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I mentioned in my Monthly Goals for August that I want to spend time each week prepping food for the freezer and pantry that will make life easier once school starts. I don't really like making full meals for the freezer. I've done it and it's handy but there are only a few meals I've found that I enjoy as freezer meals as much as their freshly made counterparts.
Instead of making freezer meals I make meal components. These are often items the get bought as canned or boxed foods that I make homemade and stick in the freezer or pantry until it's time to use them. This week I'm making refried beans, black beans, and enchilada sauce. All of these get used very frequently in our house. I like having refried beans for burritos, as a dip for tortilla chips, and I've even used them as the "sauce" on taco pizza! Black beans are the easiest on the plan this week since all I have to do is soak the beans, cook them until soft, and then divide into freezer containers. Enchilada sauce is our go-to sauce for breakfast pizza and we also use it for enchilada pasta as well as regular enchiladas.
Before I get to all the recipes and photos I want to share the containers that I'll be storing all these foods in. I've been using these containers for years and I've only had to throw a few away due to cracks. I've never had a problem with freezer burn and I love that I can write on the top with sharpie and then wash that off when I'm ready to fill it with something new.
I've got two sizes: 8oz and 16oz. I freeze the enchilada sauce and black beans in 8oz containers but the refried beans in 16oz containers. I also like the 16oz containers for pizza sauce, chicken and beef stock, and even leftovers in the fridge.
The 16oz containers are exactly the same diameter as the 8oz but double the height. This is super helpful for stacking them in the freezer as well as in the cupboard. Plus the lids are interchangeable so no worries about keeping them separate!
So, on to the cooking and recipes!
First up, refried beans! I've adapted this recipe featured on Money Saving Mom to fit our familly.
Homemade Refried Beans
Next up are black beans! Again, these are SUPER EASY! All you have to do is soak and cook them according to the directions on the back of the bag but I'll lay it out for you here as well. My big tip: When directions for dry beans tell you to sort them - listen! As I was going through the pinto beans I found what was either a rock or corn kernel. Either way, not what I want in my pinto beans!
Homemade Black Beans
On to the enchilada sauce! I use a recipe from Budget Bytes and I don't think I've ever changed it other than sometimes I don't multiply the cayenne pepper because children. Otherwise it's fantastic. I love that the recipes on Budget Bytes are broken down to cost so you can see how inexpensive the meals and recipes really are! Prices might have changed a little since some have been posted but not so much to make a huge difference. If you visit the site you will see the original recipe but I'm going to list the multiplied recipe that I use to make a huge batch of sauce. Less math for you!
Homemade Enchilada Sauce
Well, there you have it! Three recipes for meal ingredients that will help pulling meals together that much easier. They are also great for stretching the budget! I bought 2lb bags of beans for around $1.50 each and was able to make seven 16oz containers of refried beans and fourteen 8oz containers of black beans. Even on sale most cans cost close to $1 so talk about a HUGE savings! For the enchilada sauce I bought the tomato paste in bulk at Sam's Club but even in the stores you can get a 12oz can for less than $1 and make this huge batch of sauce. Yes there are other ingredients to factor in as well but it might cost you $2-$3 in ingredients for the large batch listed and you will get 10-12 8oz portions of sauce. SO much less than the $1-$2 per can at the store.
Next week I'll be prepping some breakfast foods - pancake mix, sausage balls, English muffins and biscuits. Yum!
Do you do any freezer cooking? What are your favorite meals or ingredients to make ahead of time?