For me, cooking has always been more enjoyable as a team sport. I don’t necessarily want or need someone actively participating with me in the cooking itself. When they’re belly up to the island noshing on a pre-dinner snack telling me about their days or singing to the music (yes, there is always music!) I am in my element. Over the years, our kitchen is where we shared stories and laughter and worked through some tough stuff too. Memories of dancing with my boys, trying new recipes, teaching our dog tricks, cleaning up endless spills, and even some pretty heated conversations largely took place in that room. Through the good and sometimes the not so good, the kitchen remains my favorite place in our house. It seems like a lifetime ago that our calendar was filled with soccer and football practices, band concerts, conferences, confirmation, and other kid activities that consumed our schedule. While I loved my kitchen, figuring out what to feed my family during those busy years was sometimes more frustrating than not having the time to make it!
This past fall, as I neared the end of my surrogacy pregnancy, I knew that meal prep and cooking would not be a priority even without an infant to care for. For that reason, in the last weeks before delivery, I looked deep into my archives and uncovered the recipes and shopping lists that I used many years ago for freezer meals. These can be popped into the crockpot in the morning, and be ready – or nearly ready – when meal time comes.
Currently, many of us are simply over the very idea of meal time. We’re in our houses all the hours of the day. While food is essential, and food can be comfort, it can feel daunting to constantly feed our families. One afternoon of prep can be a week of meals in the freezer! Better yet, double them up for more meal prep freedom during your week!
To help ease some meal time woes, here are some of the recipes I used for my family of 4 (including 2 growing boys) way back then. Occasionally we had leftovers. This fall when I uncovered them again, I tweaked them a bit from their original recipes, as with just about anything I’ve ever made, recipes are more about inspiration than precision, so follow these exactly, or modify them to your preferences! To make life even easier, I’ve also included the shopping list that contains all the ingredients for the recipes.
Hawaiian Chicken Sandwiches
- 4-6 chicken breasts
- 1/3 cup coconut sugar (white sugar can be used)
- 1/2 cup vinegar
- 3-4 garlic cloves
- 4T coconut aminos (soy sauce is a substitute)
- 1 can pineapple chunks with the juice
- 2 red bell peppers sliced into strips
- 1 red onion sliced into strips
- Divide all contents evenly into two freezer bags; one bag will not hold all ingredients effectively.
- When time, combine bags in crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
- Shred chicken (electric hand beater works beautifully)
- Serve chicken topped with peppers and onions and melted provolone cheese on a bun or lettuce wrap.
- The pineapple and juice are great to eat on rice or cauliflower rice.
Beef Burritos (4-6 servings)
- 1 London Broil or top round roast (about 2 lbs)
- 1 diced onion
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons whole peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 (8 oz) cans tomato sauce
- 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce – or use 1 can
- 1 ½ teaspoon chili powder (you can adjust this according to your taste)
- Add all the above ingredients to a freezer bag.
- Place the contents into the crockpot or slow cooker and cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 6-7 hours.
- When the meat is cooked, remove it from the crock and leave the juice. (remove peppercorns)
- Shred the meat and add back to the juice in the slow cooker for about 30 minutes.
- Serve on tortilla shells with all your favorite burrito fixings; lettuce, tomato, avocado, salsa, cheese etc
Teriyaki Pork Chops (4 servings)
- 6 pork chops, about 1-inch thick (salt and pepper to taste -you can sprinkle them before you add them to the bag.)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/3 cup coconut aminos or soy sauce
- 3/4 cup bone broth
- Add all the above ingredients to a freezer bag.
- Place the contents into the crockpot or slow cooker and cook on high for 4-5 hours or 6-7 on low.
- Side suggestions; baked brussel sprouts or asparagus, riced cauliflower, or mashed potatoes.
Savory Pepper Steak
- 3 pounds of round steak cut into ½ inch thick strips.
- ½ cup flour
- 1 tsp of salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 large onion chopped
- a few garlic cloves—I like to put 4-5 crushed into each bag
- 1 green pepper sliced
- 1 red pepper sliced
- 2 16oz cans of tomatoes
- 1/4 cup bone broth
- 4 tsp of Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp of steak seasoning
- 2 tbsp of steak sauce
- Toss the strips in the mixture of flour, salt, and pepper.
- Mix together broth, Worcestershire sauce, and steak sauce and divide evenly into two freezer bags. (not all contents will fit well in one bag)
- Add remaining ingredients between both bags.
- Cook on low for 8 hours.
Last but certainly not least, my very favorite. This is my go-to when I bring a meal to a family who has recently welcomed a baby, suffered a loss, moved to a new home, or just because. My husband and boys love it, and honestly because of their fondness for it, it is one that is likely made with the most love. And any food made with love just simply tastes better. This one is usually saved for colder months because of its comfort food factor, but if I’m doing a post with recipes, I can’t not share it!
Chicken Pot Pie
- 4 cups cooked shredded or cubed chicken
- 2 cups diced potatoes
- 1 ¾ cup sliced carrots
- 1 ¾ cup sliced celery
- ⅔ diced onion
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 ¾ tsp salt
- ¾ tsp pepper
- 3 cups chicken stock or bone broth
- 1 ½ cups milk
- Frozen peas
- Frozen corn (I don’t use this)
- Pie crust top and bottom
- Preheat oven 425. Cover potatoes, carrots, and celery with water and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook for 8-10 minutes. Drain.
- In a large skillet, heat butter over medium heat. Add onion, cook and stir until tender. Stir in flour and seasonings until blended. Gradually stir in broth and milk. Bring to a boil stirring constantly until thickened. Stir in chicken, peas, potatoes and carrots, remove from heat.
- Line pie plate with pie crust, add mixture. Top with crust and cut slits on top.
- Bake 35-40 minutes until lightly browned. If choosing to freeze instead of bake, cover the entire plate with foil and freeze. When time to bake, defrost in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight and then follow baking instructions.
Ok…here’s the deal with this one. This will over flow from the entire content of the recipe in the pie crust, but I still make full batches. The extra filling can either make a second pie or added bone broth and seasonings to the filling will create the perfect soup. OR, if you’re like my family, the filling can be eaten on its own! Ensure there’s a baking sheet underneath when baking this because it will likely spill out.
3 lbs round steak
8-10 chicken breasts
6 pork chops
2 lbs London broil or round roast
4 red onion
3 red bell peppers
1 green bell pepper
bag of potatoes (I prefer golden or red)
1 chipotle pepper **(or canned)**
frozen corn (if you want)
ready made or home made pie crusts – top and bottom
salt and pepper (including whole peppercorns)
coconut sugar (or white)
beef bone broth (or stock)
chicken bone broth (or stock)
apple cider vinegar
2 16oz cans of tomatoes
2 8oz cans of tomato sauce
1 can chili peppers **if not using fresh**
1 can pineapple chunks
Optional- buns for hawaiian sandwiches, provolone cheese, freezer bags, cauliflower or rice, potatoes, asparagus, brussel sprouts etc.