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.

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.  And you might also find my top 10 Instant Pot accessories + 3 extras post to be helpful too.

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!

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.  But using the Instant Pot Beans for the freezer recipe makes it both easy and fairly quick for cooking beans. [Read more…]

Freezer Cooking – Ground Beef in the Crock Pot

One thing I like to do to help cut down on meal prep time is have pre-cooked meats in the freezer. I will usually buy chicken, ground turkey, and ground beef in bulk. I often use my crock pot to cook my chicken, that I will shred and freeze for use in recipes/casseroles/soup. However, I have always cooked my ground beef and turkey on the stove top, usually only a pound or two at a time. It never occurred to me that I could use my slow cooker, until I saw it on Pinterest! (Pin source) One of the many reasons I am addicted to pinning 🙂

This is not a recipe per se, just a shortcut for cooking in bulk.  The above picture is 3 lbs of 90/10 lean ground beef, with seasonings (salt, pepper, McCormick Grill Mates Hamburger Seasoning, and dried onion) and about half of a large chopped onion.  You could easily add taco seasoning, Italian seasonings, or leave it plain.  My crock pot could have held much more ground beef too, but this is what I had on hand.  I cooked this on high for 4 hours (this may vary depending on your cooker and the amount of beef used, and if it was fresh or frozen), giving it a stir once an hour.  You may not need to stir it that often, but it will need to be stirred on occasion and the clumps broken up.  After the meat was cooked, I drained the meat (which was pretty lean and didn’t produce a lot of grease) and allowed it too cool.  Then I divided it into 3 equal amounts (since I used 3 lbs.) and placed it in freezer bags.  SO much simpler than standing over a stove top!

I hope you find this little tip as helpful as I did.  {Looking for ideas to use all that ground beef?  Check out Eat at Home Ingredient Spotlight: Ground Beef!}

KimM is a contributing writer for Eat at Home. See more from her at her blog Makin’ it Mo’Betta, and follow along on Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter!

Free Weekly Menu + Grocery List – Year 3 Week 43 – Stock the Freezer (and my birthday wish request)

Monday is my birthday!

And I have a birthday wish to ask you.

I need some votes.  Well, my recipe needs some votes.

My Pork Carnitas in the Slow Cooker recipe is in Mr. Food’s Search for the Ultimate Weeknight Meal contest.  Voting opens on Monday and I would love it if you would pop over and give me your vote.

Some of you may be reading this on Sunday night, but votes in the contest won’t start counting until Monday so you’ll need to wait until then if you want it to count.  You can vote once per browser (Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer etc.).  If you’re like me and use different browsers at different times, feel free to vote in all of the them.  Of course, you are probably more normal than me and don’t use lots of different browsers, sometimes at the same time.

The voting will be open until September 28.

Here’s a link to the main voting page, if you’d like to see the other fantastic recipes in the running to be Mr. Food’s Ultimate Weeknight Meal.

You can vote for my recipe here.  Thanks so much!

 

Now for this week’s menu.  If you double a few of these recipes, you can easily have extra dinners stashed away in your freezer for later.

Double the baked spaghetti.  Bake one casserole and freeze the other unbaked for later.

Double the Spicy Chicken Pizza and freeze half the filling for later.

Double the Spicy Chicken Soup (which doesn’t taste a thing like the Spicy Chicken Pizza).  Put half in the slow cooker and half in the freezer.  When you’re ready to use the frozen soup, just thaw enough to get it out of the container and put it in the slow cooker to heat all day.  Come home to a hearty dinner with no work on your part.

Here’s what is on the menu this week:

Crunchy Chicken Taco Salad

Baked Spaghetti, garlic bread, salad

South of the Border Skillet, Cucumber and Tomato Salad, chips and salsa

Croque Monsieur Sandwiches, Shaker Tomato Soup

Spicy Garlic Chicken Pizza, salad

Slow Cooker Spicy Chicken Soup, Cheddar Muffins

Apple Crisp in the Slow Cooker

To print, click here:  menu year 3 week 43

 

 

 

Slow Cooker Beans for the Freezer aka Refried Beans without the Refry

I have heard about the beans for years.  Yes, years!  And I can’t believe I had never tried them.  I first heard about them on the Sonlight forums, where they were made famous by Bethany of For the Love of Grub.

Bethany loves these beans and makes them often and tells the rest of us that we need to be making them.  Everyone who has tried them raves about them.

Do I take the hint and give them a try?  No, I wait 5 or 7 years before it finally hits me that I need to see what the fuss is about.  I mean, it’s just beans, right? They can’t be that much better than canned, right?

Call me a crazy bean lover!  These things are fabulous!

They aren’t spicy, and yet they’re flavorful.  They make a quick dinner, can be mashed or left whole and they’re great for stocking your freezer.

Bethany gives a lot of variations on her blog, but this is how I made them:  [Read more…]

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! 

[Read more…]

Freezer Cooking February – Tips and Recipe Roundup

I hope you’re ready to fill your freezer!  Here are some of my best recipes for freezer cooking.  You’ll find all kinds of freezer friendly recipes on this page.

One of my favorite ways to make meals easy is to have meat cooked and frozen.  In most recipes, the part that takes longest is cooking the meat.  If you can skip that step, you can really speed up your weeknight dinner.  Chicken, ground beef, roast, pulled pork, meatballs all can be cooked and frozen.

Recipes

Main Dishes

These are all recipes that freeze especially well.  Some of them also make large quantities, so you get more bang for your cooking buck.

Desserts

Most cakes, cookies, breads and muffins can be frozen.  These are a few that make a lot and freeze well.

Freezer Cooking Tips

That should get us started!   More recipes to come in the next few weeks, including one for those meatballs in the photo at the top.