These 7 incredible freezer cooking hacks will show you how to prepare up to a month’s worth of healthy, delicious meals for your family with simple meal prep work.
If you have done freezer cooking or want to get started, prepare to be blown away by the hacks I’m about to share with you. For many years now I’ve been freezer cooking, which is preparing several weeks or a month’s worth of meals all in one day. Here are my favorite freezer cooking hacks.
- What is Freezer Cooking and Why Is It the Best Meal Prep Option?
- Does Freezer Cooking Save Money?
- How to Get Started with Freezer Cooking
- Do Freezer Meals Taste as Good as Fresh?
- How to Store Freezer Meals in Your Freezer
- Top 7 Best Freezer Cooking Hacks
- Best Freezer Meals: Recipes Your Family Will Love
What is Freezer Cooking and Why Is It the Best Meal Prep Option?
The term “freezer cooking” describes the practice of preparing and assembling partially or fully prepared meals to freeze now, to then thaw and eat later. You’ll also see freezer cooking called once a month cooking, meal prep, meal assembly, or bulk or batch cooking.
Years ago a friend and I discovered the concept of freezer cooking and decided to try it together. We started by trying Dream Dinners, which is a meal prep company where you prepare the meals in their kitchen. The company has all the ingredients and recipes ready and you assemble. We thought this was okay but pricey and set out to create our own version.
My friend and I developed our own helpful system for freezer cooking and spent many fun (tiring, but fun!) days together in one of our kitchens preparing meals while our kids played together.
Fast forward to today, when I am still freezing cooking but on my own. When my friend and I weren’t able to freezer cook together anymore due to busy schedules, I continued with freezer cooking for my own family. Along the way I learned tons of helpful tips that I’ll be sharing with you below.
Does Freezer Cooking Save Money?
There’s pretty much no question that freezer cooking saves money in the long run. If you are on a super-tight grocery budget (like we usually are) the big grocery shopping days for your meal prep can be a bit tough to manage the first time or two, but once you get into the routine, you’ll find that you invest in ingredients for your batch cooking but then are able to save so much grocery money in the weeks ahead.
When my freezer is stock piled with plenty of good meals, we are much less likely to go out to eat, pick up fast food, or purchase convenience foods at the grocery store.
Freezer cooking certainly saves money.
How to Get Started with Freezer Cooking
The first time I did freezer cooking, my friend and I cooked a whole month’s worth of meals, which was a bit crazy for our first go-round. (What can I say – I tend to be an all-in type of woman.)
Don’t feel like you need to commit to a whole month’s worth of meals for your first time trying a batch cooking method. Choose 5 of your family’s favorite dinner recipes. Make 2 of each and you have 10 meals – enough for the next several weeks.
Keep reading because the hacks below will make your first time freezer cooking to go smoothly.
Do Freezer Meals Taste as Good as Fresh?
When you put all the effort into cooking these delicious meals, the last thing you want is for them to get freezer burned or taste less than appealing.
We’ve been using freezer meals for years and the food always taste delicious. You don’t need to worry about freezing affecting the quality of the food as long as you store it properly.
Top tip: freezer cooking is often about assembly more than cooking. While you will cook some foods in advance (for example, chili), many of the meals you make will be pre-assembled and frozen but you will cook them fresh on the day you eat them.
Don’t worry that your family will be eating bland, mushy pasta, vegetables, or rice. Cook those foods fresh on the day you want them and then assemble the meal easily.
Some meals can be cooked in advance or cooked fresh depending on your personal preference. Foods like meatloaf or lasagna can be cooked and frozen, so you simply need to reheat them on meal day. Or, you can freeze an uncooked meatloaf or lasagna and cook it fresh the day you plan to eat it. I’ve done it both ways, but for the most part I prefer to freeze meals uncooked and cook them fresh the day we eat them.
How to Store Freezer Meals in Your Freezer
There are several possible container options to consider for your freezer meals. If you don’t want to use disposable due to environmental concerns, glass or Pyrex dishes are always an option. You’ll need more freezer space for these.
If freezer space is at a premium or you simply want the convenience, you can’t beat gallon size zipper bags.
After trying all types of containers, gallon size zipper bags are still my favorite method for storing freezer meals. Freeze the meal flat so they can then be stacked. I always double bag anything I put in the freezer. It’s rare that I have had a bag break, but better to be on the safe side. I re-use the outside bags since they haven’t touched raw or uncooked foods.
Label all your meals with the name and meal prep instructions so it’s easy to grab and use on the day you want to cook it. I write the directions on the outside of the zipper bag. I write directions clearly so if my husband or teens are making dinner, they have the instructions they need.
Foods with individual items (such as breaded chicken breasts) are flash frozen. Freeze these individually on a cookie sheet until mostly solid, then store all together in a zipper bag or container. This way you can pull out only those you need without getting all the chicken breasts or other foods in one huge frozen clump.
Consider investing in a food saver if you plan to do a lot of freezer cooking. The plastic rolls are pricey but this is the best way to keep food quality high.
If you are doing Instant Pot cooking, use 64 ounce round containers because the food can be put in the Instant Pot right from frozen and will be the correct size to fit in an Instant Pot 6 quart or Instant Pot 8 quart. The Instant Pot 3 quart is good for side dishes but not large enough for most main dish meals.
Top 7 Best Freezer Cooking Hacks
Now, let’s break down each of the 7 incredible freezer cooking hacks to explore how you can do cheap meal prep of the best freezer meals your family will love.
1. Plan your cooking day strategy.
Choose 3-4 of your family’s favorite meals to get started. Using recipes that you know will help you ease into what freezer cooking is like. Start small this time so you get a feel for what batch cooking involves, and you can always add more recipes the next time.
2. Freezer cook with your stove, crock pot, or Instant Pot.
You might wonder what are the best freezer meals: crock pot freezer meals, Instant Pot freezer meals, or stove or oven cooked freezer meals. The answer is – all of the above! These days I primarily do Instant Pot freezer cooking, but I do still use my crock pot and some of my meals I cook on the stove top or in the oven.
If you’ve checked out The Holy Mess before, you’ll quickly see I’m a huge fan of the Instant Pot. Using the Instant Pot pressure cooker has been a real game changer because meals can be cooked in it right from frozen.
Be sure to check out the full Instant Pot freezer cooking tutorial here, but one quick Instant Pot tip. You’ll want these 64 ounce round containers for freezing, because then the frozen food fits perfectly into the Instant Pot for cooking.
3. For a month’s worth of meals, plan 2 days of work.
Okay, I’m not going to kid you – freezer cooking is work. Yes, freezer cooking saves you time because you are batch cooking, so everything is done at once. (Brown all the ground beef at once, chop all the onions at once…)
But it’s still work, friends. You are basically condensing down the time and effort you put into meal prep each evening and doing it all in one big swoop.
When I’m doing a month’s worth of meals, I plan 2 full days that I’m not going to get anything else done except cook.
The first day of freezer cooking is shopping and meal prep. The second day is assembly and cooking the meals.
4. Use grocery pick-up or delivery.
I’ve been using Walmart grocery pick-up for awhile and oh my goodness I love it so much. Simply type your shopping list into their ordering system, then go pick up your groceries or have them delivered.
5. Food prep the day before.
Once you have your groceries, ideally you want to do food prep the day before. I typically do my shopping (or grocery pick up) and meal prep on day 1 of freezer cooking, and the rest on day 2.
On food prep day, chop all the vegetables and brown any meat.
This food chopping is a great time-saving device for doing a lot of chopping at once. I use it for onions, celery, carrots and even potatoes.
6. Take care of YOU on assembly day.
Now it’s time for assembly day, and be prepared because this is a day of work. Do all you can to take care of YOU when you are preparing 30 days worth of meals.
Here’s how to take care of YOU on freezer cooking day:
- Wear comfortable shoes. I wear my running shoes because they give me good support. As much as I normally love to go barefoot, not on cooking day.
- Plan a special lunch for awhile you cook – you deserve it! Whether it’s one of the meals you are preparing or something else, you’ll want some good nutrition to keep you going.
- Do dishes as you go. I run my dishwasher several times throughout cooking day plus wash dishes by hand.
- Plan to be exhausted but happy when the day is done. All your hard work will be worth it when your freezer is stocked with delicious, healthy meals.
7. Assemble now – cook later.
Although we call it freezer “cooking”, batch cooking is more about meal prep and assembly, and then the foods are cooked fresh the day your family wants to eat them.
While I do cook some meals from start to finish on freezer cooking day (such as chili or stews), more often I’m assembling meals so that they can be cooked fresh on the day our family enjoys them. This way, pasta, rice, and vegetables are still delicious.
If I have meals that require pasta or rice, I bag these and label them for the pantry so I’m sure I have them when it’s time to serve that meal. I typically freeze a small bag of frozen vegetables or other ingredients together with the freezer meal so it’s all ready to go.
There you go! These 7 incredible freezer cooking hacks will have you meal prepping and freezing cooking like a pro.
Best Freezer Meals: Recipes Your Family Will Love
Now for the fun part! What are some of the best freezer meal recipes? I personally love cheap crock pot meals, Instant Pot dump meals and crock pot dump meals.
I want to be able to quickly dump in the ingredients and press start. As someone who is maintaining a 100 pound weight loss, healthy freezer meals are also important to me.
Here are some of my favorite freezer meal resources:
Do you do freezer cooking? I’d love to hear about it. Share in the comments below.
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*Instant Pot hacks