Thick and Chunky Marinara for the Freezer

Thick & Chunky Marinara SauceOne of my favorite things to prep on Saturday’s is a marinara sauce. We eat a lot of pasta here and this saves me a ton of time and dishes for busy weeknights. It takes up very little room in the freezer, since it’s not a complete meal. And I have the comfort of knowing I’m providing nutritious, home-cooked, healthy food for my family.

This sauce is primarily used for spaghetti marinara and lasagna. However it makes a good chili-mac, zucchini Parmesan, eggplant Parmesan and most everything else you might serve with a beef and tomato sauce.

Thick and Chunky Marinara

This makes about 20 cups of sauce, ~5 quarts.

You will need:

  • 2 gallon-sized freezer Ziploc bags or 5 quart sized mason jars.
  • 1 tbsp olive oil or bacon grease
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 lbs. lean ground beef
  • 1 lbs. mild Italian sausage (I like the New Yorker’s brand)
  • 3 tbsp Italian seasoning blend
  • 2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cans diced tomatoes
  • 30 ounces tomato sauce
  • pinch of sugar

Making the Delicious Food:

In a heavy-bottomed, large saucepan heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion, ground beef, Italian sausage, Italian seasoning blend, crushed red pepper flakes, pepper and salt. Saute until onions are translucent and meat is thoroughly browned.

Toss in the garlic and saute until fragrant.

Reduce heat to medium. Add diced tomatoes and let cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Now add tomato sauce and sugar. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours, depending on how much time you have and how rich you like your sauce.

Once sauce is done remove from heat and allow to cool. Portion between containers and freeze.

This recipe costs: $10.05. That’s $0.50/serving!

The Pre-Baby Dinner Stock Up Event

Taco mix, Frito casserole mix and onions for Swedish meatballs.

Taco mix, Frito casserole mix and onions for Swedish meatballs.

As we prepare to have our baby (He’s due in just 5 days!!) I realized that to save my housemates from shouldering all the cooking, to protect our health and wallets from the late night taco bell runs, and to satisfy my insane nesting urges it was time to do my first major freezer meal prep session. I’ve done it here and there before but this is my first time doing 6 week’s worth of dinners at once. If you are responsible for cooking every night I recommend doubling up on several of these recipes/plans. All recipes and meal plans here are for feeding a family of 6 twice a week, which works out to 12 servings a week plus some leftovers. Yum leftovers…

I’ll be going shopping later this week to finalize everything we need for Christmas and for the newborn to be, Mr. Sora Papineau. I’ll update this post with my actual costs and shopping and such when I do that, as well as what I did to save even more money. Ideally everything would be organic, local and homemade from scratch but realistically as two full time, working students preparing to have a baby on an extremely limited budget- we compromised on the things where the savings were minute. Frozen lasagna is my perfect example – It costs me just a tiny bit more to buy it ready made than to make it and it saves me a crap ton of time to just buy it. Yes we could eat something cheaper – but we love lasagna and enjoying your food is something that’s important to us. Plus it will help us keep our sanity with the new baby.

Anyways, here’s the plan for dinners. Next week, after shopping, I’ll post the entire month’s meal plan, budget, and how shopping went. Because we live with another family we don’t have the space to stock up for the entire month. But planning ahead and creating a very specific, easy to follow list means I can send someone else to the store part way through the month without risking blowing the budget or starving to death.

Freezer Meal Prep: Dinner

Store-bought items in the Freezer:

  • Pot pies x2 meals ($
  • Frozen lasagna x2
  • Frozen broccoli x2
  • Shredded cheddar (8oz) x3
  • Sliced provolone (8oz)
  • Sliced Swiss cheese (8oz)
  • Tortillas x24
  • Sliced olives
  • Frozen green beans
Philly Cheese Steak Freezer Meal

Philly Cheese Steak Freezer Meal

Home-Prepped Items:

BBQ Chicken Ingredients

BBQ Chicken Ingredients

Pantry Items to Accompany the Plan:

  • Cornbread mix x2
  • Egg noodles
  • Frito’s
  • Hoagie rolls (8 pack)
  • Red potatoes (2.5 lbs)
  • Hamburger buns (8 pack)

In Summary:

This plan provides for 12 meals for my family of 6 (not including baby-to-be), which since my husband and I only cook 2 nights a week, is actually over an entire month of dinners for us. All of these are foods I can easily cook, I can easily instruct the husband on (he’s a great cook he just likes clear instructions) or we can easily do together.

Cranberry-Orange Chicken Freezer Meal

Cranberry-Orange Chicken Freezer Meal

Here’s what the month will look like…

Week 1 – Chicken chili with cornbread; chicken burritos with cheddar cheese.

Week 2 – Frozen lasagna with broccoli; BBQ chicken sandwiches with provolone.

Week 3 – Cranberry-orange chicken with green beans and red potatoes; beef pot pies.

Week 4 – Frozen lasagna with broccoli; crock pot tacos with olives and cheddar cheese.

Week 5 – Swedish meatballs over egg noodles; Frito casserole.

Week 6 – Philly cheese steak hoagies with Swiss cheese; chicken pot pies.

The Shopping

I had very few ingredients in my pantry already for this, but there were a few like basic seasonings, olive oil, salt, pepper, brown sugar and balsamic vinegar. I spent $62.13 at the grocery store on items for these 12 meals. I got $7.50 in cashback from iBotta to be cashed out later this month, saved $3 with coupons from the paper, and saved $4.35 with WIC. Before these savings the grand total was $76.98.

That means, after savings, I spent $5.18 per meal and $0.87 per serving. That’s amazing!!