So what is freezer cooking? Freezer cooking is simply freezing a cooked meal or parts of a meal so that it can be reheated and eaten at a later time. The idea is to do your food prep and cooking in bulk so you have several meals to freeze at a time. Freezer meals can be an awesome organizational hack, especially during stressful or busy seasons like having a new baby.
How To Get Started With Freezer Cooking
The Benefits of Make Ahead Meals
1. Easy Weekly Meal Planning
Let me tell you, freezer cooking is great for so many reasons! For starters, it goes really well with the habit of weekly meal planning. It gives you flexibility as there is always a back up meal available.
2. Reduces Stress At Meal Times
Freezer cooking can also help reduce the stress around meal times. This can be a sanity saver for parents of younger children and babies, around dinner time when it seems the whole household melts down at the same time. Well, at least in my household!!
3. Saves Time
Freezer cooking can reduces clean up time and mess around dinner time as you not having to cook every night.
It’s like having a night off cooking without having to buy takeaway!!
It saves you time in preparation as the same tasks can be done at one time. It also saves money on groceries as you can take advantage of specials and buying ingredients like meat in bulk.
Check out my list of easy freezer meals for new moms!
Sounds wonderful! But do I freeze the food before I cook it or after it’s cooked?
Well either! But generally it’s better to freeze a meal that is cooked first. Freezing raw vegetables and then cooking them can make for a very mushy meal!
Crockpot freezer meals or not?
Online enthusiasts of make ahead meals will talk about preparing the ingredients for 15 meals in a hour. You then freeze the raw ingredients and take them out of the freezer to cook in your slow cooker or crock pot for dinner that night.
In theory it sounds amazing! Personally, I am not huge fan of the idea especially as it usually takes less than 10 minutes to chuck fresh ingredients into the crockpot. Think… cooking frozen vegies for a day! No thanks!
Generally, the best way for good freezer meals is to cook first and freeze. Then re-heat and serve.
I’m still not sure. I have tried freezing meals in the past and I didn’t like the taste of the food when it was re-heated.
Frozen Food Tastes Different
True! Frozen food, even when it is packaged properly, will deteriorate over time. Freezing changes the texture and the taste of foods depending on how much water is in the food. For some of us highly sensitive people, OMG the taste and texture difference is really noticeable.
Check out this post for a list of foods that don’t freeze well – How To Freeze Your Food Safely
Best Make Ahead Meals
But interestingly, raw foods like ginger, chili and garlic will have a stronger taste after being frozen. So when choosing what kind of meals to freeze, go for dishes like curry or stews where the flavours will be enhanced by freezing.
Freezing raw vegetables, defrosting and then cooking them will cause them to go mushy. Instead cook fresh vegetables first, put them in a rich sauce and then freeze. Ratatouille or cauliflower cheese are two such dishes that keep well in the freezer as the sauce protects the vegetables.
If you don’t want the pasta in your meal to go too soft on defrosting make sure to cook until just al dente.
Preparing your meals appropriately will make a difference to the taste and texture of the food and your enjoyment of it. To the point you won’t be able to pick whether something has been frozen previously or not! Yes, I am serious!
OK so how do I get started with freezer cooking?
The easiest way to start is to double a meal you are preparing. Then serve one portion immediately and freeze the other portion to use at a later day. If you do this with 2 or 3 meals a week you soon have a handy stockpile of meals in the freezer to choose from.
Now days, this is what freezer cooking looks like for me. I often double or even quadruple the quantity of food I am cooking for dinner. This doesn’t include the pasta or rice component though which I usually make fresh when required.
What if I want to fill my freezer with meals more quickly than that?
Batch Cooking Recipes
You can also plan, prep and cook anything from two weeks to a months worth of meals at once and then freeze. Here’s how to make it easier for yourself…
1. Plan Your Time
Start by planning what you want to do and how are you going to do it. Are you organising a big day of cooking or just double or triple portions?
What recipes do you want to use? You can search freezer cooking recipes online to get a tonne of inspiration.
Once you have decided on your recipes, write out a list of ingredients and the order of what you want to cook.
Hint: Stay simple with your recipe choices.
It is too easy to underestimate how long specific dishes will take to prepare, cook and then clean up afterwards. Or similarly how much energy you will have for the whole task.
2. Prepare Your Ingredients
Secondly, prepare well by buying all your ingredients beforehand in bulk. Decide whether you want to cut up vegetables or cook pasta the day before to save time during your bulk cooking session.
Make sure you have suitable freezer containers or bags available to use and in the required quantity.
3. Organize Your Freezer Meals With Printable Freezer Meal Labels
Or keep it simple and use a sharpie to write on each container/ bag the contents, date and any instructions for serving. You can also use our free printable freezer inventory!
4. Cook Together
Finally, share the work with others. Ask friends or family members to get together for a morning or afternoon to prep and cook together.
I have had a regular bulk cooking day in the past where I got together with my brother. We set aside a whole day to prep and cook a dozen different meals between us. We then swapped meals.
MORE TIPS FOR FREEZING FOOD
- Free Printable Freezer Inventory
- How To Freeze Food Properly
- Freezer Meals For New Moms
- Chest Freezer Organisation