Taking time ahead to prep your ingredients and your kitchen for freezer cooking will make assembling the meals go so much faster and more efficiently. This guide to freezer meal prep contains everything you need.
Preparing your kitchen
- Make room in your freezer.
- Wash the dishes and set out tools such as measuring spoons, measuring cups, spatulas, and large bowls so that you’ll have easy access.
- Wipe down your counters.
- Print off recipes.
- Create stations by setting out what you’ll need for each meal including the recipe and freezer bags or containers.
Brown the Ground Beef, Ground Turkey, and Sausage
Put 20 – 30 lbs of ground beef into a large counter top electric roaster and let it cook on 200/250° overnight. In the morning, it’s browned and ready to use. Use a ladle to take out the excess liquid or drain the meat. A big thank you to my friend Kimberly Walker, who is a mom of 10 and a freezer meal veteran for sharing this tip with me.
If you don’t have a large counter top electric roaster, fry up your ground beef in a skillet, breaking it up with a Masher & Smasher as you go. Season it with a bit of salt and pepper. Drain the fat and store in a container with lid until ready to use.
We typically use large pots with lids to store our cooked ground beef overnight in the fridge.Remember: 2 1/3 cups of browned hamburger is 1 lb. This measurement will help you when you’re assembling your meals. You can keep a 1 cup measuring cup in the cooked beef and scoop out into the bags as needed.
Chopping, Mincing, and Slicing Onions
When you are chopping, mincing, and slicing dozens and dozens of onions, you need a better system than just using a knife and a cutting board. This is how we prep our onions for freezer cooking. It’s one of those things that’s better to show you, so watch the video below to see exactly how we do it.
Know ahead how many onions you need to be minced, how many diced, and how many sliced. I make note of this while I’m compiling my shopping list.
- Set up a large cutting board and bring out your mandolin.
- Cut both ends off each onion.
- Peel the onions and discard the skins in the compost.
- For minced onions, use the julienne tool on a mandolin. For chopped onions, use the french fry tool on the mandolin.
- Be sure to use the safety guard.
- Run an onion down the mandolin repeatedly until it is all sliced.
- Use a knife to chop the sliced onion to complete the mincing or dicing.
- Place the onions in a bowl with a lid or plastic container with a lid for using when you assemble your freezer meals.
You’ll want to cut everything ahead of assembling your freezer meals. This includes:
- peeling and slicing carrots
- chopping or slicing red, yellow, and green peppers
- slicing mushrooms
- dicing zucchini
- getting broccoli or cauliflower into florets
- slicing green onions
Store them in the fridge in bowls with lids, covered plastic containers, or freezer bags until you add them into your meals.
Shredding cheese is usually pretty straightforward except when you have to shred 40 cups at a time! There are a few tricks that make shredding cheese easier and faster.
- Cut the cheese into blocks that will fit into your food processor.
- Use the shredder attachment.
- Add some corn starch so that it doesn’t clump and stays nice and loose in the container.
- Put the shredded cheese in a bowl. Add another tsp. or two of corn starch for every 4 cups or so of shredded cheese and give it a shake.
- Shred the next chunk of cheese and continue the process until all the cheese is shredded.
Cooking Chicken Ahead
If you’re doing a variety of recipes for your freezer meals, you will likely have some that call for raw chicken and some that call for cooked chicken. The cooked chicken is then cubed or shredded before adding into the meal.
I’ve found that the fastest way to cook chicken on prep day is to put chicken breasts or thighs in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake in a 350° or 375° oven for about 45 minutes. Cool slightly before chopping or shredding depending on what your recipes call for.
Cooking Large Quantities of Bacon
Bacon is another thing that can be cooked in a large electric roaster if you have one. If you don’t or if you’re already using yours to cook your ground beef, you can cook your bacon in the oven on a cookie sheet.
The trick is in twisting the bacon so that you can fit more than twice as many slices on the cookie sheet!
Put the cookie sheet in the oven and bake at 375° until it’s reached the desired level of doneness. I would never dream of telling anyone how long to cook it for because there are two camps when it comes to bacon. Those who like it crispy and those who don’t!
Anything you can do ahead will save you time and energy on the day you assemble your meals. Take a look through your recipes and see what else can be done the day before. Cube the ham, roll the meatballs, cube or shred the cooked chicken, anything to save time the next day.
I know prep can be a big job, but you will reap the rewards on the day you go to assemble your freezer meals and most of the work is already done for you.