When it comes to balancing and prioritizing life, making sure dinner is on the table every night is one of those things that just HAS to be done. It’s not easy cooking dinner EVERY single night for the family. Life is busy and there are some nights we just don’t always feel like cooking. Freezer meals to the rescue!
Freezer meals are AAAAMAZING! They make life so much easier and I use them all the time! There are a ton of awesome freezer meal recipes you can find out there and so many varieties. A lot of focus has been put on making freezer meals while pregnant in preparation for baby’s arrival so that you don’t have to worry about cooking right after baby is born. This is great, but they’re great for anybody anytime, not just nesting mamas. I made a ton of freezer meals while pregnant with my second baby and it was super handy. It was so great having meals prepped and ready to go that I still use freezer meals at least twice a week. They are convenient and help to cut down your grocery bill as well.
There are a few safety guidelines to be aware of just to make sure everyone eating the meals are safe.
- When thawing freezer meals, always thaw in the refrigerator, under cold water, or in the microwave. Thawing food any other way is considered unsafe by the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service.
- Frozen meals are safe to eat no matter how long they have been in the freezer. However, the quality of the food may begin to deteriorate after a few months. This chart provides information regarding time frames of storing certain foods in regard to quality: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/freezing-and-food-safety/CT_Index
- If you have any questions or concerns regarding the safety of frozen foods, you can find more information at USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service
Planning Freezer Meals
Before digging into making your freezer meals, sit down and make a plan!
- First, print off this handy dandy Freezer Meal Planner that you can find in the Resource Library!
- Take inventory using this Freezer Meal Inventory tracker and figure out what is already in your freezer before doing anything else. You may have a few freezer meals already or you may find a roast at the bottom of your freezer that you got on sale and forgot about that you can now use in a freezer meal recipe for this month. You want to know what already exists in the darkness of your freezer before deciding what you’re going to add to it.
- Once you know what’s in the freezer, decide on how many meals you’d like to have in your freezer for the month. I like to keep 5-6 meals in the freezer for a month, using 1-2 each week. Decide what’s going to be best for you, and pick the magic number of meals you’ll need to make!
- Check for coupons, sales, and rebates for specific ingredients that you know you can use for freezer meals. If you’re a newbie at freezer meals, no worries. You will soon have a repertoire of meals and you’ll know what ingredients to look for when browsing coupons and whatnot. You can still save money by using whatever items happen to be on sale that week and finding a recipe for it. For more detailed information on saving money on groceries, check out this How to SAVE and MAKE Money While Grocery Shopping post. You can also click here for some awesome meal planning tips and a Printable meal planner template 😀!
- Plan out your freezer meals! Using the money-saving items from sales ads, coupon resources, etc. browse through recipes and decide what you’d like to make. (I have an entire board dedicated to freezer meal recipes, so follow me on Pinterest to see those goodies😉!)
Another awesome way to save money when making freezer meals is by using recipes that call for common ingredients. If you see that pork roast is on sale, find a few different recipes that call for pork roast so that you can get the most bang for your buck! If you’re struggling to find recipes with common ingredients, you can also just double your chosen recipes to use up the ingredients. When making Cilantro Lime Chicken, I ALWAYS double the recipe because it’s a favorite in our house and it allows me to buy in bulk and use everything I buy so nothing goes to waste. Plus I get two meals in the freezer instead of just one!
After getting all of your freezer meals planned, gather your ingredients and make your shopping list. Don’t forget to add freezer storage bags (i.e. Ziploc bags) to your list so that you have plenty for all of your meals! You also want to make sure you have a sharpie marker and labels.
Gather all of your coupons and rebates to use while you shop so that you can save money. When possible, shop at Sam’s Club or Costco to buy in bulk and save even more money!
Making Your Freezer Meals
Planning is done, shopping is done, so let’s get to the dirty work and make those freezer meals! Set aside a good amount of time to get all of your meals made, and let’s get to work!
- Write out all of your labels. Include thawing instructions, cooking instructions, and other ingredients needed to complete this meal on preparation day.
- Place each label on a freezer storage bag. I use large shipping labels when making my freezer meals, but you can also use a sharpie to right directly on the storage bag.
- Follow instructions for your chosen recipes, do the prep work, fill your bags, and freeze. Voila! You now have meals ready to go in your freezer!
- When getting your shopping list ready, pay close attention to the meat in your chosen recipes and whether it needs to be sliced or chopped BEFORE being frozen. If it does, you’ll want to buy fresh meat, but if it doesn’t you can go with frozen meat if you so choose.
- Freeze FLAT! Place the bag in your freezer as flat as you can, trying to get the contents of the bag distributed evenly. This saves space in your freezer and makes it much easier to thaw the meal and transfer to a crock-pot or baking dish when ready to cook.
- When making some freezer meals, it is more convenient to place the meals in disposable foil baking pans versus freezer storage bags, such as lasagna or casserole-type meals. So instead of having to thaw the meal and transfer it to a baking dish, all you have to do is throw it in the oven to cook! Disposable foil baking pans can be found at pretty much any grocery store, including Walmart and Sam’s Club.
- Keep inventory of what meals you have stockpiled in your freezer using the Freezer Meal Inventory sheet. That way, when you sit down to do your weekly meal planning you can add these meals to your plan. Don’t forget to account for the thawing time if the recipe calls for it. I tend to allow for 2 days’ thawing time in the fridge to ensure it’s completely thawed and ready to cook. When doing my weekly meal planning, I add freezer meals to the calendar as well, including which day I need to take them out to thaw.
You Did It!!!! If you love having freezer meals but would also love an easier way to get more tasty meals in your freezer, you won’t want to miss The Beginner’s Guide to Freezer Meal Swaps post coming soon!!!
Here are a few sites with awesome freezer meal recipes to get you started!
- Save Time with Trim Healthy Mama Slow Cooker Freezer Meals
- 10 Freezer Skillet Meals (in 2 Hours for $70!)
- 20 Make-Ahead Freezer Dinners for Busy Moms
- The Best 10 Crock-Pot Freezer Meals on the Internet
- Super Fast Chicken Freezer Meals
Don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest to see EVEN MORE amazing freezer meal recipes!
What tips do you have when it comes to making freezer meals? Let’s connect and share recipes!