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!78 Comments

Freezer Meal Tips for Beginners was last modified: May 18th, 2016 by Karrie

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  1. Maggie Ganger says:

    Love this and found it to be very helpful…

    • Thank you! Great ideas. I have a question. In this post you recommend not freezing meals that have certain ingredients such as cream cheese, but you do freeze your taquitos that contain cream cheese. Is it just certain foods with cream cheese?

      • There are some items that can be used when mixed with other ingredients like the taquitos. However just freezing an 8 oz of cream cheese and hoping it will be the same after is a disappointment unfortunately.

  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.

    • When making lasagna or enchiladas I freeze everything cooked and in seperate bags. Except the sauce. I just leave those in pantry. I then layer in the crockpot as I would in a casserole and voila!

      Lasagna you have to use regular lasagna noddle. Not the no name ones

      Enchiladas I shred a rotisserie chicken and when I layer the corn tortillas I add a little olive oil to them

    • I like to take it out of the freezer to thaw overnight and pop in crock pot before leaving for work in the morning or pop in oven once home for dinner.

  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.

    • Hey Carrie!
      Do you have a link or name of the restaurant supply you mentioned for the foil pans?
      Thanks a bunch!

    • Can I put my two cents worth in this conversation? I used to work for a large name Food Brokerage Co. It serviced restaurants and institutional businesses..they have 3 levels of pricing. Yes, the public can go to the restaurant supply co. or a food brokerage but you aren’t likely to get the lowest price, unless you know somebody that works into that company well. Restaurants get a better price based on the amount of their sales. The Sales rep that services the accounts and calls on the chef or purchasing officer of the business is working on commission and bonus bucks paid by the manufacturers to promote their product or help introduce a new line of product.

  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

    • There is something wrong in your prep of the sausage if you are losing flavor when freezing. Sausage if cooked properly will never lose flavor when frozen.

  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!

      • Hi Karrie,

        I hate to be a pest, but in your 50 Frozen Meals blog post, you have an Alfredo recipe in there! Why would you say not to make an a chicken Alfredo here and then have a recipe for a freezer Alfredo? I’m just super new to this and really confuse! 🙂


        • Happy.MoneySaver says:

          You are not a pest at all! It’s a general rule to watch dairy in freezer meals. In the Chicken Alfredo freezer meal I use a jarred alfredo sauce and it freezes well. I have not been able to find a homemade alfredo sauce that freezes and warms up like new. Knowing the general rules of freezer meal cooking I just watch for those ingredients and make sure I test it out before making multiple batches for the freezer. There are definitely exceptions! Hope this helps! 🙂

          • Not that dairy can’t be used successfully, but can separate and be a but runny once thawed. I just stir it up a bit once cooked and it works fine.

  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.

  14. Just wondering about how long are freezer meals good for? I just made a few to start with and would love to start making more. My family is a gluten free family and I would love to start to save money by doing this with their meals. Thanks for all the great advise!

    • Happy.MoneySaver says:

      I would say at least six months if not more.

      • Also depends on the temp of your freezer. IF your freezer is set to a higher freeze then less time as the chemicals of the coolant do suck out moisture. Also frost free freezers will suck out the moisture of the food which can been a issue better rule of thumb is 4 weeks 6 at max. Also on your freezer dial generally most models are a 0 to 10 0 being 32 degs 10 being 0 degs you want your freezer to be at a steady 25 degs this temp is what they consider the goldielocks zone. higher temp allows for moisture to be created and you will get ice crystals. Ice crystals are the water being pulled from your foods but not evaporating remove this ice and your food is DRY do not remove it and you take the risk of it not being soaked back into the food and the food becoming runny.

        20 degs or colder and you run into over freezing and freezer burning. Best way to describe it is frost bite go play in the snow and watch your hands over time they get colder and colder til they literally start to get burned from the cold same thing happens to your food.

        Many chefs including myself have a FLASH freezer this is my freezer I have set to 10 so it runs at 0 degs I will put my meals into it for 3 hours or anything I bring home from the store and am going to freeze this quickly seals in all the liquid and builds a great crust to freezing. Then you put it into your regular freezer the food does not continue to freeze it is already at the frozen state and will now hold to the desired temp. Most people do not have this option this is why it is very important to have a freezer with a digital temp control. IF you do not have this kind of freezer go to either a Cash and Carry or a Ace True Value and buy a simple frig thermometer and then play with your temp control til you get it to the deserved temp. You can not do this in a hour you need to make your changes a day at a time for true readings. 12 hours will work 18 min is much better.

        • I know you’re not supposed to put hot left overs in the fridge as it will bring down the temp of the entire fridge. Is this the same for the freezer? If I cook something, do I need to let it cool on the counter before placing it in the freezer?

  15. Can you cook everything, freeze it the same and just defrost in the microwave??

    • Happy.MoneySaver says:

      Cooking it in the oven I think tastes better and fresher but I think it is up to you. If you like it in the microwave do it! 🙂

  16. I have done some of this in the past… For example, 2 weeks before my 2nd some was born I spent a week cooking and had 25 meals in the freezer and ready to go.
    The one thing I always wonder is if I should cook these before I freeze them, and then just thaw and reheat? Or freeze them uncooked so I am only cooking them once.
    Examples would be: Tuna casserole – nothing raw in it. So do I just mix it up and freeze?
    How about like chicken cordon bleu. Do I make them and freeze them on a cookie sheet and bake later? Or do I cook them thru and then reheat later?
    Please help with tips on knowing when to bake and when to just freeze.

    • Chicken always cook to a tender pink NEVER put a dish with chicken together raw and NOT cook immediately you WILL get sick. Beef cook to what would be a medium rare this is a safe temp that has killed all bac and when you continue the cooking you cut the cooking time in half. When I was in the restaurant industry we did this all the time we would spend Tuesday and Wednesday doing pre-cooking for Friday thru Sunday. Cook all meat to a bright red this is right before you get the Medium well color of pink

      Another freezer tip is keep baking soda in your freezer if you are like most people who stuff your freezer full replace it every 4 months. do NOT put it on the top 2 shelfs or the bottom 2 it needs to go into the MIDDLE of your freezer and NOT on the back wall side wall in the middle of the rack is a prime placing as the air current of your freezer circulates in this area the best and will spread this through out your freezer. Putting on the top or bottom or back wall means only a small area of your freezer OR frig is actually being treated by the soda.

  17. I absolutely love this! I have been reluctant to try this for my family of four. This puts me at ease and I feel confident we can benefit from doing this despite my two picky eaters. Thank you so much for sharing, I will be glad to let you know how the freezer meals make it easier for us!!

  18. I did not freeze the recipe that you have on here but I did cook the Creamy Cheesy Broccoli soup and it was a hit with my family so I will be making it and putting it in my meal plans. Thank you for taking the time to do this blog I appreciate it.

  19. A. Stevens says:

    After we cook our previously prepared frozen meals, can we re-freeze any leftovers that we cook to reheat again when we want to eat it again at a later date? If so, do we just microwave it the second time to reheat or re-cook?

    Thanks for all of this info. This is month number one for me and my cooking once a month freezer meals experiment. I am trying to learn everything I can. Your site is incredibly helpful for a newbie.

    • Happy.MoneySaver says:

      I usually don’t refreeze frozen meals. We usually just eat the rest for lunch or dinner the next night. But if I were to do it I would probably make sure they were packaged up properly (maybe even in individual portions) and that they did not sit for a long time out before refreezing again. So glad you are getting into freezer meals! Hope you love it as much as I do!

  20. I grew up watching my mom and then stepmom freeze corn, berries, peaches, etc, and pot pies, so freezing foods is not new to me. However, they never did meals like this, except maybe lasagna frozen for grieving families. Families who recently lost someone are ao inundated with food that we like to give them something that they can cook a while down te road.

    Anyways. I have branched out a bit on my own. I started by freezing chicken breast(uncooked) with different marinades. It works well enough. I then started making burritos because I love them so much. I have the makings for them and am going to do some more tonight. My biggest mishap is with breakfast burritos. It took so log and was so exhausting for me. But I didn’t mix the cheese in and when we nuked it in te microwave it ended up making the tortilla super hard. Tonight I’m experimenting again. I am making chicken fajita burritos, chicken to toss into pasta dishes, and breakfast sandwiches. Wish me luck!

  21. How long do they generally last in the freezer? How long do I have before we have to eat them?

  22. Hi
    Im just wondering about using potatoes in cassoroles and stews? Some websites say they are fine frozen but will just loose a bit of texture… is this right?? or to avoid completely

    • Happy.MoneySaver says:

      It depends on the recipe. I always say try a recipe first before making multiple to freeze. If one freezes and warms up well you have a hit! All of my freezer meals have been tried and work great!

  23. I do freezer meals all the time and for containers I keep an eye out at garage sales. My mom is always on the lookout for me as well. Any Pyrex dish for a dollar or less I pick up so I always have a variety of sizes and shapes and I don’t tie up my dishes In the freezer.

  24. Amber Foister says:

    are all the recipes in the 50 freezer meals already doubled and tripled or do I need to triple or double the ingredients?

    • Happy.MoneySaver says:

      After the title of the recipe it has a number. That is the amount of times it needs to be doubled or tripled! 🙂

  25. Wow such good advice, thank you for posting this on pinterest.

  26. Debra Felmingham says:

    My husband and l both have Fibromyalgia (chronic pain and fatigue) and had terrible eating habits as most days we aren’t up to cooking a proper meal.
    We started doing bulk freezer meals about a year ago and we love it. We pick 5 or 6 recipes and, spreading the work over a couple of days, we quadruple the recipes then freeze individual servings in ziploc bags or small plastic containers.
    Having all those healthy meals at our fingertips is a lifesaver and my husband says it’s like having a restaurant in our freezer!
    We are both on a disability pension and the savings from bulk cooking is fantastic!

  27. I’ve been making freezer meals for the better part of 4 years now and I have 2 questions about things I’m doing that you said not to do.

    1. You say not to freeze casseroles that contain potatoes, why is that? My experience is that they turn out great as long as they are fully submerged before freezing.

    2. Other than ground meat and bacon, I seldom precook meat. Most of what I make are for the crockpot and it is fully cooked after 6 hours on high. Is there a he
    alth risk to this?

    Thank you.

    • Happy.MoneySaver says:

      Hi Carol!
      I think some freezer casseroles with potatoes have the tendency to turn mushy. The potatoes absorb all the liquid and then can lose that goodness when you warm it up. Not all recipes are like this at all. This is just something to pay attention to. You also definitely don’t have to precook meat. Some meats I like to cook before freezing so I make sure that it is fully cooked by the time it is warmed through. Some meals I think it works best to have the meat cooked through for health and ease of preparation. 🙂

  28. I have to respectfully disagree about getting the foil storage items from the “dollar store”. I did that for my first attempt at making freezer meals (because it had been recommended at numerous sites) and it was a disaster. The one set was so thin that it bent when I tried to pick it up (thankfully nothing was spilled). With the next set, the label and glue would not come off one of the pans. From now on, I’m going to Costco or spending the extra money at the chain grocery store.

  29. I will be a new mother to a son in less than 2 weeks. I know I will be tired, and I’m on a tight budget so quick and easy freezer meals seem to be a great option! I just need some advice on where to start! What is something simple I can first cook with until I’m comfortable to find more creative ideas?!

    • Happy.MoneySaver says:

      Look through this post. There are a lot of great freezer meals which would be perfect for you to start making. They are simple and really good. Or look through the recipes freezer meals tab above. See which one sounds good to you and make it. I love freezer meals and they are perfect at this stage of life! Good luck!

  30. I’ve made stir fries, meatballs, meat loaf, and meat sauce for spaghetti to freeze. Going to your 50 freezer meals list now to see if anything peaks my picky interest!

  31. This really helped get me started. I purchased the containers for soup and have a good amount of soup in my freezer now.

    I purchased an Instant Pot on sale last month and have used several pressure cooker soup/stew recipes that worked great for dinner and leftovers were what I froze.

  32. I love your sight I’ve wanted to to start doing freezer meals but never knew where to begin and it’s difficult to know what to make because my family is huge meat eaters are there recipes that use a lot of meat and not as many veggies

  33. Oh and baby friendly I try to make my own baby food as much as possible ble but I’ve been able to give him more complex stuff and am just not sure what is freezer friendly for him and what’s not

  34. Thank you for the tips! I’m doing my first freezer meal trial this week. I don’t know where to begin, but this was a good start. Hope you have a great week!

  35. Martha E Dwight says:

    My daughters and I want to cook meals and freeze individual portions for taking to work, or eating alone. I also will be having an operation and need things I can pop in the microwave. What meals do you suggest.

  36. I dont know if anyone is still answering questions, but I have one. Today was my first day making multiple meals at a time. We made 6 meals, put in freezer bags. We plan to eat them this week. The idea is each morning I take a bag out of the fridge and dump it in the crock pot. My question is, is it ok to store each meal like this in the fridge instead of freezing them, since we are cooking each one this week?

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