In today’s post, I’m going to share with you what I’ve learned about freezer meal prep!
I love the idea of being super organized and always prepared for anything.
Like I said, I love the “idea.”
In reality, I am FAR from either one of those things. I’m usually flying by the seat of my pants, just barely keeping it all together on any given day.
Every once in a while, in a rare moment of organizational genius, I manage to do something helpful that pays off big time for our family.
Most recently that has been doing some major freezer meal prep to use during the summer when things get hectic around our house.
Over the course of making some of these meals, I’ve learned a few thing I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere else. Here are my 10 freezer meal prep tips for you and your family!
1. You’ll Need Extra Time For Freezer Meal Prep
“Make 21 Freezer Meals in 3 Hours!”
“Feed your family for a month with just 4 hours of work!”
We’ve all seen these pins on Pinterest. I have NEVER had an experience freezer meal prep that took as little time as these posts claimed.
These people must either be have ninja knife skills or must be Edward Scissorhands to be able to chop and prep that fast.
Also, those posts never include clean up time! These people must have Fairy Godmothers who tidy up after them.
Bottom line: make sure you give yourself ample time to prep and clean up!
2. Make Recipes Your Family Will Actually Eat
I see lots of freezer meal recipes for things like “white chicken chili” or “shrimp stir fry.” While they might sound great to my husband and I, my kids won’t touch these with a ten foot pole.
If I used what little time I have available to freezer meal prep dishes that I know my kids won’t eat, I’m setting myself up for failure.
I try to adapt recipes I already know they’ll eat into freezer prep meals, things I know that they love and look forward to having for dinner.
3. Be prepared for LOTS of shopping
In order to find all the ingredients in the proper amounts to freezer meal prep, I usually have to hit up at least 3 different stores.
I start at Sam’s Club for a good price on meat and some of the other items I need in large quantities. Then move on to Aldi for the smaller scale items. Anything I that’s left on my list I usually pick up at Walmart.
For example, my meatloaf recipe calls for half a sleeve of crackers per regular size recipe. Buying those in bulk would be a complete waste, since we don’t really snack on them around here. A normal size box worked just fine for the 6 loaves I made recently.
Shopping like this usually takes up most of the free time I have while my kids are at school, so starting a long cooking session after shopping just doesn’t make sense for me.
4. Get familiar with the trash bowl when you freezer meal prep
There will be LOTS of trash.
I mean piles of trash.
Even mountains of trash.
Even if you are the greenest, most recycling-happy person in the planet, when you’re cooking large quantities there will be trash. It’s pretty unavoidable.
Take a tip from Rachel Ray and put out a giant bowl for trash. I end up dumping mine several time throughout a meal prep session. It keep the clutter down and my sanity in check.
5. Large batch cooking is harder than you think
When I first took on freezer meal prep, I thought “I’ll just triple my recipes. Easy Peasy!”
That didn’t work out so well.
I failed to take into account how large a pot I would need. It was so full I could hardly stir it. It was a huge mess.
I also didn’t realize that spices in larger amounts may not play well in some freezer meals. My first attempt didn’t taste bad, but it didn’t taste “right.”
Be prepared to have to cook in stages, depending on how much your making. Also be prepared to add spices slowly, and adjust as needed during the cooking process.
6. Stock up on detergent, because there SO MANY DISHES
Be prepared to run your dishwasher numerous times.
During my last freezer cooking session, I ran mine 4 times to take care of all the dishes that were dirty.
Several times I have had to hand wash things I needed to keep cooking, like my favorite chopping knife or my largest bowl.
Using disposable items in some cases might cut down on this, but in general, that stuff just isn’t sturdy enough and just creates more trash.
7. Use your tools
Sometimes when you’re working on freezer meal prep you have to get a little creative. Coming up with tricks to save time makes all the difference when you’re in the middle of a marathon cooking session.
I keep several dish towels around on several surfaces while I cook for quick clean up of spills and easy access to dry my hands after washing them for the millionth time.
I frequently make some versatile meatballs in large batches to freeze and use for all sorts of dishes.
Instead of eyeballing how big they should be and just hoping they cook evenly, I use a small scoop designed for cookies. It makes the perfect size meatball.
I use a pizza cutter for cutting dough for homemade dumplings or noodles.
I also make things like sauces that take time to measure out and mix up when I’m looking for a quick freezer meal!
I frequently make this Stir Fry Sauce recipe (recipe available here) and freeze it for a quick weeknight dinner. I just leave out the cornstarch and add it in mixed with a little water when cooking the meal. Works out great!
There are tons of little hacks you can figure out to make the freezer meal prep process easier.
8. Packaging matters
How and what you freeze your meals in matters. It matters a LOT!
Preventing freezer burn and having the proper stability is super important.
I recently learned the hard way that freezer bags are not always strong enough.
After making a large batch of veggie spaghetti sauce and partially freezing it, I decided to move the bags from one freezer to another.
I had just laid out on of the not-quite-frozen bags in the stack, when a frozen-solid bag slipped out of my hand and stabbed a hole in the first bag.
With some quick thinking, I was able to salvage the food in the busted bag. But had I packaged the sauce differently, this could have been avoided.
Also, make sure you leave a little space in every container for your liquids to expand. No one wants to clean up the resulting explosion in your freezer when you fill a package up too much.
9. Freezer meal prep in appropriate serving sizes
Making big batches is great, but if you don’t freeze them in appropriate portions, it really defeats the purpose.
I use muffin tins to freeze servings of things like mashed potatoes. Once the servings are frozen solid, I pop them out of the tin and put them in a bag.
My family loves meatloaf. I make and freeze those in half size loaves. That way, if I’m just feeding a few of us, I can make just enough without wasting a lot of food.
10. No time? No problem!
Finding time to make freezer meals is really challenging to me.
With two very active kids and other family members who need our care, finding a large chunk of time to freezer meal prep is close to impossible.
When I have just a little bit of extra time, I try to make a double batch of whatever we’re having for dinner and just freeze that.
It doesn’t give me a freezer stocked with meals very quickly, but it sure does come in handy a little at a time.
Do you make freezer meal prep for your family? Any go to recipes? Share them in the comments!