Wondering what all the fuss about freezer cooking is? Why make freezer meals? It can save you time and money, as well as put some great meals on your table.
Whether you cook a big batch of Seasoned Ground Beef or double up on Sausage Egg Hash Brown Casserole, freezer meals can buy you time, save you effort, and give you the night off cooking.
A freezer meal may not be glamorous, but let me tell you: It’s a fantastic way to get ahead. While you may be behind on the laundry or on calls to your mother, if you’ve got a meal in the freezer, you’re ahead in at least one area of life.
And trust me, that’s worth something.
Why It’s Important
It will buy you time. Making extra meals to freeze, doesn’t take much longer than making one. You’ll save time in making an assembly line of your favorite meals and stocking double or triple batches in the freezer.
It will save you money. All too often the siren song of take-out lures us away from cooking at home. But, eating home cooked meals is more cost effective than eating out. Having dinner ready at home will help you save money.
It will reduce your stress. A few freezer meals tucked away in the freezer can bring about much-needed peace to a hungry and harried kitchen. You don’t need to run around frantically, wondering what’s for dinner when you’ve got a frozen meal or two on hand.
Here’s how you can get started doing a little freezer cooking of your own:
What You Need
You don’t need any fancy gadgets, appliances, or magic spells to get some freezer meals put away.
Here’s what you need
- freezer-friendly recipes – If you’re not a sure a favorite meal will do well, freeze a small portion and then in a day or two, reheat it. If you like its taste and texture after freezing, you’re good to go with freezing larger batches.
- containers you can freeze – It helps if you’ve got duplicates so you’re not tying up your favorite casserole dish with a frozen meal when you want to bake brownies.
- space in your fridge – This is to chill the meal before you freeze it as it’s important not to put hot food in the freezer.
- space in your freezer – Freezer meals don’t do you any good if you’ve got nowhere to store them.
Freezer meal prep is super easy. Here’s how to do it:
1. Locate some recipes you love.
Got a favorite lasagne, enchilada, or marinara sauce? Chances are it will freeze beautifully. Go through your favorite recipes and identify what your family loves that you can make ahead.
If you need some inspiration, check out my freezer cookbook Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook from your local library or get it on Amazon. There are over 200 freezer-friendly recipes in that baby.
You can also check the Good Cheap Eats freezer recipes for new ideas.
2. Make a cooking plan.
To do a bulk freezer meal cooking session, good planning is key!
You’re going to want to order the preparation of these recipes in a way that makes the most economical use of your time. You’ll also need to make a grocery list of all your ingredients as well as make a prep list of things to chop, precook, shred, and slice.
Remember that in order to maximize your cooking time, you’re going to want to make several batches of each recipe.
Want a shortcut? Grab this Freezer Cooking Starter Pack where the recipes and shopping lists are already to go.
3. Go shopping.
Trust me when I say you want to double check your grocery list and make sure you have all the necessary ingredients on hand before you start your cooking session. You’re going to want to be able to get cooking without a lot of interruptions.
Be sure to shop your kitchen, checking your pantry and freezer first, before heading out to the store.
4. Get prepping.
Practice the cooking method of mise en place. Have everything ready to go to assemble your meals. Prep the vegetables, cheese, and other things that will go into each dish.
It will make your assembly time go super quickly.
5. Assemble the meals.
Once you’ve got all your ingredients, start the assembly line of meal making. Once you get rolling and see that stack of meals grow, you’ll be encouraged and gain steam.
If this is your first freezer meal prep session, don’t make more than 2 or 3 recipes. You want to get used to the process first. In fact, doubling dinner is a great way to build your stash of freezer meals.
6. Chill out.
Move from one recipe to another, placing the dishes in the fridge to chill prior to placing them in the freezer. It’s important to chill foods completely before you freeze them.
Cold food freezes more quickly which in turn reduces the risk of ice crystals and freezer burn.
Once you’ve completely the last meal, put your feet up and relax! Dinner is served.
Okay, not served, but ready to serve. You’ve got a bunch of freezer meals ready to go, saving time, money, and stress in the process.
Favorite Freezer Meals
Tell us what you think!
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How to Prep Freezer Meals
- ingredients for your freezer-friendly recipe
For chilis, soups, and stews
- Assemble the recipe per instructions. Divide into meal-size, freezer-friendly containers.
- Assemble the recipe, just until the baking step. Do not bake, but wrap well or secure an airtight cover.
For meatballs and cooked meats
- Assemble the recipe per instructions. Divide into meal-size, freezer-friendly containers.
For marinated meats
- Assemble the recipe, just until the cooking step. Do not cook, but place the meat and marinade together in a ziptop freezer bag.
- Assemble the recipe, just until the baking step. Do not bake, but wrap the loaf well first in aluminum foil and then place in a ziptop freezer bag.
For quiche and egg bakes
- Assemble the recipe, just until the baking step. Do not bake, but wrap well or secure an airtight cover. Be sure that the dish remains level otherwise the unbaked egg mixture will seep out.
For burritos and sandwiches
- Chilling the fillings and allow the tortillas/breads/rolls to come to room temperature. Assemble the burritos and wrap each one individually in deli wrap and place in a ziptop freezer bag. You can also reuse the bag in with the tortillas or breads were purchased in.
For all recipes
- Label the freezer meal with the date, name of the recipe, and serving instructions. Be sure to include information about cooking times and temps as well as if other ingredients need to be added.
- If the ingredients have been heated, such as baked meatballs, meats, or soups, chill the dish well in the refrigerator before placing in the freezer. Otherwise, place the item directly in the freezer, taking care that liquid freezer meals are placed level in the freezer so as not to leak or spill.
- For best results, thaw the dish completely before baking or reheating. Some freezer meals can be cooked from frozen, but you'll need to extend the cooking time,
This post was originally published on February 28, 2015. It has been updated for content and clarity.
Some of my favorite freezer meals are lawnmower tacos, broccoli and rice and cheese casserole andenchiladas. I also makeup your red sauce in batches to freeze, meatloaf and meatballs, taco meat and burrito meat.
I love those, too.
I’ve become SUCH a make-ahead / freezer cooking convert! And a lot of it is thanks to you. Can’t wait to check out your freezer book, as I loved the Good Cheap Eats cookbook.
Ah! Thanks for your support!
Heather @ My Overflowing Cup
I’m a huge fan of freezer cooking, too, Jessica.
I freeze bread, cookie dough, enchiladas, pizzas…. you name it.
It saves a ton of money and more often than not, my sanity.
Thanks for sharing your recipes and tips!
Fresh Thyme Market in Cincinnati has 50% off natural chicken this week. I made 2 pkg chicken teriyaki to marinate then grill, baked & sliced chicken breast for pizza or pasta, and 3 pkg chicken & black bean filling for tacos/quesadillas/burritos. I usually do triple batches sloppy joes and taco meat when ground beef is on sale. Scone & cookie dough are other frequent foods in the freeze. Love having these ready!
When you say to shop your freezer, I have been doing the pantry challenge sine the first of January and it has been very helpful I did not realize how much of a stockpile I had. With that said I am almost ready to do some freezer cooking and was wondering if I could use some frozen meats to put in the kits when it says to have chicken breast or thighs would I thaw them first and re- freeze? I did not think re-freezing was good but did not want to buy more when I still had some. Thanks!
Refreezing is not bad if you’ve thawed under proper conditions. The times that they warn not to is when your freezer has had a power loss and everything has thawed. That is bad.
But, if you want to thaw what you have (in the fridge on a tray) and cook it, you can refreeze it no problem. Just be sure not to overcook and to make sure it cools and chills fully before sticking it in the freezer. Let me know if you have questions.
I love having trays of mac and cheese in the freezer for nights when I don’t feel like cooking or when I want it as a side dish to something else. Once in a while I’ll do a little freezer cooking for dinner meals. But I really enjoy having breakfast freezer meals in the freezer. I pack my husband’s breakfast and lunch every night. He leaves at 5:00 in the morning and I really don’t feel like cooking at that hour. He absolutely has no problem taking cereal every day but I enjoy giving him a variety. About 3 weeks ago, I spent the entire morning making a bunch of different breakfast meals. I made French toast, pancakes, turkey sausage, a ham, egg, and cheese casserole, bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast bowls, and an applesauce coffee cake. That was three weeks ago and I’m almost finished with these meals. When they are gone, I will start again; maybe with some muffins this time. Having breakfast meals in the freezer is a good way to make sure I have a nice variety of things to give to hubby.
Life goes so much better at our house when we have some breakfast stuff ready to go. Thanks for the reminder!
As we are a small family, freezing meals and meal components from even standard size recipes saves me time and money. Remembering to take the frozen item out of the freezer and put it in the refrigerator the night before to defrost is often the hard part for me. As I was reminded to take the shredded beef out of the freezer while reading your article on freezer cooking this morning (about 12 hours late) I was struck by how simple it is to leave myself an alarm on my IPad (which I do look at while relaxing before bed) to do the night before tasks, rather than rely on my tired brain. I can schedule when I meal plan for the week the tasks that I often forget to do for dinner the next day: defrost meat, sauce, etc., soak beans, make pizza or focaccia dough (I make versions that use a smaller amount of yeast and do a cold ferment in the fridge or on the counter in winter). It may just be me, but I forget and then must scramble in the very early morning or ditch my plan, throw something else together or give up entirely for the day and tell my husband we are going out for hamburgers (he loves to go out but our budget can’t take the hit).
It’s not just you. I forget all the time. Creating a staging area in my fridge freezer has been a huge help since I don’t have to go all the way to the garage to get something to thaw. I transfer stuff on Sunday and then it’s so much easier all week long.
Thanks for sharing. I’m buying a chest freezer this WEEK and I want to be ready!
Fun! Let me know if you have any questions.