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.
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.