Have you wanted to try freezer meals but don’t know where to start? You’ve seen the pins where they promise 20 or more meals in a few hours. But how do they do that?
Do you have to spend an entire day or weekend in the kitchen? And how do you plan for such a large undertaking? You might read some articles that leave you feeling overwhelmed.
Figuring out all the ingredients for all the recipes (especially if you’re making multiples) can be daunting. Then you lay out all those freezer bags and have to determine how much of each item goes in each of those 20 bags!
And some items might require cooking or preparation before it can go in the freezer bag. Then comes my favorite part…chopping…and more chopping…and still more chopping.
Even if you don’t want to participate in a marathon cooking session, you can still grow your freezer meal stockpile. Here are a couple of ways you can make an easy stockpile of 20 freezer meals. Also, we’ll share some tips for planning and preparing your freezer meal making like a rockstar.
Two Ways to Freezer Meals Made Easy
There are a couple of ways to make freezer meals easy. You’ll have to decide which option is best for you. Personally, I recommend trying – and potentially using – both. Depending on your life schedule you might find one way easier some days, and the other way easier at other times. Check them out and see what you think.
Way #1: Set Aside An Entire Day
Some people like to make freezer meals by setting aside an entire day. I recommend choosing a day before you start. Set aside a whole day – or at least 4-5 hours – for prepping. Here are some instructions for freezer meals made in a day.
1. Create a List of Meals You Want to Make
As you create your list, you’ll want to start with a list of five meals your family loves. The goal is to make four batches of each meal. This way you’re not making 20 separate meals. Instead, you’re making large batches of five meals. Some meal ideas can include:
- Your favorite hotdish or casserole
- Sloppy joes
- Your favorite soup(s)
- Pulled BBQ pork or beef (or just seasoned without BBQ)
- Chicken enchiladas
- Marinated chicken
- Meat loaf (freeze uncooked and in a loaf pan)
- Meatballs (add sauce later or freeze with it – think BBQ or Swedish Meatballs)
- Sesame chicken
- Fettuccine Alfredo (with or without chicken)
- Stuffed chicken breasts
Those are just a few ideas. This Taste of Home Freezer Meal Ideas article gives you 150 ideas for easy freezer meals if you want more ideas. Now it’s on to the next step.
2. Make Your Ingredient List and Go Shopping
Now that you’ve chosen five meals to make four batches of, it’s time to make your ingredient list. Make a list of every ingredient you’ll need. Don’t forget to include supplies such as foil pans or baggies to store your meals in. Personally, I like to store them in foil plans. This way I can just take them out and pop them in the oven.
However, you might like storing soups and stews in baggies. Buy all of your supplies and set aside a day to cook and prepare. Hint: You might like doing this with a friend or family member. The company makes the work feel easier and go faster. Shopping during a time when it’s not too busy at the store might make things easier too.
3. Get to Work
The day is finally here. You’re up and ready to cook. Start by ensuring the kitchen is clean and the sink is cleared of dishes. Give the counters another good wipe down to ensure cleanliness.
Starting with one meal at a time, do all of the chopping and prep. Cook the pasta or meat or whatever else you need. Cooking all meat before you add it to a meal is important – unless it’s a meat-only dish like meat loaf. I also recommend cooking the pasta to just under done since it will cook more when you bake it to eat.
Another note: when making non-creamy soups that have pasta in them, I leave the pasta out. I don’t add it until I cook it to eat. Then I get the soup up to boiling and add in the pasta to cook. I find this helps avoid overcooking the pasta.
Put the finished meals in the foil pan or baggie you’ve got set aside for it. Note that if you’re using a baggie, you should let the meal cool a bit. Then get it in, seal it and put it right in the freezer so the heat doesn’t compromise the integrity of the bag. Also – use designated freezer bags, not the regular gallon baggies.
Work at prepping and cooking your 4-meal batch of each item one-by-one. Then store, seal and get them in the freezer.
Stack the foil pans together and the baggies together for best use of freezer space. A chest freezer – set at zero degrees – works well for space and for longer-term storage. They have many different sizes of chest freezers at your local home improvement store.
By using this technique, you can have 20 meals prepped and stored in just a day’s time. Think of how much easier life will be on those busy days when you don’t have time to prep a meal. Just pull something out of the freezer, heat it up and you’re good to go.
But maybe you don’t have – or don’t want to have – a full day to set aside for meal prep. There’s another option.
Way #2: Double, Triple or Quadruple Your Evening Meals as You Cook
If you’re not interested in setting aside a day to freeze meals, consider freezing as you cook during the week. Here’s how that works.
1. Make Your Meals List for the Week
As you make your menu plan during the week, you’ll want to choose meals that are freezer friendly. You can choose meals from the Taste of Home link we’ve included above, or just make your own personal favorite freezer meals.
2. Buy Multiple Servings Worth of Ingredients
When you shop, buy 2, 3 or 4 times as many ingredients as you’d need for the one freezer friendly meal. So, if you’re making pasta, buy 5 packs instead of one. Buy 5 jars of sauce instead of one. Have enough supplies on hand that you can make a multiple batch when you cook. Don’t forget to buy those foil pans, tin foil or foil covers and/or freezer bags.
3. Cook the Meal in a Larger Batch
When you make your freezer friendly meal for the night, all you have to do is cook extra based on how many meals you want to have in the freezer. When you’re finished cooking, serve 1 batch to your family. Then take the other 4 batches, put them in their storage containers, seal and freeze.
Now you’ve got 4 meals in the freezer with very little impact time on your life. Continue to repeat these instructions each time you make a meal that’s freezer friendly. Soon enough you’ll have 20 – or more – meals in the freezer and ready to go.
Other Tips for Freezer Meal Preparation and Storage
Here are some other tips you can use to make freezer meal prep easier and more efficient.
Store Your Meals for Maximum Longevity
As I mentioned above, storing your meals in a zero-temp freezer will help them last longer and avoid freezer burn. Also, the fuller your freezer is, the more energy efficient it will be. Make sure your freezer isn’t too big for your needs.
And keep it at least half full of freezer meals and other freezer foods. Put the oldest meals on the top so you’ll use them first. When you make new ones, take the old ones out, put the new meals at the bottom and put the older meals on top of the newest ones. First in, first out is the rule.
Seal and Label Your Freezer Meals
Sealing your freezer meals properly is important. If you’re using a freezer bag, be sure to get as much air out as possible and seal the bag completely. If you’re using foil pans, use a designated foil pan cover. Another option is to cover the foil pan with 2 or 3 layers of heavy duty tin foil. Seal the foil tightly all the way around the pan to avoid air getting in.
This brings up another point: use the right size foil pan. Again, the less air space in your pan or baggie, the fresher and longer the meal will keep.
Labeling your meals is important too. Use freezer labels, or write on the bag or foil with permanent marker before you store it. Write what the meal is and the date you first froze it on.
Keep a List of Your Freezer Meals
We think it’s helpful to keep a list of the freezer meals you have on hand. This is important for two reasons. First, it helps you to know what’s available so you can choose meals you like when you’re ready to use them.
Second, knowing what you have on hand gives you a good idea of when you need to restock a certain type of meal. Then you can get to work on making extra batches so you never run out of the freezer meals you use most often.
Use our free printable freezer inventory sheet to help you be able to keep better track of what you have in stock.
Recommended Freezer Meal Books
Here are some freezer meal books you might like to check out. They’ll help you to have freezer meal ideas right at your fingertips. This will make prepping and storing freezer meals even easier.
Need More Freezer Meal Ideas?
I highly recommend Once A Month Meals. Once a month meals helps you make meal planning easier. The program helps you discover and create a monthly menu plan. Along with the menu plan, it’ll let you print out the recipes and instructions.
Then it gives you a list of all of the ingredients you need to make shopping super easy. Once a Month Meals takes the stress out of freezer cooking. And, you don’t have to cook a whole month’s worth of meals in one day. Bonus: they have tons of freezer friendly recipes for any diet!
Getting meals in the freezer doesn’t have to be difficult. If you plan your prep in a way that works for you it can be quite easy. Having a stockpile of freezer meals sure makes life easier – especially if you’re a family or individual on the go.
This articles focuses on freezer meals for families, however even if you live by yourself you can freezer smaller portions to accommodate your busy lifestyle.
In addition, it can be a huge money saver. It’s often tempting to go out to eat or order takeout when there’s nothing in the house or when you don’t have the time or energy to cook. Having those freezer meals ready for the oven will save you from spending a lot of money on a restaurant meal.
Do you prepare freezer meals to make life easier? If so, what technique do you use? What are your favorite freezer meal ideas? Feel free to share your tips on our Facebook page.