Freezer Meal Prep: Eight Reasons to Love Dream Dinners

Freezer Meal Prep: Eight Reasons to Love Dream Dinners -
If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, it will probably come as no surprise that I LOVE a fully stocked freezer when it comes to planning for dinner time (and breakfast too!) And even though I do like to do freezer meal prep cooking sessions using some of my favorite freezer friendly recipes like these found in my Recipe Index. And I used to participate in a freezer meal exchange group which was also a great way for filling my freezer. But when that group dissolved and my schedule filled up, I found my freezer empty a little more often.

So when I discovered Dream Dinners I was sold. I just went again yesterday and filled my freezer up! A friend and I have been going monthly since the beginning of last summer. Sometimes my daughter will join us for a session and she absolutely LOVES it. Not only is she spending time with me, she likes being a part of the dinner process by helping to assemble the kits.

It has been SO nice to have real food meals ready to go for busy nights or on evenings when I don’t feel like cooking. I have found them to be especially handy on Sunday evenings when we’ve been busy with activities or just hanging out together.

The concept is simple: come to their kitchens, where stations are set up stocked with all the ingredients you need to make a variety of meals. You choose your menu ahead of time so they’ll have enough of what you need.
It’s like fast food for your freezer but oh so much better for you!

They offer meals in three- or six-serving portions and you need to purchase a minimum of 36 servings per session but you can mix and match. For example, I might prepare a six serving portion of the fajitas because I know these would be great as leftovers for lunches or can usually stretch it enough with sides to serve it when company is visiting. For our family of four, I almost always get the three serving portions though. The protein weighs about a pound which is what I normally serve our family anyway. My son, who is in elementary school, doesn’t have as big an appetite as the rest of us. One time I got the hamburgers and made the patties into quarter pound portions and added my own extra bun (because I had only gotten three with the order). That’s a totally reasonable serving size I’d say and when we add sides, it makes a meal. Many times, we even have leftovers for one person’s lunch just from those three-serving portions believe it or not!

Here are eight more reasons why I like Dream Dinners so much:

BUDGET FRIENDLY:

I’ll be honest, at first I thought Dream Dinners meals were a little pricey, averaging $13-$20 per 3 serving meal. But considering our family of four can’t get out of Chick-Fil-A for much less than $25, Dream Dinners is a lot more budget friendly, PLUS a lot better for us nutritionally and calorie-wise. Sure, I can make meals for my family that might cost less but the ease and time saving aspect is a benefit also. And when you consider you don’t need to buy a large quantity of an ingredient just to have a little bit for a recipe that can save you money in the long run. This is especially true when it comes to spices. I normally get 8-10 meals per month so that leaves me plenty of days to cook on my own for my family whereby I can choose even more budget-friendly meals to fill in those extra days. Thinking outside the freezer, I have a friend who brings her meals in a cooler on road trips with them when they are vacationing in a place that will have a kitchen. What a great way to enjoy “out-to-eat” type meals but on a much smaller budget than some touristy locations might provide!

PANTRY & FREEZER FRIENDLY:

Like I mentioned before, if you don’t have the storage space to have a ton of spices or other bulk ingredients, Dream Dinners is a great solution because all the ingredients are available for you to assemble your meals and you use just what you need. Plus, since ingredients are purchased in bulk, the savings is passed on to you. I have a larger separate freezer to store my meals in by my friend only has the one attached to the refrigerator and she finds she still has room for other freezer items in addition to all her meals each month.

FAMILY FRIENDLY:

With the wide variety of meal options available, it’s often hard to choose which ones my family will like the most. There are some that are true kid favorites like the Baked Potato Chicken and others that they may not think they would like but generally do, like the Creamy Chicken Risotto. When I have the main dish figured out, I can add a side that I know everyone likes and mealtime prep is done quickly. These meals also encourage my kids to try new things more often. Like I’ve mentioned, it also helps us gather around the table nearly every night for a home cooked meal. There are so many benefits to eating together as a family—you can read more about that and tips to take it a step (or steps) further by CLICKING HERE: http://thefamilydinnerproject.org/

SCHEDULE FRIENDLY:

On busy days or even those when I don’t feel like cooking, I LOVE being able to pull out a Dream Dinners meal the day before (or even that morning of) to just thaw and prepare as instructed. I’ve done most of the work upfront when I assembled them at the store. We have a pretty busy after school/evening activity schedule many days and add the kids’ homework to that, I love knowing that having a Dream Dinners meal in the freezer is going to simplify our routine. I just need to thaw, sometimes do a little bit of prep and then heat and eat! Make our life easier! We have especially been enjoying our freezer meals on Sunday evenings when we’ve been enjoying activities and time together during the weekend and can sit down to a home cooked meal with minimal prep before the busy work and school week!

TASTE (& CALORIE) FRIENDLY:

When you go in for a session, there are usually a couple of dishes that you can try there to taste. Every meal has nutritional data available online at the Dream Dinners website so if you’re watching calories, fat, carbs, fiber, etc. you can check online when making your selections. Most servings fit very reasonably into many common dietary guidelines. I’d have to say, most of the meals we’ve tried have been hits with only a few misses. Many of them are flavor combinations I would not necessarily have thought of like the Parmesan Pesto Salmon With Cheese Crisps or Seafood Cioppino or Cola and Lime Tender Pork Roast.

SOCIAL FRIENDLY:

When I first started going about six months ago, I invited a few friends to join me. It was during the summer so my daughter joined me at first and she LOVED it! She loved following the recipes and the whole organization of creating a meal to take home and cook. You can also set up a private session, bring in drinks and enjoy a morning, afternoon or evening out with your friends while cooking together and doing something good for your family at the same time! Since then this summer, a good friend of mine set a session date each month to meet up and make meals together. It’s a fun way to spend time together! You can join a public session (which is what we do) or set up a private session for a larger group of friends each month.

TRY NEW THINGS FRIENDLY:

Another great thing about the Dream Dinners meals is that it forces us to try new things with minimal effort. We like trying different flavor combinations and because you get to choose your menu before your session you can customize to your family’s tastes. Don’t like shrimp? That’s ok, just choose something else instead. I like that my main meal is taken care of and all I need to do is add a side like a vegetable, salad or something else (I often make a rice pilaf). If you’re not sure what to pair with your meal, each instruction card also includes a suggestion for a side! (You can also buy some sides from their freezer-ready case while you are at your session).

ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY:

Most meal options are prepared as kits that you later assemble fully on the day you want to cook it. They are stored primarily in ziptop bags so that they can easily go into the freezer. Sometimes they are in an aluminum pan if it is something you can just heat from frozen. Again, at first I thought all those bags were not so environmentally friendly but when I considered how much packaging was coming with the foods we were already buying, it made more sense. Even packages for minimally processed foods like carrots (plastic bag), meat (Styrofoam tray and plastic wrap) or plastic container (yogurt containers for example), it seemed not quite as wasteful. Plus, many of the bags I can wash out and reuse (I don’t normally do that for the ones that have the meat in them although I have sometimes successfully washed them in the dishwasher which gets them pretty clean!)

Here’s How It Works

Freezer Meal Prep: Eight Reasons to Love Dream Dinners

Freezer Meal Prep: Eight Reasons to Love Dream Dinners

Freezer Meal Prep: Eight Reasons to Love Dream Dinners

Freezer Meal Prep: Eight Reasons to Love Dream Dinners

Freezer Meal Prep: Eight Reasons to Love Dream Dinners

Freezer Meal Prep: Eight Reasons to Love Dream Dinners

In the freezer here are all my meals for the month–well at least 8-10 of them anyway!

Freezer Meal Prep: Eight Reasons to Love Dream Dinners

Here are all my meals from one month ready to go into my freezer at home.

Dream Dinners is a franchise and they have nearly 100 locations across the U.S. You can visit their website to find the location nearest you. There are other businesses with a similar concept so if you don’t have a Dream Dinners near you, you can search for meal prep kitchens near you by clicking here.
What tips and tricks do you have to keep meal time simple and budget-friendly at your house?

Disclaimer: I have not received any compensation for this post. I just love their service and wanted to share!

Meal Planning Milestone Monday

My Meal Planning Milestone Monday update this week included trying three new recipes!

Last week I made whole wheat pizza crust dough in my bread machine. Wow! Was this a terrific tasting crust…not too whole-wheat-ish (even though the ratio of whole wheat to all-purpose flour was equal) and it baked up great with all the toppings. Definitely a keeper!

Secondly, I made the Pumpkin Spice Donuts that I found on Pinterest and seems like everyone was making too! They were easy and quite tasty although like several other comments have said, we didn’t care for the cinnamon-sugar coating (will use a glaze next time).

And because that recipe only used a small bit of the can of pumpkin, I made a new bread machine recipe for pumpkin quick bread. What I love about using my bread machine is that it’s kind of like a slow cooker for bread. I can set it and go out and then come back and the bread is still warm (but not burned from sitting in a hot oven too long)—which is exactly what I did when I ran out on a few errands. My family LOVES pumpkin bread so I’m excited to have this new recipe in our repertoire!

Bread machine pumpkin bread (I really need to start taking pictures in the daytime–better lighting!)

Lastly, I planned what I’m going to make for our freezer meal swap group this week. That’s a milestone because for some reason I was having a really hard time figuring out what to make in the time frame I have available in the next few days to make it!

What’s your milestone this week?

Meal Planning Magic Milestone Mondays is your place to share your most recent baby steps towards meal planning. It can be:

–planning your meals for the week and (mostly) sticking to that plan
–trying a new recipe
–packing a homemade lunch for you, your kids or someone else in your family to take to school or work
–stayed within or under your food budget for the week
–eating out or going through the drive through one less day than usual
–had less food waste than usual that week (even if it’s just a bit less!)
–making something from scratch that you might normally purchase pre-made
–sitting down together as a family for a meal
–picky eater in your family tried something new and liked it!
And the ideas go on!

It’s easy to participate:

–Add your milestone in the comments section. It doesn’t have to be long—but it can be if you like!

OR

–Use the linky to add your own blog’s link to a post that week that talks about your meal planning milestone

AND

If you’d like to grab the badge and add it to your own blog, just email me at mealmagic (at) gmail (dot) com and I’ll send you the code.

I hope you’ll join me in participating and I look forward to encouraging each other on our path to make mealtime easier, healthier and hopefully budget friendly too!

‘);

Freezer Meal Recipe & Assembly How-To: Bourbon Flank Steak

Cooking for the freezer is one of the most common questions I get asked about when it comes to meal planning. I know many of you have wanted to learn more about cooking for your freezer and I’m happy to oblige with today’s “How-To”. I’ve actually had this post planned for a long time—meaning the pictures have been taken and put on to the computer—but it just hadn’t come together until now.

One of my most favorite freezer meals is marinated meats. I love that I can put all the ingredients into a ziptop bag, label and freeze. Then, when I’m ready to cook, all I need to do is thaw it out while it marinates in the bag and I’m good to go. I think my freezer meal exchange group was starting to wonder if I even knew how to make anything else since that’s about all I did for the first six months after our group got started!

This Bourbon Flank Steak is one of our all time favorites! It is so easy to put together. Pair it with garlic mashed potatoes and some steamed veggies or a salad and you’ve got a meal that is perfect for company too. It’s also a meal that I like to give to friends or neighbors when after they’ve had a new baby or perhaps are dealing with an illness or recovering from surgery (find out more on how to coordinate or give meals for others from my recent blog post). What I love about marinated meats like this is that I can have a few in the freezer at any one time to pull out when I need to make a meal for someone or when I have company drop by. They take up little room and are usually an economical meal to have on hand.

Bourbon Flank Steak
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup chopped onions
¼ cup bourbon
¼ cup soy sauce.
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp cornstarch
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
1-1 ½ lb. flank steak

Combine all ingredients in a gallon size ziptop bag. Add steak and marinate about one hour. Remove steak from bag and reserve marinade. Grill over medium heat for about 20-30 minutes until you achieve desired doneness.. For dipping sauce, add reserved marinade to small saucepan. Bring to boiling and simmer for about 10 minutes so that juices are cooked. Serve over cooked flank steak.

FREEZING INSTRUCTIONS: If you are freezing first, label bag, then add marinade ingredients and steak. Close bag and put in the freezer. To prepare, thaw and cook as directed above.

My daughter helped with the assembly of this recipe. It probably took us about a half hour total to prepare eight bags worth for my freezer meal exchange. Not too bad! Here’s how we did it:

Chop the onions.

Label and date the bags--we made eight total.

Line up bags assembly line fashion. I use cups to hold the bags and help keep all the ingredients inside!

Add all ingredients to each bag--times eight for us!

A view from the top--all the marinade ingredients are in there!

Flank steaks ready to be added to the bags. I purchased them at our wholesale club in bulk to save money.

Here are all the bags lined up with the marinade in them. They just need the steak added now!

Sealed and ready to go into the freezer until meal swap or serving day! So easy!

So, as you can see, freezer meal preparation can be easy when you set up an assembly line! What’s your favorite meal for the freezer? I hope you enjoy this one!

Menu Plan Monday {Meal Inspiration Ideas}

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a Menu Plan Monday. It’s not that I haven’t been planning my meals, it’s more that our weeks these last few weeks have been so busy, out of town or had some special occasions that meant I wasn’t going to cook on a certain night, that I’ve been meal planning a bit more on the fly and not getting it actually written down here.

So, what have we been eating these last few weeks? Here’s a sampling:
Fish Tacos (using this recipe for Pan-Seared Tilapia with Chile Lime Butter) with broccoli slaw, black beans and corn
Crock-Pot Pulled Chicken Sandwiches, carrot sticks
Caribbean Pork Tenderloin, brown rice, corn
Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas, garden salad
Baked Ziti, garden salad, French baguette
Bourbon Flank Steak, roasted potatoes, garden salad

And some extras I’ve made in the last couple of weeks include:
Blueberry Oat Muffins
Blackberry Blueberry Cobbler
Baked Jelly Donuts (more like muffins, still yummy)

Most of these meals came from my Freezer Meal Exchange Group or were from ingredients in the freezer (I’m STILL trying to clean it out–lots of berries in there from last year that we need to eat up before this year’s picking season).

What’s on your menu this week?

Freezer Meals Exchange Group: News Feature and NEW Giveaway!

Today I was featured on our local ABC affiliate television network along with my freezer exchange group friends. You can check out the news story by clicking on this link. Afterwards I participated in a live Web Chat which was a lot of fun. You can read a transcript of that exchange by clicking here.

In honor of the news feature, I’ve got a new giveaway for you to help you get started with your OWN freezer exchange group!

I’m giving away a copy of 30 Day Gourmet’s BIG Book of Freezer Cooking to ONE lucky winner! (U.S winners only-sorry to my International readers–postage is just crazy expensive!) You can read my recent review of this book and learn why this is one of my most favorite books to get started with freezer cooking.

Here’s the scoop on how to enter to win:

Here’s How To Enter: ***THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED***
PRIMARY ENTRY
1. Leave a comment with your favorite freezer friendly meal/tip OR how you think freezer cooking will help you with your meal planning.

EXTRA ENTRIES (do one or more of the following)
2. Become a follower of my blog (link is on the left of this page)
3. Like Meal Planning Magic on Facebook
4. Email subscribe to my blog.
5. Blog about the giveaway and leave me a link to your post.
6. Update your Facebook status with a link to this post.
7. “Tweet” about this post.
8. Vote for my blog at Babble.com’s Best Mom Food Bloggers (I’m currently on page 2, #61 but hopefully your votes will move me up!)

Remember, leave a comment for each entry. Only one entry per person per method listed above. If you are already a follower, “like” this blog on Facebook or subscribe to my blog, you can still have an extra entry–just mention that in the comment. Good luck!

Giveaway Rules:
**UPDATED 2/20/2011**
Congratulations to our winner, #28, theindy4!

Disclosure: I did receive this copy of the book from the publisher to use as a giveaway on this blog.

30 Day Gourmet’s BIG Book of Freezer Cooking


When I first started freezer cooking, the very first book I purchased was 30 Day Gourmet and it was a HUGE help. Now, authors Nanci Slagle and Carol Santee have updated the original edition with this expanded version and I love it even more!

The authors take the reader on a step-by-step journey of the benefits, myths and planning for freezer cooking. Tips on where to shop, how to shop, containers to consider and assembly day hints are great for beginners and veterans alike. The real bonus is the planning worksheets that help streamline the process and take out a lot of the guesswork! The Appendix includes multiplication and equivalency charts (want to know how much two tablespoons equals if you’re making four recipes worth? (it’s half a cup!) They even include cooking terms and definitions and a section on choosing and maintaining a freezer!

Then there are the recipes! There are some repeats from the first edition and many new ones too. Some of our favorites that we love over and over include Caesar Chicken Marinade, Bourbon Mustard Pork Tenderloin and Garlic Smashed Red Potatoes (made this for my freezer exchange group–they were all hits!) .

Don’t just limit your freezer cooking to entrees. There are a ton of Bread and Breakfast recipes included like Super-Easy Freezer Crescent Rolls or Crunchy Granola Bars; Soup and Sandwich Recipes like Taco Chili or Teriyaki Sliders or Sides and Sauces like Freezer Cole Slaw or White Sauce (a great substitute for canned, cream soups) and even Desserts!. Each recipe does the math for you with ingredients listed for single recipes, doubling all the way through six. Recipes are easy to understand and include assembly, freezing, and serving directions and helpful notes and nutritional information for each recipe.

Book owners also get access to many more online recipes by using the access codes provided in the book. And even non-book owners can sign up for the monthly newsletters at 30 Day Gourmet to receive tips and more recipes for freezer cooking!

I love that it is ring-bound which means it lays flat for easy use. My only (minor) criticism is that some of the pictures are a little dark. All in all, the book delivers a great resource for freezer cooks. Be on the lookout for a giveaway of this cookbook coming soon!

Disclosure: I was compensated with a preview copy of this book but had planned to purchase it before the authors contacted me for a review. My opinions are my own and not influenced by my compensation.

Start A Freezer Meals Exchange Group {Cook With Your Friends Series}

Make up a bunch of the same  meal for the freezer, meet with friends to swap and go home with a variety of meals to fill your freezer!

Make up a bunch of the same meal for the freezer, meet with friends to swap and go home with a variety of meals to fill your freezer!

This is the first in a series of how to make mealtimes quicker, easier and more fun with a little help from your friends!

About five years ago I came up with the brilliant idea to start exchanging freezer meals with a group of friends. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t my original idea, but my friends sure thought I was brilliant! That group fizzled out after a couple of years due to members moving and dietary changes. But this past fall I started up a new group with some of the same and some new friends. We are so loving the convenience of having variety of meals to choose from our freezer on busy nights.
 
Sometimes called freezer co-op exchanges, we just call our group a freezer exchange group. The concept is simple: each member makes the same number of meals as there are members in the group. Here’s a step-by-step run down of how to get started forming your own group:
 
Who will be in your group?
Think about your friends and decide if they would be a good match. Consider a few of the following things:
 
Are the ages of their children similar to yours? A family with toddlers or preschoolers will likely have different appetites than those with teenagers.
 
Do they have a similar size family? If your family has one or two children, matching with a family that has several children may not be as good a match. However, one time one of our members had an infant and two other children so since the baby wasn’t eating the meals, it worked out okay.
 
Does anyone have allergies? Families that have severe food allergies may want to seek out families with similar allergies although this can still be tricky unless you know the other family well and are sure cross-contamination is limited. Food preferences are another thing. If one of your members does not like a certain ingredient, say bell peppers, you can choose to either not include that item in their meal or just choose a different recipe altogether.
 
How many members should you have?
When my first child was born, I had an informal exchange with just one other friend. We would double our recipes every so often and swap meals with each other. The first actual group I started had six members. It was a nice number as it gave us a variety of meals to choose from. We have eight members in our current group but the size can vary depending on your preferences. Eight is probably the largest I would go because it can mean more time in the kitchen cooking and for those with only small freezers, more limited space.
 
 
Choose a regular time and day to meet and exchange your meals.
Some groups like to cook together but we find it’s easier to prepare and freeze the meals ahead of time then get together to exchange our frozen meals. Most of our members have a flexible schedule and on a weekday in the afternoon. In my last group, we met late in the afternoon after naps. Some groups might want to meet and exchange on a weeknight evening or weekend day.
 
Choose a day to cook.
Depending on your own freezer space, you need to decide on a day to actually prepare your meals for the exchange! I like to do mine a few days before the actual exchange in case something comes up and I need to adjust.
 
Choose a recipe to prepare.
One of my favorites is Bourbon Flank Steak. I like doing marinated meats for the freezer because they are easy to throw in a ziptop bag, add the marinade, seal, label and then freeze.
 
 
 
 
Take that recipe and multiply the ingredients by the number of members in the group (so, I multiply by eight) and make the grocery list and get shopping!
Now is the time to take advantage of sales at your local grocery store or make your purchases at your local wholesale club. I have found that I can usually make all my exchange meals for about $75 or less total. Last time my bill was $68 for all the ingredients. That’s only $8.50 per entree! Add a salad or side and you’ve got dinner on the table for about $10! Don’t forget the container(s) you will need to put them in like a aluminum pan or ziptop bag.
 
 
 
Cook and Freeze!
I try to plan my cook day to be a few days before my actual exchange day. That way, if something comes up, I still have an extra day or two to fall back on. I set up everything in an assembly-line fashion to make it easier. Last time I made Quick & Zesty Vegetable Soup (I use frozen mixed vegetables instead of the canned). I will make eight of the same meal, label and add cooking instructions, then pop it in the freezer.
 
 
Exchange!
Once a month we get together and bring our frozen meals in coolers to the hostess’ house (we take turns hosting in our home). We lay out all the meals and grab one of each of the other members’ meals to take home with us. Then put all the meals back in our own cooler, load up in the car and bring back to our own freezers. Don’t forget to log what you’re putting in your freezer for easier meal planning!
 
 
When you’re all done you’ll have a variety of new meals ready to pull out on busy nights or nights when you don’t feel like cooking. Need to bring a meal to a friend who just had a baby, is sick or needs support for another reason? Having your freezer stocked is a great way to help out in that way too!
 
 
How do you make freezer cooking work for you? I’d love to hear other ideas!

Kitchen Organization (Part 5): The Freezer

This is the time of year when everyone seems to have renewed enthusiasm to get organized. Take a break from your closets and take a look at your freezer. Organize your freezer you ask? Sure, it will help your meal planning for sure when you know what’s there. This post is an updated version of the guest post I did this past summer on OrgJunkie.

When I began my meal planning journey several years ago I didn’t give much thought to how things were going to be figured out. I just knew I’d need to have a system of some kind that worked for me. Freezer cooking was one of the first things I took to right away—with a toddler at home I needed a way to get healthy meals on the table quickly. Since then, “feeding” my freezer has become a way of life. Here are the top five things that help me keep it organized:

What can you freeze?
I get this question a lot. The answer is “just about everything!” People are surprised to learn that I shred and freeze my own block cheese, cut up fruit, and of course prepared meals ready to pull out, heat and serve. It is recommended that items remain in the freezer no more than three months, on average, to avoid quality issues. Still not sure? Check out these resources to get you started or go here to find even more.

Choose the right containers.
To make the most of your freezer space, choose containers that work for you. For some that may mean plastic modular containers. Others like using zip-top bags stacked on end like in a bookshelf. Other items can be frozen in dishes that can go straight into the oven. Personal preference makes a difference too. I like to store liquids like soups in modular containers—they are easier for me to heat and serve.

Label it.
I’m sure I’m not the only one to throw something in the freezer and think, “I’ll remember what that is” only to discover months later that that I did not remember! Or perhaps you will thaw out what you think is alfredo sauce for dinner one night only to discover it is the leftover homemade vanilla ice cream you made this past summer (yep, I actually did that one last week–AFTER it was on the pasta!) I personally love th reusable labels from Label Once. They adhere to a lid and will not come off in the freezer or dishwasher. When it’s time to reuse your container, just erase the contents and date and write on the new information. Labeling your ziptop baggies with a marker works great too!

Log it.
Now that your items are labeled, you’ll want to log what goes into the freezer (saving energy with fewer door openings to see what’s in there). I created a form that helps me find what I’m looking for more easily. It has four categories: Prepared Meals, Fruits & Vegetables, Dairy/Nuts/Bread/Other and Meats/Fish. Don’t forget to date it too! When it comes time for meal planning, just grab your list and scan it to find out what you have on hand and choose your recipe accordingly. Get a copy of the form shown below by clicking here.
Map it.
We have a medium chest-style deep freezer. In it I have some plastic crates to help me organize it into compartments. I’ve divided the freezer into “zones” that correlate to my log sheet. For example, the upper right crate holds fruits and veggies like the blueberries we pick every summer or sliced bell peppers that I got on sale. To help others find things in the freezer, I came up with a diagram taped to the top of the freezer that shows the crates and what is contained in each.
It’s easy to get organized in the kitchen when you have a few tricks up your sleeve!

On an organizing roll in the kitchen? Check out these other posts in my Kitchen Organizing series.
Kitchen Organization Series: Kitchen Cabinets.
Kitchen Organization Series: Pantry.
Kitchen Organization (Part 3):Freezer Organized.
Kitchen Organization Series: Refrigerator

Who else is getting organized in the new year? Share YOUR tips here!

Menu Plan Monday! (on Tuesday)

It finally got cold here in Texas so it’s time for some comfort food! Here’s what’s on the menu at our house this week:

Monday: Chicken Pot Pie (from freezer exchange group)
Tuesday: Shrimp Scampi Linguine (using Wildtree spice blend from recent order)
Wednesday: special activity–dinner-on-the-go/leftovers
Thursday: Rustic Italian Tortellini Soup (a favorite for our whole family–despite the fact that kids always seem to forget they like it–read about THAT here!)
Friday: leftovers
Saturday: out to eat
Sunday: leftovers/TBA

What’s on your menu this week?

Menu Plan Monday!


I know some of you just this week have kiddos starting back to school, but we’re starting our third week here and the calendar is already filling up. Having my meals planned is hopefully going to save my sanity a bit! All our meals this week are coming from the freezer so that I can clean it out a bit to make room for new meals! Here’s what’s on our menu this week:

Monday: Road trip home–Labor Day holiday weekend
Tuesday: Chicken Tetrazinni (made with lighter white sauce from 30 Day Gourmet); garden salad
Wednesday: Beef & Chicken fajitas with peppers & onions (made it up as a “kit” with everything included–just thaw, grill and serve!)
Thursday: Grilled Caesar Marinated chicken salad
Friday: special activity-out to eat
Saturday: leftovers
Sunday: make your own pizza night

Last week I made the Fab Fish Fingers. We all liked the way they tasted and the kids gobbled them up. But the recipe calls for you to pan fry them and next time I might try baking them. Not sure what my problem was but the coating seemed to just slip off the fish…maybe too much egg mixture. For leftovers, I just reheated them in the toaster oven and that helped a bit. All in all, these were a much healthier and tastier version than the store-bought version.

How’s your meal planning this week?