Make Ahead Dinners: Freezer Meal Success Tips

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When it’s one of those weeks, it seems that I’ll never catch up enough to make the home cooked meal my family (and I) deserve. But, there is a way if you are willing to plan ahead even just a little bit. Having a few meals stored in your freezer keeps you prepared for any twists and turns your day might take.

What Exactly is a Freezer Meal?

Besides being one answer to some of your day to day meal planning problems, starting-once-a-month-cookingit is simply a recipe that you freeze to use later on. A few things that freeze great:

  • Pasta
  • Soups
  • Stews
  • Meat loaf
  • Waffles
  • Biscuits
  • Mashed potatoes and other side dishes
  • and much more…

Some people cook only one day a month, then freeze all the meals on the same day. But you can freeze as little as one meal at a time to 4 a month to have one day a week that you don’t have to cook from scratch or order pizza.

Why Should I Bother Freezing Meals?

A good reason to start freezing some meals is the same reason you have a savings account. When you are sick, don’t have any time, or just don’t feel like cooking, you just open up the freezer and pull out some of your favorites.

  • Save money by eating in more.
  • Eat healthier, even when you are too busy to cook.
  • Since you prepared the meals, you know exactly what went into them.
  • Someone in your family has food allergies or is on a special diet.
  • You’d like a night off cooking once in a while!

How to Get Started

Don’t underestimate the value of freezing leftovers. It’s a quick way to get used to using your freezer, defrosting, and finding out what of your recipes are the best to freeze. If the thought of planning makes you panicky, this is the place for you to start. You can even start making double batches of your favorites and freeze one batch for later.

Ready to give a big freezer cooking party a go? Grab a pen and some paper (or your computer) and start planning! Most dishes keep for up to 3 months in the freezer, so you can enjoy the summer squash and tomatoes later in the winter.

  • Ask friends to come over and you can plan together. It’s always more fun, and you’re likely to get some ideas from your friends picks too.
  • Decide how many meals you want to cook and how many you are willing to prepare in one cooking session. 7 for next week? 4 a month? All your meals for the month?
  • Check and see what’s on sale and/or in season so you can buy the least expensive, freshest food.
  • Make a list of recipes you want to make.
  • Do you need to buy re-closable freezer bags, or freezer safe plastic or glass containers?
  • Make a detailed shopping list.
  • Check the recipes for duplicate items and combine the prep work to simplify your day. (For example, if 3 of your recipes call for chopped onions, chop them all together instead of 3 different times during your cooking day.)
  • Try to do all the shopping one day, then cook the next.

What if You Have a Small Freezer?

If you have the space and extra money an extra freezer couldn’t hurt. However, you will be surprised just how much you can fit in the small freezer above (or below) your refrigerator.

  • Clean out your existing freezer.
  • Stack re-closable bags.

Make sure to check out the other articles in the Freezer Meal Series to get ideas, tips and recipes to help with your freezer meal planning.

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