Homemade Freezer Lunches (Lean Cuisines)

First I am going to come right out and say something –

I do not have a problem with Lean Cuisines and their other competitors. Do some of them taste hideously gross to me? Yes. With that said, there are actually a few varieties that I simply love.

During my husband’s (then fiance’s) second deployment I was aiming to get into shape for our wedding. I was able to lose about 20 pounds in 3 months! Which I gained back prior to my wedding thanks to birth control and beer and bad habits – eff my life! I simply consumed a lot Lean Cuisines and yogurt with almonds & honey. Oh and working out about 3 times a week. Basically I put no effort in whatsoever. Hindsight being 20/20 – I wish I would have put in a little bit more effort!

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So clearly I have no issue with the Lean Cuisines. In fact, I think they’re perfect for on-the-go or “I’m-breastfeeding-so-I-need-to-eat-but-have-a-toddler-and-a-newborn-so-cooking-is-out-of-the-question.” They’re perfect to take to work with you or to even just have on hand when your day is ridiculously busy and you are sick and tired of eating cold turkey sandwiches or something you picked up from McDonald’s. Plus – if you do them the right way – they’re healthy!

A lot of you may have seen these all over Pinterest. I’m not really sharing recipes with you today as I am just sharing the most efficient way to execute this idea. Usually on Sundays I throw these together while our daughter is napping and with all prep included it takes me roughly 2 hours to make my husband’s lunches for the week. This Sunday, however, I am doing a major overhaul of our freezer and stocking up for when our 2nd child is born. I want to get at least 10-12 of these in the freezer for me

I’m sure you’ll hear a lot about this over the next few months, but beginning May 1 our whole famn damily is doing a Weight-Loss Challenge. (Minus two of the boys who pretty much can’t lose anymore weight without risking their bone health.) Girls are competing against girls and boys against boys. We are all throwing $50 into the pot(s) to enter and whoever loses the most (based upon percentage) wins the cash money. My goal by May 1, 2015 is to lose 70 pounds! I knew I would need some motivation, and by motivation I mean competition. And by competition I mean the ability to beat my sisters and my mother and gloat about it for the rest of our lives.

Don’t ever play board games with me. Ever.

The overarching goal, of course, is for all of us to get healthy.

Enter: Homemade Freezer Lunches

I highly recommend these if you are a breastfeeding mom. I can vouch that in the busyness of taking care of kids, going to work or staying at home, pumping and breastfeeding – food kind of falls on the back burner. Even if we are raging hungry after a breastfeeding or pumping session it is sometimes impossible to grab something nutritious and you reach for the bag of Doritos instead. (Don’t act like you haven’t been there…) These take out the guess work!

Let’s get down to business!

First things first get all of your necessary ingredients. I aim for a protein, 2 veggie servings, and a starch/healthy carb in each container. That may seem like a lot to you – in which case you can adjust accordingly.

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You’ll also need a few of these! I found them at WalMart in the plastic wrap/ziploc baggie aisle. My recommendation is to stick with the storebrand. These are Great Value brand and for only $3 I was able to purchase a pack of 5 – can’t beat it!

homemadeleancuisine1Begin by prepping your protein (not pictured). I make sure to preheat my oven while I’m pulling everything I need out. I then prep the protein. In this case I did flounder sprinkled with Old Bay and Greek Style Chicken & Shrimp. Once I have both proteins assembled I get them cooking. And …

Move onto veggie prep!

homemadeleancuisine2 homemadeleancuisine3That little black basket is a microwave vegetable steamer that a friend of mine gave me. It is Pampered Chef. If you want to purchase one of your own. I love it! It cooks the veggies perfectly and keeps me from having to dirty my pots & pans and steamer baskets.

TIP: Leave your veggies a little under-done. They’ll cook the remainder of the way in the microwave.

After the veggies are cooked place them in your containers. Be sure to use flavors that it is okay for them to touch. I don’t season the veggies other than a little sea salt.
Pictured is: Broccoli & Zucchini [both steamed and seasoned with a little sea salt] and Sweet Potato Smash [baked sweet potato mashed with sea salt, cinnamon, a little EVOO, and a drizzle of honey and sprinkle of almonds].

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About this time your proteins should be done cooking. My husband loves fish as most Baltimore-born people do and I stick to chicken and red meat. Though I’ve tried (my hardest) to incorporate more fish in my diet. The great thing about these is they’re entirely customize-able. (Customize-able isn’t a word…)

homemadeleancuisines7 homemadeleancuisines8After they’re all assembled place the lid on tightly, and try to push out any excess air. It’s okay if the ingredients inside are still hot. I label each container with what protein it contains. If the vegetables or starches vary I will list that as well.

Pop these in the freezer!

Now exactly how does this work?

Well, quite simple actually. My husband pulls these out of the freezer the night before and allows them to defrost in the refrigerator. However, you don’t have to do all of that. You can simply crack the lid and pop them in the microwave frozen. I don’t recommend that you do this at 100% power, though. My recommendation for warming them from a frozen state is to do 2-3 minutes at 50% power, check, and return for 1 minute at 100% power. (Maybe less depending upon how great your microwave is!)

Another idea for you is to include a fruit salad on the side (in a separate container) or to buy a big container of vanilla Greek yogurt and at the beginning of the week divide it between your to-go containers, sprinkle on a few almonds, a drizzle of honey and return to the fridge. These will be ready to go and will save you money in the long run.

OH! I guess I didn’t mention that up top did I? Clearly preparing these will save you money!

How exciting!

Well, I’m off. I’m 35 weeks pregnant and I have absolutely nothing accomplished in preparation for my child’s birth. Exception: Padsicles.

‘Cause I’d be a straight up lunatic to forget to make those.

Happy Tuesday!

-Kelsea

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