A guest post from Polly Conner and Rachel Tiemeyer of Thriving Home.
As food bloggers, cookbook authors, and freezer cooking evangelists, these moms are on a mission to “help your home thrive, one delicious meal at a time”. Their popular website, ThrivingHome.org and cookbooks help bring busy families together over healthy, homemade meals. Follow them on instagram (@thrivinghome) for recipe ideas, meal prep tips, mom hacks, and more.
When I had my first kiddo, I made the decision to stay home full-time. Our one-income budget was tight. My time was tight. And to be honest, my post-pregnancy jeans were tight.
It seemed like the only thing that had room to grow was my cooking repertoire. I just could not get dinner figured out.
Before kids, I’d had this lovely vision of providing healthy, homemade meals around the dinner table each evening. As you can probably guess, that never happened. Not even close.
I just couldn’t wrap my mind around how I was supposed make a meal EVERY-SINGLE-NIGHT! Or, how could we possibly afford fresh, healthy foods on our tight grocery budget? We weren’t eating well, and I didn’t have a clue what to do about it.
AN ANSWER TO THE DINNERTIME DRAMA
What if I told you that there was an answer to this dinnertime drama? What if it was something you could start doing TONIGHT!? It’s not new. It’s not sexy. It’s not complicated. In fact, you’ve probably heard of it. It’s freezer cooking!
Wait! Wait! Don’t close the browser. Hear me out.
I’m well aware that when many people hear the term, “freezer cooking” they think of mushy, beige leftovers. I did too. However, what if I told you that freezer meals can be fresh, vibrant, and full flavor and texture? It’s true!
In fact, after developing hundreds of freezer friendly recipes for our website and freezer meal cookbooks, we are confident that a freezer cooking lifestyle can change your life. In fact, here’s what one reader recently emailed us:
Thank you to you ladies for making dinnertime (ergo my life) so much less stressful. The week, I used your cookbook for dinners. The only thing extra I did was double the recipes. By the end of the week, I had 6 meals in the freezer ready to go. It’s been such a blessing in my life, thank you!
4 BENEFITS OF FREEZER COOKING
When I say “freezer cooking” I am referring to preparing meals in advance and freezing them before cooking. This method of simply doubling a meal and freezing one for later, has become a lifestyle in my home which has helped me get dinner on the table, even on the busiest nights.
Here are a few more reasons I love freezer cooking.
1) It saves money by buying in bulk and eating at home.
It’s no secret that when you buy food in bulk quantities, it is usually cheaper. By meal planning, you’ll see your grocery bill go down significantly. Plus, having ready-to-go meals within reach reduces the temptation to spend money eating out.
2) It cuts down on prep and cooking time, leaving more room to relax and spend time with loved ones.
By having meals that you doubled from a previous meal ready to go in the freezer, you’ll cut down on all those extra little trips to the store during the week. Even more importantly, you’ll cut down on your prep, cooking, and clean-up time regularly, leaving weeknights freer to relax, spend time with your family, exercise, enjoy hobbies, or whatever else has been crowded out of your life by the daily cooking grind!
3) Freezer cooking helps you eat healthier!
Freezer cooking, especially using our recipes, makes homemade food full of REAL, wholesome ingredients readily available. When you cook at home, you are in control of the ingredients. This means your family is consuming less additives and preservatives and more whole foods.
4) You’ll always have meals on hand to take to a friend in need.
With meals in the freezer, you can be that friend who shows up at the doorstep with a healthy dinner and a few words of encouragement. It’s a simple act of caring and thoughtfulness that can make a bigger impact than you may realize.
WHERE TO FIND GREAT FREEZER MEAL RECIPES
As self-proclaimed “freezer cooking evangelists” we have developed and rigorously tested hundreds of delicious, freezer-friendly recipes and perfected the freezing/thawing methods for all different types of meals. Here are three places to find our recipes:
1) Thriving Home: You’ll find that our website is a wealth of information for anyone looking for make-ahead freezer meals, including things like:
- Make Ahead Breakfast Recipes
- Meals to Take to New Moms
- Freezer Meals for 1 or 2 People
- Freezer Smoothie Packs
2) From Freezer to Table: Another way to find the best of the best of our recipes is to snag our cookbooks. Our popular first cookbook walks a reader through freezer cooking basics and provides a wide variety of our favorite family-friendly recipes.
3) From Freezer to Cooker: In our second cookbook, each recipe provides instructions for both the slow cooker AND the Instant Pot. On top of that, we provide instructions for how to prep it ahead and freeze it for those extra busy nights.
Fun fact: we even got to go on the Hallmark Channel’s Home & Family show to share about this cookbook!
Want to try a recipe from From Freezer to Cooker? We’d love to share one with you! In fact, this recipe is on the cover!
SLOW COOKER ASIAN LETTUCE WRAPS
We love that this dish is low carb and filled with lean meat and vegetables, but also seasoned well with amazing Asian staples like soy sauce, fresh ginger, sesame oil, and more. These work well as an appetizer or for a lighter dinner. Beware that they can be messy, so have napkins on hand. Kid-friendly tip: wrap the rice and chicken/veggie mixture in a whole grain tortilla.
Makes: 4 servings (2-3 lettuce wraps per person)
- ½ cup soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 ½ tablespoons sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon hot chili sauce (or up to 2 teaspoons)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 teaspoon avocado oil or peanut oil
- 1 pound ground chicken (or ground turkey)
- 2 cups shredded coleslaw mix (sub: 1 cup shredded carrots and 1 cup shredded cabbage), plus more for garnish
- 1 bunch green onions, trimmed chopped, white and green parts, divided
- 1 (8 ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
- 16 crisp leaves of Boston Bibb, butter leaf, or Romaine lettuce
- ½ cup peanuts, crushed
Slow Cooker Instructions: (tested in a 6 quart cooker)
Make It Now:
- In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, vinegar, honey, sesame oil, chili sauce, garlic, and ginger. Set aside.
- Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Brown the ground chicken until there is no more pink. Drain off any grease. (Freezer meal instructions begin here.)
- Add the chicken, coleslaw mix, green onions, and water chestnuts to the slow cooker. Pour the sauce over the top and stir to combine.
- Cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours, until vegetables are soft and flavors are combined.
- To serve, use a slotted spoon to spoon the filling into a lettuce leaf. Top with fresh shredded cabbage, crushed peanuts, and (optional) more hot sauce, as garnish. Wrap and eat like a burrito.
Freeze For Later: Follow Steps 1-2. To a gallon-sized freezer bag or container, add the cooked, cooled chicken, coleslaw mix, green onions, water chestnuts, and the sauce, and seal. Add the crushed peanuts to a small freezer bag or containers and seal. Freeze both together as a kit.
Prepare From Frozen: Note: You will need lettuce and (optional) shredded coleslaw and hot sauce on hand to finish this meal. Thaw. Place the meat/veggie mixture into the slow cooker. Follow Steps 3-5.