Take the Fill the Freezer Challenge to Save Time & Money

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Take this month’s Grocery Savings Challenge and fill the freezer with homemade convenience foods so that you can save money and enjoy great meals at home! 

hands rolling burritos for the freezer

You may not know it, but March is National Frozen Food Month. This means that you’ll see sales and coupons at your local grocery stores for commercial frozen foods.

Frozen lasagna. Frozen burritos. Frozen Chocolate Banana Bites.

And while I’m all for tasty convenience foods, I prefer that my frozen meals be homemade.

Homemade is better for sooo many reasons, but my favorite are the money-savings and the great flavor that come from homemade.

Yes, you can make better lasagna for the freezer than Stouffer’s.

You can make better freezer burritos than El Monterey.

You can make better frozen chocolate bananas than Dole.

Cheaper, too.

stacks of colored freezer meal plans

The Fill the Freezer Challenge

That’s why I’m inviting you to join this month’s Good Cheap Eats Fill Your Freezer Challenge, the third in this year’s Grocery Savings Challenges.

The challenge itself is simple:

Practice freezer cooking.

Some of you are old pro’s at this; others have been “meaning” to start. Well, either way, today’s the day!

Taking the challenge is easy. Just do one or more of the following:

  • Leave a comment to tell us you’re “in”. 
  • Enter this month’s giveaway.
  • Share your progress on social media with the hashtag #fillthefreezer.
  • Share this post with friends via email or social media.
  • Choose an approach to freezer cooking (see below) to help you get the freezer filled.

step-by-step photos of making lasagna

Approaches to Filling the Freezer 

As you may know, I wrote the book on freezer cooking. 😉 I’m giving away a few copies this month!

I’ve been doing “freezer cooking” for almost 23 years, so I’ve learned a thing or two. Namely: you don’t have to do it the same way every time. There are lots of approaches to freezer cooking that will help you save time and money.

How will YOU fill the freezer?

Consider one of the following strategies to fill the freezer this month:

  1. Double dinner once a week and stash the extra in the freezer. You could do this many nights during the month, but even if you did it as seldom as once a week, you’d build a nice freezer stash.
  2. Have a weekly baking day when you fill the freezer with baked goods to last the week.
  3. Do a daylong freezer cooking session to get yourself really ahead. Yes, you can cook a month’s worth of meals in a day.
  4. Prep meal components, such as base proteins or sauces that will save you time throughout the coming weeks.
  5. Start cooking beans and sauces yourself. Divide a big batch into two-cup portions and freeze them.

sourdough boule cut in half

My goal for the Fill the Freezer Challenge

One of my big take-aways from last month’s Efficient Kitchen Challenge was that I do best when I have a singular goal. I had too many goals going during last month’s challenge and I did none of them very well.

Also of note: a daily task to check off my list seems to be up my alley. (See Pantry Challenge.)

Along those lines my goal is this:

To stash something away in the freezer every day in March.

I know from experience that baby steps can pay off debt, get the house clean, build your savings. I shall test this as I fill the freezer this month.

While I won’t post these endeavors on the blog every day, I will share them on Instagram and in the newsletter each week. I’ll also be sending newsletter subscribers a free printable freezer cooking plan each week!

If you’re not already a subscriber, drop your email address in the form below and I’ll send you all the printables for the Grocery Savings Challenges.

Subscribe here

Fill in your email address to be subscribed and receive the free printable.

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If you’ve already got a copy of Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook, then you’ll definitely want to grab these 12 Easy Freezer Cooking Plans that use recipes from the book as well as from the Good Cheap Eats blog. 

Just head here to get your copy.

Ready to get started?

Let’s do this thing! Tell us in the comments what your goal for the month is going to be.

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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Comments

  1. Shayla says

    I’m in! I have been wanting to start freezer cooking, and my husband will be gone for the next month so I can focus on it without distractions!

    • How is it going? I’m guessing your husband’s plans might have changed. Did you get some freezer cooking done?

      • Shayla says

        He did end up going, and now he can’t come back! Although I haven’t gone to the grocery store since this started, so I froze everything I could in portion sizes and hopefully I can last for a few more weeks!

  2. Marci says

    Last month we did good on groceries – we stayed under $800! Which is great for us. We did better at using up veggies before they got bad, Planning 3 meals/eating leftovers on the weekdays seems to work out well for us. This month my goals are: 1- keeping the grocery bill to the $800 again 2- making some basic ready made freezer meals and 3- trying more DIY mixes (my kids actually asked for more of your DIY pancake mixes to be made and stored).

    • Great job with the grocery spending! I imagine this month isn’t going as planned. Did you get much done the beginning of the month?

  3. Julie Smith says

    I’m in! As slow as January went, February flew by and I never really got going with Feb’s challenge. March starts our busy season, but I know it’ll pay off to have a full freezer in April and May. I actually did a big breakfast session last week, so I’ll use that as my day 1 since I didn’t do anything yesterday.

    I like your goal, so I’ll copy it. One recipe in the freezer Mondays-Fridays, and I’ll likely throw in a couple of power hour sessions for any marked down meats I come across, because I find that’s actually the easiest way to freezer cook. ?

    • Eva says

      Julie,
      I agree about the power hour for cooking and freezing marked down meats. If the meat is in pieces, rather than ground, I will sometimes freeze it raw in a marinade a ziploc bag. Then it’s ready to thaw and grill another day!

    • How is it going, Julie?

      • Julie says

        The quarantine kind of made me quit this challenge and focus on what we need while we are all stuck at home. So definitely more baking and cooking in general, but I haven’t been focusing on extra freezer cooking.

  4. Molly says

    Past freezer cooking paid off for me last night, when I came home with a nasty cold and wanted chicken soup – tada, chicken tortilla soup in the freezer!
    I’d be interested to here how you incorporate the dietary changes in the freezer cooking plan.

    • My daughter does her own freezer cooking and/or I make things that will work for both diets. So far it’s working okay.

  5. Maureen says

    I’m still working on cleaning out my freezers, so my motivation will be to make room for some treats. I told my kids that if they helped me clean out the freezers we’d make some cookie dough, etc to stash away. I’ve made my meal plan for the next two weeks (based on what’s in the freezers), so for now I’ll plan to “double” dinner about twice a week. I also need to focus on eating snacks and side-dishes from the freezer. That will help clear out some space so that I can organize things to be more functional. If that goes well, then I plan to repeat the process for the second half of the month.

    • Checking in to see how you guys are doing. How far did you get? Did you need to switch gears at all?

      • Maureen Krause says

        I stuck to the plan the first week and a half…doubled 2 dinners and ate some things up from the freezer. I had a list of some of the things that I wanted to use up, so I alternated those with regular dinners. It went well. Then, COVID-19 got close. My kids’ last day of school for a month was 3/13. Michigan just announced “shelter in place” yesterday. I anticipate we’ll be locked down for a number of weeks and the kids won’t be going back to school in April (if at all this school year). So, it was great timing. I stocked up just a bit on proteins the second week of March and had space in the freezer to put them. I put them all in dinner sized portions and added marinate to about half, since the weather is just starting to warm up enough for grilling. My husband stopped at the store last night for milk, some chicken that I couldn’t get earlier, and lettuce. That will be our only grocery shopping for over two weeks. I’m grateful for SO many things…including having the freezer space to provide for my family. So, now we have some extra time to dig through the freezers and cook. It’s been going well. Last night’s dinner was a pork loin with green beans and a variety of weird sides. I found a number of partial things to use up and the variety worked for the various preferences among the 5 of us. We’ve been very good about no waste, too. We have plenty of food in our house, but the empty grocery store shelves has me redoubling efforts to not waste! I look forward to defrosting my chest freezer (maybe in April) as we continue to make progress. For now we are staying put and trying to balance productivity (a house purge and new-to-us homeschooling) with lots of family time (puzzles, games, movie marathons). Snow on the ground yesterday, but warmer temps coming – looking forward to being able to stay outside longer each week. I hope everyone is staying safe and helping others…it’s going to be a very strange year.

        • Sounds like you’re doing well, Maureen. I prefer to call it a “shut down” sounds so much nicer than “lock down.” 😉 We’ve been shut down since 4/12. Our stores have bounced back last I went, so hopefully yours will, too, soon. We can do this!

  6. Alicia Devore says

    I’m in! Love & hate freezer cooking. Each time I freeze or cook I tweak it just a little bit more hoping to find the rhythm for that week or that month

    • How is your freezer filling going?

      • Alicia says

        With surviving this lockdown- I am using what we have, gathering for a few weeks, not using sales as much, & have overspent. So not all that well.

        • Truly, we are in survival mode. It’s hard to know what will be available when, so it sounds like you’re doing the best you can considering the circumstances. Don’t be so hard on yourself. When the dust settles, we’ll be ready to regroup and rebound with a vengeance. 🙂

  7. lisa s says

    I started my freezer cooking yesterday and made up my big batch of red sauce. I was out and I have a huge stock pile of noodles in the pantry that still need eating. Super happy to have that done. I think my next item will be a chicken tot casserole. (not a typo–my peeps are anti-pie crust (they be crazy) so I’ve given up and use tater tots on top instead of a crust).

    • Sounds delicious! Both the sauce and the chicken tot casserole. I wonder if my kids would eat that. It’s like mom’s tater tot casserole, but with chicken instead of hamburger, right?

      • lisa s says

        not sure what mom’s tot casserole is, but I sauté about a cup of frozen onions in a half stick of butter–mushrooms too if I have them. at the end I add some salt and pepper, minced garlic (tsp or two) and thyme and celery seed (about 1/4 tsp each). then whisk in a quarter cup flour and lightly brown while mixing it in well. Then I whisk in stock (I don’t measure when I cook but I’d guess two cups–adjust to the thickness you like knowing it will thicken in oven also). Then mix in two baked chicken breasts cubed and a bag of frozen mixed veggies. When all the veggies are thawed, dump it all into a 9×13 casserole dish. Top with a bag of frozen tater tots, lightly pressing them in but making sure not to submerge them, and bake in oven according to the directions on your tot bag. (if you aren’t lactose intolerant, you can skip making the gravy and just mix a can of cream of mushroom soup and a cup of milk and use that instead. you can also lower the butter to a tbsp if you go that route.)

  8. My 4 deep freezers and 3 refrigerator freezers are full…it’s eat from the freezer month. I have done all 5 of the preps. A lot of time if I am buying something for the freezer for a meal in the future… I WRITE it on the package what recipe it is for. We clear the freezers so by July and Aug we can refill from the gardens and Oct when the Amish butcher and we get meat.

  9. Natalie Kay says

    I’m in! I plan on doubling up on a lot of meals such as my soup that I choose to make every week and also plan on a couple baking days to have breads stored in the freezer for later. I’m also working on doing more pantry cooking this month to try and save that way and use up things about to expire or things bought with better intentions that haven’t been used yet.

  10. Jenn In Seattle says

    February flew by for me too, and I never really got in the swing of meal prep days.

    Ground beef went on sale miraculously the same day my kids asked for meatballs in their lunches, so I bought enough for a double batch and mixed that up last night. I was almost afraid I didn’t have a bowl big enough. There were many jokes from the family about having meatballs for breakfast, lunch and dinner. My intent though, is to freeze them and store them away for busy nights when a few meatballs can turn boring pasta into something a little more special (we don’t eat beef often).

    I am interested in learning to cook dried beans and portioning them and freezing. I think this will be the month I give that a go. : )

  11. Heather Lawless says

    I’m in for this challenge, looking forward to hearing how others do the freezer challenge as well. I have had experience with using the “Not your mother’s make ahead anf freeze cookbook” it is the best way to feed my family. I look forward to participatibg again, February was full of sickness and stress. I am back, ready to learn. Efficiency in the kitchen was my lesson in February., and I picked up some ways to organize the kithen, and do prep for meals. Thanks,

  12. Roberta says

    Like Juls, my freezers are full (especially since I restocked proteins after the January PC), so we will be eating from the freezers and restocking components like beans and stocks for soup as those are used up.

    I never did get my freezers inventoried in February (but at least I can get to them now!), so that is still on the to-do list. I did get my plastic container cupboards, under the kitchen sink, and my spice cabinet/shelves cleaned and organized, so at least I made some progress in that regard. We also used up most of the citrus we had, and I was able to try at least one new recipe and freeze a bunch of orange zest. We do still have some oranges from our tree, so those will be either eaten or juiced this month. Our garden is starting to produce well (lettuce, etc., at the moment), so I’ll be “shopping the garden”. 🙂

    Son has lots of swim meets this month and next, so that will affect our meals both in terms of what/how much I cook and how much we end up eating out. (I’m not looking forward to eating out, but it’s “team-building” and fundraising so . . . . )

  13. Lisa says

    I’m in! I’ll be doing a little each week. I’m just now jumping in, so my other goal in March is really tracking and getting a handle on how much we spend on food! Your IG has inspired me to keep records and compare to the USDA guidelines. Let’s see how this month goes, even with adding to the freezer!

  14. Deana McInnis says

    I’m in! There’s not much more comforting to me than a well stocked freezer.

  15. Jessica Lieurance says

    This post could not have come at a better time. We’re fighting “the sickness” in our house. Last week I was tired, I had sick kids, and I didn’t want to cook. I wished I had something quick and easy in the freezer to make, and decided that I was going to work on that this month. I AM SO IN!

  16. Stephanie says

    I’m in. I am new to the freezer cooking method. Although I’ve followed you for a long time this is the year I have been truly on board following your ways. I loved the pantry challenge. I realized I don’t stock up like I should. So I’m February when some many things were buy one get on free at sprouts o took advantage and did a lot of stocking up. I will do one dinner doubled for the freezer this month and one baking day a week for me where I freeze some. Looking forward to this challenge

  17. Jean says

    My goal this month will be to focus on advanced prep. During the week I often get home late from work, too late to really put much of anything together (supper for me is usually a bowl of cereal.) Thinking if I would cook proteins ahead of time on the weekend and freeze in portions I’d be able to make something a little more filling than cereal! 😉 If I get really adventurous I might try making a double recipe of something to have 1 to put in the freezer a few times this month, too. However right now that thought is a bit overwhelming. Baby steps, right?!

  18. Alice E says

    I’m in but plan to give it my own twist. I usually alternate cooking and using leftovers. I do like having meatloaf or ground meat cooked and ready to use in the freezers. But, first I need to defrost and use up a few specialty things like the berries I froze to make jam. So I’m concentrating on that early in the month and will do more stocking later in the month. First I need to get them defrosted and re-organized! I also need to get some baking done and frozen in the last part of the month and mix up some slice and bake cookies, freeze some bar cookies and such. This is also the month when I buy and stock up fish, since it goes on sale during Lent. That will also fill the freezer with healthy protein.

    I do want to try your meatball recipe to freeze later while stocking up again. I’m still deciding about stocking beans and rice in the freezer. I notice that you can now buy packs of rice in the freezer section at the store.

    This should be an interesting month. My main goal is to finish the month with defrosted and wisely stocked freezers. I’m slow in posting because I wanted to think about my goals and keep them realistic, but challenging. My Feb. goals suffered due to health issues, but hopefully they are under control.

  19. Sarah says

    I’m in! I have the kindle version of this book and I used it so much to help me stock my freezer during my pregnancy. I have learned what is easy to freeze and what isn’t as well as how easy it is to double a dinner recipe and put half in the freezer for later. Looking forward to re-stocking my freezer this month with this challenge.

    • Yay! So glad to hear it! Have you left a review on Amazon yet? I would so appreciate it! Thanks!

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