How to Stock Your Freezer With Minimal Effort

How to Stock Your Freezer With Minimal Effort - Chic and Domestic
How to Stock Your Freezer With Minimal Effort – Chic and Domestic

I’ve been getting to know and love this extra freezer space in our new home! If you caught my last post “Ways to Cut Down On Food Waste in 10 Easy Steps” you’ll know that I’ve been trying to cut down on food waste in our house, and using the freezer has been a big part of that.

Stocking your freezer doesn’t have to just be freezer meals or processed foods. You can easily stock your freezer with useful and tasty things that taste 10 times better than something you grabbed from the freezer isle. Much healthier too!

Check out my Pinterest page “Freezer Meal Fabulous” for freezer meal inspiration here!

Buy In Bulk
Of course it’s easier to quickly stock your freezer when you’re buying things in bulk. The only difference between buying the smaller sizes that you normally buy and buying in bulk is the storage space needed. Buying in bulk makes it so much easier for me to plan ahead and not have the excuse of not having ready to make food already on hand on those busy nights.

Portion Meats
I like to separate all of our meat after we buy it in bulk. It makes it so much easier to just grab a freezer bag that is already portioned and ready to go versus having to thaw out an entire pack of chicken that I don’t need. It also cuts down on thawing time, and adds to your soon to be fully stocked freezer.

Portion Freezable Leftovers
Something that takes very minimal effort at all is freezing your leftovers. If you’re someone who isn’t a fan of leftovers the following day, just freeze them. I’ve done this with soups, chili, and even extra meat from tacos or pasta. It actually tastes just as good weeks later if you freeze it correctly. Plus, I know exactly what went into it and it’s better than using something processed.

Be sure to check out my post “How to Store Freezer Meals Like a BOSS” HERE!

Freeze Fruits and Veggies
Did you get lucky and catch a good sale on fresh fruits and vegetables? I use to try to keep my buying to a minimum with fresh fruits and vegetables, no matter how good deal was. In my mind that’s always the first thing to go bad in our house, why would I buy a bunch of fruits and vegetables and only make it through half of them? Not anymore! If I catch a great deal I’m buying it all. You can always portion out fruits and veggies for smoothies or smoothie bowls, or freeze vegetables to have as a side for dinner another day in the future. You can even go so far as turning simple vegetables into freezer meals, or even putting them together for stock.

Freeze the Unconventional
So many things can actually last just fine in your freezer. It’s not just for ice cream and oven pizzas. You can freeze bread, cheese, and even rice! Crazy right? Things that you wouldn’t normally think to freeze and keep on hand.

Be sure to subscribe and can look out for more unconventional freezer hacks!

Freeze Herbs in Olive Oil
I’m always so sad when it’s time to throw away my not so fresh herbs. It always felt like no matter how quickly I tried to use them up that they would always go bad, and at the time I didn’t have the option of growing my own little herb garden. Now I’m starting to freeze my herbs in olive oil and freezing them for later meals. It makes it easier to toss one or two into a dish and adding something extra to my meal.

What about you, have you tried any of these things to stock your own freezer?

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How to Meal Plan for the Month

How to Meal Plan For The Month - Chic and Domestic
How to Meal Plan For The Month – Chic and Domestic

I’ve been wanting to try something new with my current meal planning strategy. I can’t say it enough what an important role that meal planning has played in keeping my family’s grocery budget under control! If you happened to catch my post “How I Meal Plan for My Family of 5” you’ll know all about my meal planning process.

I currently meal plan on a weekly basis. This is just what has worked for me for the longest time. We use to be in a much smaller space so it was never necessary to over crowd my cabinets and refrigerator with food. Quite frankly, I always felt like doing a monthly meal plan versus a weekly meal plan meant also making the change to do all of my grocery shopping all at once. Something ya girl just wasn’t ready to do! So I just stayed clear of that.

I have since come to my senses and decided to try it out with the new month coming up. Things have been really busy around the house with so much change going, and just to cut down on the time I’m spending meal planning, cooking, and meal prepping, I’m going to plan things out for a full month, and see how it goes. I want to start to buy more in bulk to keep things on hand, and hopefully be able to prep and freeze more things with the added space that we have now.

I don’t expect the change from weekly to monthly to be too different. It’s essentially just doing what I’ve been doing but on a larger scale. No pressure.

Inventory
I always start off looking through my kitchen with things that I currently have. Out with the old and in with the new. If there is anything that I need to use before it goes bad, like fresh produce or bread I’ll make sure to add that to my first week of meals. Even having an abundance of nonperishable items like beans or diced tomatoes can be inspiration for a meal throughout the month like chili or a soup. Always start with what you already have. This will help to cut down on food waste, and also save you money in the long run.

Be sure to subscribe and look out for my post on how to cut down your food waste. In the mean time, check out 20 Ways to Save on Your Groceries

Recipes and Meal Collection
Start collecting a list of things that your family already enjoys eating on a regular basis. Most of us don’t realize it but we’re creatures of habit and more than likely have at least a handful of meals on a monthly basis. This is also where you can plan to finally try that meal that you’ve been wanting to try, or maybe you’ve gotten a new cookbook that you need to open up. Add some of those items to your list. I like to keep a running list so it’s easier to just choose a few items and go from there.

Check out my Pinterest page for some tasty meal inspiration here!

Check Your Schedule
Before you’re able to really plan out which meal goes where on your monthly plan, you first have to check your family schedule. Maybe your kids have extracurricular activities certain days out of the week, or you have days that are normally just busier than others. It would probably make sense for you to plan a quick and easy meal that day, or leftovers from a day or two before. You can even plan to eat out or order in.

Plan Your Meals
The best way to really benefit from meal planning is to plan your meals around corresponding ingredients. If you’re having chili one day during the week, maybe it makes sense for you to have nachos a day or two later with the leftovers. This also puts you in a position to possibly have things like cheese, green onion, or sour cream on hand, depending on how you top your chili. Something like this could also work by using a protein that you’ve cooked one day and using it for salads, soups, or sandwiches the following day. The possibilities are endless when you’re mixing and matching your foods up for each week.

How do you guys meal plan? Are you a weekly or monthly planner? Let me know in the comments.

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Weekly Meal Planning Menu #3

Make sure to get a homemade dinner on the table for your family this week with this easy Weekly Meal Plan!

After my quick break from meal planning, I am baaack! Last week I took some time to focus on planning and prepping some freezer meals to start stocking my freezer. Yet another great way to plan ahead and save your coins. If you’re interested in how to get started with freezer prep, and or storing tips, feel free to check that out here, but in other news, 123 let’s get started!

If it just so happens that you have been following my blog for a while, you know that I LOVE meal planning for my family of 5. It’s been one of the most beneficial things that I’ve started doing to stay in budget when it comes to our household groceries. I check in weekly to break down my weekly meal plan, and explain my thought process in planning and scheduling things how I do them. If you’re interested in getting started, check out my blog post on how to start meal planning. It’s a great read, really easy explanations, and full of really great tips.

I meal plan on Wednesdays, because I like to check out what’s on sale at my local grocery stores. If I lost you just now, no worries I’ll explain. The average grocery store prints their new sales ads every Wednesday. They normally come in the newspaper if you get one, but you can also check them out online if they have an official website. If you’re a couponer, even better! You should already know the importance of matching your coupons with weekly sales to maximize your savings. I do my plans from Monday to Sunday for the following week, just for scheduling purposes. I normally grocery shop on Thursday or Friday of every week.
I normally plan out breakfast meals for my kids, a various list of lunch options (We plan, but we definitely wing it!), and our family meals. For other examples of my weekly meal plans, check them out here on my blog.

This week I’ve planned the following

Monday: Breakfast: Blueberry Muffins, Fruit

Lunch: (Options) Pepperoni, String Cheese, Turkey Roll Ups, Applesauce, Fruit, Yogurt, Leftovers

Dinner: Ground Turkey Nachos

Tuesday: Breakfast: Blueberry Muffin, Eggs

Lunch: (Options) Pepperoni, String Cheese, Turkey Roll Ups, Applesauce, Fruit, Yogurt, Leftovers

Dinner: Turkey Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans

Wednesday: Breakfast: French Toast, Smoothies

Lunch: (Options) Pepperoni, String Cheese, Turkey Roll Ups, Applesauce, Fruit, Yogurt, Leftovers

Dinner: Spaghetti, Salad, Garlic Bread

Thursday: Breakfast: Egg Muffins, Fruit

Lunch: (Options) Pepperoni, String Cheese, Turkey Roll Ups, Applesauce, Fruit, Yogurt, Leftovers

Dinner: Turkey Burgers, Fries

Friday: Breakfast: Egg Muffins

Lunch: (Options) Pepperoni, String Cheese, Turkey Roll Ups, Applesauce, Fruit, Yogurt, Leftovers

Dinner: Southwest Chicken Salads

Saturday: Oatmeal

Lunch: Tuna and Crackers

Dinner: Chicken Wraps, Chips

Sunday: Breakfast: French Toast, Eggs, Yogurt

Lunch: Tuna and Crackers

Dinner: Grilled Chicken Cesar Salad

An important reason to meal plan is so you’re wasting less. Less food, less money, less time. In my Meal Planning 101 post, I explain the importance of using leftovers, sides, and extra condiments in other dishes throughout the week.

I’ll be using ground turkey a million and one ways this week. My nachos, meatloaf, spaghetti, and burgers will all be made with ground turkey. In my Friday meal of Southwest Chicken Salads, I will be using toppings from my Monday meal (Nachos) and my Spaghetti dinner will give my leftovers for lunches. Ideally, I plan to buy ground turkey in bulk for a reasonable price to use in my Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday meal. Feeding a large family on less!

Meal planning doesn’t have to be as complicated as you would think. Spending 30 minutes to an hour worth of your time, can save you lots of time (and money) over the course of your week. So why not start? Save yourself some much needed time, and money and start planning.

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How To Store Freezer Meals Like a BOSS

In my part 2 of my Freezer Meals 101 series, I’ll be explaining some tips for storing to give your food’s freshness an extended expiration date. If you caught my previous freezer meal post, you’ll know that saving money and time has inspired me to revisit freezer meal planning, and prepping. In my other post, I talked all about planning your meals and how the art of freezer meal prepping is what you make it.

First things first, let’s talk about how to properly store your meals to stay fresh, and conserve your freezer space. You’ll never be able to enjoy those delicious freezer meals you’ve prepared if by the time you pull them out to cook, they’re covered in freezer burn.

Some Things You’ll Need:

Permanent Marker
It’s essential that whatever you do, you’re able to label your foods. A month from now, you’re going to want to know what everything is before you grab it, and exactly when you made it. Nobody likes to play the fresh or not guessing game when it comes to their food.

Plastic Wrap
Any one of your preferred plastic cling wraps works just fine. You can use plastic cling wrap to individually wrap your portions of meat for freezing. Since the portions will be placed in freezer bags they’ll be protected from the cold. The plastic wrap serves to block out air from touching your food. Air is actually what causes freezer burn on your foods.

Ziplock bags
Do not cut corners when it comes to your ziplock bags! Make sure to use freezer quality bags to protect your food from the extreme cold. I’m just as fabulously frugal as the next person, but I’ve found that cheaper storage bags are much thinner, and will have you regretting it when after all of your hard work, you find that your tasty meals are now freezer burned. That’s not good for anyone.

Foil pans or non-aluminum baking pans
This won’t be a necessity for everyone. It obviously all depends on what you’re choosing to freeze and how you’re choosing to freeze it. Foil pans are good options for lasagna or casseroles for you to freeze and just pop in your oven later. Kind of like make your own Stouffers. It’s actually best to buy inexpensive, disposable pans for the purpose of freezing because you end up throwing them right in the trash after eating. If I ever use pans I still make sure to ziplock them for extra protection from the cold anyway, so buying expensive pans for disposable would be a waste. Also, (just a tip) if you’re preparing freezer meals to be gifted, this will be perfect so that the recipient won’t have to worry about returning your dish after enjoying the meal.

Freezer Tape
Freezer tape is the best option as opposed to other kinds of tape. Remember, it has to stay sticky when it’s frozen, be durable enough to withstand the cold temps, and stick to various surfaces. Most importantly, you have to be able to write on it without smudging and fading. Freezer labels are also a great choice if you can find them, because it basically kills two birds with one stone.

Some Tips For Labeling:

Always remember the date!
I’ll mention this a few times throughout this post about the importance of adding the date to your meals. I can’t stress this enough. I actually like to label my bags before packaging everything up. It’s easier to write on an empty bag, and it helps to not forget things that I need to label.

Label Your Foods
(Obviously) You want to know what everything is when you’re ready to go back and cook it. Too many things start to look alike.

Include Cooking Instructions
If your meals come with a lot of specific cooking instructions, make sure to add that somewhere on your label. I skip this a lot, mostly because I’m the only one who really cooks in my house, and I already know how I want the meals prepared. This is a great thing to do if your significant other cooks, or you have older children who sometimes handle dinner. It will prevent a lot of headache to mention that this meal goes in the crock pot, or this should be cooked frozen in the oven for 30 minutes.

Some Tips For Packaging:

Portion sizes before freezing
I’ve found this to be most convenient when I’m separating marinated meat, but it’s also a GREAT way to store soups. When I make a large pot of soup or chili, I find that it’s better to freeze one large bag (for family meals) and a few smaller bags. (for individual bowls) and that way if you just want a bowl to yourself, you aren’t thawing and heating an entire pot of food for one.

Wrapping Meat vs Bagging Meat
Meat that involves a marinade should be stored in its own personal ziplock bag. Meat that will be going into a pot or crockpot with beans, corn, or raw veggies (like a soup or stew) can be stored in a ziplock bag together. Meat that will go with a side of veggies are better wrapped and separated. (I hope that made sense!) If you’re storing something like marinated cilantro lime chicken, store it bagged and ALONE. If you’re storing something like Chicken Tortilla Soup that you plan to throw in a crockpot, you can store it bagged and TOGETHER. If you’re storing raw chicken, a side of fresh broccoli, and red potatoes, wrap your chicken FIRST, and bag everything as one meal.

Avoiding air pockets
Huge, HUGE tip is to avoid air at all costs. When you’re packaging all of your foods, remember to remove as much air from the bag as possible before sealing. Be your own food saver!

Some Tips For Freezing:

No glass or plastic containers
Glass breaks, which is a MESS (although I have successfully frozen things in mason jars before, still wouldn’t recommend it) Plastic containers can end up being a waste of space, and they also put you at risk for too much air exposure which will freezer burn your food.

Allow cooked foods cooling
If you’re freezing cooked foods, you have to give your food cooling time. Your freezer will have to work ten times harder to bring down the temperature of food that’s freshly cooked, and this can also cause other things in your freezer to start to thaw. Cool down first, and then store.

Some Tips for Storing:

Store your meals flat
Storing your meals flat is your best bet your convenience, because it makes them freeze quicker, and thaw quicker when it’s time to cook them. It also helps to maximize storage space in your freezer because you can stack them, and once they’re frozen, you can also lean them up against the freezer if need be.

Older items at the front, new items at the back
This just makes it easier for you to cook your older meals first to ensure that no food is going to waste.

How To Store Freezer Meals Like A Boss. Freezer Meal Prep 101 - Chic and Domestic
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Freezer Meals For Beginners

I’ve decided to write this Freezer Meals for beginners post because I’ve been so inspired lately to save money, and stay on top of my meal planning, and meal prep whenever I can that I’ve decided to revisit the idea of creating freezer meals. I’ve tried freezer meals in the past, and I found it both effective, and convenient for my family. As a busy mom, I’m game for anything that saves me a bit of time and headache, plus it gave me some of the most flavorful meat I’ve ever cooked. I meal plan, I meal prep, but sometimes I just want to sit pack and tap in to my inner crockpot mom.

The weather is changing, Fall is here, so it’s definitely a good time to break out the crockpot to add that bit of extra convenience, to some already easy cooking. Some of my favorite type of freezer meals to make are things like soups, or chicken and veggies that can easily just be thrown into the crock pot to either warm up, or cook. It’s even more convenient to be able to just fill it up, set it, and forget it.

If you’re interested in the freezer meal life, there are a few things you’re going to need to know to get you started. Freezer meal prepping is definitely what you make it. You can freeze 101 crockpot meals, 25 different kinds of marinated meats, 10 different lasagnas and casseroles, or 5 different types of pancakes and breakfast burritos. The possibilities are endless!

1. Create a menu
Do this 2-3 days in advance. You need to already have in mind what you’ll be preparing so you can get your shopping done, prep, cook, freeze, and relax. Keep your menu simple, or at least simple to you. I like to do mostly meals that are family favorites, easy things that I’ve made a dozen times and could probably cook in my sleep. I do one or two new meals, sometimes more depending on how many meals I plan to freeze.

2. Create a grocery list
Creating a grocery list is always one of the most important things to do before walking into any grocery store. I can’t stress this enough. Make sure you walk in with a game plan on tackling the store. Look over your planned menu and write down everything you’ll need. Since you’ll be prepping large amounts of food all at once, when you come across duplicate ingredients, make sure to make note that you need multiples. Also, make sure to add what you’ll be needing for storage. Ziplock bags, labels, permanent markers etc.

3. Schedule your time
As a busy mom, my time is very precious. I like to bust out all of my freezer meals in a day, because that simply works for me. If you have only a few blocks of time spread out over the course of a few days, that’s fine too. It just means that you’ll be prepping differently. Instead of prepping full meals all at once, you might have to increase the amount of food that you’re already cooking and save and freeze your leftovers to build up a stash over time. There’s nothing wrong with starting small.

4. Organize ingredients for prep
Now it’s time for the fun part. Prep all of your ingredients that you’ll be using. This means trimming, chopping, and slicing your meat, chopping all of your veggies, shredding cheese, whatever you can think of that you’ll be needing for prepping and cooking.

5. Separate your ingredients for meals
Separate all of your ingredients needed for your freezer meals. I like to bag any meat first to get all of the messy business over with to make sure I’m not touching other things in my kitchen. Depending on how you plan to go about freezing your meals, (cooking or just prepping) will determine what comes next. You’ll either separating your ingredients, cooking and freezing, or separating your raw ingredients and preparing them to freeze. For more detailed help on how to store freezer meals like a BOSS, click here.

If you’re interested in some new ideas for your freezer meals, get some inspiration here on my Pinterest page (Be sure to follow me!). The possibilities are endless. Marinated meats, shredded chicken or beef for tacos, turkey meatballs, buffalo chicken, fajitas, soups and stews etc. As I’ve said before, you can make freezer meals whatever you need it to be to fit your household. Once you start and realize how convenient it is, you might not ever stop!

Freezer Meals For Beginners - Chic and Domestic
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