24 Hacks for Your Next Freezer Meal Making Session!
Save time and money with these freezer meal tips and tricks!
If you’re like me, you had a few meals FLOP. OR you overwhelmed yourself on meal prep day trying to do too many meals at once. Maybe you’re not sure if you should try this freezer meal thing again.
I GET YOU. I’ve been there too…
I’ve made plenty of mistakes when working on freezer meals. That’s why I compiled this list of MUST KNOW FREEZER MEAL TIPS!
Hopefully you read it BEFORE you start doing freezer meals. OR, hopefully it will inspire you and give you the courage to give it another go (you might be interested in my awesome freezer meal cookbook and guide!)
Read my top 24 hacks below and learn from my mistakes! And if you’ve got your own hacks, tips, or tricks to putting together awesome freezer meal dinners, please share in the comments below!
Freezer Meal Planning and Prep Tips
- Plan it out. If you decide to make several meals at one time, have a list of the freezer meal recipes you are making, the groceries needed, and other supplies.
- Start small. Preparing a month’s worth of meals at one time can be overwhelming, especially if you are new to freezer meals or haven’t made the recipes before. Start out by preparing double of 3 to 5 recipes (in order to get 6 to 10 meals), or by participating in a freezer meal cooking party or exchange group. Or it can be as easy as preparing twice what you need for a meal – serving half and freezing the rest for another time.
- Choose a variety of recipes that require minimal prep work and that are easy to make multiple batches at the same time. Of course, they should also be freezer-friendly! Casseroles, soups, stews, chili, some pasta meals, and meat loaf are usually good ones. We have posted lots of freezer meal recipes to help you out too!
- It is a good idea to try a single batch of a recipe before making bulk amounts of it. You don’t want a freezer full of food that doesn’t taste good to you and that the family doesn’t want to eat.
- Use the Prepear app to create your meal plan and shopping list to save yourself a TON of time! (Read our Prepear review to learn more… and check out my freezer meal cookbook that will take you through the entire process!)
- Don’t over do it. Don’t grocery shop and prepare a bunch of freezer meals on the same day. You will enjoy the process much more if you aren’t already worn out from shopping.
- Do as much prep work as possible in bulk and work in phases. Chop all veggies, prep all meats, etc. This saves you time in the long run and keeps you organized. (Use appliances and tools, like a food chopper or processor, to make prep work go faster. Shred meat with these claws, or use a stand mixer to shred chicken!)
- Once your prep work is all done, assemble each meal according to the recipe in assembly line fashion. Line it all up and complete each step for each meal before moving on to the next step.
- Buy bag holders, or place bags in a large bowl to help keep them standing up while you add ingredients.
- It is helpful to keep an inventory list of your freezer meals. You can cross off each meal when you use it and always have a good idea of what is available.
- If you are using frozen raw meat in a freezer meal, just keep the meat frozen. Thawing raw meat, then re-freezing it without cooking it isn’t safe. If you thaw out meat, you need to cook it prior to freezing it again.
- Label, label, label. Even if you think you will remember what it is, you probably won’t. Trust me, I have had this happen to me several times. You don’t want to end up with mystery meals hidden in the back of the freezer. Label with the name of the meal, the date made, and the thawing and cooking instructions, if possible. I like to use a black permanent marker. You can try using freezer labels too. (Label the bags before you add the food!)
Cooking and Freezing Tips
- Keep your freezer at its ideal temperature, usually 0 degrees or lower, to protect food quality. Get an appliance thermometer if you aren’t sure! Also, leave room for air to circulate throughout the freezer.
- In general, frozen foods keep for about 1 to 3 months in the freezer. Before you start adding more food to your freezer, you should take a look at what is already in there. Clean it, organize it, throw out old foods, etc.
- Rotate older meals to the front of your freezer so you will use them first.
- If part of the freezer meal is cooked before freezing, cool quickly to room temperature, then package and freeze it. To cool it, you can place it in a shallow container on a cooling rack for about 30 minutes, then place in the refrigerator, if needed. Otherwise, package the meal, label, and freeze it right away.
- Use the right containers. To help prevent freezer burn and oxidation, use packaging that is durable, water-proof, leak-proof, and resistant to low temperatures. I use disposable foil pans, covering the food with a layer of plastic wrap and then foil, and quality “freezer” resealable bags the most often. (I sometimes double up on the bags to help prevent leaks.)
- Remove as much air as possible from the packaging before freezing the meal. You can use a straw to suck the air out of bags, when raw meat is not inside. When covering a meal with plastic wrap, try not leave space for any air as well. You can also use a foodsaver to get all the air out and seal.
- Smaller portions freeze and thaw faster than larger ones. The quicker a food freezes, the better quality. So, package meals in quantities for a single meal, whatever that size might be for your family. If you want to freeze something in individual portions, try freezing it in a greased muffin pan, then wrap each in plastic wrap and transfer to a freezer bag.
- Freeze meals flat, if possible. Place on a baking sheet in the freezer until frozen, then remove the pan and stack the meals in the freezer. They take up less space and are easier to store and organize.
- You can freeze cooked pasta dishes. Just try to slightly undercook pasta before freezing it, to help prevent mushy texture once reheated.
- With stews, braises, and other meals with some fat content, skim the fat from the top before freezing. Fat spoils over time and shortens the frozen shelf life.
- Thawing foods at room temperature encourages bacteria growth. Plan ahead to thaw meals in the refrigerator (roughly 5 hours per pound). Or thaw in the microwave and finish cooking right away.
- With most frozen casseroles, you can either thaw them completely in the fridge and bake as usual, or bake covered with foil for about 50% of the usual baking time, then bake as usual.
- Freeze prepared and cooked meats, like chicken and ground beef, in small portions to use in future quick meals and recipes. Think tacos, sandwiches, soups, salads, etc.
Do you have any great tips for successful freezer meals?
Leave them in the comments below! And check out all of these other great resources!
Check out this post about how to start a freezer meal group!
See our favorite freezer meal recipes!
And don’t forget to check out this list of foods that do and don’t freeze well!