Before becoming a mom, I never really thought twice about dinner. My husband and I would run to the store whenever we needed to, make whatever we felt like, never worrying if we had to order in, and definitely never “meal planning.” Now that I have a child, motherhood has been a daily struggle to answer the question: “What are we going to eat?” Breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks are constantly rotating through my head. My Google searches mostly consist of “What can I make with [insert random ingredient here]?” This past year, I realized I needed to be more prepared than I have been, so I started researching freezer meal prep.
Here are a few tips that I have learned about freezer meals
Tip #1 – If you can buy it frozen from the store, you can make it and freeze it at home
So many prepackaged goods are found in the freezer section of the grocery store. Some of it is extremely convenient and can cause less stress in times of chaos. However, when my husband and I started budgeting more closely, we realized that many of those prepackaged freezer meals were costing us more than if we just made it from scratch ourselves.
I started taking inventory of all the things we by prepackaged in the freezer section of the store, and then decided to start making my own for much cheaper. Examples of these items are waffles, pancakes, breakfast burritos, smoothie packs, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pizza pockets, and muffins (just to name a few).
Tip #2 – Double Up
Now I know, you do not feel like you have any time to make these items, so it is just easier to purchase them ready to go, right? I would beg to differ. For example, I make PB & J’s very regularly in my house, so instead of making one, make two or three and throw them in the freezer! Continue to do this every time you go to make a sandwich until you have enough ready to go for the future. Then, the morning of, take it out and put it in your lunch box. It will be perfect by lunch time and way cheaper than the pre-made kind at the store (we all know those ones I am taking about — crust free!)
When I make waffles or pancakes for breakfast on one of my less busy weekend mornings, I make sure to double my recipe so I have plenty left over to freeze. We then can eat on them all week or keep them in the freezer until we are ready for them again. This also goes for the other breakfast items I listed above.
If you make a casserole or are dumping items in a slow or pressure cooker for dinner, double it! I use freezer bags to store my slow cooker and pressure cooker meals and disposable casserole trays for other dinners. I pop them in the freezer and save it for a later day. You are already prepping the ingredients, so go ahead a prep a little more. You will get a whole new meal out of it and will save you so much time later. Just make sure to set an alarm in your phone the day before to remind you to let it thaw out in your refrigerator if necessary. Most of the time, my pressure cooker does fine with frozen meals; however, the slow cooker and casseroles should be somewhat thawed first.
Tip #3 – Freeze Leftovers
If you feel like you might not finish something in time, maybe you made a big pot of chili and realized that there was a lot left, or you only needed a little bit of homemade pasta sauce but the recipe made a gallon — freeze it! It does not need to go to waste just because your family did not finish the meal.
This also works well for items that may not be complete dishes yet, but just ingredients. For example, if you bought two pounds of ground beef but only needed one, cook it all and freeze the other half. Now next time your slow cooker recipe calls for a pound of cooked ground beef (I hate when it is not just a “dump and go” recipe) you already have it pre-cooked and ready to go!
Now, to get you started on your freezer meal journey, I have linked a few great “guides” below to help get ahead of the game. I recommend you use the “double up” tip so you can have lots of freezer meals ready to go from the start, as well as dinner the day you choose to cook – just don’t freeze one of them!
Freezer meal recipes to get you started
10 Freezer Meals with only 25 Ingredients — This guide is helpful for one big freezer meal prep session.
Printable Freezer Meal Plans — This blog has ideas broken down into categories, such as using the same protein, only shopping at Aldi, and “Kid-Friendly” options.
20 Freezer Meals in 4 Hours — You do not have to do this all at once! If you do not have four hours to spare of prep (because who does?), you could pick and choose five recipes and double it! That gives you 10 meals in 30 minutes!
Taste of Home has over 150 freezer meal ideas! I normally look at what protein might be on sale at my store, and then bulk up on that and pick my freezer meals based on that protein.
What is the first freezer meal recipe you are going to try?