Before I had my second baby boy this past December, I dove into the world of freezer meals. I had a lot of anxiety on how I would handle life with two small boys. And I don’t know about you, but the most stressful time of the day for me is always that time before dinner. The kids are cranky and bored, and putting together a healthy-homemade dinner is the last thing I want to do.
I am sold on the freezer meal concept. I am pretty sure my friends and family are sick of hearing about freezer meals. ( similar to my newfound obsession with shopping at ALDI). To be able to throw “already prepared” food in the crockpot or defrost some taco meat in just a few minutes is so wonderful!
When I have some meals already prepared in the freezer, I don’t need to stress about dinner. EVER. Plus, I don’t need to feel bad about ordering unhealthy take-out either. ( because we don’t)
If you are thinking about diving into the freezer meal world, you may feel overwhelmed like I did, when I went to Pinterest and typed ” Freezer meals” into the search bar. There are THOUSANDS of recipes out there for freezer meals. SO Where do you start?
Let me help you with a few tips.
1) Don’t make 50 freezer meals in one day!
If you have NEVER made a freezer meal, DON”T follow a blogger who made 50 freezer meals in one day. That is A LOT of money to invest in freezer meal making if you have never tried it before. PLUS, chances are, Your family does not eat the same type of food as that bloggers’ family. Don’t get me wrong, these freezer meal in bulk posts are great! You can get some delicious recipe ideas from them. Wait until you know the ins and outs of freezer meal-making. THEN spend an afternoon making 50 meals. 🙂
2) Frozen Noodles do NOT taste good when they are reheated
. Last winter, when I was stocking my freezer, I spent a Saturday making a crockpot of Bolognese sauce. I then mixed the sauce with noodles and froze three different casserole dishes full of the noodles and sauce. This was a bad idea. First, this had to bake in the oven for about 2 hours to thaw. Second, the re-thawed noodles were mushy beyond belief. It was not a good dinner. It’s best to freeze the sauce, THEN spend the 10 minutes boiling noodles. 🙂 This may not apply to lasagna, but I have never attempted to freeze lasagna before.
See the photo below. I STILL have the last batch of this uneaten, in my freezer!
3) Freeze Fruits and Vegetables in a separate bag, or don’t include them in the freezer meal at all.
When you are making a crockpot freezer meal, ( like raw chicken, with a marinade) Either freeze the vegetables in a separate bag or warm up a bag of frozen veggies before you eat. Last winter I made a teriyaki chicken with pineapple and carrots to freeze. Carrots and Pineapple that are soaking all afternoon in the crockpot in overly sweet teriyaki sauce did not taste good. AT ALL. Warming up a bag of frozen veggies or fruit when you sit down to eat is not too much work. Your meal will taste better.
4) Storing food in Freezer Bags is Best.
Storing your freezer meal in a plastic bag is just the best idea. It takes less room up in your freezer, and, thawing freezer meals by placing the freezer bag in a pot of warm water is, by far, the fastest way to thaw a freezer meal. I should also add that I put my casseroles in freezer bags to freeze. Remember my note about not freezing noodles? Rice Casseroles freeze and thaw MUCH better!
5) Loose meat is my favorite kind of food to freeze
Everyone who freezes meals has preferences on their favorite. I like to make large crock pots of loose meats on the weekends, then freeze dinner-sized portions. By” free meat recipes,” I mean, taco meat, sloppy Joe’s, pulled pork, pulled chicken and chilis. These dinner-sized portions defrost by placing the sealed freezer bag in a pot water for10 minutes. Then I always make sure to keep taco shells in the pantry. No Buns? Sloppy Joe Tacos will do!
6) Forgot to put tonight’s freezer meal in the crockpot this morning?
That is okay! Just defrost it in warm water, put the food in the baking dish, then throw it in the oven. It may not pull-apart quite like being in the crockpot all day, but your food will still taste good!
7) ALWAYS place cooked food in the fridge before freezing.
Placing steaming hot food right into the freezer can contaminate the food. ALWAYS let it sit overnight in the fridge before replacing the meal in your freezer.
8) Avoid already- frozen meat.
If you are making the type of freezer meal that goes into a crockpot or oven to cook. ( raw meat with a marinade) Avoid purchasing frozen beef. First, if you are adding a marinade to the frozen meat and sticking it in the freezer, your dinner will likely end up watery ( because you never defrosted the chicken). And Second, refreezing already frozen meat can contaminate it.
9) Arrange your freezer meals in your freezer- like books on a bookshelf.
When you transfer your freezer meals to the freezer- make sure there is space to lay your freezer meals down flat. Then after a day or so, arrange those meals like books on a bookshelf. You will be able to maximize space that way.
10) Make Meals your family will actually eat.
If you don’t usually marinate chicken in bottles of salad dressing, then don’t choose to make that freezer meal just because you see it online, and it looks easy. Make high-quality meals with foods you know you and your family will enjoy.
[…] that you try to eat healthy meals as much as possible so when you have some spare time, try to cook some meals and freeze them so you have quick options for healthy food later on. If you can’t find the time to cook, at least […]
Hi – just saw this post. Great points! Agreed on the frozen noodles. Mostly a very bad idea. However, I have been freezing lasagna for a couple years now. It is just my husband and myself, so I learned that freezing individual portions works wonderfully for us.
I make the lasagna, cool it, fridge overnight, then cut into portions and wrap in foil. Then take out 2 in the morning and leave them in the fridge. Can also bake from frozen. I unwrap and place in oven safe containers (just got 2 really cute ones from Le Creuset), previously used a Corelle bowl. Use the unwrapped foil to cover the container and bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes (depending on oven hotness and lasagna thickness). Let stand for 5-10 before eating.
I appreciate your helpfulness! Have a nice day!
I freeze my lasagna all the time. I use the metal pans and foil to cover. My kids would come home and ask are there any lasagnas in the freezer. I always try a meal first then freeze for next time if they like it.
HI! I have found that freezing noodles that are already in a sauce like ‘mac
‘n cheese’ & lasagna work better than freezing noodles alone.
But, if you have to do them alone, par-cooked them, they freeze well and are a lot less soggy once defrosted.
Freezing flat and then stacking upright like books is saving me so much space! Thanks for that one 🙂
COOK onions BEFORE adding them!
I made a few batches of quesadillas and didnt cook THE onions and thats all u could taste. IT was awful!
I love this list. I’ve been using the freezer meal concept for years, but found this PART when trying to share the basics with my younger sister( newly Wed with first baby 😉 ) . About freezing lasagna – i usually make two pans and then freeze one uncooked. Then on the day I want to cook the second one I put it straight in the oven frozen before preheating. Aprox 425 for 1-2 hours.
Sorry for the caps – for some reason they are all I can type in this form??? My caps lock is off, I promise! turning it on didn’t help either – sorry!
Cooked potatoes and freezing: there are some ways it works just fine, mashed potatoes that have “extras” mixed in, like butter, cream cheese, cream, etc. can be frozen and reheated well. They might be a little watery but stir it up well, add some more butter and it tastes fine.
Twice baked potatoes and casseroles that use frozen hashbrowns also work well. but i can see where just pieces of cooked potato in a stew might not go so well.
i’m not familiar with practice of thawing frozen bags of food in warm water – i usually thaw overnight in the fridge, in a dish to catch any possible leakage from the bag. Or in the case of some things, like already cooked loose meats, I simply break off chunks as needed from inside the bag and thaw on a plate in the microwave.
Most people do not know that you can freeze milk. Just leave it in the carton or jug but take some out as it expands when it freezes.. thaw later in the fridge.
[…] 10 Things You Should Know Before You Start Making Freezer Meals in Bulk […]
I noticed too noodles don’t freeze to well. Lasagna does and large stuffed shells do, but nothing else.
ive noticed, like pasta, cooked potatoes also do not freeze very well. Not sure if this is for any recipe or only when frozen in a liquidy food, but I tried freezing stew once and it was very aweful.
Freezing lasagna with uncooked noodles is easy. You don’t need the no boil ones just add about half a cup water to the pan before baking.
My favorite freezer inventory sheet is available at http://www.organizedhome.com. The printable with blank lines is good and I’ve used it many times. I really like the one I can type in on the computer then print. It looks so nice hanging on the side of my fridg.
I love freezer bags but also like to freeze casseroles right in the dish but there’s a secret trick to it. Line the pan (I use glass baking pans) with plastic wrap, next spray with non-stick spray, place the casserole ingredients in the lined pan and freeze till firm, now remove from the pan and wrap with more plastic wrap and foil, label and freeze. 8X8 frozen casseroles also fit nicely in a gallon freezer bag. On serving day just unwrap the casserole and drop it in the pan to thaw. Then bake as usual.
I’ve been doing here things for years and it is wonderful. I save time and money while feeding my family healthy home cooked meals.
Thank you for your Tip About freezing in The pan Then remOving it To store in the freezer. It makes sense for our family Since we have a lot of baking dishes and we will save mOney on not having to buy foil paNs
When you freeze noodles (any really except lasagna), you are suppose to always but the “Al Dente” cooked noodles in a SEPARATE bag to freeze. The moisture of the sauce you combined it with in the freezer is the reason it got mushy. I’ve frozen left over spaghetti noodles multiple times in their own container, reheated them weeks later and they’re just perfect.
I just spent two hours cleaning out our stand-up freezer. I found stuff from as far back as three years that I had forgotten about long ago. The idea of a freezer inventory has danced across my mind from time to time but has never come to fruition. After throwing out at least $200 worth of food, I am convinced that I must create some type of inventory list so nothing gets lost again. Now if I can only get Hubby on board….
This was very helpful. I am trying to go grainfree and know I need to pre-prep in order not to default to “easy” so I have been looking at freezer meals/freezer crockpot meals. Your blog should save me time, money and misery. Thanks.
You’re welcome! thanks for the feedback! 🙂
As far as lasagna goes I use the no boil noodles and it is a great freezer meal.
Another reason to not put warm foods directly into the freezer: it overworks the freezer and trips the breaker then you come home to a freezer full of rotten food 3 days later. In my case, they weren’t hot, just room temperature, but warm enough to make the freezer try too hard!
that is a good tip!!!! We have had our freezer in our garage randomly turn off a few times. So I feel ya :/
My tip is to make a freezer inventory complete with date the item was frozen. I used to be forever discovering things in my freezer that Archaeologists would be proud to unearth!
Don’t forget to cross it off the list when you use it.
that is a good one!
And write the list directly on the freezer door with a dry erase marker.
Freezing pasta works really well..you just need to undercook the noodles by a minute or two. Cooking them to al dent works well. If you cook them to how soft you like to eat them they will be mushy after freezing and reheating. Just a bit undercooked noodles or any other pasta freezes and reheats without being mushy.
That is also how i cook my pasta for freezing. I would also add that it’s better to use thicker pasta (think linguini rather than angel hair) and add a little extra sauce.
Freezing in bags made me crazy – the bags were always sliding all over the place in my freezer and I was faced by an avalanche every time I opened the door. My meals fit perfectly in a 9-cup disposable (but I always reuse) container. Since my freezer meals are most often crockpot meals I prepare them in a crockpot liner (clipped open inside a vanity-sized garbage can so it’s easy to load), clip the liner shut and put into the container which I label on the end – that way I know at a glance what my choices are. When it’s time to cook the liner slides out of the container and directly into my crockpot.
thanks for the great tip! Have a great day! 🙂
Every time we freeze something it seems to have that freezer taste, even thought we use freezer bags. For this reason we like to use meat that has not been froZen and not freeze leftovers. Do you ever have this problem? Any tips?
I can tell you from experience that freezing lasagna works. Now I can only vouch for individual pieces that were leftovers. I make such a HUGE batch that I freeze individual pieces for sharing. I wrap them in plastic wrap then aluminum foil. Let them thaw in the refrigerator, remove from the entire wrapping and warm in a glass container in the microwave or oven safe container in the toaster oven. Thanks for all the tips. It’s cheaper and less aggravating to learn from other’s mistakes. I’m always glad for people like you that pass on their wisdom.
I have had a few tell me that freezing lasagna works. I’ll have to give it a try soon. Thanks for all the great info! 🙂
Every time I make lasagna I make 2, 1 for the oven for that night and one for the freezer (uncooked). Thaw and pop in the oven and cook as usual, and you can’t tell it was ever frozen. Lasagna is so messy to make, I love only having to clean up half the time!
I think your bad luck with your teriyaki and pineapple was the pineapple- I’ve made several roasts with hard vegetables like carrots and potatoes and they freeze fine. Any citrus fruit I’d say add in at the end, or veggies like celery with a lot of water- they expand when frozen and break down their structure a little. . That is of course unless you like very soft/almost mushy celery! Great tips!,
I love making freezer meals. I am going to make some before I go ahead for my trip. The kids will love being able to grab stuff to eat on the go.
I am learning to do a better job with being more organized when I freeze my meals. I just bought a bunch of Freezer Bags to actually write the contents on.
I so need to do batch cooking and freezing especially when school starts back up.
Great tips, I just started freezing food and you answered a lot of my questions!
You’ve got so many great tips here. I did not know some of them, but I am happy to know them now. 🙂
I’ve had that happen with pineapple before and you’re right. The flavor soaks in and is way too intense. I generally add things like that at the end too.
I have never made freezer meals before, but I love using my crock pot and knowing what items I can freeze so I can buy them on sale in bulk, then unfreeze them when I need to use them. Thanks for the tips, especially about the noodles. I wonder why some taste ok, and others don’t.
I love these tips–they are so real! I haven’t attempted freezer meals, but after reading your post, I think I may give it a try. Thanks!
Those are some great tips. I have been wanting to do freezer meals but have never gotten around it.