool completely. Cover with foil and label – “Taco Rice Casserole – Thaw and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour”.


6) Twice Baked Potatoes
Found on EatingOnADime.com

Potatoes, as many as you want (I figured 1 per person plus an extra one or two)
Salt and pepper
Shredded cheddar cheese
Square disposable pans

     First, wash the potatoes and get them in the oven baking.
     When they are done, pull them out and allow them to cool.

     Once they are cool, cut them in half. Spoon out the meat of the potato and put it in bowl.
     Mash the scooped out potatoes with milk, salt, and pepper to taste. Now mash in the cheese. Spoon the mixture back into the skins.

     Place the filled potato skins into a 9x9 disposable pan and cover with foil. Label “Twice Baked Potatoes – That and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes”.

7) Scalloped Potatoes and Ham
Found on Six-Cents.com

12 new potatoes, cut into ¼-inch round slices
    OR large bag of frozen potatoes
2 cans cream of potato soup (or your choice)
2 cans water
2 ham steaks, cubed
8 oz cheddar cheese
4 c. broccoli
Salt and pepper

     Divide everything evenly into 2 ziplock bags.
     When it comes time to cook, toss the contents of the ziplock bags into the Crockpot and let it cook on low for 8 hours.

*Note: Her readers have commented on the possibility of the potatoes turning black (though this hasn’t happened to her) so she suggests either using frozen potatoes or simply adding the potatoes the day of cooking.


*Whew* You overwhelmed yet? J No worries, it took me awhile to write this post and I feel a little overwhelmed too. J
I will be posting as I go (though not every day, a couple times a week if all goes well) and I’ll link back to the corresponding recipe/meal. Let me know if you try any of these and how they work out for you!

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