Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Miracle for under $200: 40 Meals for 40 Nights--in one day!

Follow Me on Pinterest By the time summer rolled around I was in no mood for making dinner, especially when it came to hot stoves and so forth. Sweltering heat and slaving over the burner? No Thanks! So I came up with this nutty idea that I would make 40 meals in one day and freeze them. That way I wouldn't have to cook for the majority of the summer.  Oh, and I planned to spend only $200 for everything!

Mom and me-chopping like the wind!
Having no knowledge of what or how to freeze, I went to my favorite friend, the internets. Many of these recipes come from others' posts (don't worry, I cite my sources.) My mom, (Denise) and sister, (Lucy) decided they wanted to join me in my  endeavor. Having said that, it is possible to do 40 meals in a day, and I'm glad we did it! I don't know if I can say the same for Mom and Lucy.

Here's how I prepped for my freezer meal project:

   1) Considered all the the different meat groups, beef, chicken, pork, etc.
   2) Came up with 20 simple recipes, then doubled them. Here is what I came up with:

Freezer Meal Plan (based on 4 large servings)
FROZEN BAGS O’ CHICKEN
SHREDDED COOKED  CHICKEN
RAW BEEF CUTS
RAW PORK CUTS
GROUND BEEF
MISCELLANEOUS
(15 lbs. aprox.)
(15-20 lbs.)
(10-12 lbs.)
(10-12 lbs.)
(6 lbs.)

sweet asian chicken (for grill)
cilantro lime chicken w/ black beans and corn
beef fajitas
mu shu pork
lasagna or spaghetti
French toast casserole
sesame chicken
enchiladas
stroganoff
bbq ribs
shepherds’ pie or sloppy joes
breakfast burritos
teriyaki chicken
chicken pot pie
pot roast or French dip
shredded pork café rio style salad or burritos
hearty beef veggie soup
*French bread sliced & buttered
divine chicken
bbq chicken sandwiches



*rice-cilantro lime rice/regular

chicken a la king



*twice baked potatoes












*Optional sides 

   3) Stocked up on meat as it went on sale. (Be careful though because you
       cannot freeze, unfreeze for prep. and then freeze again, it will be nasty.) Here is the 
       complete shopping list:


SHOPPING LIST
(Each meal is approx. 4-5 large portions, so you may need to adjust accordingly.)
PRODUCE
DAIRY
FROZEN
MEATS
SPICES
CANNED
MISCELLANEOUS
PANS/BAGS
3 red onions
1 gal milk
green beans
6 lbs. ground beef
italian seasng.
88 oz. diced tomatoes
1 loaf French bread
ginormous mixing bowls
1 very large white or yellow bag onions
10 eggs
peas
25-35 lbs. chicken (15 lbs. frozen bags o’ chicken)
ginger
4 cans d. tom. w/chilies
soy sauce
plastic wrap
1 bunch green onions
2 pkg. butter
 corn
10-12 lbs. beef
garlic powder
24 oz. tomato paste
sesame oil
4-6 casserole tinfoil pans
6 tinfoil bread pans
5 large bags baby carrots
3 c. cottage cheese
tator tots
10-12 lbs. pork
onion soup mix
2 cream of chicken soup
olive oil
lg. freezer bags-45 or so
5 regular carrots
2 c. sharp cheese
3 pkg. pie dough or puff pastry

chili powder
cream of mushroom soup
2 c. teriyaki sauce
small bags
5 green peppers
1 carton sour cream


red pepper flakes
2 cans diced green chilies
16 oz. apple juice
tin foil
3 red peppers
1 cream cheese


sesame seeds
2 cans dr. pepper
1 c. pecans

bulk bag o’ garlic
½ c. parm. cheese


poultry seasoning
2 cans pineapple
worch. Sauce

2 c. cilantro
1 1b. sliced moz. chz


vanilla
bamboo shoots
hoisin sauce

cabbage
2 c. half & half


cinnamon
150 oz. or 3 jumbo cans chicken broth
2 c. salsa

celery



bay leaves
2 cans mushrooms
cooking oil

8 potatoes



nutmeg
1 can v8
1 c. honey

1 bag limes



garlic salt
chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
ketchup

4 c. broccoli



cumin
9 c. beef broth
cornstarch

ginger





brown sugar

1 cup spinach



dry parsley
2 cans black beans
white sugar

1 pkg. mushrooms



dry mustard



Total Cost: $175 (No silly coupons, but I did do some price/ad matching at Wallie World.)

    4) Made my base sauces: marinara meat sauce, and white sauce
    5) Browned my hamburger
    6) Cooked and shredded chicken and pork by throwing them in a crock
        pot (separately) with salt, onions, etc, to give it flavor.

Freezer Fest 12' had arrived by 8:00 am, but with most of the cooking out of the way, it was just a matter of chopping vegetables and assembling meals. Dr. Pepper-in-hand, we decided it would be easiest to each take on a meal and assemble it for all three ladies and work our way through the list.

Side note: Lucy had the idea of adding all ingredients in one large bowl, and then dividing it evenly between three gallon size freezer bags, rather than adding each ingredient separately to each baggie. Brilliant!

Another Side note: Mom suggested that next time we do this, ( wait...there will be a next time?) we should include two more of my sisters, each taking on 4 meals, (doubled) making enough for the five families in our own kitchens, then meeting for a meal exchange. The work load would be more evenly distributed as each person would come up with their own recipes and less chaos in one kitchen. The end result would be again, each person taking home 40 meals. Genius!

We slaved away until about 7:00 pm, completing each and every meal, after-which we went out to eat for a celebratory dinner. Frankly, I was surprised we ended that soon. Job well done, hit the showers.



Cilantro lime chicken

Chicken a la King


Beef fajitas


Put some mussle into it, Denise!

A little friend to help out.

Getting pans ready for chicken pot pie!

Savory Beef Stew

Teriyaki Chicken

Lovely Lucy!

Sweet Asian Chicken (for grilling)

Chicken pot pie
Hooray, a freezer full of food!


Below are some links that inspired and guided me:
1. Freezable Foods--great particularly for vegetables:
    http://www.simpleorganizedliving.com/2011/02/10/freezable-foods/

2. Interesting web-site, this woman claims to have made 46 meals in 4 hours for $95:
    http://www.aturtleslifeforme.com/2011/06/freezer-meals-on-cheap.html

3.  A blogger's experience with freezer cooking:
    http://melissafallistestkitchen.blogspot.com/2011/09/freezer-cooking-slow-cooker  %20meals.html

4. Another blogger's freezer cooking:
    http://mamaandbabylove.com/real-food/other-freezer-bulk-cooking-meals/

5. One more helpful freezer blog:
   http://www.ringaroundtherosies.net/2012/02/freezer-cooking.html




68 comments:

  1. Hez, if I had to do it all over again, I'd still do it with you, my clever and winsome daughter!
    xoxoxo Mom

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  2. Wow this looks so cool. I am going to copy you. Totally copy you. I am so impressed by this....so smart, so much planning, such a good idea!

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  3. Hey Jayneil, thanks for the compliments! It was a learning process to be sure. If you ever do it, let me know and I'll help you if I can.

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  4. holy crap! you're ambitious. but how nice to get it all done in just one day. so cool.

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  5. Hey Cher, It has been nice to have cooking out of the way, and I'm still not half way done with the meals. The cooking day was not too bad, it was more fun with my mom and sister there.

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  6. Hi! I love this, but where are the recpies?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Jessica,

      If you scroll down almost to the bottom of the post, the link is under the picture of the chicken pot pie. Hope that helps!

      Heather

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  7. Looks great! I will be doing many of these. Thanks for sharing. If I may ,the thing I have learned with my freezer meals is to lay them flat to freeze. It makes it easier to store and less likely to tear a hole in the bag if bumped.:)

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  8. Is there anything missing from the shopping list???? Like tortillas and buns or anything to serve with?

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    Replies
    1. Good question...I didn't add things like buns for bbq chicken and French dip because I like to buy those fresh. I also didn't include tortillas in the shopping list for enchiladas, café rio, lime cilantro chicken, fajitas, and mu shu pork. Everything else as far as I know is included.

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    2. There are a few things missing but the big ones that stand out is lasagna noodles and BBQ sauce. :-)

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  9. HI! I just got done doing your recipes!!! It took 5 hours but I think it will be worth it....If I did it again I'd shred the cooked chicken the day before, maybe in the crock pot?
    Thanks for the idea and recipes.

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    Replies
    1. Melissa,
      Good work, you're way faster than I was:) It took me pretty much all day! Shredding the chicken a day before helped out a ton and I did use the crock-pot for that. Thanks for your post!

      Delete
  10. Hi Heather, thank you for sharing! I admit I am rebellious when it comes to freezer meals. I like the recipes you chose and they look great! How many are you serving ? I am going to try this next month. Our family is large and we share our home with our in-laws so I am willing to try to save time and money to be in the kitchen less :-) Thanks, Randi

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    Replies
    1. Hi Randi,
      I'm rebellious when it come to making dinner always! That's why go the freezer route so I can be lazy:) I have 2 adults and 2 children in my house hold and we always have plenty of food and plenty left overs. How large is your family? I would say each meal could feed 4-6 adults easily.

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  11. For the Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches, it doesn't say how much chicken to use. Also, do you add the chicken in with all the ingredients and cook, or cook the ingredients and add it on top of the cooked chicken?

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  12. Never mind, I see it at the top.

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  13. I am new at freezer meals in a flash. We have started doing this, this month (Feb 2014). I am going to take your recipes and do them for the month of March and see how it goes. I am so excited. Thank you so much for this. Looking forward for more recipes to try out.

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  14. Thank you for this! Going to try the entire thing out soon.

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  15. This is amazing!! I love freezer cooking and your lists and recipes are really awesome. I've never attempted something this big before. I am part of a couple freezer meal swap groups on Facebook where say 5 of us get together and bring 5 of the same freezer meal that we have prepped ahead of time, swap them, and leave with 5 different freezer meals. I am loving it. Anyway, I want to make your Chicken Pot Pie for one of the swaps. I just want to verify - the recipe you have in the doc is for 6 batches and requires the listed ingredients and 4 lbs shredded cooked chicken for all 6? Thanks!!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Laura,
      Yes that's correct. I don't use too much chicken in mine, I prefer more vegetables... although at the time it seemed like plenty of chicken. Good luck, it sounds like fun!

      Delete
  16. Hey
    how long do you cook your pot pie for and at what temp?

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    Replies
    1. I do them at 400 degrees for 45-60 min. It just depends on your oven. You'll also want to cover the edges with foil so they don't get too brown.

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  17. Hi! I was a little confused on your Pot Roast and French dip...why are there 2 bags with different ingredients? Do I end up mixing them together in the crock? Do I use half a can of the cream of mushroom soup or do I use the entire thing? (I am doing half a recipe, but it looks like I am supposed to use one whole can. Just trying to be clear.) Also, is this a slow cooker 6-8 hour meal, or can it be done in 4 hours on high? Sorry for so many questions! We have made and tried several of these recipes and have loved them! Thanks for sharing!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Dee,

      Thanks for the question. The two bags are for two different recipes. One for French dip sandwiches and on for a pot roast (splitting one large roast in half or using two small roasts.) So you will add the full can of cream o' chicken soup to the bag that is for the pot roast recipe. Do not mix both recipes together they are meant to be two separate dinners. You could do it for 4 hours on high, but I recommend doing it slower in the crock-pot for about 6 hours on low. It turns out more tender that way. Anyway, I'm happy to answer further questions if you need it, it hope it helps.

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    2. Ahh, gotcha! Thanks so much! I re-read everything and with what you said, makes sense now! Our favorite so far out of your bunch is the Cilantro Lime Chicken - super yum! We added salsa for an extra kick. Your meal planning has saved us a ton of time during work week, thank you!

      Delete
  18. Found this post on pinterest and thought it was a simple list for beginners, so I printed the grocery list and headed to the store. I'm in the middle of making the recipes and some of them are missing instructions or measurements. Chicken a la King doesn't mention how many peppers, mushrooms, etc. to use. The chicken sandwiches don't even mention chicken, and neither does the chicken pot pie! The enchilada instructions are super confusing. I think they may be typed wrong. I'm not trying to rude, I'm just frustrated because everything seemed pretty simple, but now I have a fridge STUFFED with food and I'm not exactly sure how to use it all since I'm not familiar with all of these recipes. I guess it's my fault for not reading through all of them before beginning. I just wanted to give other beginners a heads up before diving in!

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    1. Hi Chel,
      This project can definitely be overwhelming and a bit confusing. I am a beginner too, and it's hard to get everything straight! Hopefully I can answer your questions and perhaps modify some recipes to avoid further confusion. I appreciate you bringing them to my attention! In this post there is a chart labled "freezer meal plan." The "shredded chicken" section calls for 15-20 lbs. of chicken. This is to be divided among the 5 meals listed there: cilantro lime chicken, enchiladas, chicken pot pie, bbq chicken sandwiches, and chicken a la king. So that would be approximately 3-4 lbs of chicken per recipe (more or less depending on your preference.) I did not include this is the recipes, you are quite right.

      Next question for chicken a la king veggies: at the time I didn't have a measurement, just taking veggies from the list of mass chopped veggies and adding them to my personal liking. This is the only recipe that calls for mushrooms so I just added them, again, according to my own preference.

      As for the enchilada recipe do you have a specific question on that? It makes sense to me because I authored it, but realize it may not to everyone else:) The white sauce mixed with salsa is to be poured over the rolled up enchiladas with the filling of chicken, spices, sour cream and cream cheese. Let me know if that helps...if you have further questions feel free to ask, I really want this to work out for you!

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  19. Im actually doing the shopping in just a few minutes, after i copy the shopping list. I feel like I'm in over my head, but I'm going to give it a shot. Whats the worst that can happen? I'm doing this with only an 8 yr old helping. Kinda excited, kinda terrified.

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  20. Do you remember the types of containers that you used and how many? I am going to do this before my baby comes in August.

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  21. Ok forgive me for not understanding, menopause stole my brain. You made double batches but there are 4 bags of each meal? Is each meal 2 bags?

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  22. On the BBQ chicken sandwiches, there is no directions on what to do. Just ingredients. Is this 2 meals or 1? On prep day do I split the ingredients into 2 bags and freeze? On cook day, do I put the contents of the bag in a slow cooker? If so for how long? Thanks so much!

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  23. Hi im about to takle this and was wondering how many ziploc bags and aluminum pans i would need and for the slow cooker sesame chicken how to i prepare before freezing? Thanks for the help

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  24. I found these directions from the original recipe for the sesame chicken. . .

    Season both sides of chicken with lightly with salt and pepper, put into crock pot. In a small bowl, combine honey, soy sauce, onion, ketchup, oil, garlic and pepper flakes. Pour over chicken. Cook on low for 3-4 hours or on high 1 1/2 – 2 1/2 hours, or just until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from crock pot, leave sauce. Dissolve 2 teaspoons of cornstarch in 3 tablespoons of water and pour into crock pot. Stir to combine with sauce. Replace lid and cook sauce on high for ten more minutes or until slightly thickened. Cut chicken into bite size pieces, then return to pot and toss with sauce before serving. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve over rice or noodles.

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  25. Hi, Heather. I found this on Pinterest. It looks like you and your mom and sisters had a great day. How fun!! Thanks for sharing this with the world. I'm thinking about doing some batch cooking myself and you've inspired me. :)

    So, did you ever do it again? Just curious.

    Sarah

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  26. I love this thanks. So many of these meal plans don't take cost into effect, and many of us like to save time, but MUST save money!! One little tip! In my life finding a whole day can be harder than finding a night a two. What I like to do is occasionally do these big days, but then still plan on cooking 1-2 nights a week. On those nights I make double or triple or more of the recipe. That keeps me in freezer meals without having to constantly take a whole day. Also, while I love love love having it all done at once- this method allows me to take better advantage of sales by planning based off of them instead of a set plan.

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  27. HELP! We're making the white sauce now and it appears very watery?! Any advice?!

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    1. Hi Jessica, you can thicken the sauce by mixing some flour with milk and then adding it to your sauce. The more flour you add the thicker it will be. Just make sure that you mix it with the milk before you put it in a sauce or else it will be Iumpy. Hope that helps!

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  28. Can I cut the shopping list in half to make only 20 meals???
    Thanks, monica

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  29. Hi, thank you for all of the great recipes and steps. I would like to know if fresh chicken can be used in place of frozen chicken in the recipes or will it alter the recipe in any way?

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  30. Hello! Just completed my freezer meal adventure using this blog. It was fun (I brought in my mom and dad to help as it seemed like a ton of work being 31 weeks pregnant!) and am very satisfied with how everything turned out. Now just to wait for our lil one to arrive so we can start sampling some of these recipes! I have a few suggestions that might have been previously mentioned. These were things I noted that a new or inexperienced home cook might not be able to adjust or make up as they go. The grocery list is missing items and we had to return to store for some more of certain ingredients and some of the recipes aren't explained very well. I would also recommend breaking down the white sauce into separate batches because the average person probably doesn't have a pot big enough for it all to fit in and then theres the difficulty of separating it out into "thirds" for each recipe and then again among the recipe itself. Also some of the cook times and baking instructions were left off completely from the recipe. Thank you for sharing your "experience" but I think as this grows more popular and begins to spread across pinterest...an update would be super helpful! :)

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  31. Gosh, I wished I had a friend or relative that would be interested in doing this. Looks like a lotof fun, and a lot of work. I'm confused about the bag of Veg. beef soup, yet the caption states that it is Savor Beef Stew. Which is it now? LOL! What kind of beef cuts do you use when you make your homemade veg. beef soup?

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    1. I set up a morning with a few moms from church and we did it together! Although we didn't make them all ~ it was a lot of fun to socialize and make meals for our family.

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  32. I went shopping today at BJs and Aldis for my ingredients. Im going to put chicken in the crock pot overnight and get started in the morning. Super excited!

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  33. I made a few of the meals ~ beef stroganoff and the cilantro chicken....with the recipes, do you thaw them the night before or put them in frozen?

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  34. I used to do this using a book called Dinner's In The Freezer by Pamela Smith as a guide. By myself. However, my mid-forties have left me less ambitious, so I do it piecemeal: I will make my homemade spaghetti sauce and cook a very large amount of ground beef the same day. Some is used for the sauce and some is divided up for other meals. If you don't have the energy for the whole deal, you just have to be a little more inventive.

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  35. It looks impressive by the way. But you can get more here at abcsigns. You would get an excellent variety here.
    magnetic signs

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  36. Its impossible to copy and past your recipes

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    Replies
    1. Hi Tracy,
      If you have "google docs" you should be able to save them directly to your computer as others have done. As far as copy and paste, I'll look into it and see if I can make them more accessible. (I'm not the most tech savvy:)

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  37. I have never done any freezer prep, but my life is getting a little busier, so I've been looking around for ideas. I found this shared at http://affimity.com/#/sharedPost/1/9985, and thus far, it is the most thorough post I've seen! And the meals look delicious! I don't quite have the room for 40 meals (or do I?) but I am definitely going to use this as a template. Thanks so much!

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  38. Yeah!! Love the recipes, love how organized you are. I used to be organized once upon a time when hubby and I both worked demanding full time jobs and had two teens in every sport under the sun, but since the kids have been gone for a few years now.......well, soup and sandwiches are on the dinner menu way too often.

    Therefore, I am going to try to do this in the next couple of weeks prior to the Christmas crafting/sewing debacle starts so that it'll be easy enough to grab and go. (Let's hope the kids don't happen across my freezer of yummies and clear me out!) hahahaha

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  40. Heather
    My sister n law and I are cooking and packing them up tomorrow... I have started to prep today. But I am confused on the chicken, how many pounds do I need to cook in the crock pot to shred and how many pounds do I need to cook in the crock pot of pork to shred? I also read some where about combining all of the vegetables in one bag and then picking from that bag to go into all of the dinners but then I'm reading through the dinners. Some are only asking for a few of those vegetables ! What do you suggest doing? putting them in each bag and then going through each recipe?
    Also in the mu shu pork AND the cafe Rio pork do we need (2) 3 lbs pork roast?
    Also there were no ribs on my shopping list.
    How much burger ido I need i. the savory veg beef soup?
    Thank you so much for you help
    Stacy

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  41. Thank you for this. I am excited to finally see someone come up with a list that is tasty and easy. I am not the best cook, however, I do like good meals and meals that taste like a "Banquet" frozen meal. Thank yoU!!!!!

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  42. Hi! I am not going to be nearly as ambitious as you and tackle all of these. BUT, I have some meat in the freezer and would like to make the spaghetti sauce and veggie beef soup. Question: The beef soup is already doubled on the blog and makes two bags. Did you use 2lbs of beef and double for four bags? I was looking for you on facebook but couldn't find you. Do you have a page?

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    Replies
    1. Hello Gilly,
      It should be one pound of hamburger per 1 recipe, so I would use one pound of hamburger if you are not doubling it for both of spaghetti sauce and for the beef soup. I am on Facebook but I don't have a blog page on there. Hope this helps!

      Delete
  43. In your blog you said that you cooked some of the pork ahead of time, but how much did you cook and which recipe did you use it in?

    Thanks!

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  44. ok I feel foolish but I cant find a link to print the meal plan and the shopping list and copy and paste wants to put it on 20 pages... Help please

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    Replies

    1. Hey Dea, no worries. It's right under the picture of all the meals in the freezer down toward the bottom of the post.

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    2. I have the recipes I wanted th grocery list

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  46. what temperature do you cook your cilantro lime chicken at?

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  47. how about your beef fajitas? it just says low or high, is that in the crockpot then or the oven? If it's the oven, what temps do you use as low and high?

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  48. After reviewing your recipes, I can not find how you cooked the dishes once they thawed. Do have the temperature and how long you cooked them for?

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  49. I have just finished my 40 meals, plus sides of twice baked potatoes(40 serves) and sweet potato skins!!!!! I did it by myself :-( over 2 days as I was looking after my 3 little ones. I spent $280 Australian on ingredients, which is just over $200 USD. I used some of you recipes and also some of my own freezer meals. Your shopping table was a fantastic idea! I used your format and it was so easy to go through the recipes and add the ingredients I needed. I then altered what I needed depending what I already had in the cupboard. So easy.
    I start back at work tomorrow full time, I'm a teacher, and I'm hoping these meals will see us through the weekday dinners (with some left over for lunches) of 1st term.
    Next time I do this I'm going to try and do it with my sister in law and have my mum watch the kids to make preparation a lot quicker.
    Thanks for your great ideas and recipes!!! Peta

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