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.
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
- An 6-quart Slowcooker – this one is what I use (works great!)
- A few large mixing bowls – 4 qt or higher for mixing together multiple batches of meals
- Measuring cups and teaspoons – a few sets if possible
- It’s nice to use a food processor for quick chopping, but not necessary
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.
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!