Cooking a month’s worth of healthy frozen dinners is easy when you have our step-by-step tips and free freezer recipe book!
Frozen meals have been a beloved family lifeline since TV dinners hit American supermarkets in the 1950s. While we completely agree that freezer meals are the pinnacle of convenience, we aren’t too thrilled about the preservatives, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, and high salt and sugar levels that are so common in prepackaged microwave meals. Luckily, we have a fresher approach to frozen foods that will save you money and and keep you fit.
Find out the reasons and the methods for bringing nutritious, home-cooked meals to your freezer below!
Why Cook Freezer Meals in the First Place?
Busy and fluctuating schedules
One thing the vast majority of people can agree on is that life is busy. Between work, responsibilities, loved ones, and fun activities, we often stretch ourselves a little too thinly. When this happens or when our schedule is constantly in flux, one of the first things to go (if it was ever there to begin with!) is making time to cook dinner. By having a stash of frozen meals, you’ll never be too busy for a home-cooked meal.
Even if you aren’t in the running for the busiest schedule award, there are still plenty of things that may leave you feeling too tired to cook every night. Being a student, caretaker, having stressful work deadlines, or suffering from an illness are all reasons that dinner can just be too much to get on the table some (or even most) nights. By allotting one or two days a month to cook a big batch of freezer meals, you can make the most of the energy you expend by having a month’s worth of healthy, homemade meals ready to go.
Speaking of not having energy, we all know kids are cute little sponges that love floating in our energy pools. When we’re running on minimal sleep and our home has become a sticky-surfaced, toy-littered obstacle course, cooking fresh meals feels like an unattainable fantasy. But, by carving out even one day a month for batch cooking, it is possible to enjoy nutritious meals that you are excited to feed your family. Paying for a babysitter (if grandparents or friends aren’t available) to watch the kids will still end up saving you money when you aren’t purchasing meals every night.
Between weddings, business trips, vacations, and kids’ sports or arts competitions, travel is often a part of our yearly lives. Even if you are only traveling within your state, if you are only gone for a few days, the chances are that you will be eating out for at least a couple days after returning home. However, if you have frozen meals ready to go, it won’t matter if you have no groceries, have to catch up on work, or are on a completely different time zone.
What Are the Other Benefits of Frozen Meals?
Freezer meals can help you save big on your monthly food bills. Not only can you avoid buying more costly meals at restaurants, take-out joints, or even grocery stores, you can also save on buying in bulk. For example, buying meat and produce in bulk to use in a variety of freezer meals can definitely reduce your food expenses.
Cooking in large batches actually saves time because you avoid repeating yourself a couple days later. Think about washing and cooking 2 cups of rice instead of 1 cup – they will take about the same amount of time to make, but you get to cook once and enjoy many times with bigger batches.
There will be days when you just don’t feel like cooking or really don’t have the time. Rather than resort to fast food, have a freezer full of healthy dinners that will make you feel better both during and after your meal!
Reducing food waste
Billions of dollars worth of food is wasted every year in the U.S. Thankfully, freezing meals is a good way to help reduce waste or food and money and decrease our carbon footprint while we’re at it! Even if you don’t plan ahead to make many freezer meals, lots of foods can be frozen. If you have leftovers from dinner or ingredients from cooking and won’t be able to finish them during the week, simply pop them in the freezer.
To find out the best methods to freeze different ingredients, read our Freezer Guide here:
Set a Goal and Make a Plan
If you’re now getting more excited about freezer meals than you ever thought possible, we can’t wait to help you be ready for all the “I can’t handle cooking right now” moments of life. The keys to making use of frozen dinners successfully are goals and plans.
Without a set goal, cooking for the future is not something that will come to mind until it’s dinnertime and you have nothing to eat. So, set a goal for how many freezer meals you would like to have on hand for the month. Once you have your aim, you can proceed to make a simple plan of execution.
Considering all of the time you can save during the week with a stash of dinners in the freezer, dedicating an afternoon to cook for your future hungry self is relatively easy. So, do whatever you need to do to schedule a time – be it putting in your Google calendar, getting a babysitter, or having an accountability friend join you.
Once you have a date set aside, stay in your planning mode for just a little longer and get ready for a pay-off for your time in the kitchen!
How to Make Freezer Meals from Start to Finish
Before you start cooking up your freezer meals, look through this quick list:
#1 – Recipes
Since not all foods freeze the same, the first thing you want to do is make sure you have recipes that will freeze well. We can help you there with our Top 10 Freezer-Friendly Meals e-book! To enjoy Slow-Cooker Mexican Meatballs, Breakfast Burritos with Roasted Paprika Potatoes, Japanese Chicken Curry with Rice, and more, download our free recipe book here:
Top 10 Best Freezer Meals
Stock your freezer with quick, healthy meals, so you’ll always have dinner covered.
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#2 – Containers
Before you try your hand at our 10 delicious recipes, make sure you have enough freezer containers for storage. Here are our favorite containers to have on hand:
- Reuse large yogurt containers (super budget-friendly!)
- Round freezer-friendly quart containers
- A set of different sized BPA-free containers (great for the fridge or freezer!)
- Ziploc bags in pint, quart, or gallon sizes
#3 – Space
It’s always a good idea to tidy your kitchen first so you have a nice amount of counter and stovetop space to work on. Also, you will want to make sure you have room to stack your finished meals, so clear out old or unwanted items from your freezer.
#4 – Efficiency
Cooking your freezer recipes will go smoothly and surprisingly fast if you employ a good, streamlined plan. Once you have your recipes, take note of the equipment you will need. (If you’re new to cooking or recently moved and have a new kitchen, get some recommendations from our Essential Cooking Tools List.)
Then, plan out the order in which you cook, so that you can stay focused and know which pots and pans will be in use and when. This will streamline your process and help you with the next cooking phase.
While you cook, strike a nice balance of organization, fun, and tidiness with these three pointers:
#1 – Use a good game plan
Look through all your recipes first and see what prep can be condensed so you won’t do any extra work. For example, when 5 of your recipes need garlic, chop all the garlic at once so you don’t spend time peeling and chopping 5 different times.
Also, check if there is one recipe that takes longer than the others and get started on that first. If you are making a slow cooker recipe, it can be cooking while you finish making all of your other meals.
#2 – Make it fun
There are simple and effective ways to make your time enjoyable as you cook several meals in one go.
- Listen to your favorite podcasts or music
- Ask your partner or a good friend to join you and then split the meals
- Pop your ear buds in and catch up with a relative or friend over the phone
#3 – Clean as you cook
When you’re bobbing along to your favorite tunes or enjoying a nice chat, clean what you can as you go. By keeping a trash can / bowl next to you and transferring utensils and cookware that you won’t reuse to a sink with soapy water, cleanup will be easy and much less daunting at the end of the day. Also, if room in your dishrack is tight, reuse recently cleaned dishes to avoid a leaning tower of cookware situation.
Once you finish cleaning up, there are three final elements that can ensure your freezer meals will be the best possible.
#1 – Air
Freezerburn will put a real damper on your meals, and having excess air in your Ziplocs will create those pesky freezer crystals. To learn how to properly package freezer meals, see our Guide to Frozen Food Storage for great ways to keep things airtight.
#2 – Labels
Keep masking tape and permanent markers stored in your kitchen so that you’ll always remember to label both the meal name and the date. Even though freezing food extends the shelf life, that doesn’t mean they won’t go bad. Refer to our infographic to see how long you can store the frozen food.
#3 – Logs
Since you won’t want to freeze your hands by picking up every meal to see what you have, keep inventory of what is in your freezer on a magnetic dry erase sheet like this one. Another useful practice is FIFO – First In, First Out – which not only applies to your fridge and pantry, but your freezer as well. The foods that go in first should be placed closer to the door / front, so that those will be used first.
Now that you know how freezer meals can make your life easier, try out our recipes and tips so you can enjoy the best frozen dinners of your life! When hectic times hit, you’ll be so thankful you set aside a few hours to cook up a delicious storm.
If you find you love the convenience of healthy frozen dinners at the ready, our meal plan service is definitely something you should try! We currently have 117 freezer-friendly meals tagged in our archives and let you know which elements of each week’s new menu freezes well. If that isn’t amazing enough for only $6 – $8 a month, we have tons of tools like our stress-free, self-populating grocery list that will make your cooking experience even more effortless.
Have you cooked freezer meals before? Tell us your personal favorite freezer cooking tip in the comments below!
A little note: Some of the above links are Amazon affiliate links, which means we earn a small percentage from those sales. We use this affiliate revenue to support the continued growth of Cook Smarts. Thank you!
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