Freezer Meals: The Perfect Solution for Busy Families (Part 2)by on March 9th, 2016
Welcome back for part 2 of our freezer meal cooking series. Freezer meals can be a great option for busy meals–they save time and money.
How to Adapt Recipes for Freezer Cooking?
Decide on the type of freezer meal you want to put together.
Before you start looking at recipes to adapt to freezer cooking you need to first figure out the types of meals that best suit your needs. The worst thing you can do is start cooking up large batches of recipes without having a plan for it. This scenario is typically how people get numerous mystery meals in their freezers.
Freezer meal options:
- Grab and go freezer meals. These meals are completely put together and just need to thaw overnight or get heated up in the microwave when ready to eat. Think frozen breakfast, lunch or dinners like the ones made by Jimmy Dean, Lean Cuisine, and others. Same concept only better (and cheaper) because you control the ingredients.
- Grab and go freezer snacks. These snacks are fully cooked and ready to eat once thawed. For example, granola bars, power bars, muffins, quick breads, and cookies are all example of foods that keep in the freezer for quick healthy snacks.
- Freezer meal mixes. Mixes can include cooked ground beef, meatballs, taco meat, shredded chicken, shredded pork, cooked beans, and rice. It can also include uncooked baked goods such as cookie, pizza, and bread dough. Having freezer meal mixes provides flexibility when putting together a menu plan. Freezer meal mixes are perfect for someone just starting out with freezer cooking. They are easy to make and don’t require you to put an entire freezer meal together. Most likely you are eating meals right now that could easily benefit from having a mix available in the freezer.
- Freezer meal kits. A freezer meal kit is when the meal is frozen in components and then put together when ready to make. Kind of the same concept as mixes but different as you store all the components together in the freezer. For example, a pizza kit would include dough, pizza sauce, cheese, and pepperoni separately bagged then put together as one for the freezer. Place all components into a larger plastic bag and label.
- Fully prepared dinner freezer meals. These are meals that are put together completely ahead of time and then frozen.
Reviewing Recipes to Adapt for Freezer Cooking
Ingredient list: When reading a recipe the question you want to ask yourself is “In what way can this recipe be prepared and frozen ahead of time?”
- Remember it is not always required to cook the entire meal ahead of time. A lot of times it can be just as helpful to prepare a couple of the meals components in advance to freeze.
- Make note of the ingredients that can and cannot be frozen.
Directions: Next look at the cooking directions of a recipe and decide whether the meal should be prepared completely, only up to a certain point, and/or when certain ingredients should be added.
- The point in the cooking directions you decide to freeze will depend on the ingredients, preparation, and the type of freezer meal you want.
Simple Strategies for a Successful Freezer Cooking Sessions
- Start with an organized clean kitchen and freezer. Clutter and mess almost always leads a person to feeling 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 to your grocery list. There is nothing worse than having a kitchen full of food and no containers to store it in.
- Pick easy tried and true recipes that you can double or triple. There is no need to be super chef and create elaborate recipes. Depending on the amount of time pick about 5-7 healthy recipes that your family enjoys.
- Make meal starters and complete meals. It is important to note that you do not always have to put together complete meals. Meal starters such as shredded chicken, shredded pork, rice, beans, etc. are great time savers.
- Have recipes available to refer to.
- Start right away the recipes that can go in a small kitchen appliance. Before starting any cooking on the stovetop 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.
- Prepare one food group at a time. When freezer cooking break the session up by food. For example, start with beef recipes; move on to poultry, and then finish up with pork and fish. After you are done with meats, move on to vegetarian recipes and/or baking. When finished cooking with raw meats, sanitize your cupboards before going on to the other recipes.
- 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 than 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. 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.
Well, this wraps up our series on freezer meals. What do you think? Are you a fan of freezer meals? Do you currently make freezer meals? If so, do you have any tips you can share with us?