Guest Post // Freezer Meals & Mixes

Hello! Today we have a wonderful guest post from Adrie Roberts. She is the director over the family and consumer sciences for Cache County Extension.  She has many years of experience and success with freezer meals and she has agreed to share some of her tips with us.

At the end of the post she has graciously provided us with a three week menu to help get us started!

One of my favorite classes to teach is our class on freezer meals and mixes. It seems that everyone just loves this topic, which gets me so excited to share what I’ve had a chance to learn over the years.

We call freezer meals a way to “take the guess and stress out of suppertime”. Dinner can be a stressful event for many families. As much as I love to cook, I do not look forward to coming home from a long day of work in order to spend hours in the kitchen cooking and cleaning up after dinner. I’m sure I am not the only one to feel this way!

I began making freezer meals when my kids were much younger. The kids have since grown up and moved away, but I still use freezer meals to ensure easy and healthy meals for my husband and I. Today, we are going to talk about why we should keep key mixes on hand and how to ensure a successful day of freezer meal making. I will then be sharing my own three-week menu along with a few great recipes to get you started. Are you ready?

Why Use Mixes and Freezer Meals?:

1. Save time

a. Prepare several meals at one time. Meals are better planned, more delicious, and more nutritious even when time is minimum

2. Be Economical

a. You provide the labor and packaging for mixes yourself. Compare the cost per cup of commercial mixes with homemade mixes. Mixes cost less than half the price of store mixes.

3. Be Nutritious

a. You can choose your own ingredients to work with. Commercial mixes are prepared for a long shelf life. Food value and nutrition decreases with time.

4. Be Versatile

a. The variety and extent to which mixes can be used is almost limitless. For example, QUICK MIX makes a dozen different recipes. The taste of each will far surpass results from commercial mixes. Main dishes can be made from mixes too. These can be made ahead and stored in the freezer. Use them in a different dish every time.

5. Storing Mixes

a. The best way to store your mixes is in an airtight container placed in a cool, dry, dark place. Mixes to be stored in the freezer must be put in containers allowing for at least ½ inch of expansion. Light weight plastic bags and cottage cheese cartons are not suitable for freezer use. Your freezer mixes should be thawed in the refrigerator or microwave oven, and used immediately after thawing,

6. Labeling Mixes

a. Before you place mixes on the shelf in the freezer, make sure it is properly labeled! Resist the urge to store a mix and plan on labeling it later. Later, the mixes may all look alike. On each container, write the name of the mix and the date by which it should be sued. In most instances, the mixes can be stored longer than the specified time, but at the risk of losing its flavor, texture, and nutrients.

7. Get Started!

a. Take time to make up a collection of mixes and discover your favorites. You may find yourself creating new recipes with them!

How it works:

1. Select recipes and create a shopping list. Organize your list by store sections.

2. Purchase all food items (try to take advantage of store sales and coupons).

3. Organize your work space! Put printed recipes in plastic bags or page protectors and tape to the cupboard doors. Create work areas for dishes using similar ingredients. Gather cooking pans, freezer contains, storage items, marking pens, etc.

4. Combine similar tasks and then divide the food. For example, chop onions for all of the dishes and cook all of the ground beef (except any needed for raw meat dishes like meatloaf).

5. Remember to follow good food safety practices. This means keeping raw meat from other items, washing hands, and sanitizing cutting boards and counters after working with raw meat.

6. Create assembly lines. Prepare dishes together that use similar food items.

7. Label all food items. Use masking tape with the name of the food and the preparation instructions. Tape the printed recipe that has been page protected to the food for future directions. For freezer bags, use a sharpie marker and write on the bag. Write the date prepared on the bag.

8. Freeze food items. Some items need to quickly freeze in a pan before placing into bags. For other dishes, combine foods needed for the same recipe and tape together. For example if a dish calls for ½ cup grated cheese to be added during the last 10 minutes of cooking, place the cheese in a plastic bag, tape on the top of the pan, and freeze together.

9. Mark your calendar so everyone knows the menu for the month. Take food items out of the freezer the night before and let thaw in the refrigerator.

10. Make sure to remember side dishes like fruits, vegetables, whole grain bread, or ice cold milk with the meals.

My Three -Week Menu: (Print all the recipes here)

Week 1:

1. Hawaiian Haystacks (chicken mix)

2. Honey and wheat pancakes and fruit (honey/wheat mix)

3. Stuffed peppers (meatloaf mix)

4. Chicken broccoli alfredo (basic sauce mix and chicken mix)

5. Easy lasagna casserole (Italian cooking sauce mix)

6. Mexican chicken bake (chicken mix)

7. Meatloaf (meatloaf mix)

Week 2:

8. Cinnamon oatmeal pancakes and fruit (cinnamon oatmeal pancake mix)

9. Chicken enchiladas (basic sauce mix and chicken mix)

10. Stuffed manicotti shells (Italian cooking sauce mix)

11. Enchilada casserole (ready hamburger mix)

12. Chicken ala king (chicken mix)

13. Casserole pizza (meatloaf mix)

14. Cheeseburger skillet (basic sauce mix)

15. Saturday Stroganoff (ready hamburger mix)

16. Sweet and sour chicken (chicken mix)

Week 3:

17. Porcupine meatballs (meatloaf mix)

18. Taco skillet (basic sauce mix and ready hamburger mix)

19. Spaghetti (ready hamburger mix)

20. Hamburger gravy and mashed potatoes (ready hamburger mix)

21. Honey wheat waffles and fruit (honey and wheat mix)

Good luck in your freezer meal adventures! If you have any questions or comments please leave them below.

Adrie Roberts

Family and Consumer Sciences Agent

USU Associate Professor

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