I made some BIG plans for freezer meals, detailed here. Today is one month away from the gestational age at which Noah was born, and given my increasing discomfort, I realized I needed to get this done sooner rather than later.
How I did it
DAY 1 (1.5-2 hours): In the morning, I started the pulled pork in the crockpot and we ate some for dinner, gave some to a friend for a baby meal, and froze the rest for postpartum. Then before bed, I washed and chopped ALL the produce. This actually took almost two hours! It's the most tedious part of cooking, for me, and it was nice to get it out of the way.
DAY 2 (5 hours): I got EVERYTHING out on the counter. All the ingredients I would need for all of the recipes. Turns out this was overly ambitious, but it kept me from having to search for random stuff mid-recipe. Then I tackled most of the uncooked meat dishes. Before putting anything in freezer bags, I wrote the date, the name of the recipe, and the cooking or re-heating instructions so I wouldn't have to look it up later. To assemble these, I used one bowl for each marinade, rinsing well in between. Same for the small bowl I used for each dry spice mixture. I put the meat right in the freezer bag, dumped the marinade over it, and then sealed and laid the bag horizontally in the deep freezer. This method helped me assemble the jerk chicken tacos, maple dijon chicken, salsa chicken, and beef and broccoli pretty quickly.
Then, since the chicken was already in use, I continued with the rest of the chicken dishes. I put the chicken enchilada filling in the crockpot and put the chicken spaghetti bake in the oven.
While those were cooking, I moved onto the ground meat dishes. I processed all the bread crumbs in the food processor in one batch, to measure out accordingly. Then I used one big bowl for each of the ground meat dishes, rinsing it in between recipes (and using fresh gloves for each batch, because I hate mixing meat with bare hands). I made the meatballs and put them in a freezer bag with the tomato sauce, to be cooked after thawing. Then I made the turkey loaf and Greek meatloaf muffins. When they cooled, I wrapped them in foil and then put them each in a freezer bag and placed in the freezer.
I had to sauté some of the veggies for the meatloaf, and I used the same sauté pan to then cook the Italian sausage, onions, and garlic for the cauliflower and Italian sausage casserole. I boiled the cauliflower in a big soup pot, and then assembled and baked that casserole as well. With the casseroles, I baked them in disposable aluminum trays, cooled in the fridge, covered rightly with foil, and then covered with the included plastic lid, on which I wrote the date and the re-heating instructions.
Then I used that same soup pot to boil the second round of cauliflower, for the alfredo sauce and I went ahead and blended that and put in a freezer bag. Finally, I assembled the white bean chicken chili and let it all simmer in the soup pot while I started to clean up. (I put the rotisserie chicken carcass in the freezer to make bone broth at a later date.)
This all took 5 hours and while I didn't finish everything, I was kind of over it after 5 hours. I still made 13 meals in two days, and the deep freezer is filling up quickly!
DAY 3 (1.5-2 hours): I really didn't want to do more, but I had bought, washed, and chopped all that produce, and I knew I needed to utilize the fresh stuff, lest it go bad. So I made the 7 vegetable cheese soup, the red lentil dal, and the lentil mushroom walnut balls. The other soups I listed mostly utilize canned vegetable purees and frozen veggies, so I will keep those ingredients in the pantry and they'll be reasonably easy to make as needed and store in the fridge for a week. Same with the baked bean and cornbread casserole.
DAY 4 (3 hours, but this is skewed because the toddler was awake and around for most of it): So over it today. But I powered through and made the chana masala, vegan stuffed shells, and a double batch of lactation cookies. I thought the vegan meals would be nice to have for quick lunches, but I forgot that vegan meals sometimes take longer to assemble than meat dishes because you have to cook the beans, roast the walnuts, soak the cashews, etc. Next time I would consider leaving the dal, the chana masala, and the lentil mushroom walnut balls off the list. But they may prove to be invaluable to have on hand, later, so I'll see if it was worth the extra time.
LATER: I still hope to make the pancakes, Glo bars, and breakfast cookies before baby comes, but worst case scenario, Ross and Noah can make those while I supervise.
THOUGHTS: Our brand new deep freezer is FULL. It feels really good, but I'm also really over cooking. Like I want to take a whole week off! But I have 18 meals in the freezer, and that feels great. I'm really hopeful that they will taste good/fresh in 1-3 months, and that they really will save time later. I neglected Noah a bit this week in the rush to have these DONE. I hope it keeps my postpartum self from standing in the kitchen too much in the first 2 months, though, and that means more time with Noah (and baby) down the road.
I'll write one more post once we've eaten everything, to follow-up on how it stored and re-heated! For now, here's the final tally of what I made (I put this list on the side of the deep freezer along with side dishes that would turn the frozen dish into a full meal):
-jerk chicken taco meat
-meatballs in tomato sauce
-maple dijon chicken
-beef and broccoli
-chicken enchilada filling
-chicken spaghetti bake
-Greek meatloaf muffins
-cauliflower and Italian sausage casserole
-7 vegetable 'cheese' soup
-smoky white bean chili
-vegan alfredo sauce
-vegan stuffed manicotti shells
-red lentil dal
-lentil mushroom walnut balls