Saturday, March 2, 2013

Kitchen Clean Out-Part 3- Making the Meals

Here is the third and final part of my Kitchen Clean Out. If you missed it, HERE is Part One and HERE is Part Two I didn't take photos when I made the meals the first time, but I had a few extras to make so I tried to show you how I set up my kitchen.


  1. Before you go to the store have a plan of coming back and getting started.  If your kids are home and you are alone, well that's life.  Get a movie for them or a few snacks prepared, so you aren't constantly stopping.  The best case scenario is to not have them under your feet for the most of this, but mine was and it was just fine.  
  2. DO ALL OF YOUR DISHES. Wash all of them and put them away.  You want a clean sink and you will need bowls, knives and Tupperware to hold all of the ingredients.  If you are just doing the chopping and bagging recipes, you will not have a lot of "dirty dishes." Most of them you can rinse off, because they will be holding celery and carrots and other clean veggies and spices.
  3. Clean off your counter tops, because you are going to need a clean workspace.  You are also going to want to have a place to put all of the groceries when you get home.
  4. Of course, hopefully you listened and cleaned out your fridge too, so you can put meat and other refrigerator items in there.  I actually used a portable Trader Joe's cooler bag with ice packs to keep all of the meat in until I was ready.  I just set it in my garage because it was a cold day.

Finally after all of the preparation, it is time to assemble the meals.  Here is how I did mine.  It seemed to work well.  I made a few mistakes, and I will correct them here and tell you what I will be doing next time.

  • Go to the store/stores, stop at the gas station and get one of those ridiculous fountain drinks and then  come home and unload those groceries.  If your kids are old enough make them help, then they will probably leave you alone for the actual meal preparation.
  • Most of the items I bought, except for some household items, were for the meals, so I didn't put everything away.  I put all of the groceries on my counter.  I used my kitchen island to do all of the cutting and assembling on and I slid my kitchen table over for all of the dry goods, paper work and bags to be on.  You can use whatever you have, maybe a card table or just another counter top, but I highly recommend having a wet and dry space to work in.  
  • If you didn't print all of the labels on sticker sheets, you are going to have to label the bags before beginning.  The labels seriously make life so easy, so I would go that route.  You can hand write on the bags all of the instructions, but you would have wanted that done before the store. 
  • I sound like a grandma, but I would wear tennis shoes to start because barefoot on your feet all day is going to hurt.  You are also going to get food on the ground and you don't want to have to clean it up until the end.


On the dry station I split my bags into 4 sections: 

  1. Chop and Bag Beef and Pork
  2. Chop and Bag Chicken
  3. Cook and Freeze with Meat
  4. Cook and Freeze Vegetarian

  • Next, I put the recipes with each bag, but if you are using my print off, then you won't need to do this.  You can just look on the list, as it is organized by chop and bag meals and pre-cooked meals.
  • The purpose of splitting them into these categories is so that you can quick see how many recipes need chopped chicken breasts, how many can just be put in whole.  

All of the canned goods, spices, papers, and bags are in this area.

 Starting on the left I have a dry towel, a wet towel my phone my drink and the current recipe I am working on.  (I also had my iPad set up to watch some TV while I worked, which made it go fast.)  This was while I was chopping carrots, but otherwise I would have all of the veggies and spices, lined up at the top of the island.  The three bar cups in the middle, I will get to those later.  Then I have a garbage bowl and a utensil bowl, which I will also show you later.


  • Drew chopped all of the meat for me (THANK YOU!)  So I grabbed the each pile of bags and said I need twelve chicken breasts chopped up.  I need 3 lbs of pork cut into cubes and I need the 10 lbs of ground beef separated into 1.5 lb servings. 
  • Next I sanitized the whole island from the meat.  This is much better than trying to do meat for each bag and then veggies.  TOO MUCH CLEANING!
  • I then cut up all of the veggies.  I put them into whatever container I had.  This is why you do the dishes first.  You are going to love looking at all of those vegetables after they are cut!

This is one of my favorite kitchen tools ever.  I am pretty much geeking out about it.  Its from pampered chef and it cuts onions in like a minute.  Before I had this I bought chopped frozen onions.  They are awesome too and save your eyes big time!

This is my utensil bowl.  Fancy, I know.  Basically, anything that has only touched vegetables or herbs I throw in here after use and then just rinse them off when it fills up.  If you throw your tablespoon in the sink after every use, your session is not going to be fun.  

This is my garbage bowl.  Any cans, wrappers, scraps of food get thrown in here.  Then I don't have to run to the garbage can or have it under my feet while I am trying to work.


 Get your instructions and your bags laid out.

Here is where the bar cups come in handy.  (I also use a pitcher sometimes too.)  I got this trick from a food preparation facility that I have gone to in the past to make meals. It is awesome, especially for liquids and spices. You stick a Ziploc bag into the cup or pitcher.

 Then slip the zipper around the edges of the cup or pitcher.
 You ar all ready to put the ingredients in.

 For the Quiche, you mix up the ingredients.

Then pour them into the cup.  Let out the air, zip the bag.

 Then pull it out.  No spills, no mess, and most of all, no dirty dishes.

 Finish assembling the bags.

Let out the air and seal them up.  Lay the meals flat in the freezer until they are frozen through.
And Repeat a bunch of times.

Clean your kitchen up, which is really wiping down counters, putting spices away and sweeping the floor.  You will be surprised how much you don't have to do when it's all done!

I'll leave you with a few more things that helped me before I wrap this series up.

I made all of the chop and bag meals in one night.  Then I obviously didn't have to think about dinner for the next week. 
Because I was still on a crazy freezer meal lady high, I decided to make a few cook and freeze meals the following week.  Minestrone was one of them.  This is how I froze them:  I used the Ziploc tumblers for larger servings and then bags for a few smaller servings, which could be used for a side at dinner.  I poured them into the bar cups and let them cool.  Then double bag them to prevent any unexpected leaks.

It is so easy to cook an extra meal when your dinner is already cooking in the crock pot for that night.  Let me tell you, it is easier to tackle a lot of things when you don't feel like Eeyore with a rain cloud what's for dinner cloud hanging over you.

A lot of people have asked me what I buy at Costco, if I save money there and how I store it. 
 You probably got a good idea from my list on part two, here are a few of my favorites.  

I buy five pound bags of shredded cheese.  Our family doesn't eat a ton of cheese, we really don't, but I divide it up and freeze it and then I have it when I need it.  We use it on tacos, in soups, and if I have to make an appetizer for a party I have the it.  I also do this with cream cheese, especially during the holidays.  I swear I always need one when I don't have one!
It takes 5 minutes to split these.  I use a pitcher with a bag in it to pour the cheese into.

I told you that I buy frozen chopped onions to save time.  Another time saver is this big jar of garlic on the right.  You can get it at any grocery store, but I get it at Costco because we use A LOT of it.  

I buy as many spices as I can at Trader Joe's because they are cheap!

The Chinese Five Spice I use is in the middle.  I got it at the grocery store, but that's what it looks like because it isn't always easy to find. (If you can't find it, the Kung Pao is fine without)

The basil and ginger tubes on the left are great to keep herbs in the fridge that you don't always buy regularly.  No chopping required.

The Quinoa in the back is probably one of the best deals I get at Costco.  It is 4lbs of 100% organic Quinoa for under or right around $10.  If you don't usually eat it, then it is a great alternative to rice.  I had to eliminate grains for a year and this saved me!!  I'll have to share some of my favorite GRAIN FREE meals sometime.

That is all I have (I think) about the freezer meals.  When I do it again I might have something to add, but until then I'm done. 

 If you are hesitant about this working for your family, then just do it for a week of meals.  Anything is better than nothing.  You can use the same methods to do 5 or 10 meals.  I went BIG when I did it, but I understand that it is A LOT.  

Enjoy your weekend!  We got our taxes filed and now were working on an alligator clip"foreign object" in the garbage disposal.  (Good Times)

On Monday I will have a post on "How We Do Lunch" about what I feed Alaire for lunch, so get fired up!

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