Freezer Meals: Why Do It and Where Do I Begin?

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Freezer Meals

I am very grateful that I had a mom who taught me about freezer meals when I was younger. It has been a life saver in this current season of life! Freezing meals can be completely overwhelming if you have never been exposed to it before, so for the next couple of weeks I plan to break it down into steps that will set you up for success. (If you subscribe to our website by putting your email address in the purple box, you will get a bonus email in November to help you do your first cooking day. So sign up today!!)

This week we will be discussing why it is beneficial and what freezes well.

Why do it?

  1. Time Saver
  2. Saves Money
  3. Less Thinking

It is a time saver! This is the most important reason for me in this season of life. You will no longer have to take the time every evening to fully prep a meal and cook it. It also cuts down on the amount of dishes that need to be washed each night. (A huge plus for me!!) It saves money by allowing you to buy in bulk, stock up on items when they are on sale and helps prevent you from eating out on those busy or tiring nights. Last, freezing meals takes the “thinking” out of dinnertime each week. You are able to just pull out supper instead of looking through cookbooks or Pinterest to figure out what sounds good. And a bonus is that it allows you to entertain unexpected guests or bless a family in need without scrambling around trying to throw something together.

Get your freezer ready

It is important to know how much space you have available before the cooking day. You don’t want to go to all the hard work of cooking to not have any space available to freeze it.  For the couple of weeks prior to cooking do not stock up on things like ice cream, frozen pizza, veggies etc. Spend a week using up items in your freezer.Only stock up on the sale items that you will be using to cook your meals.

Invest in a deep freezer

If you already have one, great, it will come in handy. If you don’t, consider putting this on the wish list to save for during this next year. I recommend an upright freezer. It is so much easier to see what you have and keep things in order. That being said, you can definitely do freezer meals with the freezer in your refrigerator. Most freezer meals can be frozen flat in gallon freezer bags. For the most part, casseroles are the only thing that can’t be frozen flat in a freezer bag. Bags versus pans will save you a ton of space. The space available will determine what types of meals you can freeze and how many.

 

Flatten out the food so that it freezes flat.

Flatten out the food so that it freezes flat.

In this picture I have two soups, pulled pork for sandwiches, and a chicken marinade. After you put the food in the bag and suck as much air as possible out, then you push the food flat. For the liquid bags (soups) I freeze them on cookie sheets until they are hard so that they can keep their shape.

They lay so much better flat and take up less space!

They lay so much better flat and take up less space!

Where do I start?

Picking recipes can seem overwhelming at first. But take a deep breath – it is easier than you think. One easy way to get started is to check out Freezer Meal Cookbooks from the library and browse through those first. My favorite cookbooks are Once a Month Cooking by Mimi Wilson, Dont Panic Dinners in the Freezer by Susie Martinez and Not Your Mothers Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbooks by Jessica Fisher. This will show you the type of meals that freeze well. You can either use their recipes or find your own that are similar and use that. Lasagna is an example of a dish that you probably already have a favorite, so use your own instead of what is in the cookbook.

What freezes well?

Actually, most recipes freeze well!  Here is a list of things that do not. Items that work great for us are meatballs, pasta casseroles, meat for sandwiches (example: pulled pork), meat with marinades (like marinated steak for grilling or chicken for baking), Mexican food (burritos, enchiladas, chimichanges, taco meat), Italian food (lasagna, manicotti, baked spaghetti), sloppy joes, hamburgers, and non-cream based soups.  These are examples of nearly certain winners.

How do I pick the meals?

Variety!! That is the key. Most people don’t want to be eating chicken or Mexican all month (although I think my family could), and you don’t want to get burnt out on any one thing. For example, you want to make sure you choose recipes that use different kinds of meat: chicken, beef, pork and ham. The style of food should vary too: Mexican, Italian, and American and marinades, casseroles, and soups.

You also have to think about how you are cooking the meals. You can’t make 6 meals that all need to be cooked on the stove top. You need some that cook on the stove top, some that you just assemble (like enchiladas with pre-cooked meat), some that cook in the crockpot, some that you flash freeze (more on this next week) and some marinades.

Click here to download a printable to help you pick a nice variety of meals. 

PDF_Picture Types of Recipes Printable

Assignment: First Step

This week start looking through your recipes or check out a book from the library. Start to make a list of recipes you would like to make. Next week we will discuss how to set up your cooking day for success.

~Dana

Proverbs 31:15  She rises also while it is still night and gives food to her household and portions to her maidens.

(Freezer meals allow you to give food to your household but not have to rise while it is still night. A huge bonus in my book!!!! 🙂 )

Freezer Meals Series

OPL: Freezer Meals (Tips and Tricks)

OPL: Freezer Meals (It’s Cooking Day!)

OPL: Freezer Meals Again (Quick Recipes)

OPL: Breakfasts and Lunches and Snacks (Oh My!)

9 thoughts on “Freezer Meals: Why Do It and Where Do I Begin?

  1. Raina says:

    This sounds like something I need to do at my house, interested to find out more about this. We have many busy nights with football and dance that we do not get home till late. To be able to have a meal already prepared would be great.

    1. Dana says:

      Raina, You will fall in love with this method once you try it! Keep reading, there will be 2 more posts this month on how to do this type of cooking. Make sure you subscribe to the website by putting your email address into the purple box on the right side so that you can get the bonus email in November to help you get started!!

  2. Leah says:

    I love freezer meals! I don’t normally freeze a month at a time (though I have done it in the past), I normally double up on things when I’m cooking and make an extra to freeze. If we are tired of eating the leftovers, I’ll package them up to freeze in single servings and my husband can just grab one to take to work (he keeps a mini crockpot there to warm things). I also freeze a lot of ingredients that are already prepped. My mom is always teasing me about how much I use my freezer and my crockpot. I find that between 3:30 and 5:30, our house gets crazy – hmm, the school kids are home… 🙂 – so I’ll do anything to make supper easier! I’ve also found that writing out a plan for what we’re having each day has reduced so much stress! Even if I’m cooking it that night, at least I know ahead of time and can start planning.

    1. Dana says:

      Leah, my deep freezer is one of my favorite things my husband has bought me! So I am right there with you! I am currently trying out some new freezer/crockpot recipes so they might be on a future post 🙂

  3. Perfect timing, Dana. I’ve been meaning to email you because I lost the email you sent me with all these directions and really as they get older, life gets crazier because there are more schedules to juggle. I’ve put all these cookbooks on hold at the library, I am excited to learn. Do you think one of the cookbooks tends towards healthier? When I think of make ahead meals I think of sour cream and cream of chicken!

    1. Dana says:

      Laura, So glad this will help!! You had a really good question! I don’t know for sure which one I would classify as “healthier”… maybe Not your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze cookbook?? Once a month cooking by Mimi Wilson reminds me of southern soul food or midwest farm meals. Basic, good food. Don’t Panic Dinner’s in the Freezer has a little bit fancier meals. I probably use this one the least mainly because she uses wine in some of her recipes and I haven’t taken the time to learn which kind of wine is which. Her recipes also have an extra step or two, which makes the recipe even yummier and more resturant like but I just don’t always have the extra time. Not Your Mother’s by Jessica Fisher is probably my new favorite. She has a lot of variety and uses simplie recipes made different ways to make it easy and yummy. The great thing about looking through all three is they will give you an idea of what can be frozen and what can’t. I have several times seen a recipe in the cookbooks and then used my own tried and true recipe instead. Don’t be afraid to make a recipe your own. Start with theirs and then adapt and change it to meet your families needs! You can also see if your library carries other freezer cookbooks. I know I have seen ones that focus on healthier options!

  4. Dana, how many meals at a time do you make when you prep and freeze? Are you making a whole month’s worth, or a week or two? I’ve done the Wildtree freezer meal workshops (10 meals at a time) and the concept is awesome, but a bit more expensive than doing it yourself I’m sure. I’d like to give it a shot on my own too! I look forward to your next two posts =)

    1. Dana says:

      Megan, I just did it last weekend and I made 24 meals. I try to do 20-25 meals each time so that it will last me 1-1 1/2 months. Some nights we will eat left overs, some I cook and most nights we eat the freezer meals. Companies that help you make freezer meals are more expensive than doing it on your own but it is more convienent as easier. Hopefully the next two posts will give you the information you need to do it on your own, or with a friend!

  5. Chris Kemmling says:

    Thanks for the printable!

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