I’ve been there. I’ve been in a season of life when I thought I was too cool for freezer meals. ‘I like to eat whole, fresh foods, not cream of something casserole,’ I thought. ‘Cooking is a time to relax from the stresses of the day and to enjoy a glass of wine’, I would imagine. And then…my kids came along. And, cooking dinner became another task on my to-do list and lost a bit of its romance. I no longer focused my time and effort on the experience of cooking. Instead, I looked forward to the time connecting with my family around the dinner table. So, I started looking for ways to simplify the tasks associated with dinnertime.
When I discovered that freezer meals don’t need to look or taste anything like I envisioned (casseroles or pans of lasagna), my meal planning world was rocked. Soon after, I figured out that I don’t have to spend 6 hours in the kitchen on a Sunday prepping 30 slow cooker meals to ‘make my life easier’. Then and there, I embraced freezer meals as the powerhouse of my meal planning system.
Not only do they make the actual ‘day of’ cooking simpler, they also cut the time spent meal planning in half. When I already have prepped meals on hand, I don’t need to spend much time deciding what we’re having for dinner each night of the week. I only need to choose the meals that best match my family’s busy schedule that week.
In their simplest form, freezer meals are meals that are pre-prepped and frozen in the hopes of thawing and cooking on a busy night. Some may be cooked in the slow cooker. Others can be grilled, cooked in the oven, or even on the stovetop. The first (and only) rule of freezer meals
is you don’t talk about freezer meals is that you must freeze them. That’s pretty much it.
So, how does someone who has never prepped a freezer meal dip their toe into this form of meal prep? Comin’ atcha!
Start with what you already cook.
Think about the meals you already cook for your family. Are there any that you can prep ahead of time and freeze? Here are some great options to try.
- Add a little oil and seasoning to chicken breasts and freeze them in a freezer bag so they’re ready to throw on the grill at the end of the day.
- Put pork chops, an oil, a seasoning of your choice and breadcrumbs in a freezer bag, then mix well and freeze it.
- Mix up a meatloaf and freeze it so that you just have to cook it on the night you want to serve it. See…a meatloaf sounds a lot more approachable for cooking on a Wednesday night when all you have to do is dump the contents of a bag into a loaf pan, right?
You don’t need an elaborate plan.
If you’re on the fence about whether or not this form of meal prep will work for you then start by simply buying double of the meats that you’ll cook this week. As you’re marinating or seasoning the foods ahead of time, do the same for the doubled quantity but freeze it before cooking. If you do this a couple of times each week for a few weeks, you’ll have a great selection of freezer meals already stocked up and ready to work.
Shop the store flyer.
If you see a great deal on a meat your family loves, snag it in bulk and prep a couple of meals when you get home. Again, you don’t have to go all balls to the wall by prepping 3 types of proteins 4 ways each. Start, for instance, with chicken breasts. With a couple of pounds of chicken breasts you could prep the following, each in separate, labeled freezer bags:
- Italian Chicken Tenders – Chicken breast, oil, and dry Italian Dressing mix.
- Fajitas for the Grill – Whole chicken breasts in one bag, onions and pepper cut in half in the other, season both with oil, taco seasoning and lime juice.
- Herb-Crusted Chicken – Cut chicken into tenders, add oil, seasoning, and bread crumbs. Mix well and freeze.
- Lemon Pepper Chicken – Cut chicken into 1″ cubes, add oil and a lemon pepper blend. Serve over a couscous salad with veggies and a lemon vinaigrette.
Don’t forget breakfast.
If you’re just getting started, freezing items that will help simplify breakfast is also a great first step because…let’s be honest, the morning sets the tone for the day. Pancakes, muffins, and even breakfast sandwiches or burritos are great options to double when you regularly cook them and freeze the second batch. Then, you can use them for your weekly rotation of breakfasts, lunches, and snacks to help further cut down the number of decisions you’re making regarding meal time.
Consider getting help.
If the entire process of prepping and freezing meals is intriguing but a bit intimidating, rest assured, you don’t have to figure it out on your own. I started prepping freezer meals using a line of products made by a company called Wildtree. They make freezer meal ‘kits’ that include recipes, shopping lists, prep instructions, labels, and the oils and sauces to prep 10 meals. I love them because it takes the guess work and organization out of the process.
Other options are using a service like MyFreezEasy that offers sets of recipes and instructions that you can use. And, there are several bloggers and websites where you can find free resources like the Pioneer Woman and Crystal Paine, the Money Saving Mom. Choose an option and go for it! You’re about to take a huge step forward in simplifying meal planning and prep at your house.
Either way, choose an option and go for it! By adding freezer meals to your meal planning and prep system, you will take a huge step in simplifying dinnertime. Enjoy the time and energy you’ll save by relaxing around the table with your family.
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