This post was sponsored by the Indiana’s Family of Farmers. You get to learn about affordable ways to prepare food. I get a few extra bucks in the Royal coffers. The post and opinions are 100% mine. No editing was done by anyone. I’m sure you could find some grammatical errors if you read it again. Read more on my disclosure policy.
I love freezer meals. Freezer meals are like a break for my brain. They are my friends. They are my helpers on nights when life is too cray cray to cook or I’m just feeling lazy. Typically when I fix freezer meals, we don’t plow through them all in a week’s time. Most we nosh on for a day or two (including lunch) and then I usually rotate them in to our weekly meal plan to take the pressure off.
Believe it or not, this meal plan is fairly simple and you can actually get 8 ALDI freezer meals (or 7.5 if you’re really hungry). This meal plan deviates from my typical plan (there are 5 others!) in that you will probably want a side dish to accompany the meal or maybe a bread item. However, everything else is included and some of these meals we actually ate for more than one day and had enough for lunches, too. My aim was to provide you with 8 main dishes that you could swap out or switch around for the lowest price possible. As always, I don’t account for things like spices or kitchen staples (flour, eggs, milk, butter, etc.). You may have other items on hand to punch up a dish and add some pizazz. I’ll make suggestions when I can. I also left some wiggle room in the budget (about $1.41) to purchase some lasagna noodles (you’ll only need about 2/3 a box). I already had some on hand and ALDI doesn’t always carry them. If you have other pasta in your cabinet, you could probably make a similar dish.
Without further ado, here’s what I bought:
Organic Ketchup $1.69: The ketchup is only used in a new dish I brainstormed that’s a BBQ chicken Hashbrown Pie. It was probably my family’s favorite of all of the dishes. You won’t use the entire bottle and you may already have enough at home. If you want to save extra pennies, opt for the regular over the organic variety.
Crushed Tomatoes $0.95 (2): ALDI’s crushed tomatoes are the base for my Black Bean Turkey Chili and the Pizza Soup my family loves so much. I love that they’re affordable and a great consistency without any extra manipulation. You simply pour them in the bag and go.
Black Beans $0.59 (3): We love black beans for so many reasons! They have great nutritional value, they’re versatile for a number of dishes, they fill you up, and of course they’re incredibly affordable. We’ll use three cans – 1 for the Black Bean Turkey Chili, 1 for the Chicken Salsa Soup, and 1 for the Chicken Enchilada Lasagna.
Mild Salsa $1.89: One of the fantastic advantages of making a mass number of freezer meals is that you can maximize ingredients, instead of tossing them in the refrigerator graveyard of condiments. This is a large jar of salsa (24 oz.) and so we’ll use a little over half of it for the Chicken Salsa Soup and the rest for the Chicken Enchilada Lasagna.
Flour Tortillas $1.19: The first time I tried out this meal plan, we had several leftover tortillas. That just wasn’t a good thing! I wanted to use them all. So we stretched them into two meals in this plan – Chicken Enchilada Lasagna and wait for it, Pizza Lasagna. I was really pleased with how they turned out.
Fresh Ground Turkey $3.29: Again, we’ll be splitting up this turkey between the Italian Lasagna and the Turkey Black Bean Chili. Since both dishes have other substance to them (Sausage/Cheese/Cottage Cheese in the Lasagna and Black Beans and the Tomatoes in the Chili), you won’t be lacking in meat and it stretches just a bit further. You can of course substitute ground beef, too. It shouldn’t change your overall price too much.
Fresh Whole Chicken $3.42: I have fallen in love with cooking full chickens and using them in multiple dishes. This requires a little bit of extra leg work on your part, but results in a more flavorful dish, leftover broth if you choose to use it, and much more meat. ALDI usually has whole chickens for $0.95/lb., making them one of the most economical purchases in the store. I dig around for smaller birds to find ones that are in my price range instead of just grabbing the first one I see. On this particular chicken, there happened to be a $1 off sticker which you can find frequently at ALDI as items near their sell by date. Since I knew I would be using it that day, I went ahead and snagged it.
Fresh Whole Chicken $4.08: Before you begin putting together all of your meals, you’ll want to either slow cook your whole chicken in a crockpot (find a good guide on how to here) or roast it on low heat in your oven for 20 minutes per pound. I’ve done both and they’re equally as yummy and easy. You could even do this step the day before. Pull the chicken off of the bone when it’s cooled (lesson learned, ouch). We’ll use the chicken in the Chicken Salsa Soup, Chicken Enchilada Lasagna, Chicken Pesto and Tortellini Soup, and the BBQ Chicken Hashbrown Pie.
Pork Sausage Roll $1.99: You need half of the sausage for the Pizza Soup and half of the sausage for the Italian Lasagna. Like any of the meats, you could prepare it ahead of time and then divvy it up or you could cook it while multitasking the other dishes which is what I usually do.
Shredded Mild Cheddar Cheese $3.29: Who doesn’t love cheese? You should have more than enough Shredded Mild Cheddar to make the Chicken Enchilada Lasagna. And then you can save it to top the Black Bean Turkey Chili and Chicken Salsa Soup if you’d like. Cheese can be frozen so if you feel like you have leftovers you won’t use immediately, consider stashing them in the freezer, too.
Shredded Mozzarella Cheese $3.29: You’ll need to divide this evenly between the Italian Lasagna and the Pizza Lasagna.
Shredded Colby Jack Cheese $2.79: Reserve this cheese for the BBQ Chicken Hashbrown Pie. Depending on how cheesy you are, you might have a bit leftover.
Mushrooms $1.49: I bought the mushrooms because I like mushrooms, especially with pesto. My guess is that everyone else will be picking them out of the Chicken Pesto Tortellini Soup, Pizza Soup, and Pizza Lasagna but that’s A-OK with me. You can skip them if no one in your house likes them or you can add them to everything in sight. 😉
Sweet Onions $0.89: This one onion was enormous. I’m pretty sure I could fed my neighborhood with it. I didn’t use all of it, but if you’re an onion-y family and yours is equally large, feel free to add it to just about every dish.
Shredded Hashbrowns $1.65: BBQ Chicken Hashbrown pie = a new family favorite. You will probably still only use about half of the bag which means you can use them as a side dish another night or whip up something yummy for breakfast.
Frozen Sweet Corn $0.95: I think it’s the Indiana in me, but I love sweet corn especially when you can splash it into a savory dish and add just a little flavor explosion. I used the Sweet Corn in the BBQ Chicken Hashbrown Pie, Chicken Salsa Soup, and Chicken Enchilada Lasagna.
Tortellini $1.49: The Tortellini (I went with cheese but you could get mushroom or anything else they have if you’re feeling frisky) is found in the Italian dry goods (think pasta, sauce, etc.). There are also refrigerator varieties; however, they are a bit more expensive. This ingredient can be placed on the shelf until you fix the Chicken Pesto Soup. Then simply prepare according to package instructions or add to the soup in the last minutes of cooking. I will warn you that it enlarges as the days pass so the leftovers might need to some space to breathe.
Turkey Pepperoni $2.19: This is one ingredient that I would probably change next time. I like Turkey Pepperoni because it’s lower in fat but woowhee it was a little spicy for me (I’m a weakling). We used this in the Pizza Lasagna and the Pizza Soup.
Reduced Sodium Chicken Broth $1.39 (2): You may end up only needing one box of broth but both are for thinning the soups a bit – Chicken Salsa Soup, Chicken Pesto Soup, and Pizza Soup.
Pesto Sauce $1.69: I can’t even believe how affordable pesto is at ALDI. And it tastes fabulous, too. Someone mentioned having Chicken Pesto Soup at a restaurant and I decided to try my hand at making it myself I kept things simple with this little jar at the heart of the recipe.
Organic Pasta Sauce $1.89: You need pasta sauce for the Italian Lasagna and the Pizza Lasagna.
Pizza Sauce $0.99: Last but not least, the majority of the pizza sauce goes into the Pizza Soup. Use about 1/4 of the jar combined with the leftover pasta sauce to make the Pizza Lasagna.
Here’s my receipt proof! And oh by the way, full disclosure, I used my debit card for this purchase for record keeping purposes. I blacked out info so the sneaks on the Internet don’t go cray cray on me. 😉 Again, you’ll need to find lasagna noodles in your cabinet or at another store.
Print the entire ALDI Freezer Meal Shopping List.
And here’s what I made:
Meal #1 Turkey Black Bean Chili
This meal is a staple in our meal plan. I love that it’s simple and it’s the Princess Eldest’s favorite dish. It very easily converts to a freezer meal and then can be thawed in the crockpot during the day or cooked on the stovetop if you’re in more of a rush. If you’re looking for a side dish to add to it, we often have cornbread or chips and guacamole. You should have enough leftover cheese to top it with, too. You’ll find the full recipe here, but simply put I add a can of crushed tomatoes, followed by half of the can filled with water (scraping down anything that clings to the sides), 1 can of black beans rinsed, and then half of the ground turkey that has been browned and drained to a gallon freezer bag. You can add chili pepper to taste and chopped onion if you’d like, too. Anytime you put soups in a gallon bag, it’s easiest to line a pitcher or large cylindrical container with your plastic bag (label it first with what’s going inside and the date!). Then gently lay it flat and try to get as much air as possible out of the bag before placing in the freezer.
Meat #2 Italian Lasagna
My mom’s lasagna is one of my very favorite dishes and I grew up making it. It translates fabulously to the freezer. First, brown both the ground turkey and pork sausage in separate pans. You’ll use half of the turkey and one third of the sausage in this recipe. Reserve the second half of the ground turkey for the Turkey Black Bean Chili and the other two thirds of the sausage for the Pizza Soup and Pizza Lasagna. Next, combine the cottage cheese with Italian seasoning and garlic powder in a large mixing bowl. If you have parmesan cheese, you can add it to the mixture, too but it’s not necessary. You’ll use half of this mixture in the Italian Lasagna and the other half in the Pizza Lasagna. So you can divide and set it aside or simply monitor how much you use. Continue by spreading a enough pasta sauce to cover the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Add an even layer of noodles. Top the noodles with another layer of sauce, 1/2 of the meat, and dollops of the cheese mixture. Then cover with another layer of noodles. Repeat for the second layer. Top the second layer with another round of noodles and then cover them with more sauce and more mozzarella cheese. Cover pan with aluminum foil (again you’ll want to label the contents and date). Try not to set anything on top of the lasagna until it’s fully frozen so the cheese doesn’t get stuck to the top of the foil. It really is fairly simple. For freezer lasagna I prefer using the pre-cooked lasagna noodles just because it’s quick and easy to work with them but you do want to be sure you’re using plenty of sauce so they can absorb the moisture as they cook. Speaking of, bake from frozen, covered at 375 F for about 45 minutes. Then gently remove the aluminum foil and bake for 10-15 minutes more or until the cheese is bubbly.
Meal #3 Pizza Soup
Again, this is a family favorite and a recipe that is easily assembled into a gallon freezer bag. Begin by labeling the bag with the date and the contents. Then place it in a pitcher or other upright cylindrical continuer. Add a can of crushed tomatoes, followed by half of a can of water, scraping down the sides and getting all of the tomato-y goodness into the bag. Then pour in half of the jar of pizza sauce. Add the remaining pork sausage. Cut pepperonis into fourths and add about half the package to the soup mixture. Chop onion and mushroom into bite size pieces and add, too. Finish by pouring half of a box of broth into the soup. You could honestly add to this soup whatever you like best in pizza – fresh garlic, other meats, veggies – that you may have in your fridge or pantry. We love to serve it over the top of garlic bread (made from scratch is the best!) and then melt plenty of wonderful cheese on top.
Meal #4 Pizza Lasagna
I added this meal after doing a run through of the meal plan and realizing I had leftover onion, pepperoni, pizza sauce, mushrooms, Italian seasoned cottage cheese mixture, and tortillas. So I basically made my Italian lasagna replacing the noodles with tortillas. Use 1/2 the jar of pizza sauce and/or any remaining pasta sauce to coat the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Place two tortillas overlapping in the bottom. Add a bit more sauce, pepperoni and sausage, and dollops of the cottage cheese mixture. Then top with mozzarella cheese. I couldn’t believe how far the single bag stretched. Add a second layer of two more tortillas and top again with all of the pizza ingredients finishing with cheese. We kept it to a double decker instead of three layers. You’ll use 6 in the Chicken Enchilada Lasagna but only 4 tortillas in the Pizza Lasagna. Bake at 350 from frozen for 30 minutes, checking at 15 minutes. Pull the foil off and bake for an additional 5 minutes. I thought that this very simple dish turned out delicious! I probably will opt for regular pepperoni next time, though.
Real Life Moment: This is the crazy mess that was my kitchen in the middle of this project. A friend came over and we actually doubled everything and made all of the meals together. It was much more fun! You can see the Pizza Lasagna in the uncovered pan.
Meal #5 Chicken Salsa Soup
I joke that this is my “Can of” soup because it’s so simple to make that you basically pour cans of ingredients into a pot or crockpot. It works the same way for the freezer. Pour a little over half of the jar of salsa into the bag (don’t forget to label it first). Drain and rinse your black beans and add them next. Place about a 3/4 of a cup of frozen corn into the bag. Then add about 1/5 of your shredded chicken from your two slow cooked chickens into the bag. Pour half of box of the broth into the bag, too. This soup is great with freshly prepared rice or a side of tortilla chips. I usually peel the frozen soup from the bag and add to my crockpot, allowing it to cook all day long. I have grand intentions of thawing it but it never happens. You could also prepare it on the stovetop.
Meal #6 Chicken Pesto Soup
Line your pitcher or cylindrical container one more time and prepare to make Chicken Pesto Soup. Add the entire jar of pesto to the bottom of your pre-labeled bag. Fill the jar with hot water and replace the lid. Shake vigorously to loosen any remaining pesto from the sides of the jar and add to the bag. Pour the second full carton of broth into the bag. Add chopped mushrooms. Then add 1/5 of the chicken to the soup. A few times I’ve also added spinach to this soup and it’s yummy, too. So if you have a package that you need to use up in the refrigerator (this seems to always happen to me), add it to the mix. Again, when you prepare this soup, add the tortellini in the last 5-10 minutes if cooking on the stovetop or last 20-30 minutes if preparing in the crockpot.
Meal #7 Chicken Enchilada Lasagna
I’m all about the fusion cuisine. OK, not really but a few years ago I decided to make a Chicken Enchilada styled Lasagna and it’s become a dish we fix frequently. To stick to our budget and use all of our ingredients to their fullest, I’m using salsa instead of enchilada sauce but I have prepared it with both in the past. You should have just under half the jar of salsa remaining after preparing the Chicken Salsa soup. Soup just enough to cover the bottom of a 9×13 pan and spread it fully around. Place two tortillas in next to each other. Then top with shredded chicken, drained and rinsed black beans, and a handful of frozen corn. Again, you could add more chopped onion to this dish, too. Cover these ingredients with shredded cheddar cheese and then place two more tortillas on top. Again spoon enough salsa on top of the tortillas to cover them entirely and repeat the layering process. Place the last two tortillas on top and spoon the salsa again. Then cover liberally with cheddar cheese. You want to cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil like the other dishes mentioned above. Try to allow the pan to freeze completely before stacking other items on top of it. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an addition 5-10 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly. Serve with a salad or sliced avocado.
Meal #8 BBQ Chicken Hashbrown Pie (2)
One afternoon I thought it would be fun to prepare a BBQ Chicken Pot Pie. But instead of the crust use hash browns and instead of peas focus on sweet corn. Because who doesn’t love sweet corn at a BBQ?! The first time I attempted this meal plan, I actually made a crust from scratch (Pioneer Woman’s recipe). The result was delicious but it was crazy time consuming. Of course you could purchase a pre-made crust but I’m a weirdo about all of the additives so I’d rather just make it from the basics. The other drawback was that the hash browns were a little mushy and didn’t brown. So the second time, I chose to just butter the bottom of the pan and put a layer of hashbrowns directly on the bottom, eliminating the pie crust altogether. By the way, you should have enough chicken, hashbrowns, corn, and cheese to make two of these! So butter up two pie pans and do everything twice. After that, I combined the remaining shredded chicken with half of the bottle of ketchup, some brown sugar, and some mesquite seasoning to make my own bbq sauce. You could also choose to purchase your favorite variety of sauce but this basic approach is pretty yummy. I mixed the meat and sauce thoroughly and cooked over low in a sauce pan for 10-15 minutes. While it was cooking, I sprinkled a handful of the sweet corn on each pan filled with hashbrowns. Divide it evening but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a thick layer. Then I spread a thick layer of meat on top of the corn and hashbrown base. Top each with about 1/4 of the bag of Shredded Colby Jack Cheese. You can choose to freeze the remaining cheese to use on the Chicken Salsa Soup or Turkey Black Bean Chili. Then tightly cover the pie pans with aluminum foil, label and place in the freezer. Again be mindful to not initially stack items on top of them until they freeze completely. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Then remove the foil. Bake another 5-10 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and the dish is hot throughout. We were able to use these as two separate meals. However, larger families might want to bake both at once. My husband LOVED this dish.
So there you have it! It was an hour process, but you can easily knock it out in an afternoon’s time. It’s more joy, less work with a friend, too.
How many freezer meals can you make with $50?! I’d love to know what plans you use or what recipes are your favorite. Leave me some comment love and feel free to ask questions!
My book is now available: Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After. You can also check out The Debt Free Devotional on Kindle.
This post contains an affiliate link. That means when you get a great deal or maybe even something for free, you also help our family pay off our mortgage early. And for that, we royally thank you!