Prepping Frozen Meals for Busy Seasons: Prepping Meal Starters

This is the last in a series of posts about how I stocked my freezer with meals before the baby’s arrival. It was something I read a good bit about online before trying for myself, and I wanted to add my two cents to the info out there. Read the first post here and second here. Enjoy!

If you’ve got limited freezer space like I do, a good way to get the most bang for your buck is to prep some meal starters in addition to full meals. They don’t take up quite as much space but still save you time later. Plus, they help add to the variety of what you have frozen.

Here are the meal starters I prepared and froze:

Beef and Vegetable Soup
This was actually the very first thing I ever cooked. It’s my godmother’s recipe, and I remember my high school self being so proud of being able to make something so healthy and flavorful. It’s fairly simple: brown stew meat, onions, and garlic; add potatoes, turnips, carrots, celery, and tomato juice and let cook; add canned green beans and corn and some shredded cabbage at the end of cooking (let simmer just long enough to soften the cabbage).

To make this a meal starter, I essentially made a highly concentrated version, packing the stock pot with veggies and using just enough tomato juice for everything to be able to cook. When I reheat the thawed soup, I’ll add tomato juice to make it the consistency we want (and a little water if it’s too thick). Serve with a slice of storebought French bread, and you’ve got a delicious cool weather meal.

beefsoup

French Onion Soup
I followed the same method I usually do, but, much like the beef and vegetable soup, I froze a concentrated version. I sauteed the onions in olive oil and thyme, then let them cool and froze them in just enough beef stock to keep them from getting freezer burn.

I’ll add beef stock when reheating and top with bread + shredded Gruyere.

onionsoup

Celery, Onions, and Bell Pepper*
Exactly what it sounds like.

celeryonionbellpepper

Shredded Chicken*
I do shredded chicken via the crockpot method. Freezing cooked chicken on its own can lead to freezer burn pretty easily, but adding just enough chicken stock can protect it from that. When you thaw, simply drain off the stock.

shreddedchicken

* The reason for these two? Jambalaya and gumbo starters, of course! While they aren’t quite as healthy (or as delicious) as homemade, the Zatarain’s boxed dinners are so simple and really pretty good. We don’t eat them all the time, but we do keep them in the rotation. Balance, right? By having these ingredients frozen, all we have to do is add sausage and follow the directions on the box. And maybe have a salad on the side.

So there you have it: a freezer full of delicious, stress–reducing, time–saving goodness! The hardest part was worrying that a hurricane would knock out our power and undo all that hard work. ; )

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