I love a recipe that I can freeze and heat up another day for a quick and easy dinner. Through many conversations with other women and homemakers on Instagram I have learned that freezer meals can be really intimidating for many people. Or worse you have tried freezer meals before but they taste bland with a hint of freezer burn. Gross!
I do not blame you for not wanting to waste food or finding yourself with a failed freezer meal and a hungry family. These freezer cooking tips and tricks will help you have a successful and delicious frozen meal that the whole family will appreciate.
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Meal Prep Does Not Need To Take All Day
What if I told you that you can have a freezer stocked with all kinds of recipes that would free up so much of your cook time on busy weeknights? You might think that is a great thing. Or you might think that it will require you to spend your entire weekend looking through a collection of instant pot dump recipes, make ahead meals, and stuffing your hundredth gallon size freezer bag in a hot kitchen.
A quick google search for freezer-friendly foods will result in a long list of posts with titles such as “150 Easy Make Ahead Instant Pot Recipes”, “70 Instant Pot Freezer Dump Meals”, and “Make 30 Perfect Freezer Meals In One Day”. Don’t get me wrong these are great resources but in this season of life I have found that attempting to make a months worth of freezer meals in one day or one weekend is just not realistic. It is also a huge financial investment.
Instead of spending time doing all this prep work and making a few dozen meals at once I use a different approach.
One For Now And One For Later
The best way I have found to stock my freezer is by doubling the recipe for something I already know my family loves. A great example of this is my delicious salmon recipe which is a huge hit with my family. Any family friendly recipe will work.
When I am creating my meal plan for the week I will make sure that I have enough ingredients on my grocery list to make the recipe twice. Then when I am making dinner that day I will make enough for two meals. I serve one for dinner tonight and freeze one for dinner for a later date. It does not take much time at all to double a recipe. It also does not create a bunch of extra dishes to clean.
The one for now and one for later method is the perfect way to stock your freezer that requires very little extra time. Time is a precious resource!
What Dinners Are Best To Freeze?
It seems that in the world of freezer meals crock pot and instant pot dinner recipes are all the rage. I love some good dump and go instant pot freezer meals. A pre-assembled crockpot or instant pot dump dinner is super handy to have on hand. There are many benefits to these meals. However, they are not the only kind of freezer meal that you can make.
Lots of casseroles, pasta dishes, soups, and more are excellent candidates for freezer meals. If you are curious about how well a dish holds up in a freezer meal a quick google search will usually give you a great answer.
Here are some pro tips on things NOT to freeze:
- egg noodles
- cooked pasta w/out sauce
- fried food
- cream/custard based pies
- sour cream
- hard-boiled eggs
Freezer Meals That Are Not Meals
Another option that you can consider is freezing the components of meals instead of fully assembled meals. This might look like browning up a big batch of ground beef and putting it into the freezer to be used in various dishes later on. I love to do this with taco meat especially.
You can do the same thing with chicken breasts or chicken thighs. Depending on your personal preferences you can cube or shred chicken before freezing or even leave it whole. Using this approach of preparing and freezing individual ingredients you will have the flexibility to make a number of meals since there are several different ways to use what you have prepared.
Avoiding Freezer Burn
If you want to make freezer meals that last and actually taste good the key is to avoid freezer burn. Freezer burn is the Adelei Niska to your Malcolm Reynolds. Or if that is too nerdy for you freezer burn is Voldemort. Voldemort is bad. We want to stay away from Voldemort. Lucky for you I have the elder wand of freezer cooking right here for you. Okay, I’ll stop with the nerd stuff now I promise.
The most simple and effective way to avoid freezer burn is to eliminate how much air the food is exposed to in the freezer.
If you are using a freezer bag this means trying to remove all of the air from the bag before zipping it up. When I know that it will be a few months before I plan to reheat that dish I will frequently double bag it before sticking it in the freezer.
For foil dishes use cling wrap all the way around them before you put them in the freezer. One mistake I see people make is that they will put a dish into a foil pan, top that pan with foil, and then pop it straight into the freezer. Before you put that pan in the freezer make sure you wrap the entire thing very generously with cling wrap. This will make a world of difference on helping you to avoid freezer burn and have your meals last longer. In fact, I have had meals in my freezer for 4+ months that did not show the slightest bit of freezer burn.
Finally, no matter how you choose to store your freezer meals be sure to let the dish cool completely before you put it into the freezer. Putting a hot or even warm meal into the freezer will create steam, aka air, and almost certainly result in freezer burn. The hot food can also raise the temperature inside your freezer which is risky for the food that is already stored there.
Make Meals Your Family Enjoys
If you are on a mission to stock your freezer you may find that you are tempted to make tons of new recipes. Trying new recipes is great but for freezer cooking I really suggest that you stick to meals you already know your family will enjoy.
You do not want to go through all of the effort of making a meal that everyone turns their nose up at. So start with what you already know is a crowd pleaser. If you are worried that some of your favorite dishes will not hold up in the freezer again I would suggest doing a quick google search to see what others have experienced or just try it out for yourself. Trying one freezer meal, giving it a few weeks in the freezer, and then seeing how it went is much better than spending a lot of time and effort on several meals without knowing what the outcome may be. Just be sure to have a frozen pizza on backup for that night in case the freezer meal does turn out to be a bust.
My Favorite Freezer Meal Products
You do not need a lot of special equipment to make freezer meals but here are some things that I have found very helpful in my kitchen for making freezer meals.