It is 4:30, everyone is up from nap time, you are exhausted and your husband will be home soon… starving, and you have no plan for dinner. Do you:
- Call him and ask him to pick up some take out
- Slap some PB & J together and call it good
- give the kids some play dough and whip up a quick 30 minute meal
- Take a meal out of the freezer and make a side to go with it
Every answer is the right choice, that is assuming your family is enjoying meal time, remaining healthy, and you are staying in budget. If you are struggling to get dinner on the table, or your budget is tight, or your health is suffering etc. freezer meals may be one step in the right direction.
There are probably as many ways to do freezer meals as there are people in the world. So try something, if it doesn’t work try something else. Many people like freezer meals that go straight into the crockpot, that’s a fine idea, but I personally am not a big fan of the crockpot. I often use the crockpot as a step in my process to save me time and ease, but to create a whole meal in a crockpot by dumping it in and leaving, usually results in a less than appetizing meal. Today I am going to focus on “Feeding the Freezer”. If you choose to follow my blog, you will find other freezer meal posts in the future.
Start with an Inventory
The idea behind feeding the freezer is that you will always have several delicious meals already prepped in your freezer that you can pull out on a busy day. This starts with an inventory, once that is established the work is minimal. The amount of meals you want in your inventory will vary depending on your schedule. If you are new to freezer meals, I would start with 3-6 meals. To get your starting inventory of meals you have several options:
- Spend a day cooking and prepping meals for the freezer for an instant inventory (and dishes)
- Participate in a freezer meal swap also for an instant inventory (and possibly meals you don’t like)
- Slowly add to your inventory for a slower startup, but less work at one time
I have participated in all these options. Personally, option 1 and 3 are my favorite, I find that I am picky when it comes to my food and often others do not make the health and flavor choices that I do.
If you choose to spend a day cooking and prepping meals you need to find a solution for caring for your children at the same time. When I was pregnant with my second and third child, I made my freezer meals at quiet time. Since we had established quiet time, I would have 2 hours to work solely on freezer meals. Another option is to swap children with a friend for the morning and make your meals then. If you are choosing to go this route, you will need to gather your recipes (ones with similar ingredients works best), do your grocery shopping (make sure to get freezer containers), and then get to work as soon as the countdown begins!
If you are interested in doing a freezer meal swap with a group of friends, all you have to do is google “freezer meal swap” and you will find millions of ideas and tips to make this a success.
If you would like to take a slower approach this is the same method you will use to continue to feed your freezer. When you are making a meal that will freeze well, you double, triple, or maybe even quadruple the recipe, cook one and freeze the others. To get you started, these are some meals that freeze well:
- Casseroles (chicken pot pie, enchiladas, Lasagana etc.)
- Marinaded meat (raw-grill or roast when thawed)
- Baked goods
- Meats for main dishes (taco meat, pizza ingredients, pulled meats, sloppy joes, grilled chicken etc.)
When starting your inventory I recommend using meals you already know and like, it will make cooking day and the day it is served go smoother.
Feeding the Freezer
The actual feeding of the freezer is simple. If you take a meal out, put one in. Monday you may take a meal out since it is a busy day. Wednesday maybe you have some extra time and are grilling some awesome marinaded chicken. Double the marinade, pour the second half in a freezer bag, add your meat and freeze. Anytime you make a ‘freezable’ meal, double it and freeze it!
One key to success in feeding your freezer is having your necessary ingredients on hand. I always try to keep my pantry stocked with freezer containers, bags, and foil. Glass containers double covered in foil or with a lid also freeze well. I also keep labels and a permanent marker in a drawer close to my supplies so that I can quickly label my meals with the title and directions (because you won’t remember how to cook it–or daddy can even pull something out).
Worried your husband will complain the meal is from the freezer and tastes weird? Don’t tell him.