Are you making the most of your freezer? Has your freezer turned into a place to stack the recycling? Have you turned it into a changing table? Do you even own a freezer? If you dust off / clean out / fire up your freezer, you might find it to be your biggest ally in planning meals and saving money.
With freezer meal planning, you can make meals ahead of time and then freeze them until you need them. I remember my grandparents’ freezer was a veritable restaurant of delectable choices. My grandmother would cook all day on Sunday and freeze multiple batches of everything.
But you don’t have to endure an all-day cooking spree, if you don’t want to. Instead, when you do make something, you can make a double batch, and store half of it. Before long, you will have a stockpile of frozen meals.
Are you thinking, why would I want to bother? Well, the next time you get home frazzled, with no time or energy to think or cook, you don’t have to give in and order the panic pizza. Instead, you can take a healthy, home cooked casserole out of your own freezer and slide it into your own oven! You will save time, money, and your own sanity!
Need some ideas of what types of meals to freeze? Here are a few of my family’s favorites: sloppy joes, homemade mac and cheese, chili, chicken pot pie, enchiladas, homemade pizzas, stir-frys and any and all kinds of casseroles.
Freezer meal planning can also help you take full advantage of sales when they happen. Let’s say there’s a real steal on lean ground beef. You can buy 10 pounds of it for pennies, but then what would you do? If you utilize freezer meal planning, the answer is simple. You make several batches of hamburger-based meals, and freeze them for later use.
Having several (or even a few) frozen meals ready to go in the freezer can also make you a better friend, or neighbor. If a neighbor has an emergency to take care of, you automatically have an easy way to help — you can offer them a meal, one of the best, time-honored, non-invasive ways to show your support.
Another neat idea is to get hooked up with a freezer meal co-op. (This doesn’t have to be as official as it sounds.) If you can’t find one, start one! Simply get a few friends to commit to a cooperative. (Sometimes this works great with sisters.) Then ask them to make you a freezer meal. When you make your famous chili, you make an extra batch for each person in the co-op. Each of them does the same. Suddenly, you have a whole collection of offerings from a diverse group of cooks!
When you plan to freeze a freshly cooked meal, be sure to cool your food as quickly as possible, but don’t put hot food directly into the freezer. (This could bring your freezer temperature down and harm your other foods.) To prevent bacteria from getting a foothold, food should not be left out for more than two hours. You can speed up the cooling process by dividing food into smaller portions, or setting a well-sealed dish into a shallow tray of cold water.
The options with freezer meal planning are truly endless, but be confident that you will at least save time and money, no matter how you go about it, and of course you can use your Say Mmm online meal planner to help you stay organized.