Do you stress about what to make for dinner? By 4:00 you’re exhausted and don’t want to spend an hour in the kitchen. Freezer cooking could be the solution to your problem. Here are 10 tips that will help you stock your freezer and stop stressing about dinner.
As a third grade teacher, I’m about to go back to school. When I get home at 4:30, the last thing I want to do is make dinner. I just want to collapse, play with my own kids for a little bit, and go to bed.
A few years ago, I started using my Saturday mornings to prepare make ahead meals. After grocery shopping, I spent about an hour preparing all of our meals for the week. Then, I just had to stick them in the oven for about 30 minutes, and dinner was ready.
Last year, however, there were several Saturday mornings when my son had soccer practice or we had plans for the day, and I wasn’t able to make my meals. That led to lots of take-out and store-bought frozen meals for those weeks. Not only was that more expensive, it also wasn’t as healthy as homemade dinners. I needed to find another way to make meals ahead of time.
That’s when I decided to try freezer cooking. In the past, I did this a few times and really liked the convenience of pulling a meal out when I needed one. Why not make a bunch of recipes and freeze them all to prepare for the new school year?
Here are 10 things I learned from my freezer cooking session.
10 Tips to Save Time and Money with Freezer Cooking
#1 – Set aside an afternoon to do your freezer cooking.
One afternoon is all the time you need to get a freezer stocked with lots of meals. I started by cooking a large batch of chicken that I could use in several different recipes. Then, I just assembled the ingredients until I had 8 meals ready to go.
#2 – Make a double batch of recipes you’re already preparing.
This is how I plan to keep up with freezer cooking during the school year. I won’t have an entire afternoon to devote to it. When I’m preparing my make ahead meals each week, I’ll just choose one to double. Then, I’ll pop it in the freezer, so I don’t run out of meals.
#3 – Save money by buying in bulk.
Have you ever seen a huge pack of meat on sale at the grocery store and thought, “My family will never be able to eat that much”? Now is your chance to buy that huge pack of discounted meat. You will be able to use it to make several freezer meals.
I bought a big pack of chicken and a big pack of pork that were half price. For about $10, I was able to make 5 different meals.
#4 – Buy fruits and veggies when they are in season and freeze them.
One of the great things about freezer cooking is that the flavors of the foods are preserved for months. This is especially wonderful for foods that are fresh during the summer.
My farmer’s market had beautiful eggplants, and I decided to stock up on them. I made eggplant parmesan for dinner one night. I doubled the recipe and froze one. Now, we’ll have yummy eggplant when the weather gets cooler, and they’re not being grown locally.
#5 – Freeze small foods on a baking sheet before putting them in a freezer bag.
Have you ever pulled something from the freezer, and it was frozen into a big block? You had to chisel off a chunk to use it. This tip will prevent that from happening.
Strawberries and blueberries are perfect for freezing on a baking sheet. Once they’re frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag. You will easily be able to remove individual portions for smoothies or special desserts.
I also used this trick for my blueberry pancakes. Now, they’re waiting in the freezer for those hectic mornings as we’re getting ready for school.
#6 – Put soups and sauces in gallon sized freezer bags.
Unless you have more than one freezer in your house, you’re probably wondering how you’re going to store all of these meals. One way I save space in my freezer is by putting my soups and sauces in freezer bags. Then, I lay them flat to freeze. They take up so much less space this way than if they were in plastic containers.
#7 – Buy some disposable casserole containers at the Dollar Store.
If you prepare casseroles and freeze them in your baking dishes, you won’t have any to use for other cooking. Instead, buy aluminum pans from the dollar store, and freeze your casseroles in those. Put plastic wrap over the top, and wrap it in aluminum foil. After you eat that meal, your cleanup will be easy.
#8 – Put the date on all of your freezer meals.
After you prepare your freezer meals, make sure you write the type of food and the date. In a month when you’re looking for dinner, you probably won’t remember what is in the container or when you made it.
#9 – Don’t forget about breakfast and dessert.
Yes, even breakfast and dessert can be freezer-friendly. When you need to get out the door fast, you need an easy breakfast. I made a double batch of blueberry pancakes and froze half. These are another item you want to freeze on a baking sheet. That way they won’t stick. Then, just remove a few and microwave them for a minute. Breakfast is ready to go!
Blueberry cheesecake is another freezer favorite at my house. You can freeze it whole and thaw it when guests are coming over for dinner. You could also cut it into individual servings and pull one out when you’re craving something sweet.
#10 – Remove your freezer meals from the freezer the weekend before you plan to eat them.
This tip is the result of a mistake I’ve made more than once. I planned to have a freezer meal for dinner, but I forgot to pull it from the freezer. You can cook the food when it’s frozen, but it will take a lot longer. Now, I make sure I pull out all the meals I need for the week on Saturday. That way, they will be thawed and ready by the time we’re ready to eat them.
No More Stress
Freezer cooking has saved me so much time and money. The stress just melts away when I have a freezer stocked with meals and don’t have to worry about what’s for dinner.
Click to get the recipes for my 10 favorite delicious and easy freezer meals.
What is your favorite freezer meal?