Inside: Using freezer meals has been the best way for us to both save time and money in the kitchen. Find out the different methods.
The lull has ended and the calendar is once again full with sports practices, games, music lessons, tutoring, appointments and meetings.
A few years ago, that schedule meant we would be spending a lot of money on greasy take-out.
Now when I look at the schedule, I know which nights we are relying on freezer meals. It did take a few tries to find a system that works for us. But now, we’re not only eating healthier, but save time and money with freezer meals.
What is freezer cooking?
In my search for easy meals that are healthy, inexpensive and taste good, I came across the idea of freezer meals, or freezer cooking.
What is freezer cooking?
Basically, it’s having a stock of meals stored in the freezer ready to use as needed.
The concept seems simple enough. As I soon discovered, there are a few different approaches to implementation.
Freezer cooking methods
My first attempt at freezer cooking was an approach known as once-a-month cooking. This allows you to prepare a month’s worth of dinners in a full day of cooking.
Some people absolutely love this idea and are devoted fans. It works best if you can work have the kids and any other distractions out of the house while you cook, so you need someone to handle that for you.
Once your tornado of cooking and cleaning is done, you’ll have a month of easy-to-fix meals ready to go.
I found it absolutely exhausting, so it was one-and-done and never tried it again.
Another approach is to prepare elements of meals in advance. This method will save some time when you cook dinner, but does require a bit more organization.
Here, you do your meal planning and note what elements you can prepare in advance.
If you have 6 chicken meals during the month, you can cook and freeze the chicken in advance. If you have a few meals using cooked ground beef, you can cook all of that at once and freeze portions to use later. You can do the same with sauces and some vegetables.
I like having sauces and even cookies on hand, ready to cook. And this last year it was convenient to buy squash in-season and freeze it to reuse later. But I found that going beyond that, food would get forgotten and not used.
A third approach is to double or triple the meal you are making that night and freeze the leftovers.
The little bit of time added to the cooking on the first night saves much more time when preparing the leftovers later. Over time, you can build up a good stockpile of meals.
10 in an hour
My happy medium is a mix of freezing elements, doubling meals and preparing about 10 freezer meals at a time.
When trying out these different approaches, I came across MyFreezEasy, which is put together by the creator of $5 Dinners. The goal is to make 10 freezer meals in 1 hour.
Not 1 day, just 1 hour. That I can do.
Did the 1 hour promise hold true?
After the first month, yes. The first time around, the only reason it took me more than an hour (it took two) was my fault for forgetting a needed ingredient. So, I had to put the prep session on hold while we went to the store.
You know the saying “measure twice, cut once?” With freezer cooking, it is “read twice, prep once.” Lesson learned.
Why do freezer cooking
Why should you bother with freezer cooking? Here are my reasons:
- You are too tired many nights to worry about figuring out what to cook for dinner.
- Preparing the meals in advance ensures your family is eating healthier rather than relying on restaurants.
- If you are sick, the family still has meals available. They are also convenient for taking to a sick neighbor or friend.
- Some nights are just plain busy and being able to heat a meal quickly ensures everyone can eat without having to wait until 8pm after sports practices and tutoring and music lessons and meetings are all done. (Is your house as crazy as mine?)
- It saves time.
- There are fewer dishes to do each night.
Planning and making freezer meals saves us money by being able to buy ingredients in bulk (without waste) and not spend as much money at restaurants. It has easily saved us a couple hundred dollars each month.
Using this approach to freezer cooking has also saved me a lot of time, it’s well organized, and the menus are flexible.
Related post: 20 Surprising Foods You Can Freeze to Save Time and Money
Related post: How to Stick to a Budget at the Grocery Store
What can you make?
I’m really liking the variety of meals you can prepare and store in the freezer.
Soups and casseroles are easy and often what comes to mind when you mention freezer meals. But some of the kids favorite meals have included french dip sandwiches, meatloaf, sloppy joes, enchiladas, stir fry, and tacos.
With the MyFreezEasy plan, you get to choose from 8 different meal plans and each meal plan has 5 recipes with instructions for making 2 meals. Also included are shopping lists, labels to print, and instructions. The meal plans are
- Traditional Plan – a mix of different types of meals
- Gluten-Free Plan – completely gluten-free including sides
- Slow Cooker Plan – all freezer to slow cooker
- Clean Eats Plan – all “clean ingredients”
- 20 Meals Plan – mix of different types of meals
- All Chicken Plan – all recipes using chicken breasts/chicken thighs
- All Ground Beef Plan – all recipes using ground beef
- All Pork Chops Plan – all recipes using pork chops or pork tenderloin
And there are new recipes available each month! You don’t have to choose just one meal plan, you have access to all of them.
One night I would set aside an hour and make a set of slow cooker meals. Later in the month, I might prepare a set of chicken-based meals or other meals based on what was on sale at the grocery store.
Meal planning and freezer meals have been a huge time and money saver for our family. I hope you give freezer cooking a try and find out how much time and money you can save.
Have you tried freezer cooking? What are your tips? Which freezer cooking method do you like?