Freezer Meal Tips for Beginners

A great guide for beginners on FREEZER MEALS

When it comes to creating meals that will be stored in the freezer, it might feel a little overwhelming—especially if you’ve heard of the once-a-month freezer meals where you spend an entire Saturday making meals that last an entire month. Although the idea is great, finding one Saturday a month to devote to cooking and only cooking sounds a bit daunting for most (especially if you have things like soccer games and dance rehearsals and cleaning to do).

Luckily, there’s no rule that says you have to follow one prescribed method for freezer cooking. Here are some tips I’ve found that might help if you’re a beginner.

Stock Up

The first thing you’ll want to do is have the right supplies for freezer meal cooking so when you feel the urge, you can begin right away. This will include:

  • Foil baking pans of various sizes and shapes. My favorite place to buy them is the dollar store.  Sometimes you can also find them in bulk at warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club, or if you’re not ready to commit, get a few at your local grocery store.
  • Plastic storage containers. For these, check at your local bulk store or look for cheap storage containers at the grocery store or online such as these which are made for freezing, are only about $0.50 each and you can get free shipping if you have a Prime membership or buy $25 or more.
  • Freezer storage bags
  • Permanent markers

Kitchen Supplies

 

Start Slow

To prevent being completely overwhelmed, start slow. Pick a couple meals that you know your family will like and try them out as freezer meals.

One great way to do this is when you’re cooking dinner, just cook twice as much and freeze one. If you’re not sure of what things freeze well, start with recipes that are recommended for freezing, such as the ones given in my 50 freezer meals post. As you consider meals that will freeze well, remember to avoid recipes with these ingredients:

  • Casseroles and soups/stews with potatoes or rice
  • Fried foods
  • Recipes with fruits and veggies with high water content (celery, cucumber, melon and lettuce)
  • Anything with dairy (milk, mayo, cream cheese, sour cream and cream)

If you’re not sure if a meal will freeze well, just Google it and see whether others have had success with freezing that type of recipe.

Freeze Individual Ingredients

Another great way to ease into freezer cooking is just freezing individual ingredients. So many things can be frozen including browned meat, raw hamburger patties, marinated and grilled chicken, many fruits and vegetables, cooked beans, rice, and more. By freezing individual ingredients, you can add them to many recipes quickly and easily.

For example, if you were to brown ground beef and freeze, it can then be quickly and easily added to many recipes including tacos, pizza, soups/stews, spaghetti sauce and more. By browning a few pounds of ground beef all at once, you can freeze the meat in individual portions and then quickly add it to recipes to save a step.

Freezing ingredients also saves you money. If your bananas are getting a little brown, flash freeze the bananas in slices and they can be stored for months till you use them in anything from smoothies to banana bread. To flash freeze food, just stick on a cookie sheet lined with foil (so each piece is not touching any other piece) and freeze for 30 to 60 minutes till hard. Then put in freezer bags.

By freezing fresh produce before it gets moldy, slimy or otherwise icky, you’ll save money in the long run by not throwing this food away, and so many things can be frozen. Just take a look at the grocery store in the frozen section. You can freeze berries, bananas, peppers, spinach, cherries, herbs, beets, onions, pumpkin, zucchini, and more. If you’re not sure, just try freezing a small portion and see if it works.

There are so many possibilities when it comes to freezer cooking, and it’s so liberating to get to 5 o’clock at night and know you have a meal ready to go that you just need to stick in the oven.

—> See ALL of my Freezer Meals recipes here.

I’d love to hear about your attempts at freezer meals. Have you had any major flops? What about wonderful successes? Tell me about them!23 Comments

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Comments

  1. Maggie Ganger says:

    Love this and found it to be very helpful…

  2. Charlene Strosahl says:

    This is such great advice for a first timer. I do not feel defeated already after reading this. Thanks a million!!!

  3. Jen Letourneau says:

    This is definitely great information – I am just getting started in this “freezer meal” phenomenom and hope I can get up and running for nights when soccer practice is from 5-6:30pm. (Who schedules those, anyways?!?!) Quick question that sounds silly: if I make a freezer meal, let’s say a casserole or lasagna or something in one of those foil pans, do I just pop it in the oven frozen? Do I need to defrost it during the day while I’m at work before it goes in the oven?

    • Hello Jen, It’s best to pop it in the fridge the night before so it will be totally thawed by the time you need to bake it. But I have also just added the meals to the oven frozen, but it takes a LOT more time..sometimes double the time and you will want to watch it closely. Good luck!! Freezer meals are so awesome and save so much time.

  4. We have a rice cooker and it’s a must have in the kitchen. We make the rice that we need, walk away and it’s ready in 15 minutes. If we make too much rice we just portion it into freezer bags. When we want to use it we just add water and cook for a couple minute in the microwave. It is something you have to experiment though.

  5. If you are really wanting to commit to this as a lifestyle (not just one time and done) you can order the foil pans for .37 from a resturant supply house. There are like 100 in a box and they come with the lids for around 18-19$. It is cheaper than the dollar store if you are really wanting to do this or if you are having a lot of friends do this with you. My daughter in law and I are are going in together on the whole freezer meals things and we are goingn to get a few different cases and just split them down the middle.

  6. Can you use frozen meat? Ie thaw meat cook it and then refreeze it?

  7. Hi. Love your site. Just a thought. I make a lot of spaghetti sauce and lasagna. Tell your folks that the sausage loses flavor in the freezer. I am sure there are other meats that also lose flavor. Thanks

  8. Your freezer meal ideas are wonderful, but I am having a tough time finding the aluminum pans shown in your pictures. We live up in the mountains, several hours from the closest town with good supplies, so we order everything online. Can’t find anything that is square and of a smallish size (we don’t need steamer pan sizes for just the two of us). Any help on online sources would be appreciated!

  9. I have been enjoying the economy, freshness and ease of freezer cooking for a little over a year now. It’s great. Simple thing I wanted to mention about the supplies. We use Sharpie Rub-a-Dub laundry markers instead of the regular Sharpies. Reason is… the regular Sharpies rub off onto your fingers when used on the freezer bags.
    This is a great site for getting people started on freezer cooking! Have fun everyone!

  10. I’ve just recently started doing freezer meals with another family. We get together, cook once a week, and split costs. Its been amazing so far! I love having homemade food to come home to after a day at work. My problem is finding new recipes for both families. Their family has four…mine has two…so they go through a lot more than I do. I have lasagna, manicotti, ravioli, and peroghies like it’s nobodies business. Tomorrow is my cooking day, I’ll be sharing this with my cooking partner. I love any and all new recipes, especially if they freeze well!!

  11. Jennifer says:

    what about freezer burn? those lids don’t look too tight.

  12. Christi says:

    Hey there!
    Okay so I’m very new to this whole thing, but I’ve been reading blogs about it for a while. I’ve been reading occasional conflicting information and I was wondering if you’d be willing to answer a few questions for me…? Sorry, I’m a bit long winded:

    1) You mentioned avoiding dairy in the freezer meals, yet I see tons of freezer meals of things like Lasagna. I already freeze cheese all the time (shreds and blocks) and haven’t had any issues other than the blocks getting super crumbly (note: actually kind of like it, no need to grate). Should I avoid ALL dairy then in frozen meals or just things like sour cream, cream cheese, etc? I’ve also seen freezer meals including those so I’m just not sure how it all works >_<

    2) I've seen some people who throw one-pot meal ingredients all in one bag including the raw meat before freezing. Others brown it. Is there any cross contamination issue? It may be common knowledge, however until a few months ago I was a vegetarian for 15 years so this is all quite new for me all around!!

    3) Do you freeze pasta in the dishes? Like do you throw in uncooked or cooked pasta? Or do you cook the day of? Obviously with things like lasagna it would have to be in there, but with things like a spaghetti bakes or idk…I don't have a specific example haha.

    Anyway hope those all made sense :)

    • Hello Christi!

      So as for the dairy, you just have to be careful. For example fetucchini alfredo using fresh cream, butter and parmesan would not be the same texture after frozen. I have used cheese (especially shredded) for lots of meals and have no problems with that. The cheese blocks do get crumbly but that is okay for me too. I use sour cream in freezer meals if it’s blended into a casserole or potatoes. But I don’t like freezing it as is in the container because it looks a bit strange/texture changes a bit. Cream cheese is a bit trickier I find..sometimes it works and other times it doesnt.

      As for the one pot meal ingredients – if they are going to be in a crockpot slow cooker all day it’s totally fine! If it’s a stirfry I put my meat into a separate bag than the frozen veggies.

      Yes I freeze pasta in dishes, depending on the recipe I usually cook the pasta first. In baked Ziti or lasagne the pasta is pre cooked. In a slowcooker that one is probably better uncooked.

      Have fun making freezer meals!

  13. Awesome collection of tips and tricks. I want to try some of the recipes and get a routine going. I just haven’t found good info on the actual Day Of… Recently I made a chicken enchilada casserole (a fam. fave), I made an extra one, didn’t bake it, just prepared it with lightly fried (and cooled) corn tortillas, chicken, sauce, cheese… I put it in freezer and on the “Day Of”… which was just a few weeks later, I put it in the oven (frozen) and baked it for what seemed like hours and still wound up cutting and microwaving individual slices for fam., only to find the results quite mushy, eatable but not at all like I’d hoped. I would love tips on how to actually heat the meals, bake time, ideal temperate for baking, etc.; thank you for all the help thus far!

    • Happy.MoneySaver says:

      If I think about it ahead of time I will take it out of the freezer the night before to cut down on the cooking time the day of cooking. Sorry it didn’t turn out.

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