Anyone else feel like they are always in the kitchen? Between grocery shopping, planning, chopping, meal prep, cooking, and making sure everyone is fed a somewhat healthy meal 3+ times a day is EXHAUSTING! Freezer meals are a huge help in taking the guesswork out of meals. Not sure where to get started on freezer meals? Read on to get a rundown of how to begin and a new recipe. And stay tuned for a freezer meal of the month to start popping up on the blog!
I joined a freezer meal swap nine months ago and a big part of the mom stress melted away.
One of the moms in the village organized it. We keep it simple—once a month, we meet at her house, bring the kids, our frozen meals, and maybe someone brings a bottle of wine to share. The older kids play outside, the little kids play inside, moms chat. Some months, people might drop off meals in advance if they can’t attend, or leave the kids at home for a breather, or just swap and run. We’re flexible. As long as we get our monthly rations of sanity in, we’re good.
Some meals are Costco meatballs and sauce with a side of frozen rice and frozen broccoli. Some meals are casserole-style. Some meals are “you clearly had too much time on your hands this weekend and went all out”-style. Anything that can be stuck in the oven directly, dumped in the crockpot, or better yet, cooked from frozen in the instant pot, are all right in my book. (But really, the meatballs are my favorite…)
Everyone makes 6-8 family portions of the same recipe. Then, everyone gets one each of what each person brought. Voila, meal planning is done. You get to try out a variety of flavors, maybe something you would never cook before but surprisingly, something the whole family loves. It helps you stay out of a culinary rut and, most of all, erases that mental load you’ve been carrying around, the struggle of making healthy meal plans vs throwing mac and cheese, chicken nuggets and pizza at the kids every night.
Here are our rules:
Everyone makes a freezer meal of their choice. Bring 1 meal for everyone who signs up for the swap. Your meal has to be labeled with what it is and cooking directions. Each meal should cost no more than $15 and that includes the storage container. Each meal should feed between 4-6 people and be a complete meal (contains a protein/vegetable/starch...). Some meals might require a salad on the side, there is no need to bring the salad, just bring the freezer part and make a note that a salad would go great with it. Meals can either be cooked in a Crock Pot, oven, OR stovetop. Meals can be pre-made and simply need to be reheated. Meals need to be stored in a freezer safe storage.
Just google “freezer meals” and you’ll find a billion websites with free recipes. Here’s just an example of one I’ve used. I like it because it has breakfast recipes, too! (see below)
TL; DR—If you’re the “oh dangit it’s 5 pm and the kids are *this close* to a hangry meltdown” kind of person like me, you gotta join or organize a freezer meal swap.
If you would be interested to join us in the North Springfield area, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Speaking of breakfast freezer meals…
English muffins. Making bread can be an intimidating task. I get it. But this recipe requires only the teensiest bit of time and effort on your part. There’s no kneading, no over- or under-proving the dough. There is a range of acceptable rising time and it’s easy to fit into your schedule. Basically what I did yesterday:
10 min to mix the dough around 4 pm
(let rise 4-5 hours)
5 min to scoop out spoonfuls into vaguely round dollops onto a cookie sheet around 9 pm
(let rise 12-42 hours)
The next morning (or even the next!) heat up a griddle and cook those suckers in about 20 min.
Actually, I think they only rose about 10 hours overnight and they were still perfect.
Impress your friends and family! I’m never buying English muffins again. This time I took it a step further and cooked up some eggs and bacon and made sandwiches to stick in the freezer for a quick breakfast later.
· YIELD: Makes twelve 3 1/2–inch muffins
· ACTIVE TIME:20 minutes
· TOTAL TIME:16 to 30 hours
· 10 ounces bread flour (2 cups; 285g)
· 5 ounces whole wheat flour (1 cup; 140g) (see note)
· 2 3/4 teaspoons (11g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use the same weight or half as much by volume
· 1 1/4 teaspoons (4g) instant dry yeast (not rapid-rise)
· 12 ounces cold milk (1 1/2 cups; 340g), any percentage will do (see note)
· 3 1/2 ounces honey (1/4 cup; 100g)
· 1 large egg white, cold
· 5 ounces fine cornmeal (1 cup; 145g), for dusting
· Roughly 1 ounce bacon fat, unsalted butter, or oil (2 tablespoons; 30g), for griddling
Make the Dough and Let Rise: In a large bowl, mix bread flour, whole wheat flour, kosher salt, and yeast together until well combined. Add milk, honey, and egg white, stirring with a flexible spatula until smooth, about 5 minutes. Cover with plastic and set aside until spongy, light, and more than doubled, 4 to 5 hours at 70°F (21°C). (The timing is flexible depending on your schedule.)
For the Second Rise: Thickly cover a rimmed aluminum baking sheet with an even layer of cornmeal. With a large spoon, dollop out twelve 2 2/3–ounce (75g) portions of dough; it's perfectly fine to do this by eye. If you'd like, pinch the irregular blobs here and there to tidy their shape. Sprinkle with additional cornmeal, cover with plastic, and refrigerate at least 12 and up to 42 hours.
To Griddle and Serve: Preheat an electric griddle to 325°F (160°C) or warm a 12-inch cast iron skillet or griddle over medium-low heat. When it's sizzling-hot, add half the butter and melt; griddle muffins until their bottoms are golden brown, about 8 minutes. Flip with a square-end spatula and griddle as before. Transfer to a wire rack until cool enough to handle, then split the muffins by working your thumbs around the edges to pull them open a little at a time. Toast before serving and store leftovers in an airtight container up to 1 week at room temperature (or 1 month in the fridge) (or even longer in the freezer).