Freezer meals can be a huge help to balancing busy days. It is such a relief to come home to a healthy dinner that is already made (like how a husband must feel every day! :)), especially if you are trying to fit in extracurricular activities in the evenings. Just thaw the night before or let it simmer in the slow cooker all day and you’re done!
(See my favorite recipes at the end of this post. I will add to it frequently)
While perusing Pinterest a while back, I found all sorts of pins on making freezer meals. “Stock your freezer and don’t cook for a month!” they said. This sounded wonderful, but it was not for the faint at heart. Instead of starting small my first time, I went big and made 8-10 different recipes. I organized a grocery list that took three episodes of Modern Family to complete. After a huge grocery shopping trip between a few stores, it took me the rest of that Saturday and part of the following Sunday to complete. Who were these women that claimed to do it in three hours? Between sibling spats, dressing a Barbie, replacing batteries in a remote control car, and my kitchen looking like a war zone, this was not a quick job.
What I learned
That said, it WAS my first time, and I could have been better organized. Not making so many different creations definitely would have helped. I tried being efficient by making two packages of each recipe, only to find that we didn’t like some of the dishes. So then I had these meals taking up space in my freezer that were already paid for and that weren’t getting eaten. That defeated the purpose.
My advice (to myself and others) the next time, try making a week’s worth of meals, not a month. I have tried this in various ways. I made double of every dish for a week and froze the other portion. I also picked my favorite three recipes and just made two each of those. We don’t eat a freezer meal every night, but when the kids have practice or I want to go to the gym after work, these freezer meals are a life saver.
Tips for freezer meal success
- Think of food your family likes to eat- spaghetti, enchiladas, teriyaki chicken; and make batches of that to freeze. (Defrost the night before for quicker warming!)
- I use Ziploc bags for slow cooker meals and for baked dishes like enchiladas, I buy tin pans (Dollar Tree or Party City are good resources). Since this process is supposed to make life easier, this is one time where I am not environmentally conscious. If this becomes a regular practice for you, maybe investing in extra Pyrex dishes would be a good idea.
- If you want to try new recipes, only make one of that dish to test before stocking the freezer with it.
Basic slow cooker tips
- Get to know your slow cooker. I had a hard time getting chicken to not feel like eating bark- dry and rough- for ages. Experiment with cooking on high and low, adjust cooking times, etc.
- Be wary of recipes that want you to cook ground beef or braise a roast before putting it in the crock pot. While there is nothing wrong with these recipes, it adds a lot more time to your process and defeats the purpose of it being an “easy” meal. Plan accordingly
- Liquid does not boil down in a slow cooker, so don’t over-do liquids.
- Don’t lift the lid to stir. Each time you lift the lid, enough heat will escape that the cooking time should be extended by approximately 20 minutes.
The effort is worth the reward! Good luck!
Some of my favorite slow cooker/freezer meals