Do you dream of filling your freezer with tons of meals like this? Maybe it's an overwhelming thought and you have no clue on where to start. I'd like to help ease you into the process and encourage you along the way when it comes to freezer cooking. It's definitely something that I love and have become very passionate about. I'm no expert and there's still lots that I'm learning about, but I do love to help others save time in the kitchen by sharing tips that have helped me along the way. So let's get started.
Have a plan
It's really pretty easy to make meals ahead of time and save for a later date. Having a plan is a must! I always begin by making a list of the meals or meal components I'll be making, that way I know how much of everything will be going into the freezer and makes it easy to draw up your grocery list.
If money happens to be extra tight, I challenge you to come up with recipes using ingredients you already have on hand. Maybe you won't be making a bunch of meals per say; but having waffles, pancakes and muffins on hand will make for easy mornings.
If you've never freezer cooked before I don't recommend making a whole day of it at first. It can be a lot of work and you'll wear yourself out and maybe not want to ever try again.
Ease into it. Many times I will spread out my plan over the course of a few days or even a whole week. Take time to make 1-2 items each day or even double or triple your dinner and stash the extras in the freezer. It's really the easiest and most effective way to freezer cook.
I use a combination of disposable containers and freezer bags to store my meals in. I generally will not use my own bakeware because I don't want them tied up in the freezer. I will use freezer bags for meatballs, pulled pork, cookie dough, twice baked potatoes and even cinnamon rolls. The disposable containers are mostly used for casseroles and the like. Disposable makes for easy clean up and are nice for gifting meals to new parents or a friend in need.
Freezer bags are nice to stack on top of one another in the freezer, making room for many dishes. I hear all the time how people can't freezer cook because they don't have a large chest freezer. That's so not true! By using the freezer bags and stacking them you make room for so much more. Even the disposable containers don't take up much room, especially when stacked like shown above.
One more important tip regarding storage: label, label, label! Make sure you label and date each item. That way just in case you forget what it is (because you know you will!), you won't be faced with a surprise dinner!
I first learned about freezer cooking a few years back through Money Saving Mom. Check out her site, she's got some great recipes, tips and printables for you.
Other sites worth checking out for both information regarding freezer cooking and recipes:
Once a Month Mom
Life as Mom
Ally's Sweet and Savory Eats
These are just a few that I like and use on a regular basis, I'm sure there are tons more out there though!
I've found it's sort of a trial and error process with freezer cooking. Sometimes I'll think a recipe will turn out wonderfully, then we'll go to enjoy it for dinner one night and then the pasta turns out to a be a bit mushy (easy fix though, just be sure to cook pasta more al dente). I will say most everything I've ever made turns out great and we love it, but it takes some experimenting.
Start with the meals you make on a regular basis for your family, I bet most of them will work. Thumb through your favorite cookbooks, tried and true family recipes; these are a good base for your cooking plan.
The following are some tried and true freezer recipes that I rely heavily on:
Mini Pancake Bites
Taco Pasta Bake
Italian Shredded Beef
Pesto Chicken Pasta
Italian Stuffed Meatballs
Chicken Penne Casserole
Chicken Enchiladas (freeze sauce separate from prepared shells)
Taco meat/cooked ground beef
Shredded chicken for salads, tacos, etc
Twice Baked Potatoes
Slow Cooker Applesauce
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
Freezer Spaghetti Sauce
I know I've got lots more of ideas on the blog but this list should help get you started or give you new inspiration. Start by picking a few different recipes to try, you can even double them to yield more servings and see how it works for you.
I hope after reading you feel comfortable and inspired to give freezer cooking a try. It's really so much fun, even more so with a group. Gather a few other friends and make a day of it, you'll each go home with delicious meals and you'll get to enjoy some much needed time away from the kids. Read more about forming a freezer swap group here. I formed a small group two years ago and I love it. We typically only meet twice a year and would love to do it more often but you know how life is, it's hard to make one date work for everyone.
Please, if you have any additional questions, leave a comment below or email me at beentherebakedthatrecipes at yahoo dot com. I'd love to help you out as much as I can!