Have you ever found yourself not knowing what to cook? You may have a busy work schedule, or your kids have a never-ending packed schedule of school and extracurricular activities. Or maybe you just had a baby and can't even think about cooking because you're tired from waking up every hour with your newborn. Let's be honest, life can get crazy sometimes, and during these days we sometimes can't even think about what other items we must complete on our to-do list, let alone trying to figure out a healthy meal to cook for the family. That's why freezer meals are perfect for a busy life!
You may not have heard of freezer meals (because I sure didn't know until two years ago). They are meals that you prep ahead of time and store in the freezer. When you're ready to use them, simply pop them in a slow cooker or the oven and you're ready to go. It may sound overwhelming to make them at first, but have no fear, I'm here to share a guide full of tips of how to make your life easier for those busy days with freezer meals! I've also included some delicious recipes that you and the whole family will love!
Tips for Starting Your Freezer Meal Stash
Organize Your Freezer: You will need as much space as you can make for your freezer store the meals. Organizing and decluttering freezer space will not only allow your to have the needed space for your meals, but will also allow you to clear out anything that has gone bad. Remember to put your freezer meals in the part of the freezer that can easily be accessed--either on top or right in front. You won't want to have to go digging through the freezer to get to them on a busy, hectic day.
Cook and Prep in Bulk: The best, most efficient way to make freezer meals is to prep a bunch at once. But don't get ahead of yourself--it sounds amazing to make 30 meals in one day (there are posts out there saying you can), but that takes a lot of time, practice, and money, and will leave you with a huge kitchen mess afterwards. Let's start off small with five recipes. Get all your ingredients and meal prepping tools (bags, bowls, measuring cups) out and start the process. Create a system that works for you. Either work on one recipe at a time or work on one category for each recipe: marinating the meats or chopping up the vegetables. Soon enough you will have all your meals ready for storage and going into the freezer. Bulk cooking is truly the way to go if you're preparing several meals.
Use Proper Storage Containers: Use freezer bags, aluminum baking pans, or Ziploc bags for storing your meals. This will help insulate the food, prevent freezer burn, and ensure that all your food stays protected. It will also make the food easy to stack and keep organized.
Label Everything: You may think you'll remember what the meals are, but if you're planning on doing several meals, it is wise to label what they are! When labeling, write the name of the meal, the date that you prepared it, and the cooking directions (if it needs to go on the stove or in a crockpot, how hot, and for how long). Another tip is to use the 'first in first out' method: put your newer freezer meals at the back. This way you can use the food that needs to be eaten sooner and prevent your meals from going bad. It's best to eat the meals within 3 months.
Other Helpful Tips
- Never put hot or even warm food in the freezer. This will create bacteria and it's highly recommended to allow it to cool down before freezing it.
- The best food/meals to freeze are marinated meats, soups, or casseroles.
- I highly suggest separating your fruit and vegetables from the main dish. Just because you plan on making those other items part of the meal, it doesn’t mean they should be stored together in the same bag. Put them in a separate bag and label which meal they go with.
- Suck the air out of all the bags before putting them in the freezer. This will help avoid freezer burn.
Three Easy Freezer Meal Recipes
1. Saucy Chicken Thighs
- 9 bone-in chicken thighs (about 3-1/4 pounds)
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1-1/2 cups barbecue sauce
- 2 teaspoons prepared mustard
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Directions: Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Place on a broiler pan. Broil 4-5 in. from the heat for 3-4 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Transfer to a 5-qt. slow cooker. In a small bowl, combine the barbecue sauce, honey, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and pepper sauce. Pour over chicken; stir to coat. Put it in freezer. When ready to use, cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours or until chicken is tender. Serve with rice or noodles.
2. Taco Casserole
Directions: Preheat oven to 400°. In a large skillet, cook beef over medium heat for 10-12 minutes or until no longer pink, breaking into crumbles; drain. Add taco seasoning and prepare according to package directions. Place meat into a greased 13 x 9-in.baking dish. In a large bowl, beat eggs and milk. Stir in biscuit mix and pepper. Pour over meat. Bake, uncovered, 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 5-10 minutes. Once the casserole has cooled, place the casserole (covered) in the freezer. When you're ready to use, partially thaw in the fridge overnight. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Preheat the oven to 350°. Unwrap casserole; reheat on a lower oven rack until heated through and a thermometer inserted in the center reads 165°. Cool for 5-10 minutes, then top with toppings.
3. Sausage with Onions & PeppersIngredients:
- 1-16 oz. package sausage of your choice, sliced
- 1 onion sliced
- 3 Bell peppers
- 2- 14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes (don't drain)
- 1 Chicken bouillon cube
- 2 Garlic minced
- (optional 1/8 tsp Cajun seasoning)
Directions: Let me just say already that this is a very easy recipe. Simply separate your meat from your vegetables but putting them in different bags in your freezer. When you're ready to serve, allow them to thaw and add both bag contents in a slow cooker for 5-6 hours on low or 3 hours on high. Serve with rice or anything desired.
Here are some helpful links with several many other freezer meals. Enjoy!
The great thing about freezer meals is that they can last a long time. It’s always great to have a couple ready-to-go-meals on those days when you get home after a hectic day or need a little break from the stress of prepping and cooking a full meal. Just take out one of your meals, pop it on the stove or crockpot, and feel that weight lifted from your shoulders and enjoy a delicious meal with your family!
When you're ready to eat up, check out our dishes and utensils for your little one! And if you're prepping for an upcoming baby, check out our post on everything to expect during your pregnancy from conception to birth, Your Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy.