Freezer meals are a gift to the busy family. Beginning in October 2021, I revamped our meal planning by adding in freezer meals, a well-known time saver that I had never really utilized in the past. Once the freezer is stocked with another round of meals, the sweet relief of not worrying about getting dinner on the table is so freeing.
Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a commission, but that commission will not increase the price you pay. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Please read my disclosure policy to learn more.
Benefits of Freezer Meals
Freezer Meals = Easy Day-of Dinner Prep
The ultimate benefit of freezer meals is to simplify dinner preparation on the day the meal will be enjoyed. Many freezer meals are cooked in the slow cooker. Day-of dinner prep for these meals is generally limited to thawing out the meal – a partial thaw is usually sufficient, transferring it to the crock pot, and setting the cooking temperature.
Some meals may require the addition of an ingredient at the time of cooking such as chicken broth. Other meals may suggest additional toppings or sides that pair well with it.
Freezer Meals Reduce Food Waste
Freezer meals can greatly reduce the amount of food waste in your household. Because you are preparing multiple freezer meals at once, you can buy fresh ingredients that work with several meals. Once frozen, they won’t spoil as readily as they would have in the fridge.
Just keep in mind that freezer meals have use-by dates as well. The general recommendation is to use them within three months of preparation.
Freezer Meals May Lead to Eating out Less
Another benefit to freezer meals that we’ve experienced is the need to dine out less often. Having meals ready to go in the freezer means that we’re less inclined to fall back on eating out due to busy schedules, lack of planning, or missed trips to the grocery store.
Not only does reducing dining out save money, but it may lead to improved health through better food choices. Of course, dining out is still a treat worth having on occasion whether as part of a shared family experience, a date night, time spent with friends, or peaceful solitude.
Freezer Meals Are Budget Friendly
Freezer meals capitalize on bulk buying and meal preparation. While this doesn’t mean you need to sign up for a membership at your local warehouse store, it does mean that you can take advantage of discounted pricing when buying meats, dairy, and other pantry goods in bulk.
For example, the broccoli cheddar soup freezer meal requires half and half, cheddar cheese, and frozen broccoli. By purchasing these ingredients in bulk at Costco, I had exactly the amount needed to make four batches of soup at one time.
Freezer Meals Make for Fewer Dishes to Clean
When you’re prepping several meals at once, there are a lot of dishes to keep up with but also fewer at the same time. Instead of chopping eight onions on eight separate occasions, you chop all eight at once using the same cutting board and knife or food processor. Chop once. Wash up once. And in this case, cry once.
Although freezer meals still require washing some cookware and utensils on the day of cooking, the number of dishes that would normally require washing is much reduced. Our kitchen has been easier to maintain since incorporating freezer meals into our menu plan.
Planning and Preparation of Freezer Meals
As expected, freezer meals still take effort to plan and prepare. From finding promising recipes to creating grocery lists to shopping and prepping the meals, freezer meals do take up-front work. Of course, you do all of that anyway. The only difference is that you will now do all this preparation and planning on a larger scale than normal, but you will reap the benefits for weeks or even months into the future.
Thus far, I’ve relied on one source for freezer meal recipes: the Family Freezer. Although I opted to buy the membership, several of the recipes are available for free on the blog. I may try other recipes in the future, but thus far, the Family Freezer has more than enough recipes for our family to try out.
Once you’ve found a promising source of freezer meal recipes whether online or in a cookbook, you still must choose recipes that sound appetizing for your family’s tastes and that fit within your budget. As you’ll see below, this requires trial and error.
Fortunately, there are numerous freezer meal recipes to try with a variety of cooking methods including slow cooker, instant pot, stove top, oven, and grill.
Our Favorite Recipes from the Family Freezer
We’ve tried dozens of recipes from the Family Freezer. Whereas some did not delight our taste buds, many have earned a spot in our regular rotation. Listed below are our favorite recipes from the family freezer. Links are provided for recipes when possible.
Stove-Top Freezer Meals
- Chicken and Sausage Orzo – I took a chance and made two meals of this recipe so as not to waste the leftover baby spinach and orzo. It was easy to cook on the stove and well-liked by the whole family.
- Creamy Parmesan Penne – I substitute half and half for the heavy cream to avoid the additives in most store-bought creams. In place of olive oil, I use butter. I also use chicken stock rather than vegetable stock because that’s what we always have on hand. We serve this meal with a side of Brussels sprouts nearly every week.
Slow Cooker Freezer Meals
- Turkey and Black Bean Chili – We’ve made this a few times, and the kids love it. I leave the corn out due to an allergy. I also use beef rather than turkey.
- Broccoli Cheddar Soup Panera Copycat – Both adults and three out of four children enjoy this recipe. Our most recent batch seemed heavy on the onion. Next time I will have to remember to use smaller onions.
- Chicken Salad Sandwiches – I substituted the non-mayo ingredients in this recipe for a healthier alternative to most mayonnaise brands.
- Shredded Chicken Quesadillas – We leave out the jalapenos and don’t always add the lime juice. This meal is finished under a broiler in the oven. Our kids love this meal.
Oven Freezer Meals
- Ham & Broccoli Calzones – This recipe has been a huge hit with our kids. I love that it goes straight from the freezer to the oven, so it’s an easy meal without any thawing time. It did require extra prep to make the dough. I used this recipe for pizza dough rather than buying pizza crust mix.
- Mediterranean Meatballs – These were delicious. We paired them with a balsamic-fig compote from a Paleo cookbook I used to use regularly before I developed a sensitivity to two beloved Paleo ingredients: avocados and nuts.
- Chicken Pot Pie – This is the only freezer meal we’ve tried that requires cooking anything first. It’s definitely time consuming to prepare, but it is absolutely delicious. We pair it with a pie crust from my daughter’s 100 Cookies cookbook.
- Brown Sugar Meatloaf – I freeze the meatloaf in a silicon loaf pan, but I remove the pan before cooking the meatloaf on a rimmed baking sheet.
Microwave Freezer Meals
- Bean and Cheese Burritos – We make these with tortillas and refried beans from Trader Joe’s. Some family members like the onions while others don’t. We usually make about forty-eight at a time and have them for lunch once a week. These go straight from the freezer to the microwave.
Creating a Grocery List for Freezer Meals
Because I purchased the Family Freezer Pro, it generates my grocery list for me from the recipes I’ve chosen. This saves time as I don’t have to copy down ingredients from every recipe and group them together. I have found Family Freezer Pro useful to gather recipes and create grocery lists, but you can certainly do this manually. Generating your own grocery list should become easier over time as you become more familiar with the recipes and can make multiples of family favorites.
Shopping for Freezer Meals
Before I head out to grocery store, I take my list and mark out any items I already have on hand. I then split the remaining items into lists for the stores I’m likely to find them in. While I do most of my shopping at Costco, I only bulk purchase ingredients that make sense as I don’t want to have too many leftovers that might spoil if I don’t use them on time. Then, I find any remaining items at other grocery stores in the area. Depending on the number of groceries needed, I may split my shopping trips over multiple days.
Preparing Freezer Meals
Let’s be honest. Freezer meal prep takes time and energy. The biggest time savings occurs when making multiples of the same meal at one time. For example, now that we know we like the Broccoli Cheddar Soup, I’ll plan to make two to four meals each time I make this recipe.
I begin by collecting all the recipes I plan to make and grouping them by similar ingredients. If two recipes need diced chicken breasts, it makes sense to make these back-to-back since slicing raw chicken is a messy job.
Next, I label my freezer bags for these recipes. At the moment I’m just using a permanent marker. In the future, I may decide to use printed labels to increase legibility. I include the name of the recipe, the use-by date, and a list of any ingredients to be added on the day of cooking like chicken broth or orzo pasta.
I work on the current meal on my island and keep all non-perishable ingredients on the counter behind me. This makes them easily accessible throughout the day. From time to time I take a break to wash cutting boards, measuring cups, and any other items that need to be reused for subsequent meals.
Cooking Freezer Meals
According to the Family Freezer, you generally don’t need to fully thaw your meals before cooking them. Of course, refer to each recipe’s instructions for final guidance. For example, the Broccoli & Ham Calzones are meant to be baked from frozen rather than thawed.
Slow cooker recipes will state a cooking time for a common 6-quart size. Additional cooking times for smaller crock pots might also be listed. It’s important to check on the meal at the end of the suggested cooking time so as not to overcook the food. The Family Freezer recommends a slow cooker with a timer if you won’t be home while the meal is cooking. The timer will automatically switch the slow cooker to the “Keep Warm” setting after the cooking time has elapsed.
Instant pot recipes may require extra liquid. Follow the directions carefully making sure to adjust liquid levels if needed.
Freezer to oven recipes may have different cooking instructions if baking a frozen meal versus one freshly prepared or thawed. Metal or disposable pans are often recommended as they can safely go from freezer to oven unlike glass bakeware.
Stovetop meals will likely require thawing completely as does the Chicken and Sausage Orzo. This particular meal was ready in about twenty minutes, and I only had to add the orzo at the time of cooking.
Similar to stovetop meals, freezer meals intended for the grill will likely require thawing as well.
Common Tools for Freezer Meal Preparation and Cooking
- Gallon freezer bags – Make sure that you are using freezer-rated bags to help prevent freezer burn on your meals. These bags are also stronger than standard plastic bags and will be less likely to tear and cause a mess in your freezer.
- A six-quart slow cooker – Most slow cooker Family Freezer meals suggest the 6-quart size. A four-quart slow cooker may also work for some recipes but will require a longer cooking time. If you work outside the home, you may want to consider a slow cooker with a timer.
- An instant pot – If you don’t have time for a slow cooker meal, consider using an instant pot instead. Although I haven’t used my instant pot for the freezer meals yet, I’m glad to have it on hand in case I forget to start the slow cooker on time.
- Liquid measuring beakers – these are very handy for small measurements of liquids ranging from fractions of teaspoons to multiple tablespoons. I love that they stand upright, nest in my utensil drawer, and are easy to fill without spilling.
- A food processor – Whether you’re dicing several onions or grating a pound of carrots, a good food processor makes this job much easier. I always buy my cheese in block form and shred it with the food processor.
I am delighted with the positive changes meal planning and preparation have taken since I’ve incorporated freezer meals into our menu plan. Not every dinner that we eat is a freezer meal, but the ones that are make good on their promise to ease the burden of cooking on that day.