Thursday, March 28, 2013

Freezer Meal Fun

Once every four months or so, I host a freezer meal activity where we make meals for the ladies in our congregation who have fallen on hard times, have long term health issues, have just had a baby, etc.  Meals are a huge way to serve (everyone needs to eat, right!??!) and freezer meals are a great way to provide storeable food that can be used at their discretion.

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I've done freezer meal actvities in a variety of wards (congregations) and a variety of ways, but this is the tried and true method I feel works best.  It's great for a larger or smaller group (I never know how many people will attend until they actually show up) and doesn't take a ton of time to execute.

Cost: I spend around $65-$75 for 14-15 meals.  This includes everything: the pepper, salt, each spice, etc.  It would be a lot less expensive if you were doing this at home with your husband/family because many of the ingredients you most likely already have on hand and don't have to buy specifically for making freezer meals. 

Time: Plan 1-2 hours, depending on how many people attend and how much time you spend chatting.  If you are just doing this at home in the evening with your husband, plan on 2-3 hours for about 14 meals.

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Set up:  I have trays that I use for art activities at home that are perfect for setting up meal ingredients.  I arrange everything, along with the recipe so that it's easy to find and easy to put together.  I already have the bags labeled and on the trays as well.  When people begin to arrive, I grab out the meat and put it next to each station so that it hasn't just been sitting out.  If there is more than one meal that needs a particular ingredient, I divide it up in sandwich bags (spices) or small tupperwares (ex. olive oil) and add that to the tray as well.

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Storing meals: All of the meals I use can be stored flat in Ziplock bags.  I double bag all of them to prevent freezer burn.  On the outside of the outside bag (got that??), I tape the label for that meal.  It includes the name of the meal and instructions once it is pulled out of the freezer.  (Example: Thaw in refrigerator overnight.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes).  This way when I give it to someone who will be having a baby soon, etc, she knows what to do with it.

Be sure to squish/suck as much air out of the bags as possible before sealing. This also helps prevent freezer burn and makes them more flat for storing. One trick I use is to seal the bag almost all the way, insert a straw into the opening, and literally suck all of the air out. I swear it works as well as one of those pricey vacuum sealers.

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Recipes: All of the recipes I use for this activity are "no cook" recipes. Meaning, everything is raw when it goes into the freezer and is cooked afterward. This makes the prep time super quick.  The only exception is that we cook up 3 lbs of ground beef, seasoned for tacos.   Pair that with taco shells and you've got a nice, easy, giftable meal as well. Once the beef has cooked and cooled, we put 1.5 lbs in each freezer bag to make it family sized.  The rest of the recipes can be viewed and downloaded here: Freezer Meal Recipes. 

These are great to do for your own freezer as well.   Then on the nights when you are tempted to just eat out, you have something easy to pull out of the freezer and eat!

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