Eat at Home Habit #3 – Stock Your Freezer

We’re in the midst of a series on 7 Habits of Eating at Home. The first week we talked about working your meal plan around your calendar instead of the other way around. And last week we shared some quick and simple grocery shopping tips.

Today is all about how to stock your freezer, with links to our recent series and all kinds of recipes and ideas to simplify life. And when the dinner hour is simplified so that there’s less stress involved in getting dinner ready, then family time can really be enjoyed around the table!

Habit #3 – Stock Your Freezer

We talk a lot about stocking the freezer here on the blog because it’s such a great way to ensure you’ve got dinner covered, even if your day doesn’t go as planned.  It really puts my mind at ease to know I have options, and I can’t tell you how many times having a freezer meal or protein I can grab and go.


If you are brand new to the idea of freezer cooking, don’t let that stop you! It’s a great way to maximize your time and effort and it is so rewarding–and simple, too! This post covers all the basics and will get you started on the right track.  Last month we talked about

Last month we talked about cooking meats for your freezer using the Instant Pot. If you have a pressure cooker, using it to cook up batches of meat to freeze is a GREAT way to get a head start on dinnertime.  You can also prep and bulk cook meats in your slow cooker!

Here’s one of my favorite things, though. Every month as part of the Slow Cooker plan, Eat at Home Meal Plan members get recipes for 6 meals that can be assembled in an hour, then frozen to use in the slow cooker later. I absolutely love having these recipes and a plan made out for me. My freezer is almost always stocked with something now, and I love having options! The freezer meals have saved dinner more times than I can count.

If you are curious about what the freezer plans are like, I cooked through the May Slow Cooker Freezer plan on Facebook Live.  You can watch the video here and see what I made and what a freezer cooking day looks like.

This post about making 7 Slow Cooker meals in 1 hour  and this older one of 6 slow cooker recipes in an hour are always favorite resource of mine and of many of you on the blog. These recipes are delicious, and some of our family favorites so it’s no wonder these posts are so popular!

Ready to get started on your own freezer cooking adventure? Enjoy it and the peace of mind it brings when it comes to making dinner time easy!

Here are some other posts on freezer cooking that you may find helpful.

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How to Cook Chicken for the Freezer in the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker

In the past several weeks we’ve enjoyed a series on how to cook meats and proteins for the freezer in the Instant Pot. We started with Turkey, followed by Beef and Beans. Last week we focused on Pork and this week we’ll wrap up our series with how to cook chicken for the freezer in the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker. Several of you have joined us for the facebook live posts as we’ve cooked each of these in the Instant Pot and talked about ways to serve each meat. Your comments and ideas have made this series even more fun to do together and hopefully, you have been inspired to prep meats and proteins for your own freezer. If you don’t have an instant pot yet, I can’t tell you how much I love mine! You can get one here.

You can find the tips from the rest of this series at the Cooking Meats and Proteins for the freezer in the Instant Pot page. And if you’re a visual learner, you can check out this quick video where we cook a whole chicken in the Instant Pot, step by step

And now, let’s cook some chicken in the Instant Pot

Making a whole chicken is easy.  Take it out of the packaging.  There may be some parts in the cavity – heart, liver etc.  These could be in a bag or loose.  Either way, remove them from the cavity of the chicken.

Place the chicken in the Instant Pot or pressure cooker.  Season with salt and pepper and add at least 2 cups of water to the pot.  Set the cook time for 25-30 minutes.

When the cook time is finished, do a quick pressure release and the chicken is ready to use.  I like to shred or chop the meat and store in freezer bags in the freezer to use for quick meals later.

Need some ideas for how to use up that delicious chicken? Here’s 44 that will get your mouth watering!

Shredded Chicken for the Freezer

  • Chili Chicken Egg Rolls are great anytime, but especially when you need a main course that can be held in your hand, like soccer practice, picnics, football season or fill-in-the-blank ball season. And don’t be intimidated by the rolling process, you’ll be a pro by the third one, and then you’ll be so glad you learned!
  • Chicken and Dumplings are easy, tasty and the ultimate in comfort foods!
  • For a quick little Caribbean inspired sandwich that leaves plenty of time to enjoy the outdoors in the evening, you can’t go wrong with these Jerk Chicken Sandwiches
  • Hawaiian BBQ Sandwiches are an easy twist on an old favorite.
  • Chicken Bacon Ranch Sandwiches are the best of chicken, bacon, ranch and slaw on a bun.
  • The cilantro and lime add a refreshing burst of flavor for these Cilantro Lime Chicken Sandwiches

Chopped Chicken for the Freezer

  • Quesadillas are always a nice option and these Chicken Florentine Quesadillas are a nice break from the usual flavors without going so exotic that you can’t find the ingredients included.
  • This Chicken Fiesta Skillet makes a tasty one-dish meal served over tortillas or corn bread with some tortilla chips to the side.
  • Quick White Chicken Chicken Chili goes from frozen chicken to steaming chili on the table in under 30 minutes. Win win!

  • Chipotle Chile Chicken Nachos are a 15-minute meal that you won’t want to turn your back on once you’ve set it on the table. It will disappear in a matter of minutes!
  • Love the idea of chicken casserole with a crumbly topping but can’t afford all the fat and calories in the usual recipe? Then this lightened version of  Chicken Casserole is the answer to your dilemma.
  • Cheesy Chicken Casserole is the epitome of two simple words. Comfort. Food!

  • This Peach Chutney Chicken Salad is not your usual chicken salad when you add peach chutney, curry powder, and croissants.
  • When you’re craving Chinese, but your clock says no and your arteries can’t afford the deep fried meat, try this Cheater Chinese Chicken
  • Once you make this quick Tomato Basil Chicken Soup, you’ll never want to go back to canned soup again. Ever!

  • Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup is not just for sick days. It’s also for busy days when you don’t want to use canned soup but really want some comfort food.
  • Chili Chicken Egg Rolls are great anytime, but especially when you need a main course that can be held in your hand, like soccer practice, picnics, football season or fill-in-the-blank ball season. And don’t be intimidated by the rolling process, you’ll be a pro by the third one, and then you’ll be so glad you learned!
  • Chicken Florentine Pizza makes for a nice twist on an all-time favorite. Using a prepared crust cuts down on prep time and you can even grill them if you’re feeling adventurous!

  • Garlic Chicken Pizza is the ultimate in flavorful cheesy yumminess!
  • Chicken Shepherd’s pie is the perfect use for cooked chicken and leftover veggies, or fresh veggies if you prefer.
  • Skillet meals are great for quick prep and less mess, and this Cajun Chicken Skillet adds a spicy cajun kick and pasta for a hearty one-dish meal.

  • This Skillet Chicken Curry is a tasty skillet meal with a delightful combination of curry and peach chutney.

As you can clearly see, there’s no shortage of ways to use cooked chicken from the freezer! The sky’s the limit on ways to feed an entire family quickly and inexpensively when you take a few minutes to prep your meats and freeze them ahead of time.

Which of the recipes from the Cooking Meats and Proteins for the Freezer in the Instant Pot have been your favorites? We would all love to hear your favorite recipes and ideas in the comments below. And thank you for joining us!

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Instant Pot Beans for the Freezer

I’ve been making this recipe for years in the slow cooker.  It’s one of my favorites, because you get a lot of bang for your buck and for your time.  Using the Instant Pot makes it really easy too.  Not that the slow cooker is hard to use, but the Instant Pot (or any pressure cooker) makes it faster.

This recipe makes a lot and that’s a good thing!  Freeze the beans in 1-2 cup quantities, depending on your family size.  You can use them just like you would canned black beans.  A quick thaw int he microwave and they’re ready to be added to:

  • tacos
  • quesadillas
  • enchiladas
  • casseroles or soups
  • mash them to make “refried” beans

 

The kids love having these in the freezer for a quick snack or late meal.  Grab a tortilla, cheese and any other fixings you like and you have a healthy, quick meal.

Since I’ve made these a number of times, I’ve learned that you can substitute for the diced jalepeno.  I don’t always have a fresh pepper on hand, so I’ve used a can of diced green chilies or diced jalapeno instead.  Any of these options works fine.

For you visual learners, you can watch the facebook live post on cooking beans for the freezer in the instant pot or slow cooker.

Instant Pot Beans for the Freezer
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. dry pinto beans
  • 1 lb. dry black beans
  • 10 big cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 4 oz can diced green chilies or diced jalapeno
  • 1½ tsp. cumin
  • 2 Tbs. Kosher salt
  • 1 Tbs. black pepper
  • water - enough to cover the beans, but no higher than half way mark on pot
Instructions
  1. Sort and rinse beans. Place in the instant pot.
  2. Add remaining ingredients to the pot.
  3. Set manual cook time for 25-30 minutes, depending on how soft you like the beans.
  4. Do a natural pressure release.
  5. Mash or keep them whole.
  6. Can be frozen for later use.

 

Instant Pot Beans for the Freezer

 

 

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Freezer Cooking – Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Storing Food in the Freezer

Have you ever wanted to try Freezer Cooking but not been sure exactly how to do it? Alison, an Eat at Home reader, sent me an email asking a few questions about how to store food in the freezer.  She’s hoping to stock up her freezer to help get ready for a new baby.  I thought I would answer her questions here in a post since others may have the same questions. Freezer cooking really is a smart way to make sure that no matter what goes on, you always have a plan b. This is my easy guide to how I stock up my freezer and save myself a lot of stress when life gets crazy.

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Freezer Cooking Supplies

There are a few items you will want to have on hand to store foods in the freezer. Before you start any big freezer cooking day, make sure you have stocked up on all of these so you don’t have to worry about it when you’re in the cooking zone! 

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Menu, Grocery List, Recipes Year 2 Week 16

During the month of January, I’ve been sharing ideas to Resolutionize your kitchen and cooking.  Tomorrow I’ll tackle organizing my pantry and try to give tips about how to organize yours.

If you could see the way my pantry looks right now, you would be convinced I have nothing to offer in the way of organizing tips!  I’m going to dive in today and try to bring some order to it.  Wish me luck!

Organizing ideas will wrap up the Resolutionize series and then we start….

Freezer Cooking February!

During February, I’ll share  “stock your freezer” menus, new freezer-friendly recipes, and tips.  We’re even going to have a chance to do a virtual freezer cooking day together via Facebook.  Dates and details will be announced later.

You can get a jump start on stocking your freezer with the menu this week.  Hamburger Vegetable Soup makes enough for you to stash away at least 1 meal, and maybe more depending on your family size.  You could also make extra Stromboli to freeze.

The weekly menu gives you 6 dinners and 1 dessert.  Serving suggestions are included on the recipes in bold and on the grocery list in curly brackets {}. [Read more…]

Black Bean and Rice Freezer Burritos

freezer burritos done

These have been the handiest things to have stashed away in the freezer.  We’ve eaten them for a quick lunch or when someone needs to have dinner at an odd time.  The heat up in the microwave and taste great.

I read about the idea on the SC Johnson website in a post written by Sandy of The Reluctant Entertainer.  She shared her method for freezer burritos, but didn’t share a recipe.  I took her idea and decided to create a black bean and rice filling.  In just a little time I had 20 delicious burritos in the freezer.

Here’s what you’ll need:

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Stocking Your Freezer with Grilled Chicken and Using it for BBQ Chicken Fajitas

When we went to Gatlinburg with family a few weeks ago, we took turns preparing a meal for everyone.  I decided to bring BBQ Chicken Fajitas, but I wanted to do most of the cooking at home.  I ran across this post on $5 Dinners, where Erin talks about batch cooking on the grill.  This method made it possible for me to take dinner for 16 people and have it prepared quickly and with very little effort.

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Jello Popsicles

jello-popsicles-done

These are a blast from the past.  What could say “childhood summer” better than Dixie cups, craft sticks and jello?  I suppose you could say that bikes with banana seats or running through the sprinkler might describe “childhood summer” better, but I think these popsicles have an advantage.  These are the taste of summer, with all its cool, sticky goodness.  And if you eat it just right you can have the sweet, syrup dripping down your arm and off your elbow making orange polka dots on the sidewalk.

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Freezer/Pantry Challenge Part 4 – I saved $100

I had to go to the grocery yesterday to get some dairy and produce.  I’ve been doing this challenge to eat out of the pantry and freezer since Tuesday.  I hope to carry it through next week.

The good news is that I saved about $100 over what my usual grocery cost is.  I bought the normal amounts of dairy and produce that I usually buy each week, but nothing else.  The shopping took a fraction of the time it usually takes – another plus!

How have you done with saving money during this challenge?  Share in the comment section.

It’s not too late to join us in the challenge.  You can read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 at these links.

Do you have a super cheap meal that you like to make?

I’m working on a post that will list the cheapest meals on my site, as well as link to other blogs that have cheap meals.  If you have a meal posted on your blog, send me an email (eatpoetry@gmail.com) with a link.  If you don’t have the recipe posted on your blog, or don’t have a blog you can still send me the recipe.  I love to hear from readers and highlight your ideas.

Freezer/Pantry Challenge Part 3 – Get Creative

challenge-ingr

Have you joined the challenge to save money by eating from the freezer and pantry?  You can catch up with Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Yesterday, I posted the contents of my freezer and pantry and also the menu I came up with.  But I have a few ingredients that have me stumped.  You can see in the photo above I’ve got chicken, rice, hoisin sauce and water chestnuts.  These seem to be a natural combination, but I’m not sure what to do with them.

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