We all know mom always said breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But we all know that sometimes it is the hardest meal of the day. It’s too early, we don’t have time, we can’t think of anything that sounds good, you don’t want to cook… the list of excuses goes on and on.
It’s hard to come up with something that is tasty, healthy, and also can be made in the 5 minutes you have before you rush out the door for the day.
Don’t worry dear reader, I’ve got your back.
Enter: the freezer smoothie pack.
Just a few minutes of prep ahead of time on a weekend and you can have a whole week’s worth of healthy, on-the-go breakfasts ready and waiting in your freezer. These little bags are such a simple yet brilliant answer to the morning breakfast rush. And boy, are they customizable! All you really need is a good handful of greens, a fruit or two or three, and some baggies.
In the morning, just grab one bag, toss it in the blender with enough liquid (milk, almond milk, coconut water, tea, juice, whatever you like), blend and go. And if you have the kind of blender that makes single servings and you drink right out of it, your morning could not BE any simpler!
You can try just about anything in these freezer bags. It makes a great answer to almost-mushy fruits in the fridge, halves of things left over, and whatever fruits are in season and on sale. I used peaches, pears, bananas, local blueberries, and avocado. I also had half a pineapple and some beet greens from my garden, so I tossed those into a few bags as well.
Step 1: Wash, peel, and cut up your fruits as needed. You can also slice your greens into smaller pieces to make blending easier.
Step 2: Toss your baggies into the freezer. That’s it! When you are ready for a super quick healthy breakfast (or lunch, or snack, or dessert…) pour the contents of the bag into a blender, and add your liquid of choice. I like green tea for a gentle caffeine kick, or almond milk for some creamy smoothness.
This post is about my newest addition to my Kindle offerings: “10 Crock Pot Freezer Meals”! You can see for yourself at my Budget Epicurean Kindle Author page. The eBook contains a complete grocery list, with the items categorized in order to easily breeze in and out of the store in minutes, as well as ten of my best & most loved slow cooker recipes, including Cranberry Spiced Chicken, Orange-Glazed Pork Chops, and White Bean Chicken Chili. I even added some handy, easy printables to label your bags, so you know what you have days or weeks later!
To watch the short video on how easy it is to shop for and assemble everything, check it out here! Of course ALDI was the store I went to (I just love them for their focus on providing the best prices over flashy ads or in store perks). I had my list in hand, and the total for everything that was going into these ten meals (minus just a few pantry staples) was $87. Given that each meal is made to serve 4, that is only $2.18 per meal!!
Of course, you can substitute as needed, such as if you have a hatred of a specific type of bean, swap it for a different kind, or if you do not eat pork, use chicken or beef instead. Definitely the highlight of the trip was finding this little bonus deal: $0.35 for canned, organic, reduced sodium black beans!!! Oh yeah, I bought 2 cases. That doesn’t count towards the meal totals…
The entire shopping trip took me probably about a half hour. And that is with writing down prices of things, and forcing my significant other, who was such a trooper, to take pictures and help me double check that I hadn’t forgotten anything. 🙂
As a reminder, you can purchase the nice printable ebook HERE.
First things first, I got everything organized. This means putting all the ingredients for each recipe into a pile. Some ingredients were used in multiple recipes, so I put those piles next to each other. Then I cut out the labels, and taped them onto a bag.
Next, take a cutting board, and for each recipe that requires dicing, chop up the peppers, or onions, or whatever, and place the raw veggies in the corresponding bag. It is best to get all that out of the way first. I actually ended up wearing goggles, because the onions were so strong and stung my eyes so that I couldn’t see for all the watering they were doing!
Next, take a can opener, and open up all your cans. Drain things like beans if you like, I didn’t even bother, just dumped the whole thing in there. Pour the canned goods into the bags. Any seasonings like chili powder or honey, pour those in next. Finally, open the meats (if using) and add those to the bags last. Be sure to keep meats separate otherwise so as to not cross-contaminate, and wash your hands after touching them.
Orange-Ginger Glazed Pork Chops
BBQ Pulled Pork
Crock Pot 5 Bean Vegetarian Chili
Creamy Italian Chicken
Spiced Cranberry Chicken
White Bean Chicken Chili
Garlicky Sweet Lemon Chicken
Garlicky Sweet Lemon Chicken
Once you have your bags filled, you can take them to your freezer. Ideally, freeze them laying flat so that you save freezer space. You can also put any of these recipes straight into the crock pot, as I did with the garlicky sweet lemon chicken.
The day before you plan to eat one of these meals, just take the bag from the freezer and put it into your refrigerator. Preferably put the bag onto a plate or in a bowl, just in case it leaks or drips water as it thaws. The next morning, pour the whole contents of the bag into your slow cooker and cook as instructed. You can use each recipe’s suggestions, or serve with whatever you have handy. And there you have it! Ten meals that serve 4, from cans to freezer to cooked!
Freezer meals assembled and ready to go!
You can purchase this list of ten slow cooker, freezer-approved recipes, plus a complete one-page shopping list, serving suggestions, and printable freezer bag labels on Amazon!
Just search “Budget Epicurean”. Or visit this link: http://goo.gl/VtfKOq
I’m hoping to expand these meal plan offerings soon to include a vegetarian option, diabetic meal plans, gluten-free meal plans, and more! Please let me know if you have any feedback, questions, or something else you want to see in the future in the comments below or by email at budgetepicurean (at) gmail (dot) com!
You can view the video of how easy the shopping & assembly is here:
Many many food bloggers and regular people alike love this method of cooking! It is hard to overstate how much time, energy, and cash you can save by cooking this way. If you’re already experienced with meal planning based on grocery store sales, or want to try coming up with your own recipes, here’s a great article from one of my favorite frugal sites, the Simple Dollar, fully explaining the process!
For my third and final test of Walmart Grocery To Go service, I decided I would go with ways to preserve meals and plan ahead. Because everyone is busy and convenience is king in today’s over-stimulated and demanding world, being able to plan ahead and cook meals in advance can save you on a hectic week night.
In preparation, I ordered several different sizes of Zip-Lock baggies, quarts, gallons, sandwich size, and snack bags.I got zip-and-steam bags, which you can put fresh veggies into, seal, then steam them in the microwave, and Crock Pot liners, for easier clean up. I ordered a few foil roaster pans with lids, for lasagna and casseroles to freeze.
I got many items which can be stored long-term and used in a variety of dishes, including black beans, pinto beans, Jasmine rice, chickpeas, split peas, black-eyed peas, barley, quinoa, and lentils. These will become soups, stews, curries, and chili. Dried fruits such as dates and apricots and raisins, and cashews and mixed nuts for trail mixes and granola bars.
I also ordered a few games, SkipBo and Phase 10, because it is always nice to have cards on handy when bored during a cold winter night or when friends come to call.
This order came around noon on Valentine’s Day, which I was spending alone. Because the S.O. had already moved to Connecticut to start a new job! Super exciting I know. More on that later.
The delivery guys were very sweet, and made sure to ask if I was okay with a substitution they had to make. If something you ordered is out of stock, they notify you by email, and then you have to verbally agree to it before you can accept the order. You have the option to send it all back and wait until what you wanted is in stock again, which is nice if you had your heart set on something.
So, one weekend or weeknight, when you have a few hours to cook, pick 2 or 3 recipes which store frozen well. Take stock of your refrigerator and cabinets for ideas. Almost all vegetables lend themselves well to soups and stews. Rice or potatoes are easily made into many dishes.
Be flexible; if you don’t have ground beef but have leftover chicken breast, you can still make a mean white bean chicken chili. And don’t be afraid to experiment!
Now that you’ve chosen your recipes, gather all your ingredients. Spend some time chopping and peeling, feeling the texture of the vegetables, the lovely colors, the smells and tastes. Cooking is the best way to get back in touch with what we eat, and thus are putting into our bodies.
Once you have two or three pots happily simmering, you can entertain yourself elsewhere. Taste as you go, remembering that you will need to re-season when you reheat the dishes, as flavors may dull over time.
Now you can portion out your home-cooked goodies into individual or family-sized portions. Soups and stews can be spooned into freezer bags and laid flat to freeze. Lasagnas and casseroles can be assembled and baked in the roaster pans and then frozen to be thawed and re-heated in the oven later.
Now that is convenience food I can get behind!
The fusion of food, fun, frugality, and curiosity.