I love the idea of freezer meals. I love the thought of taking a few minutes to walk to my deep freezer and pull out dinner for the night. It just sounds so lovely. It's probably why I'm such a fan of casseroles and crock pot meals right now. When it comes time for dinner I'm usually so exhausted from a long day that the thought of cooking is just...blah! Ugh! etc.
If you haven't read about my freezer failures, you can check that out here. And as I mentioned there, I think I'm going to try a freezer bag meal prep in the near future so stay tuned.
In the mean time, I thought I would share what I enjoy doing now. This is so super easy that even I can do it! It's not time consuming at all. It takes just a few minutes here and a few minutes there, usually with time that I can walk away in between. And let's face it, with all of the chaos in my house, I don't need something else that's going to take a lot of time.
First, I try to buy my meat in bulk. I like the "family packs" because you get them cheaper and can split them up into meal sized portions for later use. All you need is some good freezer bags and space in a freezer for this small step. You don't need a big deep freezer though. I've done this with regular, top of the fridge, freezer space.
Second, I have found that it is SO very helpful for me to prepare my meats! What I really enjoy doing and what I have found saves me so much time in the long run is cooking my shredded chicken and my hamburger ahead of time.
If you have your meals planned out you will know how many meals you intend to use cooked hamburger. Say you have spaghetti, tacos, hamburger soup and meatloaf on your menu plan. If you bought a five pound pack of hamburger (that's my preference), then you would only want to cook three of those pounds and then you could make the meatloaf first, then freeze that fifth pound uncooked for another meal.
Just toss the three pounds of hamburger into a large pot and cook it up. Then when it is done, drained, and cooled, sort it into three different bags and freeze. So easy! If you also know that you'll be using three pounds for taco meat, you can go ahead and add your taco seasoning after you've cooked it and then freeze that. (Just be sure not to add taco seasoning to meat you'll use in other things. I've also added chopped garlic and onions to meat that I'll be using for spaghetti type meals.
The next thing I like to do is cook my shredded chicken. I have heard good and bad about freezing whole, cooked chicken breasts. I'm considering trying out a few grilled breasts to see how it goes. I haven't had a problem with shredded chicken. It's so easy because you don't even need to defrost the chicken breasts before you cook them. Just pop them in a pan and place in an oven at 350. I typically do an hour and a half if it's straight from the freezer and find that it works just fine. When it has baked and cooled I shred it up. You can use two forks with no problems and if you have a stand mixer that works awesome. Just be careful with the stand mixer because if you shred it for too long it will get way too shredded and you won't even be able to tell there's chicken in whatever dish you serve it in. When I shred my chicken I also add a smidge of the cooking juices that are in the pan just to keep it nice and moist. After it is shredded separate it into freezer bags in the size that you'll need for your casseroles or meals.
It is so nice to be able to open your freezer and have shredded chicken and cooked hamburger on hand. It takes a huge bulk of time out of your cooking process and is great if you need to throw something together spur of the moment. I'm all about making things as easy on me for mealtime as possible!