Freezer cooking can be a busy mom’s best strategy in providing her family with healthy home-cooked meals. Even though there are so many benefits to having a freezer full of meals many people still get overwhelmed when thinking about dedicating a chunk of time to freezer cooking. I am not going to say it does not work. It does take work but the rewards you will experience will make your efforts well worth it.
There are many different freezer cooking methods available. With my lifestyle and from my experiences I have found large batch freezer cooking every 2-3 weeks to be the most beneficial. This way, if I am lucky, I only need to think about meals twice a month.
In the 3 years I have been freezer cooking here are 11 tips that I can offer to help you achieve successful freezer cooking sessions.
- Start with an organized clean kitchen and freezer. Clutter and mess almost always lead a person to feel overwhelmed. Taking 20 minutes or so to clean the kitchen and freezer along with organizing the utensils, spices, ingredients, and other supplies will start you on the right track.
- Make sure you have all your freezer cooking supplies. Look at your recipe list and take note of the supplies you need. If you don’t have them then add them to your grocery list. There is nothing worse than having a kitchen full of food and no containers to store it in. Believe me, I have been there.
- Pick easy tried and true recipes that you can double or triple. There is no need to be a super chef mom and create elaborate recipes. Depending on the amount of time pick about 5-7 healthy recipes that your family enjoys. For example, when I freezer cook I always make a triple batch of taco meat, a double or triple batch of clam sauce, and about 30 turkey meatballs. If the recipe can’t be doubled or tripled, mostly likely, I will not make it. I rarely try a brand new recipe when freezer cooking. It is not worth the time or money if my family does not like it. I may experiment a little with putting different recipes together using frozen meal starters (e.g easy crockpot shredded chicken) I have on hand but brand new recipes are typically saved for the weekend.
- Make meal starters and complete meals. It is important to note that you do not always have to put together complete meals. I really like putting together meal-starters such as shredded chicken, shredded pork, rice, beans, etc. That way I am not committed to a specific dinner idea and I can be more creative with recipes when putting together my weekly menu plan. However, I do prepare some complete meals.
- Have recipes available to refer to. This might sound silly but there have been many times that I am getting ready to make a meal and I have to spend 5-10 minutes or more looking for the recipe. When you are making 5-7 meals that can lead to an hour or more of wasted time.
- Start right away the recipes that can go in a small kitchen appliance. Before I start any cooking on the stovetop I get recipes going in the crockpot, rice cooker, and bread machine. For the most part, once they are put together, they require very little maintenance. This means I can set it and forget till the food is done.
- Prepare one food group at a time. When freezer cooking I like to break up my session up by food. For example, I will start with beef recipes, move on to poultry, and then finish up with pork and fish. After I am done with meats I will move on to vegetarian recipes and/or baking. I actually hate handling raw meat so I try to get that out of the way first so I can then completely sanitize my kitchen and move on to other meals.
- Create realistic goals, a timeline, and a plan. The more you freezer cook the more you will be able to accurately gauge the amount of time you need to complete recipes. The worst thing you can do is try to prepare more recipes that your time allows. This will only make you frustrated. Be realistic with what you can accomplish. Look at your recipes and write out a plan for how you are going to tackle them. This will help keep you focused as you move through your day. It also helps to take notes along the way. These notes will help you adapt as needed for future freezer cooking sessions.
- Take breaks. This is really important and should not be overlooked. Taking a day to freezer cook is exhausting and you need to schedule in breaks. Not long breaks because you don’t want to lose momentum but long enough where you get some energy back. I try to take a 20-minute break every 2 hours.
- Wear comfortable shoes. Please do not take this tip lightly. If you don’t wear sneakers or some form of comfortable shoe you will be feeling pain by the end of the day. Standing in the kitchen all day takes a toll on your legs. Wearing comfy shoes will absolutely help you get through an all-day freezer cooking session.
- Have entertainment for the kids. My kids love to help me in the kitchen but even with their high energy they can not withstand a long freezer cooking session. I don’t want them sitting in front of the TV for hours at a time so I try to mix up activities to keep them entertained. Also, my husband is very helpful and will take care of them while I cook.
These 11 tips have helped me time after time move through freezer cooking sessions efficiently. I am sure I could think of many more but these are the main tips I mostly follow.
What tips can you give to help a freezer cooking session run smoothly? What freezer cooking questions do you have?
Thanks for the great tips. I also do freezer meals. With our busy lifestyle they are certainly a time saver. My question is about freezing rice. When I have done that the rice turns into bullets! What is the proper way to freeze rice?
I tried a “mini” freezer meal day on Sunday of this past weekend. I am trying four of the recipes I found, Pork tenderloin, two different chicken (chix was on sale this weekend!) and one Italian Sausage with peppers/tomatoes, etc. All look amazing. I then put a roast in the crock pot and put in in the frig for today (it’s plugged in and going) and then made beef meatballs and cooked fresh chicken breasts. Cooled and froze the meatballs and cooled and cubed the chix for future use. Also bought some mason jars and will be trying some salads for work! I actually feel less stress today because I know we are set for meals for a while. I HATE stopping at the grocery store on my way home from work trying to pick something up for dinner that night. Thanks for the tips!
are there specific kind of containers or bags that should or should not be used? We have found that Ziploc freezer bags aren’t reliable. Food still gets freezer burned. We have mostly now used a seal-a-meal system. But I’d like to try other containers that say they are freezer friendly for soups and other items that have more liquid. What do you recommend?
I use all brands and have never had an issue with freezer burn. It might be because my food is never in the freezer longer than a few weeks.
Some tips I learned is to always make sure air is out of bags and food is cooled before putting in the freezer.
Hope this is helpful.
Jamie Keller says
So, there are only 2 of us, but I cannot cook well. How do I convince the DH that this is a great idea? He loves to cook. I know we have lots of stuff in our freezer like home made meatballs and sauce and I think there is some soup in there, but what else works. Is there anything that you shouldn’t cook and freeze like that?
Hi there! You might find this post helpful I did on foods that do and do not freeze well. https://www.organizeyourselfskinny.com/2011/11/09/freezer-cooking-basics-series-part-ii-foods-that-do-and-do-not-freeze-well/
Your tips are right on the mark. I do my recipe planning/grocery list a few days before cooking and the grocery shopping and some basic prep the day before. That way all meat is fresh, I’m sure I have everything, etc. I try to have more containers than I think I could possibly need (often I use more than anticipated), foil and wrap, and freezer tape. I find it helpful to make a couple things in the crockpot or rice cooker the night before cooking day. If I put a pork loin in the crockpot, I feel I’m ahead of the game the next day, and we can have some of it for lunch or dinner that day. I can make a batch of rice to go with meals or some oatmeal for the morning’s breakfast in the rice cooker. I recently did a cooking day at my batchelor son’s house, using his crockpot, my pressure cooker, the stove and oven. After 5.5 hours of cooking there were 4 chicken dishes, three pork dishes, 1 beef, vegetables, two kinds of rice. I packaged some into individual freezer Mel’s for him, some for the fridge (for the next week’s lunches and dinners), and took the rest home in family containers for us. Two households got over two weeks’ worth of meals out of that one afternoon’s cooking (and 1.5 hours of grocery shopping). We got snowed in five days later, so having all that food ready was so nice!
These are great tips! While reading them, I realized I have a question I didn’t put into your survey: Do you have good freezer recipes for fish? We need to work more fish into our diet. Thanks again Tammy!!
Donna Smith says
Thank you for these great tips. I have just started freezer cooking and these are wonderful tips. I have enjoyed cooking this way so far. I have even made some frozen meals for my nephew that is away at college. He really enjoys them. So thank you very much.
Sue Cellini aka The Pocket Farmer says
You are correct about the footwear! Standing in the kitchen all day can be very fatiguing! Also, try to clean as you go. No one wants to deal with a disaster kitchen after a long hard day of food prep. Time management is important, don’t over do it. If you can’t get it all done at once, break it up into a few different cooking sessions so that you don’t become overwhelmed. During the summer when the garden was producing more than we could handle, I blanched and froze a bunch of vegetables to use later in soups and stews. It’s wonderful to be eating our own carrots, tomatoes and potatoes, long into the cold season.