blog,  lifestyle

Eating Good on a Budget: 36 Freezer Meals for $300

This, my friends, is 36 freezer meals complete with veggie sides and sauces. Each meal serves about 6 and I spent $300. So that’s approx. $1.40 a serving and $8.40 per meal.

I needed to cut back on my grocery bill while also saving myself time in the kitchen. (Life is getting busy!)

So I designed this meal plan to make 36 freezer meals for $300. I probably could have done it cheaper if I had some of these ingredients already in my freezer, but alas. I had to start from scratch.

I went to Sams Club for these items and got some pretty great deals. I definitely recommend shopping at a bulk grocery outlet like Costco.

These meals are simple family meals I know will be eaten. They are definitely not allergy specific, but can probably be adjusted!

So I’ll start with listing the meals in this meal plan, then the shopping list, then the prep-work and end with how to store them. All the recipes will be doubled or quadrupled, depending on the list below.

Remember cooking in bulk requires some ingenuity to keep yourself at budget. For instance, you may find some veggies on sale you’d rather use than the ones listed or want to use thighs instead of chicken breast, or a cheaper cut of meat.

Some of this stuff you’ll have to feel with your soul. Sorry, that’s just how it is!

Enjoy!

This plan makes 36 meals (But if you make each recipe x2, that’s 30. We kinda just ended up with 36 because of how the cookie crumbled.)

Buffalo Chicken Rollups x4
Chicken Rollups x2
Ham and Cheese Rollups x2
Tatertot Casserole x2
Shepherd’s Pie x2
Sesame Chicken Casserole x2
Chicken and Rice Casserole x2
Beef Stroganoff x2
Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches x2
Marinated Dijon Pork Loin x4
Pork Tacos x4
Beef Stew x2
Chicken Parm x2
Beef Fajitas x2
Chuck roast x2 
Green beans x4
Carrots x4
Mushrooms and onions x2 (For these veggie sides, I used what was leftover and what I saw on sale)

I organized my shopping list into the sections they appear in at my grocery store. That way I was focused while shopping:

Shopping List:
Go “shopping” in your pantry or fridge/freezer. You may already have some of this!

Meat

12lbs of Chicken Breast
8lbs of Chuck Roast
4lbs of Ground Chuck
4lbs of Pork Loin
4lbs of Stew Meat (We bought a London Broil and cut it up)
1lb of Deli Ham

Produce

2 Bell Peppers
2 Limes
6 Idaho Potatoes
8 Red Potatoes (We ended up just buying a big bag of golden potatoes for both, cheaper)
5 Onions (We bought a bulk bag)
2 cups of mushrooms (We bought in bulk)
1 Bag of carrots
Garlic (Fresh is better, but if you want a jar of minced that’s fine.)
(Buy whatever veggies are on sale to make about 10 sides of veggies)

Canned goods

10 Cream of Mushroom
3 Cream of Chicken
2 8oz of Tomato Sauce
2 Jars of Marinara
2 Mixed Veggies
2 Golden Mushroom
2 Beef Stock

Breads/Pasta/Rice

1 Large Box of Minute White Rice (We bought 72 oz, a little excessive, but great deal)
8 packs of Crescent roll dough
1 pack of tortillas
2 16oz egg noodles
1 box of Italian breadcrumbs
8-12 pack of bread rolls (These are for the buffalo chicken sandwiches)

Frozen

6 1lb bags of peas and carrots (we went with mixed veggies, cheaper deal)
2 packs of frozen green peas (we did mixed veggies here, too. It was like an 8lb back of mixed veggies, so we did it to cut costs)
1 large bag of tater tots

Dry / Condiments / Seasonings

1 Honey
2 packs of 12 oz buffalo sauce
3 packs of onion soup mix
Olive oil
1 box of Ritz Crackers
A pack of your fave pasta (optional)
4 packs of ranch mix
Poppy Seeds (Not a ton)
Garlic Salt
Italian seasoning
Chili Powder
Cumin
Paprika
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
Salt and Pepper
Dijon Honey Mustard
Soy Sauce
Worcestershire 
Blue cheese or ranch dressing (optional)

Cheese / Dairy

32 slices of cheddar cheese
3 cups of Mozarella
1 bag/container of Parmesan (can be shredded or granular)
6 8oz packs of cream cheese
1 huge bag of Cheddar Cheese
1 half gallon of milk
4 sticks of butter
4 cups of sour cream

Paper goods

A big pack of gallon ziplock freezer bags (must contain at least 30)
A pack of quart ziplock freezer bags
Permanent Marker (For labeling bags)

Prep-work

You absolutely do NOT want to make one meal at a time. You want to prep all of your fresh veggies and meats so all you have to do is start assembling your meals when the time comes. These meals are not fully cooked, but will be ready to throw in the crockpot or oven!

I recommend this to be a weekend project (It won’t take the full two days) Do your shopping and then cook the meat for one day (this allows time for the marinade and slow cooking) and then the next day cut the veggies and throw everything into freezer bags. This takes approx. 6-8hrs total with two people shopping and cooking.

Chicken Breast

Let’s start with the chicken breast. Approximately 3/4 of the Chicken breast will be shredded. The other you will want to grill or panfry to your liking.

Easiest way to shred the chicken: Season it the way you like it. (I’m a southerner, so Lawry’s is life. However, salt and pepper is fine. Remember, this will be IN recipes.) Put the chicken in a crockpot on low for 6-8 hours, it will shred like butter!) Set grilled/panfried chicken and shredded chicken aside. You’ll want to chop up the grilled/panfried chicken into cubes.

Chuck Roast

Your 8lbs of chuck roast should be split into 2lb sections. Season with salt and pepper of however you like. Sear the outside of each section in a pan, this will keep the roast tender and juicy when it’s in the crockpot. Set aside.

Ground Beef

Just season and cook it like you normally do in a pan. Add some onions if you’re feeling frisky.

Pork Loin

Marinade for 6 hours in the fridge with this marinade (or your fave). You have these ingredients in your shopping list.

Stew Meat

Season how you’d like and pan sear them. Don’t cook all the way, just enough to seal in the juice.

Onions

All the onions you need for the recipes can just be roughly chopped. All I did was cut the onion in half and the four cuts down the side.

Carrots

Peel and chop into circles. If you have any leftovers, you can freeze them to use for one of your veggie sides.

Bell Peppers

Cut into strips

Potatoes

You want to cube about six potatoes for the stew and peel about 10 potatoes for the mashed potatoes. Make the mashed potatoes the way you like. (This is for the Shepherd’s Pie.) If you don’t know how to make mashed potatoes, there are plenty of recipes!

Limes

Cut into fours.

Mushrooms

Roughly chop.

Gallon Bags and Permanent Marker

Label your bags for each recipe. I used quart bags for rollups. I’ve made these recipes so many times, I didn’t need to label the cooking instructions on the bag. But put whatever pertinent information on there that you need.

For the pork tacos and tenderloin. There are two ways to do this. We decided to freeze each pork loin individually. The first night, we’ll cook the pork loin as normal, then chop up the leftover pork, and use the chopped pork for our pork tacos! OR you can split up the pork loin into 8 pieces and put into 8 bags to cook them separately.

Time to put in your ingredients for each meal! Most meals are complete in themselves, but some (like tacos, fajitas, and buffalo chicken) will need some extra condiments to make them extra yum.

Once the bag is ready to freeze, you’ll want to lay it flat so it will stack in the freezer easily.

Here are the pics for how it’s done:

Here are the recipes! Some you may need to click the links:

Poppy Seed Chicken

For this one, crackers and butter will be added when you’re ready to actually cook it. 🙂 I serve this on top of white rice and added 12 oz of frozen veggies to the mixture.

Buffalo Chicken Rollups w/ veggies

8oz of cream cheese softened

1 pack of ranch dressing mix

1/3 cup of your favorite wing sauce (I like hot)

Approx 2 cups of shredded chicken (Can be canned, but I made it myself since I did it in bulk.)

Approx 2 cups of cheddar cheese

1 pack of 8 count large crescent roll dough

You literally mix everything together and freeze it, except the crescent roll dough. Taste the mixture. You may want to add more wing sauce depending on how hot you like it. You freeze only the mixture and then roll up the defrosted mix into the crescent rolls! Add about 5 minutes to cook time onto cooking instructions for the crescent rolls. Since they’re stuffed, it takes a bit longer for the crescents to cook.

I serve these with some sort of veggies.

Chicken Rollups

8oz of cream cheese softened

1 pack of onion mix

Approx 2 cups of shredded chicken

1 pack of 8 count large crescent roll dough

Mix everything together and freeze it, except the crescent roll dough. You freeze only the mixture and then roll up the defrosted mix into the crescent rolls! Add about 5-10 minutes to cook time onto cooking instructions for the crescent rolls. Since they’re stuffed, it takes a bit longer for the crescents to cook.

I serve these with some sort of veggies.

Ham and Cheese Rollups

This will make 16 small sandwiches or 8 large ones.

Preheat your over to what it says on the crescent rolls. This will take two containers of the dough. You take one slice of shredded cheese and some ham and roll it up into the crescent rolls.

Try to make the crescent rolls cover ALL of the cheese and ham … or the cheese will bust out. I made 8 large sandwiches myself, it just made the most sense to me. I’d cook these for about 25 minutes at 375. Wait to cool, freeze in the large ziplocks.

These are great to microwave for a quick lunch, or to throw in the oven for a simple dinner! Add some of that dijon honey mustard to the top when you’re ready to eat. YUM.

I serve these with some sort of veggies.

Tatertot Casserole

1lb ground chuck (add some onions if you want!)
1 can of cream of mushroom
1 can of mixed veggies

Mix this together to freeze.

When you’re ready to eat, defrost the mixture and preheat the oven to 375. Pour mixture into casserole dish. Cover with a layer of cheddar cheese and tater tots. (The cheesier the better, in my opinion!) Cook for 30-40 minutes. Basically until tater tots are crispy and mixture is hot.

Chicken and Rice Casserole

*makes two meals serving 4-6 adults per meal
10 cups cooked rice
4 cups cooked, shredded, chicken
4 cups frozen vegetables
4 cans cream of mushroom soup
4 cups cheese

You can absolutely freeze this with the cooked rice. I just decided to cook the rice when I’m ready for this meal. I froze the rest.

When ready to cook: Preheat the oven to 375 and cook for 25-30 minutes until it’s hot.

Layer rice on bottom of casserole dish. (If you did it like I did it.) Pour mix on top. Top with cheese if you’re feeling it!

Beef Stroganoff

This will go in your crockpot for 4-6 hours when defrosted.
1 lb beef stew meat
1 large onion
1 tsp garlic salt
1 cup milk
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
4 Tbs Worcestershire  Sauce
8 ounces cream cheese
1 16 ounce package egg noodles
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup fresh mushrooms

Pork Loin/Tacos

*Read instructions under “prep” for marinade. Then you bag it up. That’s it! For pork loin, serve with veggies and rice. For tacos, you’ll have your taco shells, but may want some guac and shredded cabbage and cheese. Our secret sauce is mixing mayo and siracha, yum!

Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches

I went ahead and froze the buns, that way they’ll stay good until I need them. Or you can just buy fresh when you’re ready!

1 (12 ounce) jar Franks Red Hot Buffalo Sauce
2 Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Mix
4-6 cups of the shredded chicken
2 T butter
8 ranch type rolls
8 slices cheddar cheese
Blue Cheese or Ranch Dressing

Shredded Lettuce or chopped celery

You literally just have to heat this up and serve!

Beef Stew
1 pound beef stew cubes
4 carrots, sliced
4 red potatoes, cut into large cubes
1 package dry onion soup mix
2 cans 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (10 oz) package frozen green peas
Directions:
Place all ingredients in ziplock. Mix together and zip bag closed. When ready to eat, remove from freezer and thaw in fridge for 24 hours. Cook on LOW for 7-10 hours (or HIGH for 5-6 hours).

Chicken Parmesan

1.5 lb. cooked chicken- diced
1 jar (28 ounces) of marinara sauce
1 ¾ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 ½ -2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup Italian bread crumbs (This goes on top when you’re ready to cook)
Italian seasoned salt-to taste

When ready to cook: Defrost. Preheat the oven to 375. Pour into slightly greased casserole dish, top with breadcrumbs. Cook for 25-30 minutes. It’s good the way it is, but you can serve with any kind of pasta you prefer!

Beef Fajitas

2-lb boneless beef chuck shoulder roast, fat trimmed
2 bell peppers, sliced (I used red because they were on sale)
1 small onion, peeled and sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon honey
The juice from 1 lime OR 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  1. Cook on “low” setting for 8 hours or until beef shreds easily with a fork.
  2. Serve with tortillas or rice and top with guacamole, salsa, and shredded cheese.

Chuck Roast

Family recipe and super easy!

Bag 2lbs of Chuck Roast. When ready to cook, defrost. Put in crockpot for 8 hrs on low. Add can of golden mushroom for gravy. Serve with rice or potatoes, and veggies!

Shepherd’s pie

This is one of my original recipes and a family favorite.

1lb of ground beef
1 12-16oz bag of mixed veggies
Mashed Potatoes

Freeze this mix.

When ready to cook, defrost. Preheat oven to 375. Pour mixture into slightly greased casserole bowl (9×9). Lightly drizzle beef stock over mix. (This keeps it from being dry after cooking). Layer sliced cheese on top (I like Kraft for this. Not the healthiest, but it melts into the beef stock and makes a creamy sauce. mmmmmm). Sometimes I like to do one layer of mix, cheese, more mix, cheese.

Take crescent roll dough off in a single sheet. Layer this sheet on stop of casserole. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.

Veggie Servings

I cut the leftover carrots into quarters. Great for roast them later!

Green beans were on sale at Sams, so I bagged those into quart bags.

I took the leftover mushrooms and onions and made veggies bags for those.

I took leftover peppers and bagged those for a veggies side.

Leftover potatoes I’ll use for side dishes.

The key here is to let none of your food go to waste. Get creative!

Ending Thoughts

This is so worth the time it takes to prep. This makes so much food, and oftentimes there are so many leftovers we have lunch and dinner for 4-6 weeks covered!

I did this as a gift for my sister when she had my niece. It’s great to have these in your freezer for meals when a loved one is sick, or a family is grieving a family member. So many options.

Let me know how this experience goes for you!




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