I have to admit…my first year as an elementary school mom has me wiped out! All this running around…from the house to school drop off, then taking Munchkin #2 to dance class, and the gym, and all the errands, then school pick up, get home, straighten the house, let the kids play, then it’s time for homework…
Every day can really feel like a race from wake up to bedtime…and sometimes that race is more like a sprint than a marathon.
Often times, we put family dinner at the last priority of the day when we have so much to juggle as parents…work, school projects, doctors appointments. And it’s a tragedy, because numerous studies have shown that a key component to our kids’ success as adults can be found in simply sitting together consistently for mealtimes as a family.
But I’m not going to make believe that I have the time, energy, and patience to whip up a feast for the fam every night. Quite the opposite. And I know I’m not the only one whose husband may not make it home in time to eat dinner as a family. There’s also not a guarantee that my kids will eat what I serve them. For the sake of time and sanity, I won’t be ashamed to say that it could turn into a protein bar and a banana before heading off to soccer practice. Common sense tells me that’s probably a lot healthier than driving through a fast food joint express lane…which really only ends up at the Porta-potty, no matter how much we’d like to forget that one time…
It’s hard enough to make mom friends without being remembered as the mom who crapped a McRib at Wednesday night’s scrimage.
My answer to this conundrum?
No, I’m not talking about the Hungry Man dinners that you heat up in the microwave and eat on the tray while watching Wheel of Fortune. I’m talking about taking a couple of hours on a lazy Sunday and putting together some meals to put in the freezer and have on hand for those busy weeknights.
Here’s why we all need to seriously jump on the freezer meal bandwagon.
1.) You get to control the ingredients.
I can’t help but be a little freaked out about some of the things food manufacturers are allowed to put into the ingredients we consume on a regular basis. By preparing your own meals ahead of time, you get to control the recipes…just think about the dinners your family already likes to eat and go from there. Make a simple marinade by throwing some cooking oil and preferred seasonings into a bag with chicken breasts (my go to seasoning blends are always from Pampered Chef…check out the Pantry line through my website). You can decide whether or not to use organic ingredients or a more budget-friendly option. You get to choose the produce, rather than trusting where the green beans in the Hungry Man dinner came from. Freezer meals let you decide what will go on your dinner table and what ingredients those meals are made of.
2.) You can explore different tastes and recipes.
There are so many collections of freezer meals out there that it’s almost hard to pick and choose which ones you’d like to prepare. I prefer using a menu that’s already been created as opposed to my own (though from time to time, I’ll prep a bunch of the family favorites as a bonus!) This forces our family to step outside of our culinary comfort zones every once in a while, and that can’t hurt the delicate taste buds of Munchkin #1’s chicken nugget palette.
Don’t be afraid to test out a freezer meal menu simply because you’re apprehensive about unfamiliar ingredients. You never know! That meal could easily become a fast family favorite.
3.) It saves a ton of money at the grocery store.
To dive in and prepare 10 meals or so at one time requires some planning, and a very thorough trip to the grocery store. Knowing what meals you’re going to shop for ahead of time means you can check your pantry for the ingredients you may already have. What a great way to save a few dollars while using items that are otherwise taking up space in your kitchen!
Another way freezer meals save money is that the planning process lets you look for coupons of specific ingredients ahead of time. Be sure to check out apps like Ibotta and Target’s Cartwheel to see what stores already have discounts on items you may have on your list. Some may roll their eyes and think, “what’s one or two dollars for all that trouble?” but you’d be surprised. We have about $50 in a rainy day fund through using Ibotta on a regular basis. Not too shabby.
4.) You save yourself from random, impulse purchases.
Like many moms reading this, I look at my mom pouch with the tiger stripes I earned through successfully growing and birthing two human beings. While I’m definitely impressed and proud of who those humans are becoming, I’m less fond of the extra junk in the trunk that growing them left behind. One reason I love having freezer meals on hand is that I avoid the random trips to the store for one small thing, only to leave with a cart full of junk food and a belly full of chocolate-y regret.
When you’re not in the grocery store every few days, you’re not exposing yourself to the impulse purchase of the cupcakes at the register. If you want to sample decadence, find your good girlfriend with a Costco membership and treat yourselves to a kid free Friday night tasting.
5.) They save more time than you can possibly imagine.
Here’s how easy it is to make dinner:
Defrost meal one day ahead of time in fridge.
Place meal in crockpot on desired date of consumption.
Cook meal in slow cooker whilst going about your daily existence.
Enjoy meal with family at a decent hour.
And isn’t that the whole point? To get dinner on the table in a timely manner with as little effort as possible because you have so many better things to accomplish than slaving over a meal your Munchkins may or may not eat in the first place? And while I do joke about the kids not eating whatever it is that’s being served, one thing I don’t find humorous is the impact the regular, family meal can have on your family. It gives you a chance to disconnect from social media and text messages, share your triumphs and trials with the people who love you most in the world. In the grand scheme of things, there isn’t a Facebook post as heart-warming as the memories created during dinner time with your family.
Stay tuned for my favorite freezer meal experiments and the shenanigans that are sure to ensue! What are some of your favorite recipes? I’d love to test them out so please share!
Take my opinion for what it’s worth, but I’m a firm…