Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Make Tasty Dinners Quickly with MyFreezEasy {Review}

Confession . . .

I'm a terrible meal planner.  I'm that person, that at least once a week, becomes frantic about half an hour before it's time to start cooking dinner, because I realize I don't have anything planned for dinner.  Truth is, I usually have a general plan in my head, but there's always that day I forget to defrost meat, or we have to hurry out the door for church, or we get home from co-op and I'm exhuasted and don't want to cook.  You know . . . there's always something.  It's hard to balance homeschooling, a clean house and healthy meals all in one day, so when I was given a Freezer Meal Plan Subscription, I didn't know if I should be worried or optimistic.  Erin Chase, creator of $5Dinners, created MyFreezEasy as a way to provide a freezer cooking strategy for busy parents to get delicious meals in the freezer and ready for those busy days! Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy}

Another truth?  I don't particularly love to cook.  My husband finds baking a stress reliever.  Not me.  I love trying new recipes, but I cook because I have a family to feed, not particularly because I enjoy it.  I was already familiar with freezer cooking, and had dabbled in it minimally (usually right before a baby was born), but the idea of MyFreezEasy was a little intimidating.  It basically meant I'd have to go through recipes, and lists, and prep TEN meals at one time.  Yet . . I liked the idea of prepping several meals in nearly the same time that it would normally take me to make just one.  I got especially dreamy-eyed thinking about busy nights, and having the ability to just whip out a no-prep, minimal clean-up meal, and still being able to get out the door on time.  Wednesdays, I'm looking at you.

MyFreezEasy can be used in multiple ways with the Premium Annual Membership, which is what I am reviewing.  The quickest, easiest way to use it is to download the new monthly meal plans each month, do your shopping and prep your meals.  Each month there are eight (8) different meal plans to choose from:
  • Traditional Meal Plan
  • Gluten-Free Meal Plan
  • Slow Cooker Meal Plan
  • Clean Eats Meal Plan
  • 20 Meals Plan
  • All Chicken Meal Plan
  • All Ground Beef Meal Plan
  • All Pork Chops Meal Plan
Most of the meal plans are designed to create 5 recipes, twice each, for a total of 10 prepared meals.  The "all meat" plans are available if you are taking advantage of a great sale on a specific meat and want to combine the sale with these time saving techniques.  The 20 meal plan contains 10 recipes, which gives you a total of 20 prepared meals.

You can also choose to Swap a Meal.  So if you like most of the recipes in a meal plan, but perhaps one won't work for your family, you can choose the Swap option, follow the step-by-step directions, and it will allow you to substitute in another recipe that better suits your needs.  

The third major way to use this website is the Build a Menu option.  You can create a completely customized meal plan for your family from all available recipes.  This is a drag-and-drop template, so not too difficult to use.

The supplies needed are simple.  You'll either need freezer bags or the disposable trays, but everything is listed out in the meal plan.  If you don't want to print the labels, I'd suggest a fine point sharpie for writing the date and cooking instructions on the baggie.

When I first got access to the subscription, we had already done our grocery shopping, so I decided to do the Build Your Own Meal Plan, so that I could choose recipes that utilized the ingredients we already had on hand.  It generated a custom meal plan for me.

Now, here's what makes MyFreezEasy awesome.  Once you choose (or create) a meal plan, you'll have a full PDF file of recipes, various styles of shopping lists, and assembly instructions.  The instructions are designed to help you move through the prep time as quickly and efficiently as possible.  So perhaps you'll start browning meat for one recipe, then chop veggies, drain the ground beef, brown/season more meat, open any canned products, chop more veggies, etc . . .

 I did make sure to organize all my ingredients and supplies in stations, as suggested.  I left the instructions pulled up on the computer on the far counter.  (I don't like papers everywhere, so if you're like me, you might consider pulling up the shopping lists on a mobile device too.)

The prep and assembly instructions tell you exact how much of each ingredient to put in each freezer bag or disposable baking dish.  There are printable labels that give any final cooking instructions, and if you print them on address labels, you just peel and stick to the baggies.  Just another user-friendly element!  Visual learners will probably appreciate that there are videos online for the meal plans.

So . . . what do we think?
I noticed there are a lot of versions of traditional meals, especially chili and tacos/nachos.  I don't think this is a problem though, because having a variation of a base meal can be good for families with "picky eaters," or in my case, it would have been great to have a few alternatives for Taco Tuesdays when my kids were still in that phase.

I really like that most recipes don't require any real work to cook.  You defrost, and then put it in the slow cooker, a large pot or bake it off in the oven.  Most of the work is preparing a side/accompanying dish, or the toppings for some meals.   There are side dish suggestions--usually fruit, rolls, salad or a generic "vegetables" so you can do whatever you like.  I just do whatever works for us with that meal that night.  I've even cooked some of the slow cooker recipes in the pressure cooker when I don't defrost a recipe until late in the day.  We did the slow cooker taco soup this way, and it turned out just fine!  If you're hesitant about making duplicates of a recipe before trying it, you can see the single meal option and try it out first before using it in a freezer meal plan.  We've done this a few times too.

So far we have liked most of the recipes.  The slow cooker chicken cacciatore reminded me of a recipe my aunt used to make me all the time, and the husband and I really liked it.  The kids thought Frito Pie sounded neat, so we decided to try it out.  It was easy to tweak for our preferences based on what I had on hand, since I prepared it on a whim one night, and although I won't use chips in dinner often, it was a fun treat for them.

Taco Soup, Chicken Cacciatore, Frito Pie

Overall, I really feel like MyFreezEasy delivers on its promise.  The meal plans are easy to follow, the meals are good, and the work involved for actually cooking and cleaning up after dinner is very minimal.  I also love that the recipes are regular foods that regular families eat, with normal ingredients that most families probably already use.  Only occasionally did I see something something "extra" that I wouldn't normally have on hand or buy.  Nothing too fancy, exotic or crazy.  I said I like trying new recipes, but that's just for variety--my family falls squarely between picky and adventurous eaters, with my 9 year old being the most willing to try new things, so I like to slowly branch out with new recipes to get them eating a lot of variety.  My plan, hopefully, is to start taking one Saturday morning a month and prepping 10 recipes at a time, giving me 20 meals in the freezer--unless I save one out for dinner that night, but 19 meals is still nearly a month of easy meals!

Having a stocked freezer saves on "pick up a pizza" phone calls, or the last minute rush for a quick dinner.  If you have a membership and know a new mom, or maybe someone who's had surgery or an elderly person who doesn't get around the kitchen well anymore, or someone who's lost a loved one recently, preparing some of these freezer meals may be just the blessing they need.  I was also thinking it would be great for part of a home economics or cooking class for teenagers.  For my family, it's a great way to fill that "What's for dinner!?" void on a weekly basis! Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy}

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