6 Meals, 2 Hours: Stocking the Freezer

My sweet and very pregnant friend and I spent a couple hours in her kitchen Saturday prepping freezer meals for after the baby comes. It was quick and easy, and many of you said that you wanted to hear how we did it. So here we gooooooooo!

Gathering Recipes

A few days before our planned cooking day, we brainstormed and gathered the recipes we wanted to make. Ideas for meals that freeze well: chili, soup, baked pasta, chicken and rice bakes, daal, lasagna, shredded meat, pasta sauce, enchiladas. We chose lasagna; cheesy, spicy tuna noodle casserole; shredded pulled pork; shredded chicken; and ground beef and turkey.

My friend loves this lasagna recipe from the Newlyweds cookbook and this tuna casserole recipe from Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook. (Normally, I wouldn’t recommend freezing something with a creamy sauce like the casserole, but since the base is cream of mushroom soup and not a homemade white sauce, I think it will be ok!)

I suggested the meats. They were easy to prep, but will be perfect for her husband to heat up quickly with easy sides (buns for the pork, tortillas for the chicken, jarred red sauce and pasta for the ground meat, or whatever really).

For more ideas, check out my FREEZER Pinterest board here.

Grocery List Collaboration and Shopping

You could totally follow this plan independently, but if you’re collaborating with a friend, you’ve got to have a shared grocery list. If you both have iPhones, I highly recommend the Notes app. You can share a Note, and both of you can see the changes made in a native app on the phone. Google Docs works, as well!

While watching The Bachelor last week (#MonsterArie #NotPeter), I made our grocery list. I listed everything we could possibly need for each recipe in a Note, and shared the Note with my friend. She crossed off things that she already had (changing three cans of cream of mushroom to just one, for example) and added the ingredients for a recipe I didn’t have.

A side note about making your grocery list: if you aren’t making your grocery list by aisle, GET ON IT! Once you know your store well (Aldi for life!), you can make your grocery list according to items in each aisle, in order of the aisles. It makes grocery shopping SO QUICK, and it makes it easier to avoid impulse Cheez-It purchases.

Another note about Aldi: If you have access to an Aldi, shop there, please. We got everything for these recipes, minus maybe $10 worth of stuff that was already in either of our pantries, for $70. She and her husband agreed that the same grocery haul would have been at least $120 at their Price Chopper or Hyvee. If you grew up on Aldi, it has changed, believe me. I do almost all of my grocery shopping there, and we eat really, really well.

We met Saturday morning at the Aldi near my friend’s house, quickly shopped, and got to #work.

Our Grocery List (click to expand!)

Jalapeno kettle chips

Whole milk 1.5 c

Whole milk cottage cheese 16 oz


Cheddar (3 c shredded)


Fresh mozzarella

Shredded mozzarella

2 onions



Chipotle peppers in adobo 11 oz

Rotel 1 can

Cream of mushroom 3 cans

Tuna 3 cans

Pork shoulder 3 lbs

Chicken thighs

Ground turkey 2 lbs

Ground beef 1 lb

Frozen peas

Jarred red sauce, 1

Rotini 1 lb

No boil lasagna noodles

Dr. Pepper, 2 cans

Foil 9×13 pans, 2

Gallon freezer bags

Prepping to Make Multiple Recipes at Once

When we got the groceries home, I cleared off the kitchen island, and sorted the groceries by recipe. So I stuck all of the lasagna ingredients together in a little group, then the tuna casserole ingredients, etc. This was SO helpful. As I was cooking, I could glance around and quickly see what was left that needed to be made. 

Before you get started, read through each recipe that you’re going to make. This means that you can get a jump on any weird steps that need extra time: marinating, draining, thawing.

Reading the recipes first also means that there won’t be any surprises later: like the pulled pork needs to cook for 7 hours or you should have been boiling water 30 minutes ago.

The EXACT Plan We Followed (Plus a Few Improvements I Would Have Made)

I should have spent a few minutes before Saturday figuring out the order of operations for these recipes. I think we could have saved 30 minutes or so if I’d done so. What follows is the best-ish, most efficient order for making these recipes. We did this, approximately. I made the chicken last, which was silly, as it could have baked while everything else was cooking. Lesson learned!

In order to make multiple recipes in one chunk of time, you have to work on multiple recipes at once. It will take so. much. longer. if you finish each recipe start-to-done before you work on the next one. I’m thinking that this could feel really intimidating if you’re not as comfy in the kitchen. Just take a deep breath and know that it may take you a little bit longer to get this done. You’ve got it!!! Done is better than perfect.

These steps can easily be completed by one person, but splitting the duties between two people makes it super, super quick.

  1. Preheat the oven to 375. We’ll bake the chicken thighs in there.
  2. Put a pasta pot on to boil for the rotini. Salt that water, don’t forget.
  3. Trim chicken thighs, season with salt and pepper, and place in a greased 8×8 pan.
  4. Pop the pork shoulder in the crockpot with the can of chiles in adobo sauce and 2 cans of Dr. Pepper. Cook on low for 7 hours. Pulled pork done!
  5. Put the chicken in the oven. Set a timer for 20 minutes. When that timer goes off, flip the chicken and set the timer for 10 more mins.
  6. Brown all the ground meat. Combine the ground turkey and beef in a large, large pan with a chopped onion. Season with salt and pepper, brown, and drain. Ground turkey and beef done! Set aside ⅓ of the mixture for the lasagna. The other ⅔ is for freezing plain. We divided it into two freezer bags.
  7. Chop the jalapeno and celery for the tuna casserole. Chop another ½ onion for the shredded chicken.
  8. Sautee the onion from Step 7 in a small pan. Set aside.
  9. Once the chicken is out of the oven, shred with two forks. Add the sauteed onion from Step 8. Drain a can of Rotel, and mix it in. Chicken is done!
  10. Water should be boiling. Add the rotini and cook until very al dente. (The pasta will be cooked again when you bake the casserole.)
  11. Add all of the tuna casserole ingredients, minus pasta, to an enormous bowl. Seriously, your biggest one. Cream of mushroom soup, tuna, cheddar, whole milk, peas, celery, jalapenos, salt, and pepper. Mix really well!
  12. Once the pasta is done, drain and add to the bowl. Mix it all together, taste for seasoning,  and pour into a greased 9×13 foil pan. Tuna casserole done!
    1. The recipe calls for a spicy potato chip and cheese topping. We didn’t freeze that, and they’ll add it before baking.
  13. Lasagna time! Combine the cottage cheese, eggs, and parmesan. Season with pepper (it’s already plenty salty from the parm). Slice the fresh mozzarella.
  14. Layers! Follow the instructions in the recipe to layer your lasagna. (We used no-boil noodles and my friend’s special marinara. A jar of sauce would work, as well, and it’s what I put on the grocery list above.) Lasagna done!

Not so bad, right?! Like I said, doubling up the steps makes it even easier. One person can be chopping the veggies and another can be browning the meat, or one can handle the pulled pork while another moves on to the next step.

We made the shredded chicken with Rotel so they could use it in tacos or enchiladas, and the ground meat is really simply seasoned so it can be used for whatever. It would thaw very quickly in a pot of jarred pasta sauce on the stove!

Tips for Freezing

It is very important that the meals are totally cooled before you stick them in the freezer. Several reasons why: if you put a lid or foil on top of a still-warm dish, condensation gathers on the underside of the lid, which drips into the food and makes it mushy. Also, if you put hot food in the fridge or freezer, it raises the temp of all the other food in there, which is dangerous from a food safety perspective.

I always, always set a timer when I leave food on the counter to cool. I have learned the hard way that if I don’t do this, I will forget about it, and it will sit on the counter overnight to rot. Don’t be me! Set a timer! Note: the longest that food can sit out is FOUR HOURS. After that, it will grow the kind of bacteria that gives you food poisoning.

We froze the lasagna and casserole in disposable foil 9×13 pans, and the meat in gallon freezer bags. For the casseroles: label them clearly with Sharpie, and make sure that you add the baking instructions. You can thaw them in the fridge overnight and bake them according to the recipe, or just add 45 minutes or so and bake them from frozen. Make sure you test the center before serving if you bake from frozen! It should be warm and the edges should be bubbly. 

Ok, one million words later, I think that’s it! I’d love to do more of these freezer prep posts if you guys dig this one. Let me know 🙂

And feel free to ask questions! I’m always available on Instagram, or you can leave a comment here.

What are your tips for freezer cooking?

Currently//FEBRUARY 2018

HAPPY MARCH! It’s my sister’s birthday month! It’s my birthday month! It’s the month where we finally learn who Arie chooses for marriage (or a short-lived engagement)! [NO SPOILERS! Seriously, US Weekly already ruined part of it for me, and I can’t take any more.]

Before we get too far into March, let’s recap February.


I finished the best book yesterday. When I saw it on social media last month, I put it on hold at the library immediately: How to Get Shit Done, by Erin Falconer. Sounds right up my alley, yeah? I, predictably, loved it. Please, please, please read it, especially and specifically if you are a woman.

Erin writes all about the ways that women are expected to be productive — at home, at work, in relationships, with children, at the gym, and all while wearing a full face of makeup. She encourages all of us to focus on three main goals at a time, and shape our days around those goals. If a task that’s taking up hours of your week isn’t moving you towards one of your goals, get rid of it. Can you outsource it? Simplify it? Just stop doing it all together? 👏🏼

She argues that once women stop trying to do everything, we can do anything. Just thinking about that gives me chills. I always feel so fired up after reading a great personal improvement book, and this is no different. Read it! And let me know what you think 💖


If you follow me on Insta stories, you know that my 100-day #exercisecountdown is broken. I strained my knee somehow a couple of weeks ago, and that knee pain led to a hurt neck. I don’t know if walking funny led to neck strain or WHAT, but I was in serious pain for several days.

A hurt neck means lottttts of reading in bed. This was great.

Obviously, exercising, even lightly, with neck pain is a dumb choice. My body clearly needed rest. But it broke my heart to give up on my exercise challenge. And it didn’t help matters that my first day with no workout was day 51 of the challenge! Quitting halfway through did nothing to help my feelings.

But I did it. I rested, and rested, and rested some more. And, I’ll tell you, getting back on the horse is hard. Spin class yesterday was supposed to be my first intense workout back, and I just didn’t go. And I didn’t go for a walk, either. I just sat, basically all day long. 

I need to get back on the train. Exercising consistently changes my mood (just ask my poor husband) and my appetite (hello junk food). I have a treadmill date later this morning that I will be keeping.


Ooooof. February was definitely more indulgent than most months, and I feel it. Grant and I went on a weeklong vacation in Colorado, and I basically forgot what a vegetable was while we were there.

We stayed in a house with several other couples, and we shared the cooking duties. Lots of comfort food. Very few greens. To be clear, I totally could have purchased salad stuff, and I’m sure everyone would have eaten it, but I didn’t. I should have. I felt like a bloated old sponge when we got home. On Valentine’s Day. Romantic.

Tasting at Breckenridge Distillery.

We also, in true vacation style, did a lot of drinking, so that did nothing good to my eating habits or the way my body felt post-vaca.

Just like falling off the exercise train, getting back into healthy eating habits is no joke. I’ve been eating vegetables at every meal, and that has definitely helped. It’s a lot harder to eat a ton of white pasta if you’re full of green beans (is a lie I tell myself that sometimes works)!


Two podcasts I’ve been loving: By The Book and Bachelor Party.

By The Book features two women who read a self-improvement book, live by the principles of the book for two weeks, and then discuss the outcomes on the show. It’s so great and so funny. They are both really honest about the ways the book did or didn’t change their lives. If you’re in a relationship, I highly recommend the episode on the Five Love Languages. It was super eye-opening, but also had the right amount of making fun.

If you are a resident of Bachelor Nation, you MUST listen to Bachelor Party. It is the best Bachelor podcast (I listen to no other Bachelor podcasts). It’s spoiler-free, often features Bachelor Nation guests (like my boyfriend Ben Higgins!!!!!!!!), and there’s tons of behind-the-scenes content. The past month featured interviews with the VP of reality programming at ABC and Uncle Chris Harrison! It’s so great. Host Juliet and her guest recap each episode (including Bachelor Winter Games, which was truly magical), and I look forward to it every week.


I am flying through my Goodreads 2018 Reading Challenge thanks to vacation. Everyone else went skiing every day, and I read. It was actual ✨magic✨. I’ve read 13/50 books this year, and I am going strong. Vacation faves were Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (must-read if you loved The Handmaid’s Tale. I read it in ONE day.) and The Restless Sleep: Inside NYPD’s Cold Case Squad.

I also loved Black Panther, another murder mystery dinner party with friends (this time I played the heir to a chocolate fortune), and celebrating my friend at her baby shower. What did you guys love in February?

Day in the Life: Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018

Hi, friends! Lots of you have asked for this post (or versions of it), and I needed an easy post to write in the post-vacation haze, so HERE WE ARE.

Like so many of you, my days are packed from the time my alarm goes off until around 7 PM. I picked a random day (yesterday!) to document, and it ended up being pretty representative of a normal weekday even though we had just returned from vacation the day before.

4:00 am: My alarm goes off and I get out of bed. No snoozing, ever. Joy the Baker taught me a long time ago that the secret to getting up early is just putting your feet on the floor. So I do.

4:00-4:30: Splash water on face, brush teeth, brew coffee, and pack lunches for G and I. Leftovers and pre-chopped veggies for snacking makes this go relatively quickly.

4:30-6: Catch up on emails and write an Amazon listing for a freelance job.

6-6:30: I’ll be busy this evening, so I prep dinner now. Pasta sauce with onion, garlic, fire-roasted tomatoes, and red lentils.

6:30-7: Pilates time! I am very, very sore from some Fitness Blender videos I did the other day and very, very tired from a day of travel yesterday, so I keep it simple (but still really sweaty) with three 10-minute pilates videos (1, 2, 3) from The Balanced Life.

7-8: Shower, dress, hair, makeup. I love this part of the morning. I finish what’s left of my coffee, relax, and listen to my podcasts. This morning it was Totally Married, Up First, and The Daily.

8-8:20: Breakfast! I really wanted a smoothie, but my blender was in the dishwasher, and I could NOT bring myself to hand-wash it. I ended up with two pieces of sprouted wheat toast with almond butter and no-sugar-added jelly.

8:20-8:30: Mad dash to find my laptop, sunglasses, wallet, and security badge (things I should have put in my bag last night).

8:30-9:20: Drive to work. Traffic and my above-mentioned mad dash made me a little late.

9:30-12: Meetings and computer work at the office. (Short break for a piece of leftover Valentine’s Day cookie cake.)

12-1: Eat lunch, look at Instagram stories, and write the beginning of this post. I ate carrot coconut soup from Shutterbean, spinach and arugula with pepitas and balsamic, and grapes.

1-5: Work, work, work. Not a lot to report here.

5:00-5:45: Drive home. Yes, I spend almost two hours in the car each day. It’s the worst, but I really try to make the most of it. Lots of days I bring a La Croix to drink, and I always listen to podcasts. Today,  I listened to Criminal and Reply All, both excellent.

5:45-6:00: Clean the kitchen, which I didn’t get around to in the morning after I prepped dinner.

6:00-6:15: Boil pasta and heat up frozen peas. Glamorous, I know. 

6:15-6:30: Eat dinner. Grant’s not home from work yet, and normally I’d wait until around 7, but I need to get ready to be interviewed for my friend’s new podcast.

6:30-6:45: Take my makeup off and apply all my skincare so I don’t have to after my phone call. I also change into jammies and make myself a nerve-calming cocktail. 

6:45-7:00: Quickly paint my nails while I listen to My Favorite Murder. They’ll dry while I’m on the phone.

7:00-8:00: Chat with Becca for her new podcast. (I’ll share more about this when I can!)

8:00-8:15: Put dinner away. Don’t do a single dish. Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow. 

8:15-8:45: Get in bed and read. Right now I’m reading The Restless Sleep, about the NYPD Cold Case Unit. SO GOOD.

8:45: SLEEP! I’m normally up until about 9:30, but yesterday’s travel day just killed me. I also normally write in my gratitude journal before I go to sleep, but I turned off the lights before the reminder went off on my phone. Oh well.

Like I said up top, this was a pretty typical day for me. It’s not every day that I’m interviewed for a podcast, but I usually have something or other keeping me from my book until around 8. Hopefully that answered the questions you had, but I’ll always answer more. Leave a comment here or message me on Insta!

How do you spend your days? I need to know everything!

Vegan Baked Spaghetti with Red Lentils, Mushrooms, and White Sauce

Pasta is my favorite food. There is nothing better than a long-simmered bolognese over thick spaghetti. Maybe with some ricotta dolloped on top? And you all know I love my mac and cheese.

I love pasta so much that my favorite snack is — no joke — plain, cold pasta straight from the fridge. I don’t eat that very often now, but I cannot tell you how many hours of reality T.V. I watched in college while eating leftover plain pasta (cold bowties are seriously the best).

When Grant stopped eating meat, I had to stop making my favorite meat sauce, and it took a little while to find a good substitute. While nothing really beats meat slow-cooked in wine and tomatoes, I think I’ve found the best substitute: red lentils and mushrooms. Red lentils mimic the texture of ground meat, and sautéed mushrooms bring the meaty flavor.

Since Grant has been allergic to dairy his entire life, he’s really missed out on a lot of joy that an American-style casserole brings. (Seriously, try and find a casserole without cheese or cream of something soup!) That’s where this baked spaghetti comes in. It’s a vegan spin on the Million Dollar Spaghetti that I’ve seen all over Pinterest, with a rich tomato sauce and a creamy white sauce.

If you want to indulge in the comfort of white carbohydrates, but keep the rest of the meal light and plant-based, this baked spaghetti is where it’s at. Red wine is a mandatory side dish.

Vegan Baked Spaghetti

½ large onion

16 oz baby bella mushrooms, chopped

1 tbsp Italian seasoning

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

1 c red lentils, cooked (simmer in water until for 10-15 minutes, then drain once tender)

24 oz favorite marinara sauce (I like this no-sugar-added one from Aldi)

8 oz water

1 lb spaghetti

2 tbsp flour

1 tbsp vegan butter

1 tbsp olive oil

2 c cashew milk

2 tbsp nutritional yeast

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Sauté the onion over medium heat in olive oil. Once turning translucent, add mushrooms, and turn heat up to medium-high. Sauté until the mushrooms are browned and have released their liquid. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Turn the heat to low. Add Italian seasoning, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Stir and let cook until very fragrant, 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add cooked red lentils, marinara sauce, and water. (Tip I learned from my mom: fill the pasta jar with the amount of water you need and shake it up. Pour that water and the pasta sauce remnants into the pan. Waste not, want not!) Combine with the vegetables, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
  4. Towards the end of the simmer time, put water on to boil for the spaghetti and preheat the oven to 375.
  5. Cook the spaghetti until very, very al dente. The pasta is going to bake in the oven, so it will cook further then.
  6. Make the white sauce by adding butter and olive oil to a nonstick pan over medium heat. Once warm, sprinkle in the flour, whisking as you go. The fat and flour should create a paste.
  7. Slowly stream in the milk, whisking the whole time. The sauce should be smooth and will thicken as it simmers over medium-low heat. (If you have floury chunks, no big deal. Transfer the sauce to a glass container and blend with an immersion blender. I wasn’t a good whisk-er and had to do this, and it worked perfectly.)
  8. Assembly time! Drizzle olive oil on the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Add the drained, al dente spaghetti. Smooth into an even layer. Top the pasta evenly with about half of the white sauce. Add all of the red sauce (yes, it looks like a lot of sauce. But it’s perfect, trust me). Drizzle the rest of the white sauce evenly over the top of the red sauce.
  9. Bake for 25 minutes, or until bubbling. Allow to cool for 10-15 minute before cutting and serving.
    Serve with green vegetables or a salad. This makes awesome leftovers, and the longer that the pasta cools, the easier it is to cut into squares like lasagna.

Adapted from this non-vegan recipe by Lauren’s Latest.

CURRENTLY // January 2018

And, just like that, the first 31 days of 2018 are over. I know everyone has been complaining about how long the month of January was, but I loved it. I got so much done and had time to be lazy. It was great.

Here’s a rundown of what I was up to last month:


I’m working my way through Brendon Burchard’s book “High Performance Habits.” It’s very dense, and I’m reading it in spurts as I have time. He recommended setting an alarm on your phone with three focus words, several times a day. This alarm will go off and remind you how you want to be, recentering you during a crazy day.

My words are focused, caring, and committed. “Caring” reminds me to check in with loved ones, something that can go out the window during busy weeks. “Focused” and “committed” may seem too similar to be worth using both in my alarm, but I think of them this way: I am focused on the tasks that matter to me, both in leisure and work, and I ignore the rest. “Focused” reminds me to stay on-task, stop procrastinating, and get shit done. “Committed” is more about the intentions that I’ve set for myself and my family. I am committed to making my life better, step by step, so vegetables are more important than Cheetos and a date night with my husband is more important than a casual happy hour (though I will do both when I can 😜.)


My 100-day exercise countdown is going well! I’ve gotten movement in every single day. Even on days where I’ve felt under the weather, I’ve still made the time for at least 20 minutes of brisk walking on the treadmill.

Committing to exercise every day during cold and flu season seems a little crazy, I guess, but reminding myself that exercise doesn’t have to be super-sweaty and all-out every single session has been helpful. There are some weeks that have more walks then runs, and that’s ok. What matters is that I’m still moving!

G and I ran a 5K with our friend Blair on Sunday. I run that far about once a week at the gym, but this was the first time I’d run a real, organized race. I got a little claustrophobic at the beginning with all of the people squeezed into the starting line area, but I loved it otherwise. The race was held in an underground office park, so we were running through tunnels and across train tracks. It was wild, but a good way to run a 5K when it’s freezing outside. It was plenty warm (a little too warm, at times) inside.



I’ve been very into wilted greens and scrambled eggs on sprouted wheat toast for breakfast lately. Delicious, so much protein, and I’m full until at least 11, which is an accomplishment for me. (I usually need a snack by like 9 a.m.) Eating a big breakfast helps me to avoid the junk food snacks, so I’ve been making it a priority.

I also had my quarterly Diet Coke the other day, and I didn’t love it. The first sip made me choke a little, and I had a headache afterwards. I think I may be done with soda for good now. (With the exception of an occasional Mexican Coke with Mexican food, obviously.)

Pantry cooking has been going so, so well. I’ve been well under budget every single week this year, and I’m excited to keep up the trend. I’m making these butter mushrooms (like vegan butter chicken!) for dinner tonight using tomatoes, rice, and spices from my pantry. I only bought mushrooms and green beans, so that’s a suuuuuuuper cheap dinner. 


Kesha and Lorde have been on repeat and so has the broadway soundtrack for “The Color Purple.” I saw the musical on Broadway (with Jennifer Hudson and Cynthia Erivo 💜!) in 2015, and my mom and I saw it in KC earlier this month. It is so excellent and so moving — definitely worth your money if the tour comes to your city. One of the biggest highlights of seeing the show in KC was watching a woman who I’d seen in an ensemble role in NYC play a lead role on the tour! I felt very proud of her, like we were friends. Ha.

I’ve also been loving the podcast “By the Book.” The hosts read a self-help book and live by the principles of the book for two weeks. They’re super honest about their impressions, and it’s funny and genuinely informative. The first episode I listened to was about the “Miracle Morning,” which I didn’t even know was a book! If you follow me on Instagram stories, you know that I call my early-morning work hours my Miracle Morning. I didn’t think that I made that up, but also didn’t know that it was an established lifestyle 🤣. The real Miracle Morning is much more structured than mine, and includes exercise, meditation, and journaling. Mine is much more focused on meeting deadlines.


I signed up for the Goodreads Reading Challenge at the beginning of the year and committed to reading 50 books in 2018. I’m a little behind, with only three books so far, but I have plenty of time to catch up.

So far, I’ve read “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo,” “Kitchen Confidential,” and my advanced readers copy of “Girl, Wash Your Face.” I am about 90% done with “East of Eden,” which is loooooooong but so worth it. (A reminder that I post reviews of every book I read to Goodreads, if you’re curious.)

I will have plenty of time to read this coming week, and I cannot wait. G and I are headed to Colorado for a ski trip with friends, and I can probably read a book every day since I don’t ski. Seriously. I’ve tried it on two separate vacations and I find it more scary and painful than anything else. I’d rather find a fireplace, read, and meet everyone for aprés. 

What were your favorite things in January? How are your intentions going?