25 Freezer Meals in 3 Hours for Only $88

25 Freezer Meals in 3 Hours for Only $88

As some of you know, I’m married to an amazing chef.  So that means gourmet meals beautifully prepared on the table every single night, right?  Not so much.  The reality is that he is usually working and the dinner time dilemma is up to me.  Hate is such a strong word, but it is safe to say that I don’t enjoy cooking.  Dinner time at our house usually consists of whatever I can get on the table quickly that is simple to make and reasonably healthy.  Fast, easy, delicious, and healthy are my pre-requisites to anything that makes it to my dinner table.

Freezer Meals

Spaghetti Sauce Freezer MealI tiptoed into the world of freezer cooking a few years ago.  After my first big batch, I was hooked.  I love that I can make a bunch of meals all at once – especially on a day when my chef husband is home and can help me with all of the dicing, chopping, and prep work!  It is so easy to spend a few hours and put together a ton of delicious meals we can freeze and then heat or cook for dinner during the week.  This has fast, healthy, delicious and easy written all over it!  We did a huge batch of freezer meals just before my youngest child was born and it was one of the best things I did to prepare for a new baby!

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one of the links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission.  Doing so will not increase the cost of any purchase and does not influence my opinion.

Before You Start

We made two investments when we first started making freezer meals.  I have been so happy with both of them.  The first was a small deep freezer.  While this isn’t necessary and I successfully made freezer meals for a year before we bought one, having one has meant that we can really stock up on meals for each prep we do.  This was especially fantastic when I was stocking up before the birth of my youngest son.

The second investment we made was in one of these.  In my opinion, this item is a must and frankly, ours has paid for itself many times over.  Gallon freezer bags can work, however, they don’t truly seal out all of the air.  This means unfortunately, I have ended up having to throw out a meal or two that succumbed to freezer burn.  I couldn’t recommend one highly enough!  If you do get one, I also recommend stocking up on these bags.  They are so much less expensive than the ones you can buy in the store and last a really long time.

Spaghetti Saturdays

Enjoying the Delicious Freezer MealMy middle son has always had some texture issues when it has come to soft food.  So even though I have some awesome crockpot recipes, he is not usually a fan.  Not wanting to give up on the whole concept of freezer meals, I have adapted the recipes I cook.  Our recent favorites have become spaghetti sauce, lasagna, and baked manicotti.  The BEST part is that all three of these recipes use the same base sauce.

The first time I made this recipe, I started out making the sauce for a lasagna and ended up with some leftover sauce and decided to portion it and freeze it for spaghetti sauce.  It was a huge hit!  So much so that we’ve started having “Spaghetti Saturdays” in our house and it’s on our menu nearly every week.  We ran out of spaghetti sauce a few weeks ago, so this week I decided to make a double batch of the sauce and split it for spaghetti, lasagna, and manicotti.

25 Meals Ready to Be Enjoyed!

Freezer Meal PrepWith the double batch of sauce, we ended up making a grand total of 25 meals!  It was enough for 13 portions of spaghetti sauce (about 2 cups each), 8 pans of lasagna and 4 pans of manicotti.  I am so excited because that translates into 25 nights in which I will not need to stress about what I’m going to make for dinner.  There is no worry about having all of the ingredients I need in the pantry.  I don’t have to stress if I will have enough time (and sanity) to make it!  We typically shop at Target for pantry items and Sprouts Farmer’s market for good quality meats and produce.  With enough on our shopping list to make 25 freezer meals, the total came out to $87.61.  This breaks down to only $3.50 per meal!

 

Here is how I did it:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, I suppose I should mention that I did already give away 3 of these meals.  The truth is that they make awesome gifts to bless your friends with!  I brought one over to our neighbor that comes over once a week to watch my sleeping boys while I run to pick up my daughter from dance.  I gave one to each of my kid’s teachers in a basket I made for them for teacher appreciation week this year (they LOVED them!)  So to me, these were great reasons to share a few of my delicious meals.

Get the Recipes and Shopping List

Freezer MealLet me know if you would like the recipe for this awesome, versatile sauce.  Just enter your email below and I’ll email you the shopping list and recipe so you can make all of this delicious food for yourself!

I hope you are as excited about how fast, healthy, delicious and easy this recipe is and have enjoyed this post!  Be sure to stay connected to all of the great ideas from The Crafty Organized Mom by signing up for updates.  When you do, you’ll also grab a free copy of our Family Meeting Guide + Meeting Printable!

My Favorite Family Organization App

My Favorite Family Organization App

As a busy mom of three kiddos, anything that helps me stay organized and improve my efficiency is on my list of favorites.  If I can have all of that at my fingertips, all the better.  I have tried many apps over the years: calendar apps, to do list apps, menu planning apps, shopping list apps, apps that try to combine some combination of the above.  Time after time I tried them out and then ended up deleting them after being disappointed.  That was until I found Cozi.  This has quickly become my favorite family organization app!

CoziThis app is just too good not to share with you.  And best of all, their basic version (and trust me, it is far from basic) is FREE!  This app has become the virtual command center of my busy life.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one of the links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission.  Doing so will not increase the cost of any purchase and does not influence my opinion.

My top 5 Favorite Features

  1. Calendar
  2. Shopping Lists
  3. To Do Lists
  4. Meal Planner
  5. Recipe Box

There are certainly more than five features to be found in this great app, but I thought I would give you a virtual tour of my favorite features.  The best part is that each one of these is available in their free version!

Calendar

Over the past few years, I have really become accustomed to using the built-in calendar on my iPhone.  It has worked pretty well and a few of the recent upgrades, such as a reminder when to leave for my appointment based on traffic, make it helpful.  Even though I wanted an all in one app, I was a bit hesitant to give up my iCalendar.  However, Cozi makes it really easy.  I was able to sync my iCalendar to Cozi and all of my appointments I enter on my phone automatically sync over.  The best part is anything I color code to be tagged to a specific person on my phone comes into my Cozi calendar as coded to the correct person.  This allows me to keep the handy “it’s time to leave” reminder on my phone but keep all of my family’s scheduled loaded into the calendar.

So why on earth would I want to keep two separate calendars even if they automatically sync?  It’s simple, my kids are too young to carry around smart phones, however, I still want them to see the calendar and know what plans are.  Each week I print out the weekly calendar, share it at our family meeting (Check out my FREE family meeting guide + printable here) and place it on our command center on our fridge.  Once a month I print out the monthly calendar and post that in the command center as well.

Cozi Calendar View Screenshot

Shopping Lists

These alone have been so great for my husband and me.  Previous to this app, I would print a shopping list each week, write down our meal plan and then plan out our purchases from the two main stores we shop at.  Either my husband or I would do the shopping.  Sounds fine, right?  Well, when one of you has the shopping list but the other is doing the shopping: Fail.  When someone loses the list 1/2 way through the trip: Fail.  When the list doesn’t make it home and I can’t remember what the meal plan was for the week: Fail.  It was just never a great option for us.

Enter Cozi!  We have one shopping list for each of our two most frequently shopped at stores.  Either one of us can add items to the list at any time.  The new items automatically update across all devices.  I am able to organize the list so the list is laid out in order I will go through the store.  You are able to click to check-off each item as you go.

My husband normally does the shopping and he no longer has to wait for me to finish the list before heading out to the store.  He can leave and I can finish the list and have it ready for him by the time he gets to the store.  With the Gold (paid) version, there is even an option to send a notice that a new item has been added to the list.  This is great for those last minute additions.

Expert Tip: Quickly add items you realize you need as soon as you think of them so you won’t forget

NY - 2014 Banner

To Do Lists

This has been a lifesaver for me!  I love lists!  I feel like I’m always making lists.  The challenge is that sometimes I can’t remember where I left my great list that I made.  Or I’m out and about and want to add something to my list or remember what was on the list.  I have transitioned nearly all of my list making into Cozi.  In fact, one of my favorite lists is my planning list for this blog.  Whenever I get a great idea for a post, I jot it down on my list so I won’t forget.

My next favorite to-do list is my “Honey Do” list.  Yes, my husband has his own list.  Whenever I need him to take on a project or there is something around the house to be done, I will add it to his to-do list.  Now he knows exactly what I would like for him to work on just by going into the app.

Bonus: I have one more to-do list I want to share with you…  I created a to-do list for my freezer meal stock!  We have a deep freezer in our garage and this is the primary location for our freezer meals.  Now, instead of having to guess what we have or going out there to see when I’m meal planning for the week, I can just pop over to my to-do list and see exactly what’s in stock.

Cozi Freezer Meal Snapshot

Meal Planner

Remember when I mentioned that I kept trying different apps to try to find one that did what I wanted it to do?  I can’t tell you how many meal planning apps I’ve tried and deleted.  Meal planning can be a four-letter word in my house.  (Shh…please don’t tell anyone, but I won’t even let my kids as me “What’s for dinner?”)  Unless I have a plan, I want to cry when they ask.

Those of you that have read my bio or some of my previous posts, you know that I’m married to a chef.  An amazing chef!  A chef that cooks me amazing dinners…when he’s home.  Unfortunately, because I’m married to a chef, that is not most nights, and dinner prep is left to me.  Hence the abundant supply of freezer meals!  I have found that when I plan out our meals at the beginning of the week and we shop for everything we need, it relieves immeasurable amounts of stress.  I know exactly what we’ll have each night and know I have what I need to make it.  Quick and easily prepared meals make the list whenever possible.

The Cozi app has a great meal planner.  I typically only use it for dinner, but it has options to plan for Breakfast, Lunch, and snack too.  The best part is that it puts it on my calendar!!  So remember when I mentioned that I print the calendar on a weekly basis?  The menu is already printed on there for all to see.  Now whenever my kids want to know what’s for dinner, all they have to do is look at the calendar.  (Mommy meltdown averted!)

Recipe Box

I am so excited by this last tool for two main reasons.  The purpose of the recipe box is for you to explore recipes (Cozi has these all queued up for you!), add them to your recipe box and then get a prepared list of ingredients that you can very easily add to your shopping list.  Brilliant, huh?  That feature is pretty cool all on its own.  But you can also add recipes of your own.

We usually do “Taco Tuesday” in our house.  Obviously, I know the recipe for tacos, however, I’ve listed out each of the ingredients so I can just click a button and add them to my shopping list (over and over again nearly every week).  I have also done this for our freezer meal prep sessions.  I have found that one of the most daunting things about preparing for a freezer meal session is the recipe curation and shopping list planning.  Now, when I find a recipe we like, I add it to the recipe box and the next time we want to include it in a meal prep, all I have to do is add it to the shopping list and it pulls over all of the ingredients.

Power User Tip: I created a “recipe” for the items we buy at the store each week.  Now, rather than having to add them to my weekly shopping list, I just add the “recipe” shopping list and it pulls in all of the staples automatically.  This saves me time and effort when I’m trying to make sure I add all of the basics to our list each week.

Cozi Weekly Shopping Staples

Are you still here?  Have you downloaded the app yet?  Did I mention it’s FREE?  What are you waiting for?  I hope you will love my family organization app as much as I do!

 

Cozi

Back to School Organization

Back to School Organization

It seems like every summer gets shorter and shorter and back to school usually creeps up on me.  This summer did fly by but I’m happy to say after lots of work and organization projects, I feel like I am more prepared and organized than I have ever been for back to school.

Ready to get organized?  Let me guide you through project by project on what being ready for Back to School looks like in our house.


Kids Cubby


A few years ago I found myself getting frequently frustrated by supplies all over the place.  Backpacks in one place, shoes in another. Homework was lucky if it make it back in a backpack let alone back to school.  If it was a chilly morning the kids were usually late to school because they were searching for a jacket.  My husband manages the mornings with the kids and let’s me sleep in if I don’t have an early meeting (love him for this!).  But often the utter chaos that was going on in the morning rush would mean that I’d have to drag myself out of bed and help put out the fire dejour anyway.  Enough was enough.  I finally solved this with the kid’s cubby.  I gave up 1/2 of our hall closet and designated a shelf for each kid.  Because I don’t want to have to stoop down, the baby gets the top shelf.  Our daughter gets the middle and our older son gets the bottom.  I bought a plastic milk crate for the big kids for their shoes and the rest of the shelf space is for their backpack.

Kid’s Out Box & Weekly Schedule


With inspiration from over at Organizing Home Life, I also designed these cool pockets that have been designated as the kids “out boxes”.  If there are papers that need to go back to school that would require my attention/signature (think field trip permission slips), I will put them in their “outbox” and they are responsible for getting them into their backpacks on the way out.


Now I know what you’re thinking, why don’t I just give them to the kids and have them put them in their backpack? Well, often by the time I have a chance to sit down and process a paper or sign a form, the kids are already in bed.  Rather than leaving them on the kitchen table (where they are often forgotten), they have a designated place to be that gets checked as backpack get put on every morning.  I also posted a weekly schedule so the kid’s can take responsibility to ensure they have the right clothes and supplies they need every day.  Jazz shoes on Thursdays, guys shoes on Tuesdays, library books on Fridays, etc.

Mom’s Inbox


Ok so the kid’s have an outbox, Mom has an “inbox”.  Every day when the kids get home from school, they put their “lunch pails on the counter” (this has kind of become a mantra in our house) and before they put their backpacks and shoes in their cubby, they unload any papers that have come home and put them in Mom’s Inbox.  This could be graded papers, permission or information  papers, or for my son, homework papers to be completed.  Since my daughter gets assigned homework most nights, she removes all homework and needs books and stacks them on the table where we review what she needs to get done before heading off to the desk in her room to work on it independently.

I picked this hanging folder at Target for $4! And hung it on our fridge with Command Strips.  What a score!  You’ll notice that there are 5 pockets but I’ve only accounted for 2 so far.  I’m thinking of making a “dad’s folder” which is where I’ll put grades work I’ve seen before it gets stored away.  He’s often working evenings so doesn’t see it when I do.  It would be nice for him to have a folder to review.  Then I’ll have 2 more spaces.  Perhaps for each child’s teacher’s newsletter?  We will see what works best for us.

Finished Work Boxes


So we all know tons of graded papers and art projects come home with kids every year.  Like WAY TOO MANY!  And of course, my son wants me to save every single scrap of paper he touched.  I’ve taken to sneaking the extras into recycling because we literally have waterworks if he sees anything in the trash.  My strategy has been to get a 12×12 scrapbook paper storage box for each kid for each year (yeah, I know over time it gets to be a lot of boxes, but so far it’s what’s working).  I label each of them with their name and the year and all of their finished work, papers and art projects go into the boxes.  Once they are full, I start purging so any given year doesn’t have more than 1 box.  The boxes are really convenient on top of the fridge and have worked really well for us.

Mom’s Homework Box


The last element in my back to school organization plan is Mom’s Homework Box.  I’ve done this every year for the past few years and it has worked so well.  So why do the kids get to have all of the fun of new supplies at the beginning of the year?  And why on earth can they never find a pencil when it’s time for homework?  MHB solves for both of these.  I load up on one or two extras of all of the school supplies that are on huge sales during back to school and designate them as mine.  Then we use this box for homework time and everyone is easily able to find what they need.  Because it’s Mom’s box, they are responsible for keeping it clean and organized and returning everything when they are done.  This year I have: pencils, pens, markers, crayons, colored pencils, erasers, glue and a pencil sharpener.  It makes being ready for homework so much easier.

So there you have it.  A few strategies that took me a few years to get in place but are truly pretty simple that have really helped us be organized for back to school.

I hope you find my tips helpful!  What other Back to School Organization strategies do you use in your house?

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one of the links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission.  Doing so will not increase the cost of your purchase and does not influence my opinion.