I’m always shocked when I hear moms say they don’t make freezer meals, because they are absolute life-savers for me! Today I’m sharing why I love them so much and some of my very best tips.
**Links in this post may be affiliate links. This means that if you click that link and purchase the product, I may receive a small compensation. I am, however, committed to honestly assessing the products mentioned. Please read my disclosure policy for more details. **
This past Saturday, I spent a few morning hours stocking my freezer with eight ready-to-go meals. I was a little tired by the time it was all said and done, but there is something so thrilling about knowing that I have some meals in the freezer for a rainy day. And now I feel a little more prepared for unexpected opportunities for hospitality.
I am a huge fan of freezer meals, and I wrote a post last year about how I made 11 meals in under two hours before the birth of my second son. After that post went live, several people commented that they’ve never made freezer meals, or very few, anyway. That blew my mind, because freezer meals are absolute life-savers for me and something I think every mom needs to make her life a little easier.
If you’re new to the world of freezer cooking, or simply want to learn more about it, this is a post you need to read. If you stick with me, I will explain why I think you need freezer meals in your life, give you some of my best tips for making it a smooth and efficient experience, and give you the details from my latest freezer meal session.
Enjoy, and happy cooking!
Why You Should Make Freezer Meals
Making freezer meals may require time up-front (though not much if you do it efficiently — more on that later!), but they are total time-savers when you need it the most. Like on a busy day when you just don’t have time to cook anything.
There are several ways freezer meals save you money. You can take advantage of sales and stock up on those items, planning your freezer meals around them. You can also buy your ingredients in bulk, saving you money per item. And having a stash of freezer meals saves you money because it will save you from having to go out to eat when you realize you have nothing to feed your family for dinner.
Freezer meals totally save my sanity. They are life-savers on nights when a) I mess up the original plans for dinner, b) I am too mentally or physically exhausted to cook, c) I am not feeling well, c) I have forgotten to make a plan for dinner at all, d) our plans change or don’t allow me to cook dinner, and e) we have unexpected dinner guests. Is that enough of a list of reasons for you?
Freezer meals help eliminate those last-minute scrambles to put food on the table, allowing you more time to be intentional about your ingredients. They make homemade, real food, meals a more viable option for even the busiest moms. And they eliminate the need for take-out or visits to the local restaurant.
You can also serve others with your freezer meals. They are welcome gifts for friends after a new baby, a hospitalization, or a death in the family.
Where Do I Start?
“That all sounds great,” you say, “I would love to make some freezer meals … but where do I start??”
Freezer cooking may sound intimidating if you’ve never done it, but it’s really quite simple. These are the basic steps:
- Choose your recipes
Think about how much time you have available, how much prep you’re willing to do, and what ingredients you’ll need. I try to choose recipes with short ingredient lists that consist mostly of items I already have on hand. I also plan them around the sales at my grocery store or items I’ve recently purchased at the bulk foods store or Costco.
- Make a master ingredient list & shop
- Organize your recipes in one place
Sometimes I print out or copy all the recipes I need. I have also made copies of the recipes and put them all in one Word document. My freezer cooking session stays so much more organized when all my recipes are in one place.
- Make a plan of attack
For the smoothest experience, make a game plan for your freezer cooking. Make a list of the meals you will be making and any prep that will need to be done before assembling. Then order your steps.
Here’s an example of my game plan from this past weekend:
- Assemble and freeze
Pssst! Want to snag my most recent freezer meal plan, complete with recipes, grocery list, and game plan? Click on the link below to get your free copy!
It’s not hard to start freezer cooking — when I first started doing it, I just dove right in! But there are definitely tips for making it a better, more efficient, process.
General Freezer Meal Tips
- Follow a recipe’s instructions up to the point you would put it in the slow cooker or oven. If you would put the meat in the slow cooker raw, for example, then put it in your bag raw. However, if a recipe calls for cooked chicken, then cook it before assembling the freezer meal.
You can absolutely cook your dish completely and freeze the leftovers. This can be quite handy sometimes because it only requires time to reheat, as opposed to cooking. But it will taste like leftovers. So, for the optimal taste on cooking day, it’s best to freeze before cooking.
- When assembling a slow cooker freezer bag, put the meat in last so that it will be the first thing poured into your slow cooker when you cook it. (When cooking meat in the slow cooker, you want it to be closest to the heating source.)
- When freezing in bags, make sure you get all the air out of the bag when you seal it.
- When cooking in pans, disposable pans are very handy to have so your dishes aren’t tied up in the freezer.
You can also freeze your dish without a pan at all: line your pan with aluminum foil before adding your ingredients, flash freeze until frozen solid, pull out the frozen food by the foil, wrap in enough extra aluminum foil to cover completely, and put in a plastic freezer bag. When it comes time to cook the dish, take it out of the bag, remove the extra layer of aluminum foil, and put it in the baking dish.
- Chill your freezer meal in the fridge for a couple hours before putting it in the freezer, especially if it’s warm. The warm food will cause condensation when placed directly in the freezer, increasing your chances for freezer burnt food.
- Double recipes whenever possible to get the most “bang” for your prep time “buck.” That way you only have to get out your supplies once, measure ingredients once, and use one set of dishes and utensils.
- Label your meals well. You will want to write the recipe name, cooking directions, special instructions, and any ingredients that will need to be added the day of, as well as the date you froze the meal.
- Lay flat to freeze for easy storage later. **HOWEVER, if I know I’m going to be using the Instant Pot to cook my freezer meals (which I much prefer to the slow cooker), I make sure to freeze them in a shape that can fit in the pot. Because food comes to temperature so quickly in the Instant Pot and doesn’t stay in the “danger zone” very long, it is perfectly safe to cook meals from frozen state in the Instant Pot. How handy is that?? To freeze them in the right shape, I put the bags in 7” Pyrex dishes and flash freeze them. Once they’re frozen enough to maintain the shape, I take them out of the dishes and store in the freezer.
There are two main methods for freezer cooking — what I call the “freeze-as-you-go” method and the freezer meal session method. Here are some tips for both:
The Freeze-As-You-Go Method
This is usually my preferred method for freezer cooking. It can be really hard to find a day to devote several hours to making meals. (Not to mention, it’s very hard to keep my boys otherwise occupied while I do it!)
Freeze-as-you-go is my name for making extra of whatever I’m already cooking and freezing what we won’t immediately use. This is so much more efficient than cooking one meal at a time, because making two of something is hardly any more time or effort than cooking one.
If you plan to freeze-as-you-go, it’s best to freeze prior to cooking, but it’s not going to hurt anything to freeze after cooking. It just might not taste as good.
Freezer Meal Sessions Method
As much as I like freeze-as-you-go freezer cooking, sometimes it’s nice to do a big freezer meal session. I’ve done several, such as when I made 11 freezer meals in under 2 hours to prepare for Andrew’s birth. This is also the method I chose this past weekend.
Here are some of my best tips for the easiest, most efficient freezer meal session:
- “No cook” recipes (recipes that don’t require any cooking before assemply) are the easiest. I mostly use these for big freezer meal sessions, with a casserole or other dish thrown in.
- Stick to one or two meats only – This enables you to buy in bulk and create more efficient assembly lines as you make your meals. If you want more variety in your freezer meals, do another session with another meat. It’s more efficient to do it this way than mixing several meats in one session.
- Double, or even triple, each recipe — Remember: one prep, one measure, one set of dishes and utensils.
- Be smart when choosing recipes — choose ones with overlapping ingredient lists so you have fewer ingredients to buy and you can take advantage of batch prepping.
- Plan, shop, and cook on different days — do not try to do it all in one day!
Freezer Cooking Supplies
You don’t really need anything special to start freezer cooking, but here are some supplies you may want to consider:
- Plastic Freezer Bags – do not buy cheap!! Trust me, your bags will tear, and your meal will go to waste.
- Disposable Pans
- Veggie Chopper – This makes super quick work of chopping onions and veggies!
- Slow Cooker
- 7” Pyrex Dishes to freeze in the right shape for Instant Pot
I hope this post was helpful to you, whether you’re a freezer cooking novice or a budding enthusiast. If you enjoyed it, please consider sharing it with your friends and share the freezer meal love. I would appreciate it, and I know they would, too! 😉
Don’t forget to grab your FREE freezer meal session cheat sheet!
You Might Also Enjoy:
- How I Made 11 Freezer Meals in Only 2 Hours!
- 5 Reasons You Need a Freezer (And Why I Need So Many!)
- 9 Secrets to Feeding Your Family Well (When You Don’t Have Time)
- My Love Affair With the Insanely Versatile Instant Pot