We're talking about everything you need to know about freezer meals! Prep and assemble them in no time and feed your family on the cheap. Fill your freezer up with homemade meals to make those busy nights easier on you!
Freezer meals are the perfect way to prepare for a new baby, an upcoming surgery, or even those busy weeks. As you well know, I've had lots of babies, so I know just how important they can be for those weeks and months after when you're trying to bounce back and adjust to your new normal. I pretty much always have “make as many freezer meals as possible” at the top of my baby-prep list!
One of the best ways to make a lot of freezer meals quickly is to invite a friend to come join you. Make a plan and knock out your freezer meal prep in just a couple hours. We were able to make (at least) 31 meals, on the cheap, in just 4 hours!
(Yes, you read that right.)
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I have 8 kids, 10 and under, so it might be more like 15-25 meals for a family with older kids or teenagers. But still, that's a heckuvalotta goodness going on! We made 5 different types of freezer meals that will last our family for a very long time. You've gone nuts over my freezer meals when I share them on Instagram, so I thought I'd share just how easy they are to throw together.
FREEZER MEAL RECIPES WE LOVE
The misconception about freezer meals is that you have to make 31 different meals in order to feed your family for 31 meals. Not true! Just pick 5-7 of your favorite go-to meals, double (or quadruple!) the recipe, and freeze them in individual or meal-sized portions so you can pull out what you need, when you need it.
Simply rotate through the meals so you're not eating the same thing every time, and voila! Easy, peasy, beautiful…feed you for months.
FREEZER DINNERS WE MADE
- Taco Meat (for tacos, enchiladas, taco salads, etc.)
- Chipotle Chicken Sandwiches
- Southwestern Burritos
- Asian Sesame Chicken
Get these recipes, plus 25 other freezer-friendly meals from my eBook!
HOW TO STRETCH YOUR FREEZER MEALS
I always make sure to have bags of frozen veggies in the freezer that I simply steam in the microwave. They make a quick and easy side that adds some extra nutrients while also helping the freezer meal to stretch further. Salads are also a great way to get some veggies in your family!
Bread also helps to stretch your freezer meals further. Whether it's a basic white bread or some cornbread, you can never go wrong making your own and serving it with dinner! Even those growing kids don't need three helpings of the meal. Help to fill them up with some delicious homemade bread and they'll be good until breakfast.
We also always pair some sort of fruit or our favorite fruit salad with each meal. Extra nutrients plus something sweet and healthy to end the meal with? Yes, please!
Between the veggies, fruit, some homemade bread, and the freezer meal, BAM. Dinner is served, all with minimal effort. Now that's what I'm talking about!
HOW TO PREP FOR YOUR FREEZER MEALS
The first step to prepping for your freezer meals is to see which ingredients you'll need for each meal. Once you know what you'll need, look over your fridge, freezer, and pantry inventory list to see if you already have any of the ingredients. Once you have that covered, your next step is to look at your local grocery store ads to see where the best place to stock up on these ingredients is.
If you've been reading my blog for longer than 2.3 seconds, you know I've been obsessed with Deals to Meals for years (that's how Shandra and I became friends, actually…because I stalked her blog for so long!). Their website scours the ads for the grocery stores in your area, then puts their best deals for the week on a spreadsheet, highlighting any FABULOUS deals in red. You can see more on how I grocery shop, but basically just find the store with the best deals that week and shop there.
PRODUCTS NEEDED TO MAKE FREEZER MEALS
Before you make any freezer meals, you'll need to make sure that you have a few necessary items. Nobody wants to do all of this hard work and then have to throw it in the trash because it went bad. Use these products and you'll be able to effectively prevent freezer burn!
- Disposable Aluminum Pans – They're one of the tried and true items that I buy from the Dollar Store. You can also find them on Amazon or at your favorite grocery store.
- Aluminum Foil – Triple wrap your pans, then write the contents, date, and baking instructions on top with a Sharpie.
- Freezer Bags – It's always good to have both quart and gallon freezer bags. The key to using a freezer bag and getting your food to stay fresher for longer is to get as much air out as possible! Write down the contents and date with a Sharpie.
- Freezer Inventory List – One of the hardest things about making a bunch of freezer meals and filling your freezer up is keeping track of everything that's in there. Add each meal that you put in your freezer to your freezer inventory list. That way you won't have to worry about it getting lost in the great abyss that is your freezer (or freezers, since I have multiple!).
Start with these products, organize your freezer, and you're ready to start meal prepping those freezer meals! (Psssttt get even more tips on how to freeze food, keep it fresh, and cut waste from ShelfCooking.com!)
DO SOME MEAL PREP BEFOREHAND
In order to assemble your freezer meals quicker, you'll want to do a little meal prepping before you get started. Cook, dice, shred, and prepare anything you can before actually putting your freezer meals together. Here's what you can do before making these meals:
- Blend up the lasagna cheese mixture and make homemade pasta sauce. (We ended up adding several cans of store-bought sauce to stretch it further since my lasagna pans were so big.)
- Grill the chicken for the burritos.
- Cook up the chipotle chicken and Asian chicken, and marinades according to the recipes, which you can get in the eBook.
Doing that prep ahead of time will really make assembling your freezer meals go quickly and efficiently!
HOW TO MAKE OUR FAVORITE FREEZER MEALS
Alright, now that you know all about the meal prep, let's get to work! These are just about the simplest freezer meals that you can make, and your family will love them. Just remember to keep the size of your family in mind. If you're making these for 2, 3, or 4 people, you may want to break your meals down into smaller portions so that you don't waste anything. Make an assembly line for each freezer meal that you're preparing and get to work!
We made 4 HUGE pans. Each pan will probably feed us for at least 2-3 meals. If you have a smaller family and don't want to have a bunch of leftovers, you could get smaller dishes and end up with more freezer meals. These large containers will be handy for when we have company over and I don't want to be in the kitchen all day.
Add a little bit of sauce to the bottom of the dish, then layer with lasagna noodles (cooked or oven-ready), ricotta cheese, and sauce. Repeat and top with mozzarella cheese. Triple wrap with aluminum foil and boom! You've got some delicious, home-cooked lasagna freezer meals that you won't feel bad about when you're in a pinch and need to pull one out to serve your family.
Pro Tip: If you don't have any ricotta cheese and you have plenty of cottage cheese, then use what you've got! Blend the cottage cheese and it will have the same consistency as the ricotta cheese.
You can never go wrong having frozen taco meat in your freezer! I cooked about 4 pounds of ground beef, drained the grease, added in some taco seasoning with water, and voila! I tend to use 1/2 – 1 pound at a time when cooking, so that's at least 4 meals for us, if not more. It's a great way to make tacos, taco soup, enchiladas, burritos, and taco salads. Put it in a freezer bag, get all the air out, label, and date.
Pro Tip: If you eat a lot of ground beef that's not Mexican-inspired, then leave it plain and don't add the taco seasoning in until you're actually making a taco meal. That way, you have some pre-cooked plain ground beef ready to go. You can easily add it to sloppy joes or spaghetti when you need it.
CHIPOTLE CHICKEN SANDWICHES
Take the chipotle chicken that you made ahead of time and freeze it into the appropriate-sized portions for your family. We froze 2 huge freezer bags of meat and 3 bags of large hoagie rolls (about 15 sandwiches total), which would feed us for at least 4-5 meals.
Pro Tip: Thaw your rolls on the counter when you're ready to have this meal!
Prepare your southwestern burritos mixture according to the recipe in the ebook. Put the filling in the middle of a tortilla, then wrap into a burrito. Wrap each burrito with foil, then add to a freezer zipper bag. Pull out how many you need to thaw, then reheat in the oven.
We made 40 (stuffed to the max!) burritos. My family would probably only eat 5-6 burritos in one sitting, so that equates to about 8 meals for us. Pair with Mexican rice to help stretch this meal further!
My husband has deemed these great grab-and-go meals, much better than store-bought, frozen burritos. We will often microwave a few (if they're thawed and not wrapped in foil) and eat them in the car on the way to an outing, or he'll toss one in his work bag for lunch. Super versatile, SUPER yummy!
Pro-Tip: To make your tortillas crispy, add your thawed and warmed burrito to an oiled skillet and cook for a few minutes until the burrito is golden on each side.
ASIAN SESAME CHICKEN
You can never go wrong with a good pasta meal! We ended up freezing 2 large bags of chicken, 2 bags of extra marinade to dress the chicken, and put 2 boxes of pasta for the chicken to go over in the pantry. Each bag/box would feed us for about 3-4 meals, so that's at least 6 meals.
Pro Tip: Work on stocking your pantry with staples and you won't have to worry about remembering if you have pasta for this meal or not!
We tried to be conservative on our final number, so we are aiming low and saying these meals could feed us for at LEAST 31 meals. Again, our kids are younger and don't each much, so we could stretch these farther than a family of 5 with teenagers. But still…even if you only got 20 meals out of our 31, that's still amazing!
With a few hours of prep time and an hour of two of actually putting them together, you can have a freezer full of meals for pretty cheap! I'm still a bit giddy about it.
WHY SHOULD YOU MAKE FREEZER MEALS?
This isn't as hard or as complicated as it looks! You can do it, I promise. Freezing meals are a GREAT way to save you money in the long run because it will bail you out on those days when you're tempted to order takeout.
Grab some girlfriends, get an assembly line started, and make a fun day out of making freezer meals together!
BEST FREEZER MEALS E-BOOK
Pssst…The best part of all of this? I picked Shandra's brain, and we compiled a 30-page recipe ebook of the best freezer-friendly meals that you can all buy and download! These recipes can be made immediately or frozen for later. And trust me guys, they are UH-MAY-ZING.
Wheew! Talk about a freezer meals megapost. But I hope this showed you that by taking a few hours (and enlisting the help of a friend or your family) you can feed your family for MONTHS, for pennies on the dollar.
What are you favorite meals to double and freeze? Let us know in the comments! It's always fun to get new ideas.
Looking for more great cooking ideas?
- Put your slow cooker to good use… My slow cooker eBook has 81 deliciously easy recipes that are tried and true!
- Needing some great ideas to stretch your meals? We've got 10 of 'em!
- Repurpose your leftovers these 70 different ways!
Have you checked out ShelfCooking.com yet? Our brand new site is dedicated to helping you cook delicious, nutritious, and budget-friendly meals for your family without spending too much time in the kitchen!
Basically every parent's dream, right? Join our Shelf Cooking Community today!
Oh, and one other thing! If you're new here, welcome! You can get all my budgeting and finance tips, and my secret sauce in my fun-to-watch video program Budget Boot Camp!
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