Make-Ahead Meals and Freezer Cooking Really Will Change Your Life. In a Magical Way!
Benefit 1: Less Time in the Kitchen
First, I need you to understand this. You reap what you sow.
Imagine not having to stress about the drive thru total again, or how much food you’ve wasted this year because it went uncooked and spoiled. Imagine being able to pull food from the freezer and not have to think about cooking. You just have to reheat it and maybe prepare some side dishes to go along with it. Imagine getting dinner on the table without stress, and without spending hours standing in the kitchen after a long day.
You “sow” a few freezer meals, then you’ll reap oodles of time and less mental anguish over the next 2 weeks, when you don’t have to worry about dinner.
And you know what?
MyFreezEasy makes the sowing part super easy with Dump Dinner recipes. These recipes are the easiest meals you will ever put together in your whole entire life. They are called dump dinners because you literally just dump all the ingredients into a bag and go on with your life!
No chopping, no fancy ingredients, no fuss, no chef-experience needed. There’s a whole category dedicated to these easy-peasy recipes and you can find them here.
*can we get a high five for this!*
Second, and this is important. Mark your calendar.
Yes, like write it onto your calendar. And when you do, I suggest that you plan to shop one day/afternoon/evening. And then prepare your meals the next day. (It’s just easier and smoother when you do it this way.)
There’s a nifty little fridge magnet you can use for this too! Plan it, post it, and keep the family informed. “What’s for dinner?” doesn’t even need to be grumbled because they can just look at the fridge! You’re welcome, friend!
Third, you’ve just got to do it.
Just make ten meals. Or even 4 or 6. Just prep them and put them into the freezer. It only takes one hour. A wise woman once said, “If you have time for Netflix, you have time for freezer cooking.” Maybe you could even watch Netflix while you prep your meals. We can coin a new phrase called Netflix & Freeze.
Okay, but really. You have time. I know it, you know it, your dog knows it.
So, just do it and see for yourself how wonderful having meals waiting for you in the freezer really is!
More Time Saving Freezing Strategies…
Set aside a few minutes on the weekend or when you have the energy on a weekday evening and package up what you would normally add to the blender in a quart size freezer baggie. Pour some milk or yogurt into an ice cube tray, then freeze.
To each make ahead smoothie baggie, add a few cubes of frozen milk or yogurt in with your favorite fruits and freeze it all up! When you’re ready to make your smoothie, just dump it all in, add a little water or juice so it will blend well and puree away! You’ll find some great smoothie recipes at the end of the recipe section of the guide. Use those or your favorite smoothie combinations to make 10-20 packages of Make Ahead Smoothie Mixes at a time.
This is a great way to take advantage of sales on produce. You can buy a few extra pineapples when they go on sale for 98¢. Cut them all up and freeze with some bananas and apples or bananas and oranges and there’ll be cheap smoothies ahead for you!
If you ever purchase larger amounts of flour, sugar and other baking ingredients from a warehouse store, then it helps to set aside some time to make some baggies with the mixes pre-measured out. Then you just dump and add the egg, oil, milk and other liquid ingredients for baked goods like pancakes, waffles, muffins, etc. While it takes a few minutes to measure everything out, it sure makes a huge difference on those busy afternoons to have everything pre-mixed and ready to dump.
Because when you have little ones under foot or work full time or are going through a tough time in life, every minute in the kitchen counts!
These baking mixes can be stored in the pantry if they are sealed well, but when I make a huge batch of them I prefer to store them in the freezer. I roll up the labeled bags and place them in a plastic container that fits in my deep freezer with the label facing up. Then I can quickly grab what I need and get to making it.
I don’t usually worry about the flour being cold when I prepare foods, as it warms up quickly in the stand mixer when I’m making the batter. You can always pull it out early to let it warm up to room temperature, but if you forget it’s okay. (I forget all the time!)
Benefit 2: Save Money
Money Saving Freezer Strategies
I would challenge you to utilize the freezer as a money saving tactic. As you watch the sales and prices at the grocery store, please start stocking up on the meats and veggies when you see them on sale. When you see boneless skinless chicken breast on sale for $1.99/lb., I beg of you to please buy enough packages to last until the next sale (usually 6-8 weeks later!) While every grocery store’s sales cycle differ slightly, if you watch your stores closely, you’ll start to notice a pattern of when they offer best prices on meats.
As you slowly begin to fill your freezer with meats and veggies, you’ll discover a shift in the way that you grocery shop and plan your meals. Instead of planning then shopping, you’ll find yourself shopping, filling your pantry and freezer, and THEN planning your meals based on what you purchased at rock bottom prices and what you have in your house!
While both options, meal planning then shopping & shopping then meal planning, are great money saving strategies, I have found that shopping the sales and stocking up, then planning around what you have on hand is the best way to save more money in the long run.
Here’s a peek of what that looks like…
Week 1 – chuck roasts and split chicken breasts are on sale. Organic baby carrots are on sale, as are yellow onions and sweet potatoes.
Shopping Plan: Purchase 3-4 roasts, 3-4 packages of split chicken breasts, 3-4 bags of baby carrots, an extra bag of yellow onions, and triple the amount of sweet potatoes you would normally purchase.
Freeze Plan: Marinate the beef roasts & chicken pieces, or just freeze them and marinate later. Freeze the baby carrots to use in soups or stews. Chop up or slice and freeze the extra bag of onions to use in soups, stews, sauces and fajitas. Make a triple batch of mashed sweet potatoes and freeze what you don’t eat for dinner that night.
Week 2 – Pork chops are on sale, as are celery and the last of the strawberries for the season.
Shopping Plan: Purchase 3-4 packs of pork chops, and extra stalk of celery, and as many strawberries as you can fit into your budget.
Freeze Plan: Marinate the pork chops, or just freeze them and marinate later. Chop up the celery and freeze in 2 cup portions to use for soups, stews and casseroles. Remove the stems from the strawberries and flash freeze (details in Freezing Tutorials section) to use in smoothies later.
Week 3 – it goes on and on.
After a few weeks, you’ll have all kinds of food in your freezer and pantry to start making up meals. Eventually your shopping list will be just fresh produce, dairy and bread. Then, you’ll need to purchase more meat when it goes on sale again and keep the rotation going. Just remember to keep enough on hand for what your family needs.
Over time, you’ll fall into a nice rhythm and will enjoy all kinds of savings, too!
Shop the Sales
Shopping sale items at your grocery store is a great way to save money, but when buying produce, you can only use so much before it goes bad. If you plan to make a few freezer meals out of your fresh (and on sale!) ingredients, you can make more meals at a lower cost.
Meat is another great ingredient to buy when it is on sale and put into a freezer meal. Meat is often the most expensive part of any meal, so buying it on sale helps you save! Most meals last about 3 months in the freezer – so you have plenty of time to eat them!
Other great items to buy while they are on sale (or with a coupon): pasta sauce, rice, beans, canned and frozen vegetables, and soup.
If plan to make a bunch of meals, you can also buy in bulk- without being scared it will go to waste. Buying in bulk is always less expensive than smaller portions.
Buy meat on sale & prep meals —> huge grocery savings in the long run
MyFreezEasy offers monthly themed meal plans for “All Chicken Recipes” and “All Ground Beef Recipes” and “All Pork Recipes” so that you can make meals for your freezer with the meat that’s on sale at your grocery store. We update these every month with new recipes. Keep scrolling to get a copy of this month’s all meat plans!
(Want to really dig deeper on your grocery spending habits? Tap below to check out my free workshop!)
A Story of a Sweet Potato Deal
The potatoes were sweet, but so was the deal.
Just before Thanksgiving, I ran into the grocery store to grab a few things for my 3rd son’s birthday gathering. We had a few of his buddies over to our house to play games and celebrate him turning 9. I had my 2 younger boys with me, which is really rare! (I go to great lengths to shop alone, sometimes even at 10 pm when they’re all asleep!)
Sweet potatoes were NOT on my list…but they were quickly added to my list when I saw that they were $.12/lb. (Yes, you’re reading that right!) That’s 22 lbs for $2.66!!! Also, they had some from a local farm that were ginormous! I quickly decided to grab as many as would fit into the top of the little cart and ended up with 12 giant sweet potatoes.
Now, what do you do when you find sweet potatoes on sale?!
You buy as many as you think you can handle, then cook and freeze them. This is how “$5 Dinners” works…I now have 6 hefty side dish servings that cost me a total of $.30 each. Doing this helps me keep the overall meal costs LOW, and I don’t have to fuss about cooking these later (other than reheating!). Win-Win! I only cooked 8 of the 12 for the freezer…the rest we used for our holiday meal!.
P.S. Cooking these sweet potatoes was NOT on my list of things to do that day, and it was already a busy day…but I managed to squeeze in getting them going in the Instant Pot and oven, and then once they were cooked and cooled off, I mashed them and put them in the freezer. Probably a total of 10 minutes for part 1 and 10 minutes for part 2.
Read my step by step sweet potato journey here.
Skip the Drive Thru Line
Do you ever come home from an evening of running the kids around, errands, or meetings and have no idea what to eat for dinner? Oftentimes, that leads to taking the family out to dinner – and that can really add up! Save money by having great meals at home.
Drive thru —> food budget disaster.
Eating at home is the best way to save on food. Having an easy dinner ready to go in your freezer saves you from eating out.
Let’s face it – sometimes we forget what ingredients we have in our fridge. And then they go to waste – that is like throwing money in the trash! If you have a plan for all of your ingredients before you buy them, you are much more likely to use up everything- and save money.
After you get in the habit of freezer meals, it will become second nature to freeze food before it spoils. Vegetables can be frozen and later used in soups, condiments can be used for sauces, and cheese can top lasagna.
Food waste —> major guilt for the loss of food and the wasted money
Buy in Bulk
This is how my love of freezer cooking started! This is where the magic happened. I wanted to save money, so I created my own freezer meal plans using only bulk ingredients. These plans went crazy on the internet and you can still find them in our online store today!
Freezer cooking allows you to utilize bulk prices, because with your freezer meal plan you are confident all of it will be used in meals. Goodbye food waste, overspending, and stress! Hello confidence!
Speaking of confidence…
Benefit 3: Gain Confidence
Freezer cooking requires very minimal kitchen skills. Instead of cooking, you could really think of it as tossing ingredients together. Anyone can do it, you don’t need a chef hat. You toss together a few ingredients, yet the end result looks impressive and even tastes good. Maybe even great! You don’t need special ingredients, labor intensive recipes, or fancy chopping skills to get a delicious, wholesome meal on the table.
Freezer meals provide an easy, achievable way to feed your family wholesome meals. Not only are the wholesome, but you will have the time and energy to actually sit down, enjoy the food and have some real conversations. That’s the ultimate goal, right? Enjoying good food with people you love.
Benefit 4: Health
Freezer meals are an essential resource when following a dietary plan or working towards a healthy eating goal. It’s the ultimate way to skip a long list of excuses, because there is always food waiting in your freezer that is compliant to your needs or goals.
Freezer meals don’t stop at special dietary needs. You can find plenty of recipes that fit even the most unique diets. Having meals already put together removes the stress of dinnertime. Meals can also be portioned out as needed, if your family has a variety of different dietary needs and preferences.
Benefit 5: Have it Your Way – A Variety of Cooking Methods
There’s a freezer meal stigma that we need to talk about. It has to do mushy casseroles, and it needs to stop.
No mushy casseroles here. Freezer meals can be all different types of recipes and can be cooked in many ways. You can bake, grill, slow cook or pressure cook. They can be heated on the stove top in a skillet, dutch oven or sauce pan. You can cook them in a house, you can cook them out and about. (Is this sounding like a Dr. Seuss book yet?)
The point here is, freezer meals are not just mushy casseroles or gooey slow cooker dishes full of cream of mushroom soup. Freezer meals can be literally anything your heart desires. You can feed all kind of people, in all kinds of ways.
- Picky eater? There’s a freezer meal for that.
- Unexpected guests coming over for dinner? There’s a freezer meal for that.
- Following a strict diet? You guessed it, there’s a freezer meal for that!
My Why: Because Life Happens. (And it happens fast!)
It’s Thursday. And it’s going to be a great day.
I get the kids dropped off at school on time. With full lunch boxes and water bottles. And I manage to squeeze a few hours of work into the morning, complete with blog post writing, conference calls and new team member set up. I’ve enjoyed my salad for lunch and then the call comes in…”ELEMENTARY SCHOOL” flashes on my phone.
It’s never good when the school calls you.
It was the nurse.
Stitches are in order after a fall on the playground at recess.
I scoop up the baby, call my mom to see if she can pick up the preschooler, and make my way to the school to pick up the older 2 kids and head to the pediatric urgent care. It wasn’t a major cut, and I didn’t feel the need for a trip to the hospital emergency room. I figured I’d have a shorter wait (and drive) if we went to the nearby urgent care. Also, I had to figure in a trip to the drugstore for the gauze and bandages that we will need for the post-stitches care.
By my calculations, it would be dinner time by the time all this was said and done and I would be completely depleted of all energy from keeping the little folks busy and occupied for hours at the urgent care & drugstore. I wasn’t planning on this little afternoon adventure so I didn’t start the slow cooker earlier in the day.
Well…what to do?!
Rather than call for takeout and spend more $$ than I needed to for the day (urgent care co-pay plus drugstore stop = expensive!), I texted my husband and asked him to pull out some sloppy joe meat and slider buns from the freezer. I told him how to quickly thaw the cooked meat and sauce and reheat it, and when we arrived home the house smelled amazing with the sloppy joe meat gently bubbling on the stove top.
We avoided a $40 restaurant bill on a weeknight when we didn’t need to be spending money on take out.
We all have those days. I have them more often than I prefer, but that’s life. It’s busy, it’s fast, it’s hectic, and sometimes it needs stitches. It helps having backup on these days. Specifically, food-in-the-freezer type backup. And this is what I love about freezer meals. They not only help on afternoons like the ones described above, they also help cut down on overall time spent in the kitchen, and save me just enough mental and emotional energy to get through the dreaded late afternoon witching hour when everyone needs my attention.
I’ve always said that being one step ahead of yourself when it comes to meals – both cooking and planning them – can do wonders on saving time, money and shreds of sanity.
Put an end to dinnertime stress with MyFreezEasy!
It’s more than freezer meal plans…
You choose the recipes your family likes, then MyFreezEasy pulls them together and gives you a customized meal plan with:
- complete recipes plus doubled version to freeze so you can easily prepare and cook your meals
- shopping lists so you can get in and out of the store
- streamlined assembly instructions so you can spend as little time as possible on the freezer meal prep
- downloadable labels with directions for cooking so you know what to do when its time to cook/reheat the meal!
You can create your customized meal plan from your computer, or even from your phone while you are at the grocery store!
Click here for more information about becoming a MyFreezEasy member!