Monday, September 9, 2013

healthy freezer meals.

Remember that time I wrote for a blog all about home and school organization? Yeah, me neither. Seriously - where does the time go?! Between starting a new school year at a new school, tons of home improvement projects, and training 3+ hours per day for a half ironman triathlon, these past few weeks flew by! My deepest apologies for the hiatus, friends. Things are starting to calm down and this little bloggity blog is back at the top of the priority list!

I wanted to share with y'all a little two day project I took on a couple of weeks ago. As you can tell from my opening, things are getting a bit busy in the little casita, as they always do in the fall! Even with me getting out a bit earlier from school, my afternoons/evenings are usually consumed with a house project and training, so I have little time left for cooking. The Mr. and I really do love eating home cooked meals, so I needed to find a way to still provide nightly home cooked meals despite our ridiculous schedules. Enter healthy freezer cooking.

I feel like the majority of freezer meals are chalk full of cheese, pasta, cream of disgusting, and who knows what else, so I really wanted to find healthy soups, sauces, etc. that I could make, freeze, and then bake when we were ready.

So, I took an afternoon and headed to SAMs, where I felt like a restaurant owner for coming home with this stash:

I mean, seriously. But with just one afternoon of shopping and about $150, I was going to be able to prep enough meals to last us for a couple of months, at least! So here's what I did.

I started by having the Mr. grill a 10 pound bag of chicken which I then froze and threw in a foil container for a quick and easy addition to salads, sandwiches, or just a protein with vegetables.

I then made several pounds of "taco meat" using ground turkey and taco seasoning for a quick taco salad.

I also made a quadruple (yes, quadruple) batch of my grandmother's spaghetti sauce. This stuff is so ridiculously easy and ridiculously divine! I bagged some in Ziploc bags for a traditional spaghetti dinner (over spaghetti squash instead of pasta) and reserved some for vegetable lasagna (more on that in a minute).

My grandmother's recipe for spaghetti sauce is:
2 lbs. ground beef (I actually prefer to use ground turkey - less greasy and tastes fabulous!)
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
3, 16 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes
2, 6 oz. cans of tomato paste
2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 cup parsley
1 tsp. oregano
  • Brown beef/turkey and onion in oil in large pot, drain fat.
  • Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 4-6 hours on low heat, stirring occasionally. (The longer it simmers, the better!)
After making a few bags of spaghetti sauce, I used the rest to make vegetable lasagna. For vegetable lasagna, I simply replace the noodles with thinly sliced squash and zucchini to make it a bit more tummy friendly! As it's just the Mr. and me, I decided to make 2 lasagnas per foil pan:

Inside each foil packet, I simply layered my grandmother's spaghetti sauce, squash/zucchini (I alternated layers with each veggie), and a bit of ricotta. Easy peesy!

When we are ready to eat it, I will remove one foil packet from the pan and bake it!

I hope I don't gross y'all out with this next bit, but the Mr. and I love us some meatloaf! I know a ton of y'all have nightmares about this stuff, but my recipe is pretty mild, not too weird, and goes great with mashed cauliflower and roasted broccoli! My recipe for meatloaf is:
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef (again, I use ground turkey)
1 onion, diced
1/2 can tomato sauce
1 egg beaten
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Form into a loaf and bake at 350 for 1 hour.
  • **After about 30 minutes of baking, I typically add a bit of ketchup and siracha chili sauce to the top of the meatloaf to keep it moist and add a bit of flavor!
After quadrupling this recipe, I made 4 meatloafs as well as two pans of meatballs (rather than forming the meat mixture into a loaf, I simply made small balls). We love to have baked meatballs over spaghetti squash and this marinara sauce:

In the crockpot, I made a double batch of Brown Sugar and Balsamic Glazed Pork Loin:

I then moved on to making four soups/stews that won't make all of our hard work in training go out the window.

I made a red lentil soup...
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
 1 1/2 cups dried red lentils
1 turnip, peeled and diced 1/2 cup chopped, fresh, flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
  • In a pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and celery; cook, stirring until tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Increase heat to high and add tomatoes, cook for 1 minute.
  • Add lentils, turnip, and 6 cups water.
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until lentils are tender, 20-25 minutes.
  • Stir in parsley and vinegar, season with salt and pepper.
...the Pioneer Woman's beef stew...

...white bean and kale soup...

...and taco soup of my own design.

I don't exactly have a recipe for the taco soup. What I usually do is saute an onion, then add chicken stock, canned tomatoes, Rotel, corn, black beans, and a rotisserie chicken. I then add chili powder, cumin, and salt to taste.

So that's it for cooking! But after just 2 days of cooking (AKA: one weekend), this is the result:

A whole freezer full of healthy, fully prepared meals! As far as storage goes, all soups, sauces, etc. were stored in Ziploc bags and frozen flat. The meatloafs, meatballs, grilled chicken, and vegetable lasagnas are stored in disposable foil pans (hooray for easy clean up!).

Yes, I probably could have added adorable hanging labels to my freezer, but for this project, simply labeling the pan or Ziploc was good enough for me!

Tonight's menu, you ask? Meatloaf, roasted broccoli, and cauliflower mash, oh my! Stop gagging, you meatloaf haters, you! Try my recipe and you will be transformed!


  1. My boyfriend makes the best meatloaf- definitely not grossed out over here! Did you bake the meatballs and meatloaf before freezing? I'm a teacher myself, and I know how busy the fall can be! I'd love to do that kind of prep, but our freezer is teeny, and we don't have a place for an extra freezer. Maybe I'll have to attempt on a smaller scale. Thanks for all of the ideas!

  2. Hi Rachel!

    I did NOT bake the meatloaf or meatballs before I froze them. For the meatloaf, I formed it into a loaf and then carefully placed it in a Ziploc bag before placing it in the foil pan (for easier storage). For the meatballs, I formed all of the meatballs, then froze them, spread out, on a cookie sheet. Once they were all frozen, I tossed them into a foil pan for storage - this way, they won't be stuck together and we can just pull out the number of meatballs we want!

    Hope that helps! Good luck this fall!

  3. I want to do something like this so bad! I don't have the huge freezer, but I try to always have a few freezer mea;s ready. Could you share your shopping list? I spend almost $100 a week on groceries anyways, so making all those meals for that price would be amazing. How do you plan on reheating a lot of these meals? Crockpot? Stovetop? I'm so interested! My boyfriend and I are like y'all, we definitely like homecooked meals, but since my school goes until 5:30 (as in, dimissal is DONE at 5:30, eek!) it's hard!

  4. Bummer! I don't have my list anymore. Essentially, I just gathered all of my recipes, then multiplied them by whatever amount I wanted (doubled, tripled, etc.). I then made a master list of ingredients I needed and the amounts I needed, then headed to SAMs! Obviously, some things came from the grocery store, but I was very pleasantly surprised by how little this project cost!

    As for reheating, all soups will be reheated over the stove while the lasagnas and meats will be reheated in the oven. I have been pulling out whatever baggy or foil pan we are wanting to eat in the morning before I go to work, and it's usually defrosted by the time I get home and ready to be heated!

  5. How did you make the crockpot brown sugar glazed pork loin? Did you cook it in the crockpot, let it cool then freeze it or did you prepare your meat, put the glaze on it then freeze it?

    1. I cooked the meat according to the recipe, drained off a good deal of the liquid, then poured the glaze over the meat. Once cool, I froze the meat/glaze in a ziploc baggie!

  6. I just found your website and I'm excited to try your recipes! I have a question about grandma's spaghetti sauce recipe. Is the recipe listed the single or quadrupled version, and are the herbs fresh or dried? Thanks!

    1. Hi Amanda! The recipe listed for spaghetti is the single recipe. I multiply the recipe based on how much ground turkey I can buy (our SAMs and Costco typically sell ground turkey in 4-5 lb containers, so I multiply based on that). For this recipe, I use dried herbs!

  7. I just found your website and am making my shopping list off your recipes. Thanks so much!

  8. What kind of squash did you use for the veggie lasagna?