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In the less than a month our family will be growing from a family of four to a family of five. Our baby is due to arrive in the middle of November, if not a little before, but as of right now, in just under a month we will welcome this new baby to our family.
I knew that I wanted to try to stock our freezer with several meals before the baby arrived so I would have nutritious food available for myself and my family. The problem was I had absolutely no idea how to go about making meals ahead of time or what type of meals I should even attempt to freeze.
Several months ago I bought an Instant Pot and it has been my favorite purchase in the last year. If you aren’t familiar with the Instant Pot it is a programmable pressure cooker that can dramatically cut the time you spend in the kitchen and allows you the ability to not have to monitor the oven or stovetop. Special thank you to my friend Jeanette for sharing how much she adored her Instant Pot which led me to purchase my own!
I have been attempting to streamline my kitchen over the last few weeks and decided to take the gigantic bag of rice we purchase monthly from Costco and divide it up into individual 2 cup bags. In case you were curious, out of this 12 pound bag of rice I had 14 two cup bags and 1 one cup bag. It is so much cheaper buying rice in bulk and cost just under $15. Cooking rice in the Instant Pot is the easiest thing to do. You simply need to place 2 cups of brown rice inside the Instant Pot with 2.5 cups of water and set it on manual for 22 minutes.
The way I cook our dinners now has drastically changed thanks to the Instant Pot. This got me wondering if maybe I could find a few recipes that I could freeze and put directly into my Instant Pot. A quick search on google led me to discover a website called Once a Month Meals.
When I started searching the website it was like the clouds above my head parted open and light from heaven streamed down on me as angels sang Hallelujah. Ok, so maybe it wasn’t that dramatic, but in all seriousness I knew I had just hit the freezer meal jackpot.
Once a Month Meals gives you everything you need to shop, prep and cook the bulk of your monthly meals in just one day — and freeze those meals for when you want to eat them. To start you can pick a meal plan that is based on 7 different dietary preference or you can customize your own.
I decided to customize the meal plan for our family only because we like to eat gluten, dairy, and egg free as much as possible. I also wanted all of our meals to be able to be cooked in the Instant Pot.
Currently, Once a Month Meals has 50 recipes specifically using the Instant Pot but their entire recipe library is huge and they have over 600 meal plans that you can choose from. If you decide to use one of their menu plans you can always swap recipes out to create a menu that best fits your needs.
I also want to mention that the recipes are easily able to be adapted to the needs of your own family. For example, our family stays away from soy and two of the recipes I selected called for soy sauce which I swapped out for coconut aminos.
When your menu is finalized you print out the shopping list, prep instructions, cooking day instructions, recipes, labels, and thaw sheet. Everything is organized for you to be able to succeed in prepping meals ahead of time for you and your family!
My customized menu included…
- 2 Breakfasts: Cherry Date Breakfast Bars and Sweet Potato Apple Hash
- 7 Instant Pot Dinners: French Dip Sandwiches, Chicken and Rice Soup, Healthy Roots Chili, Honey Bourbon Chicken, Paleo Mongolian Beef, Paleo Tacos el Pastor, and Thai Chicken Thighs
- 2 Snacks: AIP Pumpkin Bites, and Almond Butter & Bacon Energy Balls
- 3 Side Dishes: Peas, Cauliflower, and Broccoli
Each recipe serves 4 and was doubled. When I was finished prepping all my meals my freezer was filled with 14 dinners!
There is no way I would have been able to have done this without Once a Month Meals. Everything was laid out perfectly and the directions were very easy to understand.
It took me a total of 8 hours to make, bake, and freeze all of these recipes. Not all of the recipes needed to be baked ahead of time which saved hours of prep work for me in the kitchen.
I feel so accomplished and proud of myself that at 35 weeks pregnant I was able to fill my freezer with healthy meals and snacks for myself and my family that are made with real food. The 8 hours it took me to complete this menu plan left me super tired and my body was ready to sit down after having been on my feet all day but it was so worth it!
I love that when I ready to make a meal I just need to let it thaw enough to remove it from the freezer bag and it can go into my Instant Pot frozen! Yes, you read that correctly, it can be cooked from frozen in the Instant Pot. Plus it will be fully cooked and ready to eat in an hour!
When I froze my meals for the Instant Pot I froze each meal in a freezer bag that was placed in a bowl, pot, pan, or anything else I could find in my kitchen that would fit inside my Instant Pot. I wish I could say this was my brilliant idea but it came from the Once a Month Meals website. They seriously have included everything to make you as successful as possible when prepping your meals.
Thankfully all the meals fit into my freezer to freeze. I was a little nervous to see how they would fit. 14 was the magic number of meals to make at once for the size of my freezer.
The next day I removed the meals from the freezer so I could take them out of the containers.
Amazingly they all fit back into the freezer perfectly and I even had the top shelf left empty!
The total cost for all these recipes was $300. I purchased organic meat and produce and had to go to several stores to buy everything that was needed. Depending on the menu you choose, the region you live in, how you shop, and how big your family is the cost of your meals will vary. Once a Month Meals reports that shopping for a monthly menu can average between $150-300.
The shopping trip happened a day before the prep work and two days before the recipes were put together. When you are doing freezer meals you want to think of the process as more of a marathon than a sprint. Shopping, prepping, and freezing are best done in phases and not on the same day.
With a four year old, two year old, and newborn this will be the best gift to myself! Having a fully stocked freezer with meals and snacks ready to go makes me so happy!
I can see myself making more meals and snacks ahead of time for my family especially in the month or two after the baby arrives if these recipes are successful. The day spent in the kitchen is worth the time if it allows me to prep so many meals at once.
I obviously didn’t cover everything but hopefully this gives you a good idea of what I did to plan ahead for our meals. Let me know if you would like me to post an update on the meals after they have been cooked. I would be happy to do that if it would be helpful.
Once a Month Meals has two membership options for you to choose between. You can select either a $16 monthly subscription or a $170 yearly subscription. Regardless of whether you choose the monthly or yearly option, your membership will give you access to all nine menus and associated documents (shopping, recipes, instructions, etc.) as well as the ability to mix and match recipes from different menus to create your own custom menus in MenuBuilder.
I would love to know if you have ever made freezer meals? Do you own an Instant Pot?