I’ve been meal planning for a long time when I first started tackling freezer meal prep my head was spinning. How do you coordinate making a ton of meals at once? Where do you even start?
Well lucky for you I figured out all of those things by trial and error, and hopefully, you’ll have a roaring success after following this post!
I’m going to be honest. When I first went to tackle this I thought it was going to be a piece of cake. BOY WAS I WRONG.
My first time trying to cook 20 meals at one time I ended up taking 6 hours with sore feet and an aching back.
YEAH. I’m not doing that again.
The next time I was freaking smart. I planned, strategized, wore proper footwear and it was a completely different experience.
So what do you need to know to make your first experience way better than mine? Well I’m so glad you asked because I have you covered.
Why should you make freezer meals?
I greatly underestimated the power of having a fully stocked freezer of meals, and honestly I’m mad at myself I haven’t tried it sooner.
Making freezer meals ahead of time makes the hectic dinner time way easier. If you’re home is anything like mine when it hits 4:30 the kids are acting like fools and you just are ready for bed time.
Instead of struggling to get a meal made, I just pop a freezer meal in the oven/crockpot/instantpot and i am done. IT’S AMAZING.
Freezer meals mean you have WAY less dishes to clean every day. Dishes can be the worst when all it feels like you do every day is clean them over and over!
I love that with a freezer meal I only have the dishes we use and then one other things to clean. It’s so manageable.
When you have freezer meals you have NO reason to go out to eat. Its entirely too easy to cook, so when it gets to the end of the day and you are exauhsted you don’t have to order pizza. You just have to check the crockpot (or oven you catch my drift).
It has given me an insane amount of peace of mind not to have to worry about getting dinner done and focusing on other things during the day. I have so much more time and energy for other things!
So what is freezer meal prep exactly?
Freezer meal prepping is when you fix any amount of meals ahead of time and store them in the freezer for later whether it is cooked or not.
Some meals I fully cook before they go in the freezer and some I don’t, it just depends on the recipe!
Some people only do no cook freezer meal prep which does greatly cut down on the time you need to create all the meals before they get in the freezer. But that usually means it might need a little longer to cook than precooked things.
What meals can you not put in a freezer?
So there are certain foods that just do not freeze well here is a list for ya:
- Cream based things like a fettucini sauce or soup
- Fried foods
- Fully cooked pasta (under cook your pasta for frozen meals!)
- Fully cooked rice (again, under cook)
- Sour cream
So what do you do if the recipe calls for one of these things? Generally I just leave it out and write on the bag or tray to add a certain amount of X ingredient in later.
For example, I make white chicken chili by adding everything it needs in the bags except the broth, sour cream, and heavy whipping cream. Then I write myself instructions for later on the bag. It makes the entire process REALLY easy! (PS- the broth would freeze fine, I just don’t add a ton of liquids to my bags).
What type of meals should I choose?
So now that you know what does not work in the freezer, you should be able to think about what you actually CAN make.
This question is a little loaded because literally you can choose anything. BUT there are certain strategies you can use.
When making a bunch of meals at one time I at least double them so you aren’t having to deal with a million different recipes. PLUS it’s cheaper to do it that way.
When choosing meals to make together here are some really good things to keep in mind:
- Use recipes with similar ingredients so you don’t buy a ton of something and only use a little. For example get a big thing of chicken and make sure to use ALL of it.
- When making freezer meals remember to pick out a mix of easy and more complicated meals. Some may take literally minutes to throw together. Others may take half an hour. The way you multi task will make it possible to cook more than one thing at a time.
- Try to pick meals that you know your family is going to like. You’d be surprised how many recipes you love now can easily be frozen for later!
If you want a jumpstart you can snag my list of recipes I’m eating this month!
It’s below along with a grocery list to make it super easy on you.
If you have zero desire to figure out how to best make a bunch of meals at one time definitely check out my Cold Weather Freezer meal guide! It shows you how to create a month of meals in just four hours.
What if I don’t want to create a ton of meals at once?
You would be absolutely surprised to hear that no you don’t have to make a ton of meals at one time like you’ve heard online to freezer meal plan effectively.
Check out this clip of me making 3ish meals in 20 spare minutes of my day!
Taking spare moments to throw quick meals together is a totally doable strategy!
Batch cooking is another strategy that I LOVE. Basically batch cooking is when you double a meal that you are cooking and freeze half of it for later.
If this is manageable for you I think this is a completely valid strategy to make your life a little bit easier!
Personally, I would do batch cooking for time consuming recipes and a massive night of freezer meal prep for easy recipes.
It’s the best of both worlds.
How do I create a strategy for creating a ton freezer meals at once?
So I’m going to be honest the first time I tried to create 18 freezer meals at one time I thought it would be a piece of cake. Two or three hours tops, right?
Well I got the kids to bed at 9 PM I started. I rolled into bed at 1 AM sore and not finished. It took me two more hours the next day.
I went in cocky and without a plan. DO NOT DO THIS.
Now I print out all of my recipes, read thoroughly and then order everything in a way so that I have as many things cooking as possible while cutting up ingredients or assembling bags.
It’s definitely a juggling act, but it will cut my time in HALF! Also it does take trial and error to get right, so keep that in mind!
You can also pick only meals that do not have to be cooked to assemble. Essentially all you would have to do is cut things up and plop in the right ingredients and ta-da you are done!
What basics do I need to prepare for creating freezer meals:
- Freezer bag holders are my absolutely #1 recommendation. I CANT imagine trying to do this without them.
- Freezer bags or aluminum foil casserole pans (I don’t recommend glass or plastic because they take up more space and can lead to freezer burn)
- A Sharpie and Freezer tape for blocking off air when needed and labeling
- Tennis shoes and a cushy kitchen mat. Yeah so I’m not going to lie I was sore from cooking for four hours straight the first time. BUT I wore no shoes on my bare floor, which I should have known from years in the restaurant industry, was an awful idea. Shoes and a mat to stand on will make ALL the difference.
Food safety and handling suggestions:
- Put the foods in the fridge before freezing, they need to get down to 40 degrees before being put in the freezer! I usually just pop them in the fridge overnight and in the morning switch everything over.
- Thawing should be done in a fridge or in a cold bowl of water. Don’t risk growing bacteria in your food!
- To avoid cross contamination I usually like to use two cutting mats and two different knives for meats and veggies.
- Make sure your freezer it at or below 0 to keep your food as fresh as possible.
- Make sure to label your stuff with the made date and a used by date just for safety. You can refer to this article for a guideline on how long your food is good in the freezer!
- Air is your enemy! Trying using a small straw to suck out the of the air out of a bag to keep it as fresh as possible.
When it’s time to cook your freezer meals
Here is a finnicky thing I have discovered about freezer meals, they do not all cook the way you want them to.
The BEST advice I have for you is to set out the meal you want to cook the night before hand so it is thoroughly thawed. Then you can rely on normal cooking instructions.
I’ve tried cooking a baked ziti a couple of different times from frozen and each time it has taken double the time the recipe calls for.
I’m not sure if it’s my oven or the recipe but I’ve just learned to thaw it out early or just give that one extra time!
Are you ready to tackle your own freezer meal plan?
Let me know in the comments below!