Happy Tuesday, how are you doing? Life here is pretty good, I was a proud Mama Lifestyle yesterday because Little L had her first swimming lesson without me. It was bittersweet. I was full of pride, if you had looked closely you may have seen a tear (heaven forbid;) but also it was like someone had kicked me in the stomach as I realized that Little L is needing me less and less. Full blown “big girl” status has begun, but there maybe one place that she will always want to go with mummy and that is the kitchen. It is that which provided inspiration for today’s post. I want to establish a meal/family time atmosphere where we gather and share not only food but thought and feelings about our day. In my childhood sitting together at dinner was not always possible with my fathers work commitments but without fail (unless traveling) we sat to a breakfast together every morning. (Civilized Brits!) I want to continue this where I can.
Whatever your situation is in life we are all busy and stressed, and are all looking for ways to be more effective and efficient. I for one have much more energy in the morning and by the end of the day I am tired and the idea of producing a home cooked meal is less appealing so another reason for my love of October is cracking out the Crock Pot or Slow Cooker. For those of you who have an Aga you could follow the same recipes, in your cooler oven. Several months ago a dear friend linked something on her Facebook page which appealed to me. 8 Super Easy Crock Pot Freezer Meals. The article suggested that these meals could be prepared in 45 mins (not buying the groceries obviously.) The Lifestyle Lady loves a challenge so low and behold I had a crack at it. I loved the fact you prepared the meals raw into individual freezer bag and then leave to thaw overnight in the fridge, then the next morning very little is needed other than to throw it into the Crock Pot.
Here is what I found…….
Meals to be prepared:-
- Crock Pot Orange Chicken
- Crock Pot BBQ Spareribs
- Crock Pot Cheesy Chicken Potatoes & Broccoli
- Crock Pot Honey Garlic Chicken
- Crock Pot Beef Stroganoff
- Crock Pot Nacho Chicken
- Crock Pot Chicken Sweet Potatoes
- Crock Pot Pulled Pork
- The first thing I did was label up all the bags so they were good to go.
- Use a black Sharpie I have found these survive the freezer best. Plus it is the easiest to read when you need the instructions after thawing.
- I then piled them up in order of preparation so they were much easier to grab.
- If you notice in the ingredients picture I did cheat a little and buy smaller carrots which do not require peeling or chopping they can go straight in the bag. Which I think must also have been used in the original challenge because 45 mins does not leave much time for food preparation even if you use an electric chopper or food processor.
Crock Pot Orange Chicken
- This one was an easy start and not labor intensive, the bell pepper required chopping ( you could cut time down by using a machine.
- I also used the entire bell pepper as I get fed up with that quarter or half that ends up in glad wrap looking sad in my fridge and more often than not I end up throwing out.
- You will also note that I used chicken breasts that were already sliced, yes this is expensive but I got these on deal. Plus I am always a little anxious of raw chicken.
- I am also a fan of the chopped garlic in a jar, I know it is not as good as the fresh variety but for meals like this it works great and I found easier do deal with and more economic.
Crock Pot BBQ Spareribs
- This was not labor intensive but when I was buying the ribs I could only find 4lbs of ribs (this is Texas after all.) I got chatting to the butcher and he cut one of the portions in half. If I had a larger freezer I would have bought the full portion and made two meals.
- I also had to cut the 2lb portion in half to fit into the zip lock effectively.
- We have already eaten this and it was delicious. Ribs are a big hit with the men in my life. I served them with coleslaw and jacket potatoes but you could easily serve with fries or a salad. Whatever your thing is!
Crock Pot Cheesy Chicken Potatoes & Broccoli
- As you begin to hit your food prep stride this one is a little more labor intensive.
- I am not the greatest delicate chopper. This does require some delicate chopping. In fact if you have a mandolin to slice the potatoes very thin, that would be the best.
- The cheese is not pictured as it is required to be added on the day of cooking rather than freezing. I may also vary the cheese, Velveeta might not be my thing.
Crock Pot Honey Garlic Chicken
- The preparation for this was less because of my choices. Buying small prepared carrots and garlic in a jar, all I had to do was add it to the bag.
Crock Pot Beef Stroganoff
- This one is more time intensive just because of the sheer amount of ingredients.
- The preparation is very straight forward.
- I also bought the mushrooms already sliced.
Crock Pot Nacho Chicken
- This was the easiest to prepare. Not rocket science.
Crock Pot Chicken Sweet Potatoes
- Just when you thought you had this prep thing in the bag another slightly intensive one springs its head.
- I did cheat and use my food processor as I was SICK of chopping by this point.
Crock Pot Pulled Pork
- Again this final meal is super easy to prep.
- The size of the meat is the most difficult to store, I did cut this up into smaller parts as it was easier to manage and marinade.
- To be honest by this time I was a little sick of measuring and chopping.
I think the preparation took me a little over one hour, please note that I was taking photographs at the same time, which certainly added to the preparation time. I do think I am a fairly competent cook so 45 mins for all prep seemed a little ambitious. But maybe as I become more familiar with the recipes that would shave time off. I have not cooked all the recipes yet. I take comfort in knowing if I have a busy day coming up I can pull something out of the freezer (if I remember!!!) I do not have a large or practical freezer, if I did I would be off storing more of these meal ideas. I did keep the receipt for these meals but in my LL cleaning frenzy I threw it, but I think I remember it costing around $150 mark. Please note I buy organic and I also buy certain things already prepared purely for convenience so you could shave some cost that way. You also don’t have to do all this they way I have. You could wait for store deals or coupons and make meals on individual basis. I am the sort of person who likes to prepare a few meals at one time. This is also a great idea if you have a friend who is sick or had a baby. They can freeze and cook when needed. I enjoyed the process and have had positive feedback from the family regarding the results. We have not had many of the meals but the ones we have, we certainly enjoyed.
Do you use a slow cooker? Do you have menus you love? Is this challenge something you would be willing to try? Get in touch!!! I would love to hear from you!
Ta ta for now!