Freezer meals, Costco trip, and pantry challenge (final update for January, 2012)

I've really focused on stocking my freezer with homemade freezer meals during the month of January, and our freezer is pretty packed! I organized everything yesterday and took this picture of the meals I've made this month. These were all meals that I made for dinner, but made a double or triple batch and froze all the extra (mostly unbaked).

January's freezer meals

Casseroles are on the left, then breakfast burritos and chicken egg rolls, and a stack of homemade granola bars. These meals will probably be served with frozen veggies and canned or fresh fruit. (The meals pictured are recipes from my master plan list a few weeks ago.)

Freezer meals stacked in the freezer

I stacked all the 8x8-inch casseroles in the freezer with the labeled edge up, so I can select easily. (See this post for more info about how I package/freeze my casseroles.)

Having a chest freezer sure is handy, especially as our family grows. We've had our chest freezer for a year now, and I'm wondering how I managed with just a small apartment-fridge-top freezer! I know I did, but wow... I don't think the kids ate as much 3 1/2 years ago as they do now. :)

Groceries from Costco

Joshua made a trip to Costco last week, right before his surgery. He won't be able to lift anything for a couple months so he told me we were going to buy a LOT of groceries so I didn't have to make as many trips by myself with the kids. :)

I don't have time to do a price list for this shopping trip, but pictured above are grapes (Ruth's birthday request), butter ($2/lb.), sweet potato fries (using coupon -- $4.49/4lbs.), ground beef, and ground turkey.

Groceries from Costco

And more: clementines (another birthday request), spinach (this kept well in the cold garage; used in lasagna, spinach rice casserole, and quiche for the freezer), milk, eggs, oil (we were out!!), and some baking supplies.

Also, but not pictured (it was a crazy day!), we got a rotisserie chicken for $4.99 which we ate for lunch along with some homemade potato wedges and cooked veggies. Ruth turned the chicken upside down on the way to the kitchen so the floor ended up getting mopped that day too. ;)

AND, we bought disposable diapers and wipes (using coupons) with some Costco gift card money that was given to our family. I got diapers in Moshe's size, but haven't opened them yet. They're in case the babysitter(s) want to use them (while I am at the hospital with Joshua in February), or for me to use after the new baby is born (in March). I cringe spending the money on something that will get thrown in the trash, but I know I will really appreciate the convenience when the time comes. :D

Ruth's birthday cake

This is the cake Joshua made for Ruth's birthday! She wanted chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and hearts on top. I was glad Joshua had fun spending the time making the triple-layer cake and getting it just perfect. ;)

Moshe's birthday

I was more than happy to just make a simple carrot cake for Moshe's birthday (same day as Ruth's). :) One bowl, one pan, and so quick to mix up. ;) We had a lovely birthday lunch at home for Ruth and Moshe on their birthday.

Pantry Challenge

For our family, January's pantry challenge was a continuation of fewer shopping trips (2 for the month), getting my freezers organized (yay!), and starting to make and store some freezer meals.

We stuck to just 2 shopping trips, the freezers are pretty organized (and I know exactly what's in there), and I'm feeling more ready for the challenges ahead now that I've got most of my freezer meals made! :)

Be sure to visit the other bloggers who chronicled their January pantry challenges:

Balancing Beauty and Bedlam
The Finer Things in Life
Getting Freedom from Debt
Good Cheap Eats

Coming tomorrow: A family photo/update post, and I'll answer all your questions from this post about budgeting! :)


After our major power outage following the April tornadoes last year, I'm trying not to stockpile too much in the freezer. I like the idea of these freezer meals and I do that sometimes when I make soup or casseroles but not too many. Last April, I managed to use most of the food from the freezer which thawed before it went bad but it would have been hard if there had been more. Frozen food in a chest freezer would last longer without power, especially that near the bottom but I don't have one any longer.
Mama Bear

That's rough!!! We have only lost power due to ice storms, and I've never had to worry about frozen stuff because I figure we could always move it outside with ice in a pinch. We do have a small chest freezer now too, I wonder how that'd do without power. Hmm.

You've done so well to prepare yourself for the many challenges coming your way! Incredible. Way to go!


Yum! I'm definitely going to try that method of freezing the casseroles with saran wrap/wax paper. I buy the disposables when I gift someone with a meal, so they don't have to return a dish, but I rarely freeze casseroles for us so I don't lose one of my pans to the freezer for a while. : )

Is the egg roll recipe on your blog, or would you share? I would love to be able to make those!

Thanks always for sharing your strategies. : )

I don't have the egg roll recipe posted online; I need to finish taking pictures of them (I don't have any photos of the finished egg rolls!). :) I'm sure I'll post the recipe eventually, though! :)

I also was excited to see you might have an egg roll recipe. I searched all over but I'll just look forward to it in the future. :) We can always just imagine what they look like. I am so glad I found your recipe site. I bet at least a third of our favorites come from your site and I try lots of new things. Thanks again.

Alicia B in MO

I noticed the vaccumed sealed bags in your freezer. I also have a food saver and I LOVE it, but I find the bags to be pricey and felt guilty about throwing them away.... I now wash and re-use them repeatedly!! I write on the edge just like you do so when I cut them open to use nothing is written on the useful part of the bag. I have been doing this for more then a year now and find the bags work fine used repeatedly. I was wondering if you did the same thing?
Tamara in NH

Tamara, yes! I definitely re-use my FoodSaver bags, because they are really expensive. I bought my last box at Costco with a coupon, but it was still expensive! It's worth it to me that we *love* our freezer meals/food, though, and don't have to "endure" them. ;)

Even better than washing the Food Saver bags: if I've just frozen a casserole and then vacuum-sealed it, the FoodSaver bag doesn't get very dirty at all (since the food is already frozen when it goes in). When I take the food out, still frozen, and put it into a baking dish, I put the empty nearly-clean FoodSaver bag back in the freezer without washing it, to save it for later use.

This seems to put even less wear on the bags than washing them... and makes me a lot more comfortable with the amount of bag it takes to FoodSave a casserole. ;)

Hi Tammy,
Nice to join your blog s a few years ago, you're a marvelous lady with so many kids and you still active in your blog, teach us to cook, pack all the meals before your baby arrives !!
I love to see your family photos, the lovely kids and your good husband. What a woman wants is a good and understanding husband. Always there when you needed him !!
You gave us lots of ideas of cooking,now packing of frozen meals that everyone needs this, especial those stays in overseas where maids are hard to find and expensive !!
By the way, I'm from Penang, Malaysia. I have an International family as my 2nd sister in Germany, youngest sister in New Yoke, brother in Toronto, daughter in Paris, grandson in UK !!
May be you may wonder why they went to stay in overseas, well, as Malaysia Government is not fair to the Chinese, our great grandfather came from China and they stayed here since.
I noticed that you used vacuum packing of frozen meals, it is really keeps all the freshness in them.
Keep up the good job and May God Bless you and your family !!

Thanks for your sweet comment! :)

I am a bit late in posting to this 2/12 post but I just discovered your blog
I have a food saver and could not live without it! It is in constant use
I also wash and reuse the bags for as many times as I can get them to reach the vac trough,
Sometimes I use a mild bleach and water rinse on certain bags,ie. chicken etc
I have done a lot of comparisons on bag prices and have now been using bags from the Sweet Attack. They have the best price/product I have found so far. ( I am simply a consumer, not connected to the company in any way)

Hi...was glad to check out the site you listed above....seems like I will be ordering some bags from there soon!

I wish I had seen this post 5 weeks ago....I put up creamed corn, squash, beans, okra, tomatoes, peppers, and lots of other veggies from our garden.

I get so tired of having to cut each bag first! I can't wait to try those precut bags!

Tammy, you did an awesome job! Look at all those meals!!!!!!!!! I may try this in Feb. I know I will set aside a time in late March early April for making several meals for the freezer to prepare for our baby coming in April. We had a chest freezer for 4 years then sold it and bought an up-right freezer. Oh, I love it so much more. I hated digging in the chest freezer for what I was looking for. I love how your is organized though. I think I need to go through mine before we go to Costco tomorrow and straighten it up. I will keep you guys in my prayers. I haven't gone shopping with 4 but I regularly take my 3 (2,3,&4) with me when I go. In fact we just got back from Whole Foods. I find making a list and organizing it by ailse or item (dairy, produce, etc.) really helps me to get in and out and not forget anything.


I'm sure an upright freezer is handy! I keep a lot of my frozen food in boxes so it's easy to access in the chest freezer. (Like, a box packed tightly with all 1 kind of fish...) :) And it helps that our chest freezer isn't TOO big! :D

would you post recipe for chicken egg rolls

I will, when I finish taking pictures of them! :)

One thing that I have found that is really great about having a well stocked pantry and Freezer is being able to help the kids with groceries. One of our daughters has a really large family. For the past several months, they have had a decrease in income. I am so glad that we were able to help them out with food! With 7 children there most of the week, every week, it takes a lot to feed them. And there are 4 growing boys. And 3 teens or almost teen girls.

Life is good when you are frugal!

Pamela, I love seeing all of your shopping and freezer stocking. So impressed of all the work. I hope your hubbies surgery goes smoothly.

Pamela, I love seeing all of your shopping and freezer stocking. So impressed of all the work. I hope your hubbies surgery goes smoothly.

I went to the link for the carrot cake recipe and had a question but couldn't find a way to ask it on the recipe page itself. The recipe as is calls for 1 TABLESPOON of vanilla. Is that correct? Thanks, Glenda

Hi Glenda,

Yes, that is correct -- but I'm sure you could use less if you wanted to. :)

That is a lot of meals!!!

I'm curious as to how you keep your chest freezer organized. I've been trying to stretch my grocery trips to once every 12-14 days, and I'm happy with it so far, but my freezer is a wreck! I have a running list of its contents so I know what's in there, but with so many oddly-shaped foods in it (bags of bread, jars of broth, bags of veggies, etc), it just ends up being a huge jumble of stuff. Then I get annoyed when I have to dig through everything to find what I need.
Any advice?

i've just started to stock cooked meal in the freezer.. now i got ideas thanks to you....

Great job on the freezer meals & organizing the freezer chest.

What is in the large white jugs? It looks like the other larger jugs are canola oil.

I'm wondering what types of oils you use, in baking/cooking/etc.?

a friend told me some can cause inflammation. There always seems to be something causing an allergy...needing to find the balance between healthy products & what we can afford.

We just bought a chest freezer off my sister.
I am really looking forward to filling it up with freezer meals....but

I have a lot of trouble with FREEZER BURN!

How to you wrap your food to keep it safe?

Could you possibly send the answer to

Thanks so much


In the link above she mentions she uses a foodsaver

I'm new to the freezer meals & I am wondering when I cook my meat & seperate it into bags, when I get ready to use it, say for spaghetti, what do I do when I get it out of the freezer? I know this is probably a crazy question but I am a new wife & mother and I am just lost on alot of the simple things.

Take the meat out of the freezer the night before if you can think about it; let it thaw overnight in the fridge. (If you forgot to take it out the day a little tap water into your sink, and let the meat float around in it for 15-30 minutes. That should be long enough to defrost the meat to cook with it.) Next day...begin what ever recipe you are making at the point where you have browned the ground meat in a skillet and you are fixing to add the sauce or spices. Then finish cooking the recipe as normal. If the sauce needs to simmer for a little while to reduce it a bit, you might want to do that too before you add the ground meat. (I don't care for ground meat that has been cooked too long.) Since the ground meat is already dinner can be ready very fast!

I like to freeze pot roasts too....already cooked with just onion and garlic. Freeze them in food saver bags. Do the same thing about getting them out the night before and letting them defrost in the fridge. Then, you can do one of several things....get a big pot of boiling water going and put the unopened sealed bag in the hot water and boil for 10 or 15 minutes, or...take your crock pot and fill it with hot tap water, then turn it on high, and place the sealed meat packet in for a couple of hours. You can also heat the meat up in the oven while you roast some veggies on a sheet pan to go with it....just take the meat out of the bag and place into a glass dish that has a lid. I don't have a microwave any more, but you can re-heat the meat in that too...on about 20-30% power...but be careful not to over cook the meat and make it tough and dry.

To save washing some dishes, I sometimes drop the roasts into the pot that I am boiling pasta, potatoes or rutabagas in.

One more very careful when you open a sealed bag that you have reheated something in because the steam comes out in one place and can get you!

I have done roasted chickens too....very good for chicken and dressing.

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

User login

Subscribe for free recipes, menu plans, and kitchen tips!