Our kitchen has seen much progress in the past 4 years as Jack and I develop new ways of cooking that keep us healthy, provide warm homemade meals, and save time. This past year we started following some of the Biggest Loser protein menu guidelines to help define our eating styles. We both attend classes and run back and forth between 2 other jobs–this means our eating time is limited and usually involves us scarfing down whatever is quick and easy. Not to mention the hassle of coming home and attempting to prepare dinner. By the time 6 o’clock rolls around, the last thing we want to do is thaw and prep food. The Biggest Loser protein packed menus are fabulous (sample menu), because as the name suggests, they are packed with protein. What does that mean for us? We can eat less throughout the day and still remain full and energized enough to exercise those valuable brain cells.
What does our daily food system usually consist of?
Breakfast: 1 slice whole grain toast, 2 poached egg whites, 8 oz fat-free milk, coffee, fruit (you can even have 2 sausage links in this meal plan)
Snack: 1 medium apple, sliced, with 1 tablespoon peanut butter or 1 non-fat yogurt cup, 1 nature oats granola bar
_Lunch:_Black Bean Burrito with salsa, onions, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, and 1 wheat tortilla or 2 cups chopped romaine lettuce, tomato, cucumber and 4 oz lemon-pepper seasoned chicken (cooked ahead of time and separated into baggies to freeze)
Dinner: This is where we added in a bit of variety. Usually we pair fish with either 1 cup of brown rice, a side salad, or 1 serving of penne pasta with vegetables.
However, with school in full swing I pre-made 37 freezer meals for two in order to help us stay healthy, eat smaller portions and still have time for the necessary nightly study extravaganza.
The meals I included are made from fresh ingredients and are separated into moderate serving sizes. Most of these meals are to be paired with either brown rice or a side salad for a healthy and filling meal.
Spring Semester Freezer Meals:
Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato-Basil Soup
Yields: 8 cups
Serving Size: 1 cup
2-Person Meals: 4
Pair with: salad or homemade wheat bread
Yields: 10 cups
Serving Size: 1/2 cup
2-Person Meals: 10
Pair with: 1/2 cup brown rice or homemade wheat bread
Vegetable Pork Roast
Yields: 10 cups
Serving Size: 1 cup
2-Person Meals: 5
Pair with: 1/2 cup brown rice or side salad
Yields: 18 cups
Serving Size: 1 cup
2-Person Meals: 9
Pair with: 1 cup brown rice or 1 cup penne pasta
Note: We eat vegetables with everything so you can throw these into the steamer basket while your rice cooks or toss them into a pasta dish or simple cook as a side to go with your fish.
Yields: 44 oz
Serving Size: 4 oz
2-Person Meals: 11
Pair with: sandwiches, salads, tacos, soups, pasta, etc
Note: I cooked an extra roast and shred the meat just to have extra meat on hand for whatever other dish we may want to throw together. I didn’t do anything special to this meat so there could be a variety of uses.
Note: I cooked 1 whole bag of dry pinto beans, using 3 cups for the chili, 2 cups to make hummus (great low-calorie snack), and 2 cups of leftover to use as a side or to throw into a stew. The bag only cost $1.49 and the resulting meals make the extra cook time worthwhile.
I was able to buy all of the ingredients for these freezer meals including a large bag of brown rice and salad fixings to go along with the meals for under $100. The only part that wasn’t included was the rump roast and 1 lb of ground beef because we bought grass-fed beef last summer from the Doan’s farm.
Freezer Meals Tips:
1.) When dividing your portions into baggies, think about how much unthawing/rethawing you want to do. I don’t put more than 4 individual portions into each bag, i.e. 2 nights of meals for 2 people.
2.) Flatten bags of food onto cookie sheets to freeze. Once frozen remove from sheet and stack upright to conserve freezer space.
3.) Many people will tell you not to cook your meat ahead of time for beef/pork crockpot meals as you will lose some of the flavor. I have frozen crockpot meals both ways, and I didn’t think it made that much of a difference so if I have time to cook it all ahead of time I will. Chicken, however, you really should cook ahead of time if mixing with other foods.
4.) As always, be creative. You might be amazed to find that most of your meals can be prepped ahead of time and set out to thaw or thrown into a crockpot to cook or even just thaw all day. And let’s face it, who doesn’t like coming home after a crappy day to a house that smells like Grandma’s old-fashioned pot roast? Brings a smile to my face just thinking about it.
5.) Keep your freezer organized. I’m a stickler for organization. I love thinking of ways to organize and the process of organizing my life. For instance, my favorite part about January is buying a new planner for the year–so refreshing! I grabbed an old filing bin to store our randomly packaged meats. It also works well for “filing” flattened soup ziplocks. You can find little bins of all sizes to fit your freezer at the dollar tree so don’t let a few dollars discourage you from years of organized freezer bliss.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these few ideas and tips. I will be posting my freezer meal recipes throughout the next few posts. If you have any questions, suggestions, or tips to share please send them my way.