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3 dinners-in-bags & a meal plan for the next 5 days 3 dinners-in-bags & a meal plan for the next 5 days
Lately, I have found that there has been more conversation than usual amongst friends and on the www about meal planning, crock pot recipes,... 3 dinners-in-bags & a meal plan for the next 5 days

Lately, I have found that there has been more conversation than usual amongst friends and on the www about meal planning, crock pot recipes, and healthy eating!

Personally, I have been starting to think of what life with 2 kidlets will be like, seeing as we are now just 4 weeks from meeting baby #2!  Life with a toddler is plenty busy as it is and the thought of giving Portia as much attention as possible and nursing a baby all day, only to have to make (a healthy!) dinner for the family at the end of it all feels a little overwhelming to me right now.  I also just recently had to stop work and go on a medical leave due to sacroiliac joints acting up and pains in my pelvis.  I’m now limited to very small amounts of time that I can even be standing, let alone be walking around.

So, I decided that I needed to come up with a plan…

I have already been meal planning for a few months now and it makes life quite a bit less complicated. One of the things I find most daunting at the end of the day is trying to think of something to make that even a 2 year old will enjoy (while trying to make it as nutritious as possible).

Even with a set meal plan for the week, I would say that each dinner still takes about 30-45 minutes every evening to prepare and cleanup from just the preparation, no matter how efficient I think I am being.  That means that in one week, I am spending about 3.5 to over 5 hours just preparing dinner and cleaning up! Minimum!  And you probably are too!! That’s a lot of hours!

I decided I needed a new strategy, especially with another bundle of joy joining our clan soon.  I started playing around with google searches and remembered how, when my husband and I were first dating, we went to this cooking class where we prepared a few different meals in ziploc bags to pop into the freezer for easy weeknight dinners.  I realise this isn’t a mind-blowingly revolutionary idea, but I had kind of forgotten about this as an option for meal preparation and, when I found a few sites with freezer bag recipes, I decided that I NEEDED to get back into this concept.

This afternoon, during Portia’s nap, I spent just under 1.5 hours chopping veggies (which Brian helped with-thanks baby!), putting together 3 dinner-in-a-bag meals, cleaning up the kitchen, as well as planning what to eat for another 2 nights so that we have the next 5 days planned out and ready.  I don’t think I have the system totally down pat yet, as it still took me more time than I had hoped, but I already feel excited about not having to prep 3 meals this week at all (other than throwing them in the crock pot in the morning or into the oven an hour before we’re ready to eat).

I thought I would share the recipes I used with you, in case you feel like giving the whole “dinners-in-a-bag” thing a go as well!

First, our 5 night meal plan (which, going forward, I will turn into 7-night meal plans):

Sunday: Maple Dijon Chicken Thighs (originally called “Man Pleasing Chicken”) & veggies (in a bag)
Monday: Homemade Hawaiin and BBQ Chicken Pizzas
Tuesday: Lime Chicken Soft Tacos with Black Beans and Corn (in a bag)
Wednesday: Spinach Basil Pesto Pasta
Thursday: Orange BBQ Chicken (in a bag)

3 meals in bags

And finally,  here are the recipes for the 3 freezer meals I made for this week…

Maple Dijon Chicken Thighs

1) In a Ziploc Freezer bag add: 1 cup red bell pepper, 1 cup green bell pepper, 1 cup carrots, 1 cup chopped onion, 2 cups zucchini, 2 Tbsp. flour, 2 cloves garlic, 1 tsp. salt and lastly 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  Freeze the bag.
2) Remove the bag the night before you want to cook it and defrost in your fridge.
3) An hour before you want to eat, preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Line a glass baking dish with foil.  Add 1/2 cup dijon mustard, 1/2 maple syrup and 1 Tbsp. of rice wine vinegar to the bag and squish it around.
4) Empty the bag onto the foil-lined baking dish and cook for 40-45 minutes until the veggies are tender.
5) Serve with rice, pasta, potatoes etc.  (We had it over rice and it was delicious!).
6) ENJOY!

(Notes: I used 8 chicken thighs which was enough for Brian, Portia and I for dinner and still enough for Brian and Portia for lunch the next day as well. I’m not really a left-over kinda gal :) You could definitely add 2-4 more thighs and the sauce should still be a good amount.)

Maple Dijon Chicken about to be popped into the oven.

Lime Chicken Soft Tacos with Black Beans and Corn

1) In a Ziploc freezer bag: 3 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 2 limes juiced, 3 cups frozen corn, 2-3 minced garlic cloves, 1 finely chopped red onion, 1 can black beans drained and rinsed, 2 tsp. cumin powder, 1 tsp. each of salt and pepper, 1 cup of cilantro (optional), and 4 chicken breasts sliced or cubed.
2)  Remove the bag the night before you want to cook it and defrost in your fridge.
3) To cook: Empty bag into a slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours.
4) Serve with warmed soft shell tacos, tortillas or over rice.
5) Dress with sour cream, guacamole, and/or cheese.

Orange Chicken 

1) In a Ziploc freezer bag: 2 cups carrots, 1 cup red bell pepper, 1 cup yellow bell pepper,  , 2 cloves garlic, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. pepper, 1 8oz. can orange juice concentrate, 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed.
2) Remove the bag the night before you want to cook it and defrost in your fridge.
3)  To cook: Empty the contents of the bag into a slow cooker and cook on low for 5-6 hours.
4)  Serve with canned or fresh mandarine oranges and chopped green onions (optional). Serve over rice.

TIPS FOR MAKING MEALS IN BAGS!

*Before adding the ingredients to your Ziploc bags, label the bag with the recipe name, and cooking/serving instructions.
*Chop/add all your veggies first and add your meat right before you are ready to freeze.
*Always defrost your meal in your fridge the night before you want to make it. 

I plan on making more meals in bags and will post them for you to enjoy as well.  If you want to see freezer cooking on a whole new level (this woman is seriously amazing!) and to see the original recipes that I adapted, go here.

Bon appetit!

Jessica Blumel

Nice to meet you! I'm Jessica a.k.a North Shore Mama. This site was born out of my love for my daughters and the desire to share my motherhood journey with fellow moms. I believe we're all in this craziness called 'parenthood' together and North Shore Mama is my way of reaching out to anyone who needs a laugh, a cry or dinner inspiration. Thank you so much for reading!