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Day 6: Get into Freezer Cooking

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Get into Freezer Cooking | 31 Days of Living Well & Spending Zero | Freezer Cooking 101 | 35 FREEZER MEAL IDEAS
This is the sixth day of our 31 Days of Living Well & Spending Zero challenge.  Start with Day One here.

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It’s no secret that I am a big fan of freezer cooking, especially easy-to-make “cheater” freezer meals. Not only are they great timesavers, they’re also great money savers. Just imagine … you open your freezer to find an array of delicious options that are all ready to heat up. Unlike typical store-bought convenience meals, you know exactly what’s in them. Why? Because you made them yourself!

If you’re as busy as I am (which I’m sure you are!), you already know there are some nights when making dinner seems like an insurmountable task. For many of us, that means takeout, fast food, or less-than-healthy options. (Fish sticks and tater tots, anyone?) Freezer meals help you plan ahead and take the stress out of dinner on those busy weeknights.

It’s so hard to find the time for cooking dinner between working from home, changing diapers, and housework. This is going to make meal planning so much easier! —Allison

The other advantage of freezer meals is that you can stretch your ingredients by using them in multiple recipes. Have you ever had a recipe call for half a can of something? What the heck can you do with half a can? Making freezer meals means you can use up the whole can and enjoy your favorite meals whenever you want.

Even though we’re Living Well and Spending Zero, I always use the following criteria to ensure these meals make the cut.

In my house, each freezer meal must be:

  • Deemed delicious by both my kids and my husband (plus additional testers!)
  • Require no precooking (aside from browning ground beef)
  • Freezer friendly (needless to say!)
  • Easy to cook
  • Budget friendly: made with inexpensive ingredients and pantry staples (just one reason these recipes are perfect for the Living Well and Spending Zero challenge!)

Freezer Cooking 101

Freezer cooking uses the principle of mass assembly. Your kitchen becomes a production line, where a week’s (or even a month’s) worth of meals can be created from start to finish and assembled in just an afternoon. In fact, I’ve come up with several plans that contain go-to foolproof recipes that can be used to create ten freezer meals in about an hour (see recipes below).

If you’re new to freezer cooking, you’re going to want to take it slow and do a little planning. The good news is you’re on a zero spending challenge right now, so most of your “shopping” should come from your own pantry, keeping your costs to the barest minimum. Don’t be afraid to substitute ingredients or get creative when necessary!

Go through your list of ingredients from your pantry and freezer (from Day 2) and your list of meal and recipe ideas (from Day 3). Are there a few recipes on your list that can be made ahead and might freeze well? Pick four or five meal ideas to start, and double each recipe so you end up with about ten meals.

I’ve got seven kids, and I am right on the brink of my busy season with baseball x2, swim team x2, swimming lessons x2, and marching band x3, all of which happen over the dinner hour. This is the time of year when I stock my freezer with meals. Thanks for getting me off to a great start all in the same place! —Jennifer

Once you have your meal list ready, create a prep sheet and action plan for assembling your recipes. Include cooking instructions and times as well. Be sure your kitchen is ready to go: dishes should be clean and ready to cook. Pots, pans, and counter space should be at the ready.

Freezer friendly meals are a great way to prep dinners ahead of time.

Always note common ingredients across multiple recipes and prepare them all at once. For example, if several recipes require chopped onions or browned ground beef, take care of all your chopping or browning in one fell swoop. Open all your cans and boxes at the same time, lay out all your ingredients, and go!

Most of the freezer recipes at LivingWellSpendingLess.com are “cheater” recipes—ones that require little to no cooking—so you can just toss all your ingredients in a Ziploc bag, slap on a label, and stick them in the freezer. Mix and match the recipes below or make them all, depending on what you have on hand. To cook, you simply dump your recipe of choice in the crockpot, heat, and eat. It is literally that simple.

If you’re still nervous, check out our 7 Easy Tips for Freezer Cooking Like a Pro. You’ll be freezer cooking like it’s no sweat in no time!

I’m reading this, and it’s all doable! No fancy ingredients, and yes, these are all pantry items I actually do have in my pantry! —Susie

35 FREEZER MEAL IDEAS

Tackle one set of freezer meals (choose one part to start), or use this list as a jumping-off point for your own freezer meal plan ideas. Each set of five recipes is designed so that you can assemble ten freezer meals in only one hour!

Part 1: The Original

Honey Lemon Garlic Chicken

Oh-So-Easy London Broil

Quick and Easy Taco Soup

Orange Glazed Pork Chops

Creamy Italian Chicken

Cook these ten awesome freezer meals in just one hour.

Get the complete Part 1 freezer cooking meal plan here.

 

Part 2: Summer Favorites

Coconut Lime Chicken

Easy Slow-Cooked Ribs

Easy Honey Dijon Chicken

Easy Freezer Pulled Pork

Hawaiian Chicken

These ten freezer meals come together in just an hour.
Get the complete Part 2 freezer cooking meal plan here.

 

Part 3: Easy Comfort Foods

Grandma’s Sloppy Joes

Herb Roasted Chicken Breast

Easy Slow Cooker Pot Roast

Easy Tomato Parmesan Chicken

Slow Cooked Pork Tenderloin

These ten dinners are freezer friendly and easy.

Get the complete Part 3 freezer cooking meal plan here.

 

Part 4: Easy Winter Classics

Cheesy Chicken and Rice Casserole

Easy Freezer Ham and Bean Soup

Simple Cranberry Chicken

Balsamic Roast Beef

Sweet and Spicy Chinese Chicken

Prepare these ten freezer meals in one hour.

Get the complete Part 4 freezer cooking meal plan here.

 

Part 5: Flavorful Favorites

Freezer-to-Crockpot Chicken Fajitas

Crockpot Beef Burritos

Kale and White Bean Soup with Sausage

Creamy Mushroom Pork Chops

Honey Sesame Chicken

These ten tasty meals come together in just one hour.

Get the complete Part 5 freezer cooking meal plan here.

 

Part 6: Global Flavors

Easy Thai Chicken

Easy Pesto Chicken

Grilled Steak Tacos

Easy Greek Chicken

Easy Freezer Bacon and Blue Cheese Burgers

These ten freezer friendly meals are easy to cook.

Get the complete Part 6 freezer cooking meal plan here.

 

Part 7: Fresh Flavors

Simple Summer Chicken Sandwich

Spice Rubbed Steak Salad

Easy Chicken Satay

White Bean Chili

Easy Crockpot Lettuce Wraps

These ten freezer friendly meals are easy and tasty.

Get the complete Part 7 freezer cooking meal plan here.

Again, be sure to consider what you have on hand when you create your freezer meal menu for today’s challenge. If you have meat on hand, try a few of my meat recipes.

Love these recipes and you give great steps to make it easier to follow along. Freezer meals have become a staple in my household, and I love finding new recipes. —Suzanne

Freezer cooking is a great way to save money, time, and sanity. After today’s challenge, you’ll feel like you have a handle on what to eat for the month, and you’ll know exactly how to use up all those pantry ingredients you just discovered on Day 1. Freezer meals help you stretch your staples and keep your family happy and full!

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Throughout this challenge, there will be many different worksheets and printables for you to use. I suggest you print them out and organize them together in a binder or folder so you can journal as you go.

Label your cooked freezer meals to stay organized.

13 Comments

  1. October 6 at 08:07AM

    Love, love, love freezer cooking – and what a timely post as I’m in the process of restocking my freezer meals! It’s such a great way to save. Right now, I’m looking through the meats I have in the freezer to see what meals I will make. Also, I love the new blog design, Ruth! Beautiful!

  2. October 6 at 12:07PM

    I used to be really good about freezer cooking but I got out of the habit. I really need to get back into it! It really saves you from eating out when you can pull something out of the freezer and have a nice homemade dinner quickly.

  3. October 6 at 02:06PM

    I tried making a batch of freezer meals at the end of August. I didn’t exactly plan things correctly and could have made things MUCH less expensive if I tried, but I was still able to make 10 meals (vegetarian though) for under $50. It’s just me and the boyfriend but we still have one more meal left in the freezer. Granted, we’ve supplemented with other things like pasta or a salad so we don’t get sick of food straight out of the crock pot but we’re really excited about it! We plan to do another session this weekend and I’ve already started soaking dried black beans so I can just use a $0.99 pound of beans instead of 5 $0.89 cans of black beans on our next batch. It’s super exciting! 😀

  4. October 6 at 02:48PM

    Thank you so much for having some non crackpot meals here. I am a mess with crackpots most of the time. Since I work away from home I am gone for too much of the day. I am so excited to try some of these meals!
    I made note of the lettuce wraps for a weekend treat because I can’t help myself.

  5. October 6 at 06:49PM

    What a fantastic resource! I’m pinning for future reference!

  6. October 6 at 08:09PM

    Hi Ruth,

    Thank you for sharing all these great recipes. There is only the two of us home now so I don’t freeze a lot of meals but I think they would be great when we head away camping for a few days. I can take a couple of meals in bags, stowed away in our camp fridge then hubby can barbecue or bake them up. Yummy!

    Cheers – Joolz xx

  7. Bonshell
    October 6 at 10:46PM

    HELP! I have 5 windows open right now, 2 of which are on FB, trying to get the freezer cooking plans. I am in a loop, getting nowhere.

  8. October 7 at 05:20AM

    I started preparing meals this way after getting my daughter to eat vegetable / meat purees. I cannot cook a small cup (as she was eating months ago), since it made absolutely no sense. And she’s not eating store bought baby food (not that I liked the idea either, after looking at the ingredients and the amount of salt some had in them).

    So, I’d make a huge chicken soup with a lot of veggies (and I mean a lot :)), then blend the meat/veggies and put in small containers for the freezers. I’d have about 7-9 meals already planned (we do have a small freezer) that would allow me to not waste any more time during those days. I’d also cook other things (that could be cooked for her daily) – such as spinach for instance) and we’d be set for at least 2-3 weeks.

    I plan on getting this further with our own meals, the only issue is that we do need to get a bigger freezer by then,

  9. Samantha
    October 7 at 11:04AM

    Saw some other print outs in the day 6 video you did and wanted to know where is the link to print them out

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