Freezer meals are an excellent way to save money, reduce waste and stretch staple items farther in your kitchen. Many get overwhelmed with the work involved or find they don’t like the way food tastes after it’s been frozen. The following are my standard tips on making Freezer Meals work for you.
One of the biggest mistakes I see people making is cooking large batches of recipes they’ve never even tested out on their family just because it was in a freezer meal guide. Take a look at your top 10 most popular recipes in your home and determine which of those freezes best. If your family doesn’t care for it when it’s freshly made, they certainly won’t after it’s frozen.
Remember that precooking meats and freezing in portion sizes is also a great easy way to save time and money. You don’t have to freeze only full meals to utilize your freezer.
Although it is great to save time and money by cooking large batches and saving multiple weeks food at a time, you also have to keep in mind what foods freeze well and for how long. It has been my personal experience that if used within 4-6 weeks of original cook date the food remains. Much farther out in date I find flavor and texture begin to alter slightly and items tend to be left unused or wasted.
As always please use safety measures and when in doubt check the FDA Food Guidelines above for details regarding safety of time for food to be frozen.
Whether it’s a full-day or a mini cooking day, put it on your calendar as an actual appointment to ensure you don’t miss it. I can’t tell you how many times I didn’t follow through with a freezer cooking day because it simply wasn’t on my calendar as an appointment (I live and breathe by my calendar). Other things always seem to come up and it just didn’t happen as planned.
To ensure you stick with your freezer cooking schedule, prepare a few days in advance by creating a shopping list and visiting the grocery to get all of the ingredients. Also, chop any veggies ahead of time to make your day go even faster. This will ensure you can move throughout the day efficiently and stay on task.
Also, cook with a friend. Everything it always more fun with a friend! When it’s on both of your calendars, you are likely to stick with the cooking day (appointment). Just make sure your family’s favorites match one another so you both go home with meals for your family to enjoy.
Although many freezer meals that are recommended involve pastas, I personally find the texture to not be desirable after freezing, thawing and reheating.
I save half the time and provide great meals by cooking double and triple batches of homemade pasta sauces, portioning and freezing to be used in a quick meal of Spaghetti or used in layers in lasagnas. Pasta and rice can be cooked in moments and to our family taste buds is much better cooked fresh versus frozen.
The most common items we freeze are actually our breakfast meals rather than our evening meals. I save hundreds of dollars a year in drive through and convenience packaged foods by preparing batches of breakfast burritos and breakfast sandwiches and freezing them to be microwaved for a few seconds to grab and go.
The $1 breakfast items at the drive thru may seem frugal but when you add them up over the course of the year you could easily be wasting $500 at the drive through and hundreds of thousands of calories without knowing it. Most of your common breakfast items can be cooked ahead and frozen to be reheated easily.
I cannot stress enough that you must store freezer meals properly or they will not taste good nor will they last long in the freezer. There are multiple storage methods but I prefer double bagged gallon freezer bags or air tight containers. Others like using vacuum food sealing devices. See lots of options HERE.
Along with proper storage, you must allow hot foods to cool completely prior to freezing. This helps prevent condensation which turns to freezer burn on your foods. Soups, stews, sauces freeze well in freezer bags. Casseroles do well when cut into portions and frozen in air tight containers.
Using your freezer to help stretch your family budget and save time during busy school weeks is easy once you learn what works best for your family. Take the time to experiment in small batches to prevent waste of foods. Ask your family for their opinions and adapt to suit your individual tastes. Most of all, enjoy the freedom of coming home, reheating a delicious meal and enjoying the extra half hour to hour relaxing with your family instead of scurrying around the kitchen each night.