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Freezer Cooking Day: My No-Casserole 2-hour Plan (and come link up yours, too!)

With summer upon us and grilling and salad season in full force, I challenged myself to create a menu plan for Freezer Cooking Day which include zero casseroles. I also am short on time this weekend and ended up with only a 2-hour time slot with which to cook.

::The No-Casserole, Two-Hour Freezer Cooking Day Recipe List::

–Barbecued Beef x 4 (recipe coming)

Southwest Roll-ups x 4

Marinated Chicken x 3

Frozen Fruit Cups

–Whole-Wheat Chocolate Chip Pancakes (recipe coming)

–Cooked bacon for BLT sandwiches and salads (enough for 3 meals)

–Cooked and chopped chicken for Homemade Pizza and Chicken Pasta Salad (enough for 4 meals — 2 of each)

And here’s my plan — maybe a little ambitious to accomplish in two hours. But it seems doable on paper, at least!

::The No-Casserole, Two-Hour Master Freezer Cooking Day Plan::

–Set out meat and milk from freezer tonight (to thaw).

–Start beef in crock pot (5 minutes)

–Grind flour (5 minutes)

–Cook bacon and chicken (5 minutes)

–Make chocolate chip pancakes batter (5 minutes)

–While pancakes are cooking, clean up kitchen (10 minutes)

–Continue cooking pancakes and mix chicken and marinade in freezer bags (5 minutes)

–Make fruit cups (15 minutes)

–Chop chicken (10 minutes)

–Make Southwest roll-ups (10 minutes)

–Bag everything and put in freezer (10 minutes)

–Clean up kitchen (20 minutes)

If all goes exactly according to plan, I’ll have 18 meals (or parts of meals) in the freezer, plus fruit cups and pancakes. Stay tuned on Monday for the full report including pictures and recipes.

Are you participating in the May Freezer Cooking Day Event? If so, post about your cooking plan on your blog and then come back here and leave your direct link below so we can all be inspired! Please note: links which do not link directly to your freezer cooking post or which do not contain your freezer cooking plan will be deleted.

Is Freezer Cooking Really Worth It?

Over the past few years as I’ve shared my Freezer Cooking Day adventures with you, a number of you have written and asked, “Is it really worth the effort?”

Well, you’re right that it’s effort. Having a Freezer Cooking Day is hard work. It takes thought, planning and sweat to pull it off.

But I have definitely found it to be every bit worth it. In fact, it’s hard for me to imagine life without pre-made meals in my freezer!

As many have stated before, Freezer Cooking definitely saves you time and money. But here are three other specific reasons I love Freezer Cooking:

1. I only have to do dishes once a month.

Okay, well, I wash plates, bowls, cups and utensils, but my kitchen only becomes massively messy once a month. Do you know how nice that is?

When I have a clean kitchen, it somehow feels like the whole house is cleaner. So while I definitely pretty much “destroy” the kitchen on Freezer Cooking Day, the other 29-30 days of the month, it stays relatively mess-free.

(Ahem. We won’t talk about the kitchen floor, though. Can I exempt it since I have young children? Because seriously, no matter how many times I sweep and mop each week, there always seems to be enough crumbs on the kitchen floor to make a casserole with! :))

Nope, I don’t have a deep freeze, so I just do the stuff-and-cram method for my over-the-refrigerator freezer. It might not be the prettiest method ever, but I can fit close to 30 meals in there at a time! And yes, I’m sure the organizational geeks are totally cringing at that picture. It works for us — and that’s what matters!

2. I don’t have to dread 5 p.m. anymore.

I don’t know about you, but there are some days at our home when life whizzes by so quickly and all of a sudden, it’s 5 p.m. and dinner isn’t even a figment of my imagination. Before I started regularly cooking ahead and freezing meals, I’d be tempted to call my husband and ask him to bring something home for dinner.

Freezer cooking has solved the 5 p.m. “What’s-For-Dinner” panic. If I forget to pull something out earlier in the day, I’ll just pick a meal from my freezer stash which defrosts quickly — such as meatballs. I pair this with from frozen veggies, toast and maybe a fruit salad and no one even has to know I forgot about dinner until 30 minutes before it was supposed to happen!

3. It’s not a huge undertaking to have dinner guests or take a meal to someone.

When I have meals already made in the freezer, it’s rather simple to bring food to a new mom or have friends over for dinner.

Lasagna, spaghetti pie and meatballs are great staple meals to have on hand to share with others. Just whip up some Bread Machine Buttery Rolls, make a salad or fruit and maybe some brownies and you’re set!

I also like to sometimes make up chocolate chip cookie dough and freeze it so I can quickly make a dessert for friends coming over or to take somewhere.

New To Freezer Cooking?

Here are some articles to get you started:

Start Where You Are and Learn As You Go

How to Plan a Freezer Cooking Day (and find more ideas here)

How to Cook for Your Freezer When You Don’t Like Casseroles

Can You Have a Freezer Cooking Day if You Don’t Have a Lot of Freezer Space?

How to Store Your Freezer Meals

Do you think Freezer Cooking is worth the effort? Why or why not?

New Stores We’re Covering: Fresh & Easy and Food 4 Less

Have you joined the tens of thousands of others who are using our Store Deals Page yet?

Thanks to my sister’s diligent efforts and the help of bloggers from all over the country, we have deal lists and coupon match-ups available for just about every regional store in the country.

Best of all? You can sign up to have the deal match-ups for your area stores emailed to you every week as soon as they are posted! And it’s FREE!

See the full list of stores we cover every week here. And we just added two new stores to our line-up:

Food 4 Less :: subscribe via RSS or Email

Fresh & Easy :: subscribe via RSS or Email

Never Miss Another Big Box or Drug Store Deal Again!

We just added some new features to our Big Box and Drug Store Deal subscriptions. Now, you’ll not only get a list of weekly deals delivered to your inbox or RSS reader, but you’ll also be notified of all extra hot deals that pop up at that store throughout the week!

CVS ::  subscribe via RSS or Email

Rite Aid :: subscribe via RSS or Email

Target :: subscribe via RSS or Email

Walgreens :: subscribe via RSS or Email

Walmart :: subscribe via RSS or Email

Worth Reading: CSA’s, Cashiers and Mother’s Day

Here are some great reads from this week:

The Pros and Cons of a CSA — Will a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) allow you to buy local produce for less? Read more at Frugal Green Family.

How to Make Your Cashier Love You — Great ideas and suggestions from Publix Penny Pincher.

Do Mother’s Day Differently — Instead of spending $50 on a flower bouquet which quickly wilts, what about changing a life?

Pumpkin Carrot Cake Muffins

Guest Post by Katie from goodLife {eats}

When I first saw Crystal and Jessica talking about freezer cooking, I shied away from it. I made excuses: That’s not for me. I don’t have a big freezer. I like being spontaneous and creative in the kitchen. I don’t have time to cook a whole month’s meals at once, nor did I want to. Being a food blogger, I wanted to be able to cook on my own schedule and as I was inspired.

BUT, eventually I realized that having a few things in the freezer would make life easier. Especially breakfast!

Our family loves muffins, waffles and pancakes for breakfast. I don’t always have time to whip up a new batch of whatever we’re in the mood for, and sometimes I’m out of the ingredients we need. That’s where freezer cooking came in for me.

Baking is easy and fun, something my kids love to do with me. And breakfast isn’t usually something I’m as spontaneous with, except for maybe on the weekends. Instead of tackling my freezer cooking projects all at once, I do them when the opportunity strikes and as time allows. Often times, my son will say “let’s make muffins!” just because he wants to. I take that opportunity to make a double batch and freeze the extra for later.

Here is one of our new favorite muffin recipes. I’ve doubled it for you below so you can have 1 1/2 dozen for now and 1 1/2 dozen to stash in your freezer. Or maybe you’ll even stash all 36 in your freezer.

They are super easy, healthy, and a great way to start the morning. You don’t have to frost them with the sweetened cream cheese. That’s just a little something to make them feel more special, but they are certainly just as good without it! I take advantage of the “frosting” and tell my kids that we’re having cupcakes for breakfast!

Katie Goodman believes that part of the goodness in life is sharing good food with friends and family. She’s a SAHM determined to make family meal time a priority while providing a variety of healthy and delicious food choices. Katie blogs at goodLife {eats} where she shares what she finds good in the kitchen and in life. She also contributes to Craftzine.com, Paula Deen Online, and Tablespoon.


31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget: Should You Ever Pay For Coupons?

Missed the first posts this series? Read them here.

While I’m a big proponent of getting coupons for free, I definitely think there is a time and place to pay for coupons. Maybe you live in an area which gets very low-value coupons. By buying coupons online, you’ll be able to get some of the higher-value coupons that your region missed. Or, perhaps you don’t have time to mess with tracking down coupons from free sources, so it’s just easier and more time-efficient for you to purchase coupons online.

I also think that it can be a great deal to purchase coupons if there’s a high-value or free coupon out on something you need and use. If you’re going to be buying it anyway and you can spend $0.05 per coupon to save $2 per item, than it might very well be a great deal.

In addition, if you use a lot of coupons, I think it can be a wise investment to purchase a newspaper subscription or All You subscription–provided you get a great price on them!

Where to Buy Coupons

1) Get a Sunday Newspaper Subscription — If you live in a large city, you’ll more than likely get a good stack of coupons each Sunday in your newspaper. If you can purchase a newspaper subscription for $1.50 per week or less, it’s often worth it to do so as your savings will likely be ten times that–if not more. Plus, you’ll have the coupons delivered straight to your home every week, as soon as they are available.

DiscountedNewspapers.com offers the best prices for most newspaper subscriptions that I’ve found. I highly suggest checking out their prices before you order a subscription elsewhere.

If you don’t live in a big city, try checking cities within 1-2 hours of where you live to see if you can get their newspaper delivered to you. You’ll often get a better selection of coupons from larger city papers than you will from small town newspapers.

2) Order Coupons from Ebay — Ebay is an excellent source for coupons. You can order an assorted lot of them, or specific coupons. Be sure to order through Ebates in order to get 1-3% back on your order.

3) Order from Coupon-Clipping Services — There are a number of different websites which offer individual coupons for sale. These are usually priced around $0.05-$0.15 each, depending upon their value and demand. You’ll have to pay shipping, in most cases, so you’ll want to order enough to make it worth the cost of shipping. A few sites I’d recommend would be The Coupon Clippers and Manufacturer’s Coupons.

If you’re wanting to order whole inserts, Coupons and Things by Dede offers these.

Remember to be wise when ordering coupons. Don’t go spend $30 each week on piles of coupons when you’re on a tight budget and don’t need or use the items you’re buying coupons for! Use moderation and carefully evaluate whether paying for coupons is truly a good deal for you or not.

Do you buy coupons? If so, what are your favorite places to purchase them from?

Get the latest coupons delivered right to your door for
as low as $1 per week with Discounted Newspapers!