I am so excited to tell you about something that has totally changed how I cook for my family: Freezer meals!
It’s okay to get excited about things like this. Simmer down, Erin. I love freezer meals because I can knock out several weeks of meals in just a few hours. I’m not a seasoned veteran (what does the “seasoned” part even mean?) of this kind of cooking, but I feel like I know what to expect now going into it: lots of chopping and time on my feet.
And sweet, sweet freedom from cooking for weeks at a time.
Is it time consuming? Yes. Does it save you a ridiculous amount of time later on? Yes!
You can spend several hours in the kitchen cooking these meals all at once or you could spend the next three weeks cooking dinner several nights a week. Call me crazy, but I choose the freezer meals. As a side note I do not recommend trying to do this at night after the kids have gone to bed. I did that with these meals and it was the first and last time I do that. I was exhausted.
And a little bit whiney.
How Do I Even Get Started?
Choose your recipes.
First off, DON’T PANIC. No, seriously, that’s the name of the book I used: Don’t Panic – Dinner’s in the Freezer. This is my go-to book for freezer meals. I go through and write down the recipes I want to try on notecards. If it’s your first time trying freezer meals, you can pick three or four to start. I picked six last time, which ended up making 11 meals for our family of four. You can certainly dive in though and make all this to start with. Trust me, it’s worth the time and effort.
I would be making a huge error in not telling you to hit up Pinterest, too, for a gaggle of freezer meal ideas. Check out my freezer meals Pinterest board for more recipe ideas.
Make a list.
After the recipes are picked, I read through each one and make a list of the ingredients I need to buy. For example, every time I’d see an onion listed, I’d make a little tally mark beside it on my list. Each tally mark on the meat meant one pound of meat, etc. Be sure to read through each recipe and notate if you’ll need freezer bags and/or foil pans.
Schedule a time to cook.
Do this before you buy anything! If you’re like me at all, sometimes you can get all excited about doing something and then you don’t follow through with it (i.e., me and crafts). As I mentioned before, I’d choose a weekend to do this so it’s not one more thing (big thing) to do after the kids are in bed. I did just that and immediately regretted it. But I was glad it was done. Anyway, it doesn’t take too long if you know you have set aside the time for it and can adjust your schedule to fit it in. Have your husband take the kid(s) somewhere for a little daddy time or get a babysitter. Added bonus, the house is quiet and you can enjoy some singing and dancing in your kitchen. Hypothetically speaking.
Go grocery shopping!
I have friends that hate grocery shopping. I actually enjoy it. I like it (usually) because I love seeing how much money I can save. I buy most of my ingredients at Aldi because they are almost always the cheapest on everything. What I can’t find at Aldi, I can find at Walmart. Keep your eyes open for any deals that come up on meat, cheese, etc., before you do your trip so you can stockpile them for later. I didn’t buy chicken during my last trip. I had four pounds of chicken breasts in the freezer from when I had found it on sale for $1.38/lb. several weeks earlier. Knowing I had that in the freezer, I chose several chicken meals.
I only spent $47 on my last freezer meal shopping trip. That did not include the chicken and some of the vegetables that I already had on hand. The chicken was an additional $5.54, so the rough cost of the 11 meals was between $55-$60. That ends up making each meal cost about $5 to feed a family of four, or about $1.25 per person. Yahtzee!
After I do my shopping, I make sure to enter my receipts online to get cash back. I’m a Thrifty McThrifterpants.
Label your bags.
If your meals are using gallon plastic bags, use a permanent marker to write on them what’s in the bag (Thank you, Captain Obvious.) and the instructions for how long to cook it. Do this before you put your food in. Everything will have to thaw for at least 24 hours before you cook it, but I don’t write that on there. Just commit that to memory. If your meal goes in a foil pan, once it’s covered with aluminum foil, write the dish’s name on it and the temperature and cook time on it before putting it in the freezer.
Clean your kitchen.
Boo! I know, I know. I’m getting bossy now. I can kind of be a neat-freak at times (not always obvious upon immediate inspection of my home), so I function better with a clean work environment. You’ll do better, too, because you’re going to have a lot of stuff out and it’s gonna get messy. DON’T PANIC. I’m making you panic now. Calm down. Starting with a clean slate will make it all go quicker.
Get ready to rumble!
Okay, friend — you’ve done the recipe picking, the shopping, the cleaning; you’re ready to get down to business. You can do this and I promise you, you will not regret the time it took, when every day you’re saying, “Oh, let me get dinner ready.” And then you slop a bag of boom-dinner’s-done into the crockpot.
I’m real good at making it sound appetizing.
Have I convinced you to get pumped up about freezer cooking yet? What questions do you have for me? What’s holding you back?