Nailed It or Failed It Pinterest Challenge

January 2015 - Rayven's 30 Days Freezer Cooking

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nailed it or failed it pinterest challenge

"Nailed It or Failed It" Pinterest Challenge

January 2015 -
Meal Planning

Pinterest is full of beautifully put together photos of everyone else's tasks, and they even provide you with the step-by-step instructions on how to do it!

What could go wrong, right?!

So, Marissa gets this brainy idea, “why don’t we take Pins we like on Pinterest this year and try to duplicate them?”

And I’m thinking to myself, wow, how fun!

So, like everything in life, I manage to take something quite simple, and take it to the extreme. I decided for January’s theme of Meal Planning to do a Month of Freezer Meals... in One Afternoon.

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Here’s the original Pin, from Gina at The Shabby Creek Cottage – and my new idol for time management. My hat is off to you, Gina, for pulling this all together in one afternoon and making it look so super simple! Make sure you stop by The Shabby Creek Cottage for more recipes and tips on putting this all together. It’s a great site!

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Follow Our Nailed It! Or Failed It! Pinterest Challenge Board

And here’s my final look-alike image. Actually, I’m quite proud of the final result. But, this page is not about making my final image look like the original. It’s about telling you my truth about the entire process.

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First, what you don’t see is that my 30 days of freezer cooking did NOT fit in my regular freezer. I have a second freezer, a small chest freezer, and that sucker was filled to the brim! (Of course, I have a frozen turkey in there at the bottom, but since Marissa was doing a Rubber Turkey post for her Nailed It or Failed It Pinterest Challenge, I left him on ice for a while longer.)

And second, what you don’t see is that it wasn’t an afternoon project. It was an entire weekend project, filled with crockpots and every burner on the stove running all day long, Saturday and Sunday, and I don’t even want to mention how horrible the dishes were.

nailed it or failed it pinterest challengeBut in the end, I ended up with 36 meals instead of the goal of 30, and I got to say, two weeks later, it was so totally worth it!!

I’m sold! I can’t wait to start planning my February freezer cooking marathon!

Here's the breakdown of the meals and recipes.

But first, before you get started, it is recommended that you pour yourself a glass of wine (or a bottle – no judging here).

You’re going to need it.

I spent about $400 on the entire 36 meals. Now, I did splurge on pricy ingredients, like lamb and fresh fruits instead of bottled juices, so it is quite probable that you can make 36 meals for half this price.

Some of these recipes are really quite frugal! And I did spend money on disposable Ziploc bags, a crap-ton of plastic wrap and aluminum foil, and disposable aluminum casserole pans.

I bought the disposable pans at Dollar Tree and I could have kicked myself when I got to BJ’s and they were much cheaper, so shop around. You can also buy some on Amazon.

On Saturday, I cooked all the ground beef recipes by cooking the ground beef and onions in one (ok, two) batches. It really saved on time and dishes. I also started the crockpot with my pulled pork, and put together one of the easy meals.

On Sunday, I cooked the chicken and miscellaneous meals like the Tuna Casserole, Lamb Curry, and Mac N Cheese. Batch tasks whenever you can.

Citrus Pork Chops

I opted for the Citrus Pork Chops first. Why? Because they were super quick and simple, and once done, I could check two meals off my list and clear out the ingredients. This recipe is actually from one of the Paleo Family Plan in the eMeals subscription I have. I love emeals.

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If you haven’t checked out eMeals yet, it is an absolute LIFESAVER. I have an annual subscription to their Paleo Family Plan and each Wednesday, I get a list of the meals I will be cooking the next seven days, complete with recipes and a master shopping list. It's one less thing I need to worry about.

This recipe serves four. I went to BJ’s (like Costco or Sam’s Club if you don’t have one near you) and bought a huge pack of pork chops so I doubled this recipe. Also, due to the fact that I was cooking 36 meals at once, I opted to buy garlic already pressed instead of pressing it fresh like I usually do.

  • 1 orange
  • 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp EVOO
  • 4 tsp pressed garlic
  • 6 bone in pork chops
  • Salt and pepper
Zest the orange and the lime and then squeeze the juice out. If you've never grated the rind before (zest) on citrus, keep in mind that this needs to be done before you juice it. The fruit needs to be firm so you can grip it to zest. It is a million times easier to use a zester but if you don’t have one, a cheese grater will work in a pinch.

Salt the pork chops. Combine the juices and zest, garlic and oil in two gallon size Ziploc bags. Put three pork chops in each one. Squish it around so the pork chops are covered in the marinade. Use a third Ziploc bag to place both of your pork chop bags in for extra freezer protection, label with date and freeze.

When ready to prepare, thaw pork chops completely in fridge. Remove from marinade. Broil 4 minutes per side until done.

Taco Rice

Next came Taco Rice. I made this mainly because I had a couple of cups of cooked brown rice leftover from the day before I started this project and wanted to use it up. What I thought would be one meal of Taco Rice easily turned into two. This "more than I thought" trend continued throughout the day...

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This recipe is published in my book Meal Plan: Mom's Guide to Saving Money Time Sanity and you can find it on Amazon. I honestly don't know what I would do if I didn't meal plan, either through projects like this freezer cooking one, or my subscription to eMeals, or my beautiful Menu Boards. Oh yeah, I know where I'd be. We'd all be going hungry for dinner and eating out way too much!

This recipe will make you at least two freezer meals, maybe three, with leftovers. I sort of improvised for this project because of the leftover rice, so didn't quite make it to scale like I usually do.

  • 1 lb of ground beef (I sometimes use ground turkey instead)
  • 2 onions, diced
  • Taco seasoning
  • 4 cups of cooked rice
  • 1 29 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • Flour tortillas
  • Shredded cheese
Brown the ground beef/turkey. Add taco seasoning to taste. Mix in the rice and add the diced tomatoes. Spoon mixture into flour tortillas and top with shredded cheese. Place cooled mixture into gallon Ziplock freezer bag. Double bag for extra security. Label and freeze.

To cook, thaw in fridge. Reheat in microwave or on stovetop. Place contents in a tortilla. Add sour cream, salsa, and some cheese. Yum!

Chili

My third meal was Chili and I ended up getting two trays of it. The big problem with this meal was that it was fairly early in my cooking insanity, and I had underestimated the amount of space all this food was going to take up in my freezer. I foolishly put these into disposable casserole pans when I should have put them into Ziploc bags to preserve freezer room. Lesson learned.

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This recipe is also featured in Meal Plan: Mom's Guide to Saving Money Time Sanity. I have it in the book as a crockpot recipe, which is how I usually make it. But, my crockpot had pulled pork in it so I opted to cook it on the stove instead.

When purchasing canned beans, here’s a frugal tip. Buy the Goya brand in the “ethnic” section instead of the bean section of the store. The Hispanic foods section is a great money saving area of your store. It makes no sense, but you can save on beans, chilies, garlic powder, tortillas, rice, and even olive oil by shopping “ethnic”. I bought coconut milk for my Lamb Curry recipe (below) and it was $1.67 a can in the Hispanic section, but the same thing with an Asian label in the Asian foods section was $4.29!

  • 1 lb of ground beef
  • Onion, diced
  • Chili mix
  • 29 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 15 oz cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 15 oz cans of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Brown and drain the ground beef and onion. Add the chili mix, diced tomatoes, and both types of beans. Remember to never use the juice from beans. You should always rinse off the juice. Doing this reduces the sodium content and the ingredients that cause flatulence.

Cook for 45 minutes on medium. Allow to cool completely before putting into gallon Ziploc freezer bags. Double bag. Label and freeze.

To cook, thaw in fridge and reheat on the stove. We like to sprinkle cheese on ours and sometimes a dollop of sour cream. You can eat it with crackers or cornbread. You can also use leftovers on chips, French fries, and baked potatoes.

Spinach Lasagna

My fourth meal was Spinach Lasagna. I combined the recipes of two different lasagnas (I combined the ingredients of this Spinach Lasagna Rolls with this Meat Marinara to get this one…my family loves spinach but won’t eat anything but Mac N Cheese without meat in it...), and it worked out surprisingly well. Surprisingly because I absolutely hate lasagna, though my family loves it. They were in for a treat! I planned to make two lasagnas but when combining the recipes, apparently I got a little off in my math, and ended up with four.

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This recipe will yield 3-4 Spinach Lasagnas with 4-5 servings each. When I say 4-5 servings, picture teenagers who consume everything in sight.

  • 3 lb ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 tsp garlic, minced
  • 4 29-oz cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 12 oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 20-oz jar marinara
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 2 (16 ounce) packages uncooked lasagna noodles
  • 2 pounds mozzarella cheese, shredded, divided
  • 1 (32 ounce) container ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry
  • 4 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Cook the ground beef, onion, and garlic. Add in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, marinara, Italian seasonings and balsamic vinegar and cook for 45 minutes on medium heat, until flavors are combined.

Cook lasagna noodles for 5 to 8 minutes, or until just slightly underdone; drain and rinse.

Mix together mozzarella cheese (reserve 1 cup for later), ricotta cheese, eggs, spinach, and 1 cup Parmesan cheese.

Spread a thin layer of meat sauce on bottom of casserole pans.

Layer cooked lasagna noodles on top. Spread a layer of the cheese mixture on the noodles, then add a layer of the meat sauce. Repeat.

Top casseroles with remaining sauce, remaining mozzarella, and remaining Parmesan cheese.

Cover each casserole with a layer of aluminum foil followed by a layer of plastic wrap. Repeat. Label and date.

To cook, thaw casserole in fridge and bake at 350 for 45 minutes. I start it out covered with foil (please take the plastic wrap off!! – yes, my teens have forgotten this step before) and the last 15 minutes remove the foil so the cheese gets nice and bubbly.

Hamburger Casserole

Meal #5 was Hamburger Casserole, recipe taken from the original Pin.

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I wasn’t sure how well this one was going to turn out, but the kids love it with a little ketchup. I love that it really only made two casseroles…space was certainly starting to get tight!

Gina from Shabby Creek Cottage said that this would make 3 casseroles, but I’m pretty sure she was using a different sized pan. I got two out of it – typically one casserole will feed us for one dinner and after school leftovers.
  • 2 lb ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6 cups Cheddar Cheese, shredded
  • 5 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup of sour cream
  • 1 egg
  • water
Cook ground beef and onion. Cool.

Combine flour, egg, sour cream, and water to make crust of casserole. You want enough water to moisten the ingredients enough that you can spread the crust mixture into the bottom of your casserole dish.

Make sure you spray your pans with cooking spray, then layer in your crust. Top with meat mixture and cheese.

Cover each casserole with a layer of aluminum foil followed by a layer of plastic wrap. Repeat. Label and date.

To cook, thaw in fridge. Bake for 30 minutes at 350.

Sloppy Joes

Meal #6 was Sloppy Joes, with a recipe from The Thriving Home Blog. I have to tell you, I just love The Thriving Home Blog!
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These Sloppy Joes have hidden goodness in them – veggies that blend in with the sauce and add awesome flavor undertones. I love the fact that these two freezer meals were able to be bagged, thus saving a TON of space in the freezer (since I was smart enough to put them into Ziplock baggies).

  • 2 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 tsp steak seasoning
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 16-oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • Salt & Pepper
Cook meat and onion. Add brown sugar and steak seasoning. Drain excess oil. Set aside.

Sauté carrot, red peppers, garlic, red wine vinegar, and Worcestershire in olive oil. Cook until tender.

Add meat mixture, tomato sauce and paste, and maple syrup. Simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add cooked meat, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and maple syrup to pan. Stir to combine. Reduce heat to simmer and cook Sloppy Joe mixture 5 minutes longer. Season with salt to taste, if needed.

Allow to cool completely and then freeze in Ziploc bags. This recipe makes enough for one meal, so if you want two, double it. Double bag the Ziploc bags for extra protection. Label and date.

To cook, thaw in fridge and then warm sloppy joes in pan on medium heat. Serve on top of hamburger buns.

Pulled Pork

I actually started meal #7 as I was putting away groceries by sticking a 3lb pork butt into the crockpot with a bottle of BBQ sauce and letting it cook away. It made for awesome sandwiches on day two of what was supposed to have been a one-day cooking event. And I got an additional two freezer meals out of it!

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Pulled pork is really quite simple. Put a 3-4 pound pork butt roast in the crockpot, dump your favorite bottle of BBQ sauce on top, cook for 12 hours and serve on hamburger buns. To freeze, allow to cool completely and put into Ziploc bags. We usually reheat pulled pork in the microwave, though stovetop would work too.

Mac N Cheese

Meal #8 is actually a series of lunches for the kids. They have half-days at school every Wednesday and come home and raid my kitchen, so I figured I’d give them something yummy to stick in the oven. I make up a very simple mac n cheese, not like your holiday baked mac n cheese with weird canned milk and flour and spices. Just simple, yummy, unaltered mac n cheese that tastes extra delicious when baked so the top macaroni gets crunchy.

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This was one project where I pulled the plug before I got carried away. Originally, I bought (2) 32 oz containers of macaroni, planning on making two or three dishes. Thankfully, I saw that just one would be more than plenty after I started cooking! I’d probably still be at it otherwise.

Makes three side dishes or kid friendly lunches.
  • 32 oz macaroni noodles
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • ¼ cup butter
Basically, you'll make this dish the exact same way you make Kraft Mac N Cheese except instead of powdered cheese you’re using real cheese.

Cook your macaroni noodles according to box directions, but slightly undercook them.

Heat milk and butter in a pan. Add in macaroni noodles and cheese. Cook until cheese is melted. You can start with shredded cheese or cheese cubes, whichever you have on hand. And if you’re in the mood for more cheese, go for it.

Scoop into small aluminum casserole dishes. You can top with extra cheese if you’d like. Label and freeze.

To cook, thaw mac n cheese in fridge. Cook at 350 for 30 minutes or until heated.


Parmesan Encrusted Mahi Mahi

Am I really on Meal #9? Wow. That’s a lot of food. So, Meal 9 was actually pretty easy. I used another recipe from Thriving Home Blog for Tilapia, but I bought frozen Mahi Mahi because we like it much better.

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I made up the crust and froze it in individual baggies paired with the fish. All-in-all, this meal took the least amount of freezer space, which made me very happy. It made three meals total, and is actually what I am planning on having for dinner tonight. I tripled the following recipe to make three batches.
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons mayo
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley and basil, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon celery salt
  • 2 lbs fish
  • salt & pepper
Zest and juice lemon.

Mix all ingredients except fish. Put into quart sized Ziploc freezer bag. Double bag. Label and freeze. It is easiest if you freeze it with the 2lbs of fish it goes with.

To cook, thaw fish and topping in fridge. Rinse and dry the fish, and lay on greased pan. Seson fish with salt and pepper. Broil 2 minutes, flip and broil 2 more minutes.

Remove from oven and spread topping on top of fish. Broil 2 more minutes.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Meal #10 is a Tuna Noodle Casserole I’ve been making since I was 12 years old. My 13 year old daughter told me earlier this week, as she was devouring leftovers, that my Tuna Noodle Casserole is her favorite dish. I planned for two casseroles, and ended up with three. That’s one benefit to freezer cooking. Normally, I would have made one casserole with just half the ingredients, and there would have been two or three days’ worth of leftovers that may or may not have been eaten. But by doubling the recipe, I ended up with three complete meals instead of two, each with enough leftovers for one more meal.

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At about this point in the process, it became extremely apparent that I had made a critical error in the amount of space available in both freezers, and the amount of food left to cook. I drastically underestimated the amount of room – not to mention the number of meals – that I had. I looked back to the chilis I had frozen in the casserole dishes in misery. I thought of repackaging them, but at this point, they were frozen solid.

So, I did the only thing I could with all future casserole containers. I bent the corners of the disposable aluminum trays in on themselves and wrapped the heck out of them in aluminum foil and plastic wrap. It worked!

Double this recipe to easily get three casseroles. Another recipe from my Meal Plan: Mom's Guide to Saving Money Time Sanity book on Amazon.
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 4-6 green onions
  • 2 tbsp of butter
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 3 tbsp of flour
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 3 tbsp of cream cheese, cut into chunks
  • 12 oz egg noodles
  • 1 can of French fried onions
  • 2 cans of tuna fish, drained
Cook egg noodles until they are just under cooked (al dente). Drain. Saute the celery and green onions in the butter.

Add salt and pepper and flour. Stir well. Let it fry for about a minute. Slowly add the milk until it becomes a semi thick sauce. Add the cream cheese and stir until it melts. Add the tuna and mix. Add noodles.

Transfer to casserole dish. Wrap in aluminum foil and then in plastic wrap. Repeat. Label and freeze. To cook, thaw in fridge. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and top with crushed French Fried Onions. Bake another 5 minutes.

Chicken Fajitas

Meal #11 is adapted emeals recipe, super quick and simple, for Chicken Fajitas. I basically prepared the raw chicken in a marinade, stuck it in bags (enough for two meals) and froze. After thawed I dumped it into a frying pan and it turned out excellent.

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  • I doubled this recipe to give me two meals.
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 ½ lb chicken breast, cut into thin strips
  • 1 Tbsp fajita seasoning
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
Combine all ingredients in gallon Ziplock freezer bag except chicken. Squish it all around so it is thoroughly mixed. Add sliced chicken. Squish it again to coat. Double bag in additional Ziploc bag for extra protection. Label and freeze.

To cook, thaw in fridge. Dump contents into a skillet and cook chicken. Serve over tortillas with salsa and sour cream.

Lamb Curry

Meal #12 is an emeals adapted family favorite. Again, by doubling the recipe I ended up with not two, but three dinners with plenty of leftovers.

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Since lamb is a more expensive meat, from now on this is the only way we’ll be enjoying this dish – doubling up to stretch one more meal out of it. The following recipe is for one meal. Double it for three.

  • 2-3 lb lamb roast
  • Curry powder
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 29 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 15 oz can coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsp fresh minced ginger
  • 2 Tbsp mild curry paste
  • 10 oz frozen peas
Cut lamb up into 1” cubes, trimming off excess fat. Dust with curry powder. Saute with onion in olive oil until cooked – lamb is often eaten medium rare, so don’t feel as though you need to cook it well done.

Add in the tomatoes, coconut milk, curry paste, and ginger. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook 15 minutes. Add in peas, cook one additional minute.

I get a tube of minced ginger in the produce department with the herbs. It lasts for several batches of lamb curry and makes it super easy to use. The curry paste is in a teeny tiny little jar in your Asian foods section. As a reminder, buy the coconut milk in the Hispanic section of your grocery for massive savings.

Let cool completely and then bag in gallon sized Ziploc freezer bags. Double bag for extra protection.

Label and freeze. To cook, thaw in fridge and reheat on stove.

Chicken Pot Pie

My Chicken Pot Pies, Meal #13, were only supposed to be three pies – that’s all the pie dough I planned for and bought. But there was so much extra filling that I took the bits and pieces of the three planned pies and created my strange version of a 4th. This recipe came from Taste of Home.

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I absolutely LOVE this recipe, but the kids both hate the thyme taste, so unfortunately, I’ll be gifting other families with my remaining three pies. That sometimes happens when you’re making a new recipe for the first time, and when you’re freezer cooking and making multiples of a new recipe, that is the risk you take. Moral to the story: if at all possible, taste a new recipe before replicating it.

This recipe makes two pot pies.

  • 2 cups diced peeled potatoes
  • 2 cups diced carrots
  • 1 cup butter, cubed
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 4 cups cubed cooked chicken
  • 10 oz frozen peas
  • 10 oz frozen corn
  • 2 packages (14.1 ounces each) refrigerated pie pastry
Boil potatoes and carrots until just cooked. Drain.

Saute onions in butter. Add flour and seasonings and cook for just one minute. Slowly add in broth and milk. Cook until thickened. Stir in chicken, peas, corn, potatoes and carrots.

You’re going to want to get the disposable aluminum pie tins for this meal. Unroll a pie pastry sheet into the bottom of your pie tin. Trim edges as needed. Fill with chicken mixture. Top with the second pie pastry sheet. Cut slits in top.

Wrap in foil, then plastic wrap. Repeat. Label and freeze.

To cook, remove frozen pie from freezer. Cook at 425 for 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and cook an additional 70-80 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting.

Cheesy Chicken & Black Bean Enchiladas

Meal #14, my final meal, was Chicken Enchiladas. I got this new family favorite recipe from The Thriving Home Blog, which I’ve got to tell you has some EXCELLENT recipes for freezer cooking (I did substitute white tortillas for whole wheat and I opted to use ready-made taco seasoning instead of the recipe on the Thriving Home Blog, mainly because I already had them on hand).
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I only made two of this recipe, but it was a hit! Next time I’ll make more – they are both gone already. The kids loved them, their sleepover friends loved them, and even the cat tried to hop on the table to take a taste!

This recipe makes one casserole. Double it for freezing two.
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 lb chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles
  • 1/3 cup prepared salsa, mild, medium or hot
  • 1 taco seasoning packet
  • 1/2-1 cup red enchilada sauce
  • 4-6 (8-inch) tortillas
  • 1 1/3 cups shredded Monterey Jack and or Cheddar cheese
Saute onion and garlic in oil. Add chicken and cook until cooked through. Add taco seasoning.

Add black beans, chiles, and salsa. Cook 5 minutes.

Put half the enchilada sauce in your aluminum casserole pan. Roll up 5 tortillas with the chicken bean mixture, and top with cheese. Placed rolled tortillas on top of the enchilada sauce in the pan. Top with the rest of the enchilada sauce, and as much cheese as you can handle.

Wrap casserole with aluminum foil and plastic wrap. Repeat. Label and freeze.

To cook, thaw in fridge. Bake a 400 for 30 minutes.
Weigh in: Did Rayven Nail It? Or Fail It? You decide!

So, that was it! My attempt at creating 30 dinners in an afternoon that turned into 36 dinners over the course of a weekend. Did I nail it or fail it? Comment below. And tell me what freezer meal ideas you have.

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Additional Resources:

  • Meal Plan: Mom's Guide to Saving Money Time Sanity
  • eMeals Dinner Planning Service
  • Meal Planning Template Kit
  • Menu Board Template Kit
  • The Shabby Creek Cottage
  • Thriving Home Blog
  • Freezer Cooking Tips
  • Start a Food Exchange










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