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?
- Time Saver
- Saves Money
- 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.
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.
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, Don’t Panic Dinner’s in the Freezer by Susie Martinez and Not Your Mother’s 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.
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.
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!!!! 🙂 )