Freezer meals have saved my sanity. That may sound like an extreme statement to make about dinner, but truly, they have. As a busy mom of 7, supper used to cause me so much stress. It wasn’t that I didn’t like cooking. It was that I had a hard time deciding what to make every day. Four o’clock would roll around and I would have that moment of not knowing what to make for dinner. Since discovering freezer cooking, I never have that problem anymore.
Now, each morning, I go to my freezer and open the door where I am greeted with ready-to-cook meals. I pull one out to thaw and don’t have to think about what I’m going to serve for dinner that night. I also don’t have to run to the store to pick up an ingredient I’ve forgotten. It’s saved me so much time and saved our family a lot of money too.
For those of you who are new to freezer cooking, I wanted to put together a Freezer Meals 101 guide to help you get started. Here you will find answers to all your freezer meal questions.
Freezer Meals 101:
What are freezer meals? Freezer meals are just what they sound like. They are meals made ahead and frozen for later use. This can look as simple as doubling a recipe that you’re making anyway and freezing the extra. Most often though, the term “freezer cooking” is used to describe batch cooking. Batch cooking is when you set aside time to make many meals at once. They are then frozen. You can then take out one meal a day for cooking for dinner. Breakfasts and lunches can also be made ahead in this way.
How to know what freezes and what doesn’t:
One of the important elements of freezer cooking is knowing what freezes and what doesn’t. You can read a full list here of what foods freeze well and which don’t as well on tips to freeze them.
I’ve also created a cheatsheet for you to print out as an easy reference to remember what freezes well.
Freezer burn is the enemy when it comes to creating delicious freezer meals. To prevent freezer burn, remove all the excess air from the freezer bags before freezing. Labelling your meals with the date made also helps prevent freezer burn as you can move the older meals to the front of the freezer.
Supplies needed for freezer cooking:
- Good quality freezer bags. It’s important to use good quality freezer bags so that they don’t leak or break. I use both the large size for the main meal and the medium size for additions such as grated cheese or dry pasta and then attach them together using a stapler.
- Stapler. For meals that require more than one bag, use a stapler to attach the freezer bags together.
- Labels. We use Avery’s 5163 label template for our labels.
- Permanent marker. Having a permanent marker on hand comes in handy for adding extra instructions to labels or for adding the date to the labels.
- Electric can opener. Using an electric can opener has saved our wrists, thumbs and so much time.
- Meal plans. Our meal plans include the recipes, prep lists, shopping lists and printable labels which make things so much easier.
- Freezer. An upright freezer works best and the investment will pay for itself for all the money you will save in groceries.
What to include on the label:
- name of meal
- detailed cooking instructions
- optional: serving suggestions
Step by step guide to freezer cooking:
- Choose the recipes. I always do a combination of tried and true family favourites along with a few new recipes. This allows me to find some new meals to add into our regular rotation. You can find freezer meal recipes here or you can purchase one of our freezer meal plans so that you can skip over the next few steps.
- Make a shopping list. Be sure to remember to add the freezer bags to your list. I make three lists, one for a bulk store where I purchase things such as spices, one for a warehouse store where some bulk items can be purchased at a discount, and one for the regular grocery store. If you are planning a huge freezer meal assembly marathon, call your local store with a meat order. This will ensure they have enough when you arrive and can also sometimes get you an additional discount.
- Print labels and recipes. I use Avery’s 5163 labels. See the instructions above for what information to include on the labels.
- Purchase the groceries and supplies.
- Prep your ingredients. Chop and/or finely mince the onions. Fry up any ground beef, turkey or sausage. For recipes that call for cooked chicken, put the chicken on baking sheets and cook it in the oven before cubing or shredding or whatever the recipe calls for. Chop, slice or cube vegetables. Fry bacon. Grate cheese.
- Set up stations in your kitchen or a larger community kitchen. At each station, place the photocopied recipe, non-perishable ingredients that you will need, spices called for, the freezer bags, labels, and any equipment you will need such as mixing bowls, can openers, measuring cups and spoons, and mixing spoons.
- Assemble the meals. If you are assembling freezer meals in a group, assign one person to each station and get to work. Making multiples of the same meal is hardly any extra work and at the end of the day, all of you will have many delicious and healthy meals to take home to your families. If you are making the meals on your own, start at one station and work your way around.
- Clean as you go. Do the dishes as you work so that things don’t pile up. It’s also important to wash the surfaces you are working on to keep things sanitary.
- Freeze the meals. For all meals that are put in a bag, let out all excess air and lay the bag flat. This will optimize your freezer space. If you are doing this in a group, have everyone bring a cooler or a laundry basket to transport their meals in. Keeping the meals cold can be tricky the day of the assembly, but if you live in a place where the winters are cold, schedule your cook days for cold days and store the assembled meals in the boxes outside until people are ready to go home.
- Open the freezer at the end of the day and admire the meals that will make things so much easier for weeks to come!
Freezer Meal 101 Tips:
Wear comfortable shoes. You will be on your feet for a long time. You can also invest in a memory foam kitchen mat to make things more comfortable. I have one by the sink.
Never freeze in glass containers. As contents expand while they are freezing, the glass can break.
Freezer meals keep for 3-6 months if properly stored. They need to be kept in a freezer at 0° Fahrenheit or below.
These Freezer Meal Hacks will make things go more smoothly. If you’re looking to learn more about batch cooking, consider taking our Freezer Meals 101 course online. It includes video lessons, meal plans and printables that will equip you with everything you need to start filling your freezer and saving your sanity.
Using this method of cooking has cut our food bill in half! I am able to buy things in bulk, take advantage of caselot sales, get additional discounts by calling in meat orders, and most importantly, nothing goes to waste. Gone are the days of buying groceries only to have them go rotten in the freezer. I am able to use everything I buy. I also no longer have to run to the store for forgotten items and make impulse purchases. And of course, the most obvious reason for how freezer cooking saves money is that you no longer need to do take-out or pizza delivery.
Note that some items are not less expensive when purchased in bulk, so compare prices to be sure you are getting the best deals. I also sometimes plan our freezer meal menus around advertised sales which saves even more money, particularly if it’s a sale on meat.