Sunday, October 26, 2014

22 Healthy Freezer Meals for Maternity Leave

Many of you might not know this, but my little sister Christi (who also writes for this blog) is 9 months pregnant. Here is her beautiful pregnancy photo here:
{Adara Photography~She is AMAZING!}

With her expecting her first child, one of the main pieces of advice I could give her is to make some freezer meals. I didn't make them with my first child but I stock piled them with my second and honestly it was a HUGE lifesaver! **PS- This is going to be the longest blog EVER!!**

Over the last few months we both have pinned quite a few freezer meal ideas but there were a few problems with some of them:

1. They Are Unhealthy
 Many of them use bricks of cream cheese, loads of shredded cheese, and lots of white pasta. We really wanted meals we felt like we could eat and not feel super guilty for just eating enough calories to support a normal sized human for a week. 

2. The Prep Time Is Ridiculous
There are a lot of recipes out there that the prep time is crazy. I don't want to sit there and wrap each individual thing, saute this for 2 hours, etc. We wanted some that we could throw together and be done! 

3. Cheap Protein & More White Pasta
Many of the bulk freezer meal recipes out there claim to make '20 Meals for $50' or some other cheap amount of food. I looked into some of them and when you tell me to use 1 frozen chicken breast to make 4 meals, that just seems crazy. Protein is a good thing, it keeps you fuller longer and makes you eat less. And last time I checked, adding more white pasta to a meal to make it "stretch" is honestly not good for you. With our meals here, we used protein and we used GOOD protein. We used lean beef, boneless skinless chicken, and cut our own pork loin. 

4. Sweet Meat
Christi does not like sweet sauces on meat. I don't mind them. However, in keeping with the somewhat healthy theme, adding less sugar is always a good thing in my book. 

5. Many Freezer Meal Are Gross
Some things DO NOT freeze well. It's true. I would say about 50% of the meals I have tried to make into freezer meals just didn't thaw and bake up as good as they were the first time. We wanted to try to find recipes that actually taste good after they were frozen and I am confident we did. 

With all that said, we had a little bit of a challenge picking out the meals, but because I have made frozen meals in the past I had an idea of what froze well and what didn't. So here is our list of 

 Healthy Maternity Freezer Meals*
{Prego Christi preparing for 2 hours of freezer meal prep!}

*Disclaimer- I am saying healthy because the calorie content of these meals is very reasonable for the portion size. You will notice in many of the meals we did use *Cream of Whatever* soup which many people do not find healthy. We used the 98% Fat Free soup, as a means of simplicity in preparing these meals. If you are not a fan these canned soup, feel free to look up a recipe to make a homemade version. I was unsure how the homemade version would freeze up so I stuck with the canned because it has worked in the past for me. 

Chicken and Wild Rice  x 4
Chicken Taco Soup  x 4
Goulash  x 4
Tater Tot Casserole  x 4
Creamy Ranch Pork Chops  x 4
Parmesan Pork Roast  x 2

That's a grand total of 22 meals!
{We did not use all that cheese (only a half of one bag) but we did use the rest of the ingredients!}

Now before you begin, here are a few tips for you:

Tips For Freezer Meals:
If you haven't ever prepared a bunch of freezer meals, I can give you a few tips:

1. Buy Half Size Aluminum Steam table pans and lids.
They are about $5 for 15 of them and $5 for the lids. They are great to keep on hand and less dishes are always a good thing with new babies.

2. Buy Crock Pot Liners & Gallon Bags
Again, less crock pot cleaning is always a good thing. You will need the gallon bags for some of the meals. 

3. Buy In Bulk
We purchased a large pork loin and cut our own pork roast and pork chops. You get so much more meat for a lot less cost. Also, we bought boneless, skinless chicken, and 88% lean ground beef to keep things healthy. Large bags of frozen veggies are the best and cheaper then the canned. 

4. Prepare throughout the week
-Dice up onions (or other veggies) 
- Brown ground beef
- Use a crock pot to cook your chicken (just throw it in for 8 hours with no water) and then use a Kitchen Aid Mixer to shred it (or two forks)
- Cook up rice another day
- Do not cook up pasta in advance. It will stick together. 

5. Make a Recipe List
Know how much you need of each item and organize your ingredients at home by recipe. 

6. Make a Shopping List
Go to the store with a list of what you need organized by department.

7. Print Labels For Your Containers
Label your containers earlier in the week and set them with the ingredients. Each label should give you the recipe name, calories, how to prepare, and if any other ingredients are needed. 

After you have all that done, you are ready to begin. It took us about 2 hours to assemble all of these. Now the recipes below are in one meal quantities. I left them this way so you can decide how many meals you want to make and just double, triple, quadruple...whatever the recipe. 
So without further adieu here are the recipes:

Chicken and Wild Rice 
1.5 cups wild rice 
10.75 oz  cream of 98% fat free mushroom soup
10.75 oz  cream of 98% fat free chicken soup 
1 small can mushrooms, drained
16oz chicken breast
1 cup slivered almonds, optional

1. Cook rice according to package. Mix in both cans of soup and mushrooms. 
2. Pour in to freezer dish and top with 1 pound of chicken pieces and sprinkle with slivered almonds. 
3. Double wrap in heavy duty foil, label and freeze. 

FREEZER INSTRUCTIONS: Thaw and bake uncovered at 350 for 1 hour until chicken juices run clear.

Serves 4 @ 456 calories

Chicken Taco Soup
1 onion, chopped
1 (16 ounce) can chili beans
1 (15 ounce) can black beans
1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (12 fluid ounce) can of chicken broth
2 (10 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 (1.25 ounce) package taco seasoning
12 oz chicken breast
Combine all ingredients into a Ziploc bag. Freeze. 

FREEZER INSTRUCTIONS: Thaw and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Serve topped with shredded Cheddar cheese, sour cream, or tortilla chips, if desired

Serves 6 @ 391 calories
1lb ground 88% lean beef
10 oz  tomato soup
6 oz Tomato Paste 
2 cups uncooked whole wheat elbow macaroni
2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
1 can (15oz) corn, drained
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
4 oz shredded cheddar cheese

1. Brown Ground beef (earlier in week)
2. Cook noodles according to package, drain (on day of)
3. In a large bowl, combine soup, garlic powder, onion powder, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, noodles and ground beef.  Stir in corn.
4. Transfer to freezer baking dish and top with cheese. 

FREEZER INSTRUCTIONS: Thaw and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes until heated through and melted cheese.

Serves 4 @ 390 calories

Tater Tot Casserole
1 lb. ground beef 
1 small onion, finely chopped 
10.75 oz  cream of 98% fat free mushroom soup 
1/4 cup skim milk 
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables
4 ounces Shredded Cheddar Cheese 
1 lb. tater tots 

1. Brown Beef (earlier in week)
2. To the ground beef stir in frozen veggies, soup and milk. Mix well. 
3. Pour soup mixture into bottom of pan. Top with potato nuggets and then shredded cheese.

FREEZER INSTRUCTIONS: Thaw the meal in the fridge overnight and then bake at 350 covered for the first 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until hot. 

Serves 6 @ 369

Creamy Ranch Pork Chops
4 Pork chops
1 Can Cream of chicken soup
1 Package Ranch dressing (dry)

*Cut the bottom 6”off both ends of loin for roast and then cut the center 1" thick to make pork chops
1. Mix cream of chicken soup and ranch powder together.
2, Place Pork Chops in crock pot bag. 
3. Pour soup mixture on top. 
4. Twist crock pot bag and tie. Place in labeled gallon freezer bag. 

FREEZER INSTRUCTIONS: Thaw over night. Place in crock pot on low for 6-8 hours. 

Serves 4 @ 473 calories

Parmesan Pork Roast
1 boneless whole pork loin roast 
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup honey
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons dried basil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water

*Cut the bottom 6” off both ends of loin for roast
1. Place pork roast in crock pot bag. 
2. In a small bowl, combine the cheese, honey, soy sauce, basil, garlic, oil and salt;
pour over pork. 

FREEZER INSTRUCTIONS:  Remove from freezer and thaw in fridge for 24 hours.  Cook on HIGH for 3-4 hours or LOW for 6-7 hours. Remove meat to a serving platter; keep warm. Skim fat from cooking juices; transfer to a small saucepan. Bring liquid to a boil. Combine cornstarch and water until smooth. Gradually stir into pan. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Slice roast; serve with gravy. 

Serves 6 servings @ 518 calories

So that's the meals! I know many of you are wondering how much the meals cost us, so I will tell you. We made 22 meals for $214.04. That's $9.73 for a meal that feeds 4-6! I know that is a little higher priced then some other websites claim to be, but our meals have a lot of protein in them and we bought the healthier version of ingredients which always cost more

{I feel like Yeti should give me some sponsorship money for this pic!}

Also, for your convenience I have uploaded a few documents for you.
1. Freezer Meal Labels ~Just print them on sticker paper
2. The Recipes
3. Excel Shopping List ~Just plug in servings for each meal and it will calculate how much to purchase

Well, I hope I have inspired some of you out there to make some meals ahead of time! I know that when it comes to a new baby, the last thing you want to be doing is slaving over the stove in the kitchen! If you have any question on making these meals, feel free to email us!

Happy Cooking!! 

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1 comment:

Greta said...

This is awesome. I want to do this...I don't even need to be pregnant! Come help me, Beth! :D

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