Whether you are making freezer meals for yourself or neighbors and family, these freezer meal tips will help you get started with some simple tools and tips (and a few recipe suggestions!) that are tried and true.
I have been making freezer meals on and off for the last 15 years and I've picked up some freezer meal tips along the way. I started making full on freezer meals for when I was pregnant with each of my kids. I always wanted to have a good supply of freezer meals for right after a baby was born. It was really nice to have meals in the freezer that I simply pulled out and put in the oven or crock pot.
I also started using more simple freezer storage methods to help with every day cooking and fast breakfast and lunch options for my kids. Over the years I have figured out some tips that have helped me to fine tune the process and to figure out exactly what kind of meals work best to freeze. By the time you read though all these freezer meal tips you will know what tools you will need to use and gives you some ideas for the meals and foods that you want to freeze and the best way to do that.
Freezer Meal Tips- Tools
My mother in law gave me a food saver to use when I first started making freezer meals. It's a machine that sucks all of the extra oxygen out of the package so that it lasts a lot longer. It was nice to have, but after a while I stopped using it to seal my foods because 1) the bags are expensive 2) the process can be a bit messy when you want to fill a bag most of the way 3) I found that I was using my freezer meals quickly enough that it wasn't necessary to vacuum seal everything.
If I am storing something long term (more than 1-2 months) then I will pull out the food saver system and use it. Otherwise I like to stick with trusty Ziploc freezer bags. I make sure to buy the ones that are specifically for the freezer so that they protect food from getting frost bite.
I would recommend that if you want to make freezer meals part of your regular routine, then you will want to look into buying a stand alone freezer. No refrigerator that I have ever had has allowed a lot of space in the freezer section to put extra things. If you want to buy things like meat, butter, cheese etc. in bulk, then having a second freezer is really the best way to go. It allows you to organize the freezer foods depending on when they will be used. I store weekly freezer items in my regular freezer and keep all my meals and food storage in my other freezers (yes I have two).
The other item I use a lot to store food are the tin foil dishes that come in varying sizes. I keep them on hand at all times so that if I make double of a meal its easy for me to put the extras in a tinfoil pan, wrap it up, label it (with a sharpie), and throw it in the freezer. I usually buy the tin foil pans at my local Dollar Tree. Sometimes I find them on sale at my regular grocery store too and I will stock up when they are on sale. I especially love to use these dishes to make meals for other people or if its something I want to prep but not cook right away.
I also use plastic wrap and aluminum foil to double wrap foods and I will explain that a bit more below.
Freezer Meal Tips- Methods
- Lay the food flat in the bag so that when you put it in the freezer you can easily stack things on top of each other. It saves room and it makes it faster to unthaw.
- Use fresh meat instead of frozen. If you have meat that has already been frozen, it's not recommended to refreeze. There are a few reasons for this. One is that you lose some of the nutritional value when you defrost, freeze and defrost again. It also increases the chances of creating bacteria on your food, so just stay safe and use fresh meat.
- Make sure to cool down warm food thoroughly before you put it in the freezer. I always turn of the heat and let it sit for at least 20 minutes before I put it in the bag or dish. Then I let it sit in the dish until it is not warm to the touch. Once it has cooled down I finish wrapping or seal it and place it in the freezer.
- I really like to use the double wrap method for the tin foil dishes. First, I wrap it in plastic wrap 2 times. Then I put a layer of (heavy duty) aluminum foil all around this. If you are giving the meal to someone else, make sure you tell them to remove all the layers before heating up. Melted plastic wrap in your food is no bueno.
- Use a sharpie to write what the food is, the date you made it, and any reheating instructions that you have. Generally, you can throw something frozen into the oven and double the cooking time to heat it up. You can also unthaw the food in your fridge for 8-12 hours before cooking at the regular time and temperature.
Freezer Meal Tips- The best foods to freeze
When I make fully cooked freezer meals, I have found a few things that hold up the best and maintain their integrity through the whole freezer process. The best recipes will be soups, stews, and chilis. They are great to make as double or triple batches that you can portion out and freeze. I have also had great success with freezing pasta casseroles and having them retain great flavor and texture.
Other then that, I really like to try and freeze portions of meals that I can use as quick starters for those instances when I don't have a lot of time. In fact, I'd go so far to say that this is the BEST of the freezer meal tips. I will list some of the most common meal prep that I do to save me time in the kitchen.
- Ground beef (I usually leave it plain but sometimes I will season it with taco seasoning or with some garlic and onion)
- shredded chicken- I will often make this chicken and then shred it to use in all kinds of recipes. It's so handy to have on hand to make a quick meal.
- shredded pork- If I make a really big pork roast and only need a portion of it for my recipe, I will freeze the rest to use for nachos, pork sandwiches or burritos
- Sausage Patties- I will cook up mild Italian sausage into little patties that my kids can use to make breakfast sandwiches.
- My family loves to eat homemade pizza, scones, bread sticks and other similar things. So, sometimes when I make a batch of something I just double the dough so that I can freeze some for later. When I freeze the dough I shape it into individual sized balls and wrap it in plastic before putting it in a Ziploc bag. Other times I will shape the dough into a pizza crust and bake it for 5 minutes just to give it some structure. Then, I will freeze it flat and it is ready to add toppings to and to complete baking when we are ready to use it.
- I have a great chocolate chip cookie recipe that I love to freeze. Most of the time I make the dough, roll it into balls, then put in the freezer on the cookie sheet to flash freeze. Once they have been in the freezer for 15-30 minutes I put them in a gallon sized Ziploc freezer bag. That way I can make any number of cookies at a time and we literally have fresh cookies just minutes away. Sometimes I bake the cookies and put them in the freezer already baked, but only if I am going to use them within a few weeks. I think after that they start losing quality of flavor.
- I have a great cinnamon roll recipe that I will share on this site soon. I bake the cinnamon rolls AND frost them, then put them in individual quart sized Ziploc bags. When we want to eat them we just pop the roll into the microwave for 30 seconds and they are warm and fresh just like the first day I made them.
- I make muffins A LOT and freeze them. It is such an easy snack or breakfast to have on hand. Once they are baked I take them out of the muffin tin to cool completely. Then I put them in a gallon sized freezer bag. Take them out one at a time and reheat in the microwave for 30 seconds.
- When berries are on sale I like to flash freeze them and then put them in a freezer Ziploc bag (I reuse the bags by storing then in my freezer when they are empty. When I get more berries, I take the bags from the freezer and fill them up!) They are great for smoothies.
- Chopping onions sometimes feels like a chore when you get those really strong onions that make your eyes burn and water (is that just me?) So, I will often chop a whole bunch of onion at one time and throw the extra onion in the freezer.
- I buy a whole ginger root and chop it into small pieces. Then when a recipe calls for fresh ginger I pull out a piece from the freezer and grate it frozen. So. Much. Flavor.
- Spaghetti sauce is such a versatile thing to have in the freezer. It's also so easy to double or triple a batch to freeze. This recipe is great for using up all the garden tomatoes at the end of the season.
Uncooked Freezer Meal Tips
Another method of freezer cooking that I like to use is the uncooked freezer meals. I don't typically make complete crock pot meals, but I do chop up vegetables and make sauces that I can easily add to a crock pot meal. I also like to put raw chicken and pork chops in tin pans with different sauces for nights when I only have time to pop something in the oven.
I hope these freezer meal tips and recipes will give you ideas for the best way for YOU to approach freezer meals. For me, it has to be simple and fast. Let me know in the comments below if you have a favorite freezer meal or your own freezer meal tips to share. Also if you have any questions about the process, leave a comment below.. If you have a freezer meal making party and take pictures post them on Instagram #peachtreedr