How to Make Freezer Meals the Easy Way
It’s 4 pm. The kitchen is a mess, the baby is crying, the toddler has a dirty diaper when suddenly you hear the dreaded words, “Mom, what’s for dinner?”.
Prevent the What’s For Dinner Meltdowns by planning and prepping your meals ahead.
Why Make Freezer Meals?
I’m not gonna lie. I hate cooking. Unfortunately, a large family and a small budget mean I do a whole lot of cooking. We can’t afford many convenience foods and I really like to avoid them for health reasons anyway.
When unexpected events arise (and believe me, plenty arise in a family our size) I need to have quick meals on hand. Over the years I have come up with an easy method to make freezer meals. Here is how I managed to get 21 meals in my freezer in the last three weeks.
How to Budget for Cooking Freezer Meals
With Chuck’s current job he gets paid every two weeks. We spend $1,200 per month to feed our family of 12 (you can read more about that here). We put $600 from every paycheck into an envelope for groceries. Three weeks ago I knew I had to get some freezer meals prepared. I was hoping for some extra money, but that just didn’t work with our budget. This meant I had our usual $600 and needed to feed us for two weeks and get freezer meals prepared. I searched my Pinterest boards and my recipes for inspiration and assembled my grocery list.
After my shopping trip, I was able to assemble and freeze: Ham and Broccoli Bake (x3), Lasagna (x3), Sweet Asian Chicken (x2), Crockpot Peanut Chicken (x2), Spicy Red Beans (x2) and Chicken Gumbo (x2). Because I didn’t have any extra money in the budget week two of the pay cycle we ate freezer meals (one of each) that week.
This week when Chuck got paid again, I bought the supplies and assembled: Black Bean and Corn Salsa Chicken (x2), Fiesta Chicken Soup (x2), Chalupa (x2), Chicken Curry (x2).
The Biggest Secret to Making Freezer Meals
So what’s my easy secret to assembling all of these freezer meals? I do it as soon as I get home from the store, while we are putting our groceries away. Three weeks ago I returned home from the grocery store and immediately began prepping freezer meals.
Start Cooking Immediately
I immediately cooked all four pounds of pasta for the Ham Broccoli Bake. While the pasta was cooking I cubed the ham and chopped the broccoli. As soon as the pasta was cooked, I assembled three meals worth of Ham Broccoli Bake.
2. Assemble Casserole Type Meals Right Away
Next, I assembled three pans of lasagna. You do not need to pre-cook the noodles, simply add a layer of sauce to the bottom of the lasagna pan. Layer: sauce, pasta, cheese mixture, and meat. Easy!
3. Start the Beans Cooking
I used a second burner on the stove to cook beans*. You do not need to soak beans overnight! Simply add an extra hour of boiling. I put Tucker to work chopping the three pounds of sausage that was going into the Spicy Red Beans and Chicken Gumbo.
*Update, I now cook my beans in the Instant Pot. It’s quick, easy, and doesn’t need to be watched.
4. Use Your Crock Pot
I placed two whole chickens in the crockpot for the Chicken Gumbo. I had the kids chop celery, carrots, and pepper for the gumbo.
The next day I sent Judah and Tilly to the grocery store to buy fresh boneless, skinless chicken breasts. As soon as they arrived home I assembled the Crockpot Peanut Chicken and Sweet Asian Chicken into freezer bags.
I also assembled the Chicken Gumbo. In about 4 hours (including clean-up) I had 21 meals in my freezer!
This week, I did the same thing. As I was putting the groceries away, I assembled Fiesta Chicken Soup, Black Bean and Corn Salsa Chicken and Chalupa. Today I made Chicken Curry (enough for 3 meals). We ate one for dinner and the other three go in the freezer.
As of today, I still have 16 meals in my freezer and enough food to get us through the next two weeks, all while staying within our budget!