9 Freezer Meal Tips and Tricks for Beginners
I’ve been stocking my freezer with meals for 3 years now. I’ve learned a lot; what works, what doesn’t work, and even just how to make things work. Getting to the point I am today was an evolution, it didn’t happen overnight. I currently stock my freezer 4 times a year with freezer meals. I wrote a series explaining the entire process, including recipes! You can check it out here. For anyone considering freezer meals or who is just getting started, I want to share 9 tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years that have made freezer meals so much easier!
- To get the most out of freezer meals, you are going to need a freezer. It doesn’t have to be a huge freezer, but you’re going to need more space than the freezer attached to your fridge. I have a 7.0 cubic foot GE deep freeze, however, much to my dismay, it’s no longer being manufactured and hence why I can’t give you a link to buy the same one. The size of freezer we have is adequate for our needs, although to be honest I wouldn’t mind having a little larger one (or a second one for that matter). There is nothing magical about deep freezers, just find one that is reliable. My deep freeze cost less than $200 and has definitely paid itself off several times.
- For freezer meal ideas, look through the frozen food aisle at the grocery store. If you feel like you don’t know where to start or if you’ve hit a wall in regards to freezer meals, look for inspiration in the frozen food aisle. Any items being sold in this aisle you can make at home, typically for a fraction of the cost and with less preservatives.
- Prepare your freezer meals so they can be ready in minutes. When I first started making freezer meals, there was a lot of trial and error. For example, I used to freeze my meatballs uncooked. I thought that this would make the meatballs *better* since they would be cooked right before we used them. The caveat was that I had to thaw the meatballs out before dinner, which required me to plan ahead (something that’s generally hard to do!) So one time, I decided to cook them before I put them in the freezer and let me tell you, it was a complete game changer! I found the same thing was true with cooking a roast for French dips. I now cook the roast in the slow cooker when I’m stocking the deep freezer, that way when we want French Dips, I simply thaw the meat in minutes using the microwave. This method means I don’t have to put the roast in the slow cooker before work during my already chaotic morning!
- Store everything in resealable freezer bags so you don’t tie up your Tupperware and glass bowls. When I first started making freezer meals, I bought a whole bunch of cheap Tupperware containers to store food. At this time, Micah started pushing me to only microwave glass dishes (no plastic), so thawing food that had been frozen in a Tupperware containers wasn’t easy. For awhile I stored a lot of meals in glass Pyrex bowls, but then my glass dishes would be tied up in the freezer for months at a time. I eventually found that resealable freezer bags work just as well for storing food in the freezer. My only tip is to make sure you cool the food before adding it to the bag. Then, when you want to heat up the food, just cut off the resealable bag and add it to a glass bowl. In regards to brands of resealable freezer bags, I’ve used all kinds of brands, including Great Value or the Boulder brand from Aldi.
- Marinade your meats BEFORE you put them in the freezer. Marinaded meats can be so good, but before I implemented freezer meals, it was practically impossible to plan far enough ahead to make this happen. First of all, before I started making freezer meals, I still bought my meat in bulk. I would buy chicken breasts from Sam’s Club and package them into smaller portions to store in my freezer. When it came time to use that meat though, it needed a day to thaw and then if I wanted to marinade it, it needed another day. So my very clever hack to get around this is to make the marinade for the meat and then add both the marinade and the meat to a resealable freezer bag. Then you freeze the meat and marinade together. In the morning before work, I set the bag on the counter and when I get home, the meat is thawed, marinaded and ready for the grill. IT. IS. AWESOME.
- Double your recipes and freeze half. In case you didn’t know, I stock my freezer 4 times a year. I spend one day shopping and one day cooking every 3 months. You can find my series of posts explaining the entire process here. But I also know that some people don’t have two days to spare every couple of months. If this is you, I would suggest that when you cook something, double it and store half in your freezer. Your freezer will be full in no time!
- Freeze produce that would otherwise go to waste. At the end of the week, if I have produce that will go bad before I can use it, I freeze it. I freeze all kinds of things; berries, bananas, onions, carrots, and peppers. One helpful tip is that you should peel and chop your bananas before freezing them. Prepping them this way makes them so much easier to use, because you don’t have to thaw the banana to peel it. I love using these for banana bread, smoothies, or banana ice cream. If you haven’t made “ice cream” out of bananas and peanut butter, you are totally missing out. Just put your frozen bananas and a little peanut butter in the blender – you won’t regret it!
- Experiment. It may surprise you what kinds of things you can freeze; like milk, cheese, and bread. I haven’t frozen milk lately because my freezer is typically pretty full, but if needed, you can freeze gallons of milk to help reduce your trips to the store. If you try this, I recommend putting a tray under the gallon when it’s thawing, because sometimes they leak a little. Get creative, experiment, see what works and what doesn’t.
- Develop a system of freezer meals that works for YOU. Freezer meals don’t have to be all or nothing. As you’re perusing Pinterest or reading freezer meal posts, I don’t think it’s emphasized enough that all your meals don’t have to be freezer meals. I still run to to the store and pick up stuff when we have company coming over or a craving for something. Additionally, you need to find the method that works for your family. I stock my freezer 4 times a year, but I also spend a couple days planning the meals, shopping and prepping food. I realize that not everyone can spare a couple days like this (or even want to!) But I do want to encourage you to experiment in the kitchen and see if freezing things works.
If you’re a beginner just looking into freezer meals, I hope these 9 tips will help you get started. Once you find meals your family enjoys and get into a routine, meals at your house will be so much easier. Freezer meals save our family a lot of time and money.
What tips do you have for someone starting out making freezer meals?