meal planning

Stock Your Freezer in a Snap

Ever feel a 5pm wave of angst when you realize you have no idea what’s for dinner?

I do. It’s a lousy feeling.

Batch cooking and freezing is one of the best ways to replace that wave of angst with a wave of relief. Having a set of freezer-friendly recipes and expert instructions helps an awful lot.

Eila Johnson, blogger at The Full Plate Blog, created her “Stock Your Freezer in a Snap” coaching program after her years as a personal chef. She specialized in making meals that her clients could pull out of the freezer when that dreaded 5pm feeling came over them.

As a mom of two kids, Eila now cooks for her own family the same way: She spends a few hours here and there batch cooking and tucking meals away in the freezer. Then she takes days off of cooking at a time–creating what she calls the magical “Bonus Hour”. That’s the hour when dinner goes straight from the freezer to the oven or stovetop and she can get in a workout, check her email, play a board game with her kids, or just sit down after a long day and have a glass of wine.

The program, which comes as a downloadable e-book, includes 12 of Eila’s recipes. For each one, she includes photos, tips and kitchen shortcuts, weekly shopping lists, recommendations for packaging, and thawing and reheating instructions.

Stock Your Freezer in a Snap

Here are the recipes the program includes:

  • Baked Zucchini-Carrot Fritters (veg)
  • Cheesy Baked Taquitos (veg or chicken)
  • Creamy Pot Pies (chicken or root veggie)
  • Easy Comforting Lasagna (beef, sausage, turkey, or veg)
  • Simple Layered Butternut Squash-Black Bean Enchilada Casserole (veg or add meat of choice)
  • Mediterranean Beef Stew (a flavorful take on traditional beef stew)
  • Go-To Chili {That Always Gets Rave Reviews} (beef, turkey or veg)
  • Oven-Baked Meatballs (beef or turkey)
  • Power Green Pesto (veg)
  • Everyone’s Favorite Sloppy Joe’s (a modern take made with beef, turkey or veg)
  • Super Fast Mexican Posole Stew (chicken or veg)
  • Tahini-Flax Crusted Chicken Parmesan (chicken or eggplant)

Eila sent me a copy of the program to try, and I spent a few Sundays cooking with my husband. I loved how flexible the recipes were (I could tailor them to my family’s preference) and I loved having options for thawing the meals or putting them straight from the freezer to the oven/stovetop. I loved finding new family favorites (the pot pie was hands-down the winner and it’s become tradition to adorn it with our initials in puff pastry, see photo below). But most of all, I love that 5pm feeling of relief when I remember those freezer meals tucked away–and know that all I have to do is make a quick side or salad and then figure out how to spend my Bonus Hour.

I’m hosting a giveaway of Eila’s “Stock Your Freezer in a Snap” e-book for one reader. To enter, leave a comment telling me how you would spend a Bonus Hour. For one additional entry, “like” The Full Plate on Facebook then leave me a comment telling me that you did. Giveaway ends Friday April 18th at noon Eastern Time. 

This month only, Eila is also offering the program at 50% off ($24.99). Read more about the program here and go here to purchase. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Eila’s program to try for free. All opinions are my own.

Stock Your Freezer in a Snap

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From-Scratch Cooking Confessional by Real Mom NutritionI believe that a diet based around whole foods is the way to go. I believe we should know what’s in our food, that we should strive to eat food that isn’t laden with preservatives and artificial flavors. Over the years, my suspicion about ingredients like artificial colors has grown, and I’ve become increasingly annoyed with food marketing designed to manipulate and deceive.

As a result, I buy fewer packaged foods than I did even a few years ago. I experiment in the kitchen, making homemade versions of store-bought staples. Sometimes I post those recipes here and on my Real Mom Nutrition Facebook page because I want to share something that’s worked for me.

What I DON’T want to do: Give you the impression that everything in my house is homemade.

It’s not.

I love to cook and bake. I love the satisfaction that comes from making something myself.

But making everything from scratch? While I’m in awe of people who do this, it appears to be statistically impossible for me. Four of us eat nearly every single breakfast, lunch, and dinner at home (or a packed lunch made at home). My fourth grader’s appetite is becoming alarmingly robust. And if the mountain of dishes I create every day from prepping all that food gets any higher, I’m afraid it will topple over and bury my husband, the designated dishwasher.

Here’s how from-scratch cooking goes down in my house:

What I always make from scratchvinaigrette dressing, pizza dough, hummus, barbecue and pizza sauce, cookies, pesto, and chicken soup.

What I sometimes make from scratch if I have time: bread and rolls, applesauce, French fries, granola bars, nut butter, and macaroni and cheese.

What I very, very occasionally make from scratch (or in some cases, have made only once just to see if I could do it): donuts, tortillas and pita bread, knock-off pop-tarts, pasta, fruit leathers, and sushi rolls.

And here’s what that looks like for our family:

  • If we have from-scratch hummus, we’re probably eating it with store-bought pita bread.
  • If we have homemade nut butter and granola bars that week, there’s also a bag of pretzels in the snack cupboard.
  • If there’s a pot of chicken soup on the stove and homemade rolls in the oven, we are likely having boxed pasta and jarred sauce the next night (or fish sticks and French fries from the freezer).

In some circles, all packaged food seems to be demonized–that to admit you buy packaged foods is to somehow admit failure, laziness, or a lack of concern about health and wellbeing. And don’t get me wrong: I love a good Pinterest challenge. Homemade graham crackers? Maybe I’ll attempt that some lazy Sunday afternoon.

But in the meantime, I don’t feel guilty about using packaged foods because I choose them carefully by reading labels (read: “Does the Food Label Even Matter? Here’s Why I Say YES.”). We keep junk to a minimum in the house. And for me, relying on some packaged foods does help my health and wellbeing because it preserves my sanity.

How about you: What do you always make from scratch–and what do you usually buy instead?

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Make-Ahead Green Smoothie Packets

December 6, 2013

I’ve seen these make-ahead smoothie kits all over Pinterest. But I wasn’t convinced until my friend Kelly recently texted me to report that yes, freezing fresh spinach totally works. Kelly and I, who share a love of green smoothies, often bemoaned the fact that the small box of spinach was never enough–but the jumbo one […]

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One Of The Best Things You Can Do On A Sunday

September 3, 2013

If you read my last post, you may be thinking that by “one of the best thing you can do” I mean “go to yoga class” or “ignore the mountains of laundry and snuggle with your kids” (read “A Back-To-School Pledge To Myself“). And yes, do those. And go to religious services. Or watch football. […]

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Pantry Challenge: Week #2 Meal Plan

November 5, 2012

The good news is that I stuck to my meal plan pretty closely last week (read: Pantry Challenge: Week #1 Shopping Trip & Meal Plan). The bad news is that we had two last-minute events that busted my budget. One was an out-of-town trip that involved pizza delivery. Another was hosting a night time Nerf […]

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Pantry Challenge: Week #1 Shopping Trip & Meal Plan

October 28, 2012

It’s the first day of the Autumn Pantry Challenge! Today, I made trips to Aldi and my neighborhood supermarket and spent only $32 on groceries for the week (my weekly budget is $50 or less). Week One Meal Plan Sunday: Beef Barley Soup, Homemade Oatmeal Yogurt Rolls, Salads Monday: Leftovers Tuesday: Cod from freezer, Whole […]

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The Pantry Challenge Postmortem

March 3, 2011

5 Lessons Learned: 1. It is not humanly possible for me to feed my family for $25 a week unless I resort to cooking ramen noodles and off-brand macaroni and cheese for dinner. With my Pantry Challenge budget, I could barely keep us in milk and produce. $50 a week would’ve been more doable–and still […]

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Pantry Challenge: Week Four Update

March 2, 2011

The Pantry Challenge is over, and not a moment too soon. While toasting a heel of bread this morning for breakfast (after discovering there was no cereal left) my husband turned to me and said in a rather unfriendly way, “It’s March 2nd. I’m done with this Pantry Challenge.” Alrighty. Message received. It hasn’t been […]

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Pantry Challenge: Week Three Update

February 22, 2011

Pantry Challenge Morale hit an all-time low around here this past weekend. The fridge–with little more than two apples, a  tub of plain yogurt, and margarine inside–was looking more single-gal-about-town than mother-of-two. My husband, growing increasingly hungry and crabby about my little experiment, reported one day that he’d eaten peanut butter toast for breakfast, a […]

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Pantry Challenge: Week Two Update

February 16, 2011

My husband joked today that with the way this Pantry Challenge is going, he’ll soon be eating “pine needle stew” for lunch. And actually, that Hunger Games reference is a little fitting these days. We’re doing just fine with dinners, thanks to the chest freezer and Bomb Shelter. But otherwise, the pickings are exceedingly slim. […]

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