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OMG! I just found the most unbelievably genius idea thanks to – a blog! I had to try it out and share the wonderous results. This was just too good to keep to myself! It has revolutionized the way I meal plan and cook.

I am a big fan of planning (yes, I do realize not all things can be prepared for in advance), but more importantly, I plan due to my need for efficiency – whether of space, money, or most of all – TIME. We are all pressed for time – and wish life came with a pause button. With grad school starting next week, and my final year placement at the hospital starting in two weeks, and my grad assistantship starting in a week and a half (AH! Deep breathing!), I knew that my lovely summer of cooking and day trips was coming to a close. But I have also learned that good meals don’t need to take a ton of time and depend much on efficient recipes – yes, you read that right. Julia Child’s I wish I could cook like you, but I honestly don’t have the time. Maybe someday I’ll master a few fancy recipes, but for now, I live in the real world and real-time. I NEED recipes that are good for me and – good TO me. Balancing everything on my plate, and eating healthy, requires maximizing my kitchen time.

Time saver via Mama and Baby Love.

So that is where this little gem of a blog came into play. The saying “mother of invention” took on a whole new meaning for me. I came across a new blog (to me) – oddly enough about babies and mothers (no, I’m not expecting, but have learned that mothers TOTALLY know about efficiency and are experts!). Stephanie at Mama and Baby Love would fall into that expert category. For new mothers, or one’s looking to learn a few new tricks, check her out! She has great tips on yoga (for mom and baby), diy fashion ideas, and – mastery in the kitchen with organic and wholesome meals any kid would L. O. V. E!

One thing I loved was her shared love of planning and being efficient with time (what with a toddler around!). And she was a once a month cooker and freezer meal maven! Be still my heart! I have learned that planning my meals each week – and having a detailed grocery list – saves me not only time, but money. Additionally, I love the idea of once a month cooking – but have not yet been able to master this in practice (living in an apt. with 4 girls and limited cooking gear). In the end, I’d make a big meal here and there to freeze and have on hand for late nights or lunches. I must admit it was a huge help during the week – and no, I don’t mind leftovers when they are GOOOO oooooD!

Stephanie posted how she changed the way she did her freezer meals after having the same frustrations – once a month cooking took ALL DAY, was EXHAUSTING, and just wasn’t always practical in real-time. So she set out to PRE-MAKE her meals and freeze them. O. M. G! Why didn’t I think of that!!!!

She outlines how she pre-prepares several slow cooker meals for her family once a month and then freezes them for later. All she has to do, pick what you want and pop it in the crock-pot! That. Simple! So I thought I’d try it out – see if it really works for a non-mom grad student who wants good meals after long days.

I started by picking out 4 slow cooker recipes I found online. Each one looked good and was different. I calculated that I would get 18-20 meals out of my one Freezer Friday operation.

My recipes:

  • Jambalaya from Plain Chicken ya’ll!
  • Beef Stroganoff from The Well-Fed Newlyweds (another great blog!)
  • Pepper Steak from All Recipes.
  • Dad’s Rocky Mountain beef stew – modified by moi for the slow cooker (sorry kids this is a family treasure).

Tips:

  • It took me about 2 hours to cut, pour, mix, and prep all 4 meals.
  • Label the bags – and if there are multiple steps in a recipe – label them accordingly.
  • I highly recommend freezing meat before chopping or buying it pre-cubed. The batch that was recently bought and not frozen was a pain to cut. One of my roommates stated that the frozen ones would be easier because all the fat and sinew would not be so aggravating to cut.
  • Make sure you have all the ingredients AND utensils. As I started, I realized that one of our roommates who recently moved out owned our only can opener. Woops! Thankfully I found one at the grocery store – no small feat since it was Sept. 2 and anyone in Boston knows that Sept. 1 means house goods and moving trucks are hard to find!
  • Dump it all in – just add everything to the gallon bags and use two if needed. This way, it’ll be easier to make for dinner.

Ta-dah!! OMG! I am so excited!

Results:
So today I decided to make the Beef Stroganoff. I must admit this recipe was harder because it had two steps, but since all the prep work was done, it wasn’t that difficult. The result was GREAT! So simple. Cooked the same way, just not all done in the same day.
I thawed Bag 1 (and step one in the recipe) for about 40 min. and then dumped it in on high for 4.5 hours.
Looking good! A little more liquid than I thought so I did drain a bit.
Added Bag 2 and let cook on high for 40 min. (a bit longer than recommended).
Stirred in a small tub of sour cream and poured over egg noodles.
PERFECTION! And not just because it tasted good, but because this took me no time at all! I was able to spend the day at church and a leisurely lunch with my cousins! And with new roommates moving in, not only did the place smell wonderful – but I didn’t take up any space in the kitchen for them to get settled in.
For more tips on freezer meals and how to make your freezer look like this (Someday!) check out this post I found on Or So She Says.
Whether you are a mom or just someone who is super busy, this is such a great idea! I’ll keep you posted on my progress and what happens during my next Freezer Friday in Oct.
Best wishes,
Erin
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