In an attempt to be more organized and prepared at dinner time, Allison and I are going to try to make freezer meals. (I’m going to call it a freezer party, but it may be way more work than party.) This is part 1 of 4 from our series on freezer meals.
One of the most complex jobs we have as moms is feeding our families. I don’t particularly excel at cooking and I don’t really have a lot of interest in trying new things. But being a SAHM means that for the most part, I have to decide what to make. Every. Single. Day.
Lately, I have been really struggling to feed my family.
Finding a meal that is healthy, easy to make, and that everyone will eat is difficult for many families. I don’t know about you, but I waste a lot of food too. I don’t plan meals in advance, so I end up with a container of sour cream that I needed ¼ cup for 2 weeks ago and now the rest is still in the fridge and moldy. I throw away leftovers and vegetables way too often. I grocery shop instead of use what I have.
I am not organized when it comes to my kitchen.
What is the answer? I have tried meal planning and it has worked well, but I am not consistent. There are still many nights when I have to make a last minute trip to the store.
Maybe freezer meals are the answer.
I am going to try it and see.
I have been scouring the internet for the best information out there about making freezer meals. I looked for tips and tricks about what equipment to use, what foods freeze the best, food safety for freezing meals, and how to thaw and prepare your freezer meals.
The more I looked, the more amazing meals I saw that I want to make.
I am tempted to try a bunch of new recipes or make casseroles that would be easy to assemble. But I’m not going to do that. I am going to make food my family will actually eat. Todd hates most casseroles and I get frustrated when I try something new (especially if that something took lots of time and effort) and no one likes it. So I am starting out with some of our staples and maybe two new things that I think will work.
Here are some things I learned from the internet that I am going to try on this first attempt:
- Plan ahead. Everyone says this. I know I need to plan a few things before I just go shopping. I need to figure out what equipment I need, what recipes I will make, and maybe look for sale items in the store flyers to get good deals. A few things about planning:
- When you pick a day to freezer prep, don’t shop that day. Do it a day or two before so you aren’t exhausted from shopping and then trying to make 30 meals.
- Inventory your freezer, fridge, and pantry first to save time and money at the store. I did this a few months ago, but will have to do it again. You also need to know how much space you have available.
- Gather your recipes and make ingredient lists. List ingredients and supplies by department. Don’t forget spices, herbs, and equipment.
- Speaking of equipment- you will need foil pans (cheap ones will work) and plastic bags (cheap ones will not work- get Ziplock freezer bags), possibly gloves (if you are grossed out by raw meat), and a sharpie. And if you are doing crockpot meals, get liners for your pot (my tip, not the internet’s).
- Make a step by step plan for your prep day. Decide what you will do first, second, etc. Be realistic (this is a reminder for myself).
- Think about your freezer. Prepared meals will last about 3 months in the freezer. See this chart for storage times for your fridge and freezer. Make only what you will realistically eat in that amount of time (or less). Other freezer advice:
- Storing things flat uses less space. Put food in bags, but lay flat to freeze.
- Don’t pack the freezer completely full. Leave about 1/3 of the space open so the temperature stays regulated. Too much food stops air flow.
- Date everything and use the oldest dates first.
- Food safety is important. The basic rules for freezer cooking:
- Wash your hands.
- After cooking your freezer meal, put it in the fridge to cool before putting it into the freezer. Hot food in the freezer can thaw things around it.
- Only fill the freezer 2/3 full.
- Don’t refreeze something you have thawed.
- BUT if you thaw meat from frozen then cook it, you can freeze it again in its cooked state.
- Get as much air out of the bag/pan as possible.
- Your freezer should be 0° F.
- Read more about food safety here: https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/basics/chill/index.html
- Plan out when you will use your freezer meals. The only drawback when using your freezer meals is that you have to think about it in time for thawing to occur. Include on your bags or pans how to thaw and cook the meal.
- Thaw meals in cold water or in the fridge. Don’t thaw food by setting out on the counter (bacteria will grow!)
- If you don’t remember to thaw your meal first, you will have to increase the cooking time (sometimes by a lot).
- If your family is like ours, you will have leftovers. Plan for a day (or two) each week for leftovers.
- Make sure you have the “extras” for each meal like buns, rice, toppings, etc.
For my first attempt, I am going to make:
- Taco meat- 4 pounds (I am just going to cook some ground beef from my freezer and add seasoning)
- Pot roast (I have a beef roast in the freezer, I am just going to get the veggies in a bag ready to add)
- Cheese Cauliflower Soup (For my vegetarian daughter)
- Crack Chicken (served on buns)
- Broccoli Cheddar Soup (another vegetarian meal)
I am hoping this will give us a couple of weeks worth of food. And I think everyone will be satisfied with these meals. Part 1 is now complete! Follow us to find out how the rest of the freezer meal series works out!
How do you plan your meals? What are your favorite freezer meals? Has making freezer meals made dinner time easy at your house?