Slow Cooker Freezer Meals Making Life Easier

You may remember the post I wrote a few weeks ago – “My ‘First’ Meal Prep.” My son Joey and I prepped 10 crock pot meals in two hours using a meal prep plan from Stockpiling Moms. This was a great money and time saver! So we tackled another meal plan and prepped 20 slow cooker meals in 2.5 hours.

prep

The 20 meal plan stated it would take 4 hours but between Joey’s help and the things I learned with the first meal prep, we were able to save 90 minutes. We enjoyed all the meals from the first prep but found that some didn’t go as far as we had hoped or didn’t have enough meat. We wanted to be able to have dinner for four (two teenagers and two adults) and lunch for two the next day. So I do suggest increasing your ingredients if you’d like it to go a little further.

The Healthy Beef Stew was fantastic but had more veggies than meat so next time I will add more meat. Honestly, we found the Cheeseburger Soup a little bland at first but I just added a can of Campbells’ Cheddar Cheese Soup and it was perfect! The Sausage with Peppers and Onions was our favorite. I did add a jar of Classico Tomato and Basil.

Joey, my 15-year-old decided to tackle the 20 meals on. Unlike last time, I printed and looked over each recipe before we started. Since I am the only person in my house who will eat Mushroom Barley Stew or Stuffed Peppers, I decided not to make those. Instead I replaced those with a couple recipes of my own. The stew and peppers sound delicious though so I will make those for a few friends some time. Looking over the recipes first also allowed me to substitute a few ingredients to cater to my family.

This time I purchased all of my meat from Premium Elite Food (also known as Buck’s) in Latonia. Buck Buchanan, the owner, hand selects all of the meat he sells. I received excellent quality meats and it was actually cheaper than buying it at Kroger. I do suggest calling Buck’s at least three days in advance so he can prep your order. I placed a Clicklist order with Kroger for the rest of the items. I did increase, sometimes even doubled, the meat and ingredients for each meal. I spent about $120 on meat and $60 for the other ingredients (I did have most of the spices, which I get from Colonel De’s). Each meal will have six to eight servings. That’s about $9 per meal.

joey-prepping

I picked up my Kroger order on a Monday and my meat order on a Tuesday. Tuesday night I reviewed the recipes one more time and put them in categories according to the type of meat it called for. I then labeled all of my bags with the recipe name and cooking instructions. I placed the printed recipe on top of its corresponding bag, which also helped a lot during the prep. This was much easier than having to constantly look at the computer. We prepped the meals on Wednesday night.

We started by setting up all of our can goods, spices, vegetables and measuring tools. We started with the chicken meals, then the pork and then moved on the beef. This allowed us to keep the meat safe in the refrigerator until we were ready for it. Joey ran meals to the downstairs deep freezer as they were prepped. I also had Joey brown the ground beef while I prepped other meals. That was a huge time saver.

chicken

My family just finished the Maple Bacon Pork Loin. This is a pork loin wrapped in bacon and covered in a maple honey sauce. It was absolutely amazing!! It was seriously delicious and the house smells so good. Everyone gobbled it up along with peas and homemade mac-n-cheese.

bacon-wrapped

Preparing freezer meals saves my family time and money and cuts down drastically on eating out and picking up fast food. Stockpiling Moms offers several Meal Plans including vegetarian plans, crock pot meals, oven-ready dinners and even gluten-free plans.

Do you have any meal prep tips to share?

 

 

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My ‘First’ Meal Prep

I did my ‘first’ meal prep tonight. I’m using air quotes because I technically did a meal prep one time at one of those parties where you buy all of their products for a lot of money and then still have to buy all of your meat, produce and pantry items. I had fun with my friends while drinking margaritas and preparing meals, which obviously saved me time in the long run, but I definitely didn’t feel like I saved any money. So tonight, I did my ‘first’ meal prep at my home without having to buy special products.

I decided to use Stockpiling Moms 10 Crockpot Freezer Meals in 2 Hours. Stockpiling Moms offers a lot of freezer meal plans but I thought the 10 meals in 2 hours would be the most practical for my first attempt.

I started by pulling up the grocery list for the 10 crockpot freezer meals. I HATE going to the grocery store so I have become a huge fan of Kroger Clicklist. I’m able to order my items online, a Kroger associate pulls them, bags them up, brings them to my car at the assigned time and even loads them in the car. So on Tuesday I put each item on the grocery list in a Clicklist order and had my daughter pick the groceries up at our local Kroger this afternoon. I spent about $115, which averages out to be $11.50 per meal. Each meal serves 6 to 8. I did already have most of the spices and some of the canned goods though so your bill could be a little higher.

stuff

Some of the supplies

Once I got home from work I relaxed on the couch and marked each of my Ziploc gallon bags with the name of the meal, cook time and anything I would need to add at the time of cooking.  That only took a few minutes.

Next I enlisted my 15-year-old son Joey to help me prep the 10 meals. He browned the ground beef while I diced veggies and opened cans. Once the ground beef was browned, Joey helped with measuring a lot of the spices and other tasks. It was a great opportunity for us to spend time together while accomplishing a task. It took us just under two hours to prep the meals, clean up and load the freezer. I did save some time by buying diced frozen onions and green peppers instead of having to cut those myself.

ground-beef

The 15-year-old at work

We had very few dishes to do!

dishes

The dishes

We are going to try our first meal tomorrow – the Crockpot Honey Sesame Chicken. I just put it in the fridge since I’m going to throw it in the crockpot in the morning but it still means no cooking for me tomorrow.

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The final product

I made the decision to meal prep in an effort to save time and money. Having things ready to put in the crockpot will definitely save me time. It also prevents us from eating out so much and making multiple trips to the grocery. If the meals are as yummy as I suspect, I will tackle the 20 Slow Cooker Meals in Four Hours next time.

Do you have an meal prep tips to share?

 

Travel the World in a Day

Today I loaded up my children and our two house guests – Holland, 10, and Roman, 9, and headed to Jungle Jim’s in Fairlfield, Ohio. This 35-40 minute drive allowed us to travel the world in about 90 minutes. We visited Asia, Italy, Holland, Mexico, England, Germany and much more. We even saw Elvis and the singing Campbell’s soup can! The kids were super excited to see the Prize-winning restrooms that look like port-o-lets on the outside.

Before heading out, the kids teamed up and picked a dessert recipe. We then made a list of ingredients for each team knowing that when we got there they would search for their ingredients. Roman and Andi chose to make Italian lemon tiramisu and Joey and Holland decided to make a raspberry delight.

Holland and Roman had never been to Jungle Jim’s so they were excited when we pulled out front. They loved the waterfalls and characters out front. We were all disappointed though when we couldn’t find a handicap parking spot (Read Catching Up to see why we need a handicap spot) and discovered that most of the cars in those spots did not have handicap tags or stickers.  I ended up dropping the four kids, ranging from 9 to 13, off in front of the store; parking the car and meeting back up with them. I actually counted on my way to the store and saw at least a dozen cars without tags in handicap spots. That was very upsetting to my 10-year-old who needs a walker and it made me think that the author of People I’d Like to Punch In the Throat should give those people a good punch!

Once inside, we started our hunt. It would be easy to spend hours in there with the incredible wine section, olive bar, cheese counter, bakery, pet area, produce department and so much more. In addition to featuring all the different countries, there is a garden area, bank, post office and cell phone store.

I allowed each kid to pick one fruit they had never tried. I believe we ended up with a banana mango, star fruit, some weird thing none of us can remember the name of and the dragon fruit. Each child was also given $2 to buy some type of candy or treat. The girls combined their money and the girls did the same. The girls picked Italian chocolate, I chose an orange German chocolate and the boys… well they picked gum balls.

We couldn’t find certain ingredients so we asked a worker in the isle near the olive bar. She didn’t know and told us to ask at the olive bar. The woman at the bar didn’t know and told us to go to the bakery. Now remember, this is not a small store and my son is using a walker. So we went to the bakery where we were able to find one item and told us what area the other item might be in. After asking the fourth employee we saw, we found the item. I do wish the customer service would have been better. We did have a map but it just labeled the departments.

On our way to the checkout we found bananas dipped in chocolate ice cream. I bought a box of 5 for $2.99 and it was completely worth it! They were so good and it was a nice cold treat to enjoy on the way home.  I also grabbed a nice bone for puppy. She was very happy!

Our bill was about $90. I was a little shocked by this. We are making two desserts and just picked up a couple other items. We did have to get things like sugar, flour and vanilla extract, which definitely cost more there than they would have at Kroger. As soon as we got home, the kids started making their desserts. It was fun to watch them work together and enjoy cooking.

This is definitely an activity I would do again with the kids. However, next time, I will pick basic items up at the local grocery store and just purchase the unique items at Jungle Jim’s. I would also like to do the tour, which cost $5 each.

Overall, it was a fun activity for the kids and a great way to spend the day. Big thanks to Stockpiling Moms and Family Friendly Cincinnati for the idea. What unique activities do you do with the kids in the summer?

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