Freezer meals are a busy woman…or man’s…best tool for combatting the meal time dilemma.
It’s 5:30pm and you’re staring into the fridge contemplating what to make for dinner. You close the door and walk away. 5 minutes later you’re back to staring in the fridge because nothing has changed. Now it’s after 5:30 and food has not magically appeared, prepared and served on the table.
Please tell me I’m not the only one that has done this!!??
I have two choices: find a quick go to meal (and hope I have the ingredients), or order take out. We have a fantastic Thai restaurant in the neighbourhood, but unfortunately, even if we go that route, we still have to wait at least a half hour. Gah! So what’s the solution to beating the meal time dilemma when you don’t have time to cook that day?
Freezer meals are a life saver, especially for those busy days or weeks where you don’t even have time to set foot in the kitchen, let alone cook a full meal AND clean up.
Are freezer meals worth the effort? Ask anyone who does them routinely. The answer is YES!!
I have been doing them for quite a few years now and there’s no going back. The first time I prepped a whole bunch of freezer meals was when I was pregnant with my first child. I really didn’t want to worry about making meals once we were home, and I knew I was going to be tired, so I prepped about 40 meals ahead of time.
I am so glad I did, I've been hooked ever since :)
Having the burden of making dinner off my shoulders at the beginning of the day or even weeks before is such a huge help. It’s especially handy for the days or weeks that things are insane around here. I may not have time to cook, but if I write a freezer meal into the meal plan, I will be reminded to take the frozen meal out the night before. Then the next day it’s ready to drop in the slow cooker or pan and you won't find me staring into the fridge at 5:30.
There are a few ways of doing freezer meals and they all have the same outcome; it just depends on how you prefer to get that freezer of yours stocked and ready. Here are three main ways to get these ready:
- Double up, or even triple, quadruple, etc. batch cooking
With double batch cooking, you need to buy extra of the ingredients for the meal you’re already making and cook a lot of it. Freeze the leftovers.
- Meal Co-op: a bunch of people swapping meals
A meal co-op takes some planning and coordinating, but can be a great quick way to stock up and experience new recipes.
- A marathon day or two of making meals
A marathon cooking day (or two) takes a bit of planning. My personal preference is to knock it all off in 1 or 2 days of cooking, but it doesn’t always happen that way. Sometimes it takes me a whole week of prepping freezer meals off and on, with many things going on in between. Usually for me it is also because I am doing 3 different types of meals for the freezer. Breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Plan and Prep for a Freezer Meal Making Session
Like I always say, those who fail to plan, plan to fail. This is an important part of the process!
* Before you start planning your freezer meals shop your cupboards, freezer and fridge and try using up ingredients you have.
* Decide what types of meals you want to make (breakfast, lunch, dinners, casseroles, etc.)
THEN start planning...
#1: Create a list of 3-5 meals that you will make 2 - 4 times each (using up some of the ingredients you just discovered in your fridge or pantry). One of my biggest mistake was trying to make 15-20 meals 2 times each…. I was going for variety, but it was an overwhelming approach.
- Pick recipes that use similar ingredients and try not to pick recipes that require 25+ ingredients each.
For example, I will do a couple from the chicken list and a couple from the cooked ground beef list. Most of them require many of the same ingredients as far as vegetables go.
Cilantro Black Bean Lime Chicken
COOKED GROUND BEEF:
Beef filling for Taco Salad
Mock Cabbage Rolls
Some months I do all chicken and then few weeks later I’ll work on all cooked ground beef. It really depends on how much time I have or how much stocking I need to do.
- Once you’ve decided on your recipes, print them off or write them out and put them in a protective sleeve. Here is a Recipe Printable to use for writing out your recipes.
- Write out the ingredients and amounts for each recipe to later add up and transfer to a freezer meals shopping list.
#2: Create your shopping list
#3: Make space for your groceries and a place to put the meals once they're done
- Chop/cut/dice veggies (keep all diced carrots in one bowl, all chopped onions in its own bowl, etc. Do this for each vegetable type)
- Pre-cook meat or grains
- Label all your containers
Ok so maybe this is a no brainer, but I found this part a little confusing at first…I wasn’t sure what the best way to assemble the meals was, so I came up with a plan.
- When putting your meals together, set out the containers you’re using for that particular meal.
- Place the recipe in front of the containers.
- Measure the vegetables, meat, spices, canned items, etc. into each bag for that recipe
- Seal and put away
- Work on one recipe at a time
- Do the same thing working your way through each recipe
Once your meals are assembled freeze them flat and enjoy!!
and finally, my least favourite part of freezer meals:
#7: Clean up
What I've Learned
Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:
Don’t try to plan, shop, prep, assemble and clean up all in one day. That is a huge amount to do in one day.
Day 1 - The planning can be done weeks in advance or days in advance.
Day 2 - Shopping, prep and labelling
Day 3 - Assemble and clean up
Save the freezer meal plans for the next time you do freezer meals. Keep all your shopping lists and recipes together. Next time you do your freezer meals you can take these out and use them again. You’ll be saving time, by saving time. ;)
Have fun with making freezer meals, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask! I'll reply to comments left below and do my best to answer you.
And bonus!! I've got a Free Recipe Printable for you *here* ! Enjoy!