If you are anything like me, chances are you don’t love the idea of feeding your kids fast food every night, but your nights are busy, and between homework, soccer, piano, etc. getting a hot meal on the table EVERY NIGHT is daunting.
This is why I do a freezer meal cooking day each month. I make about 10 meals to keep in my freezer to take the hassle out of dinnertime. It helps me save time and money! (I used to make far more than this, but now 10 works for our needs)
Here’s the thing, if you don’t do freezer meal cooking right, you won’t like it. You won’t eat it. And it won’t save you time or money. So I am going to share some of my best tips:
What to Prepare
Make what you already love to eat.
Some foods you like can’t be made in advance and frozen. But chances are there are some steps you can do to make those foods easier to prepare day of.
For example, Orange Chicken. This is a breaded and fried chicken, so not something I would make to completion and freeze. What I do is mix the sauce, and cut the chicken into bite size pieces, and I bag it all up with easy to follow instructions put right on the bag, so even Dad can make it for dinner!
Only make how much you can eat in a month.
I know that in theory it sounds awesome to make 30 meals in one day and have all your dinners prepared for the month. However, sometimes you don’t eat everything, or you go out to dinner, or to a friend’s house. So those meals may sit for a long time. And may even get freezer burn. Plan appropriately, make only what you think you will eat, and be sure to store properly with double wrapping and bagging.
When making freezer meals, you can do simple things to make the whole process faster and easier. These are my favorite tricks.
- Label containers/bags before filling them. Trust me, taking a few minutes to write out the name, date, and prep instructions on the bags before doing any food prep will make the rest of the day easier.
- Use cups to make filling bags with liquids easier. Put a big cup down on your counter, and place your freezer bag inside of it, as if it were a garbage can liner. This holds the bag in place, allowing you to fill it with liquids without hassle. This is great for things like Lemon Chicken sauce, or Beef and Broccoli sauce.
- Use Can Bandz to hold your garbage bag in place: What do they do? Can Bandz secure liners to trash cans. This makes it a lot easier when you are cooking in bulk because you aren’t going to have to fix your can liner while trying to dump chicken trimmings, fat, and vegetable ends and peelings into the can. These 7″ x 1/8″ black rubber bands fit 13 quart to 32 gallon containers. This means they are great for almost any kitchen garbage can. They are a really simple product, but a real lifesaver for me when I am trying to get my monthly freezer meal cooking done.
- Cut everything, then assemble: Sweet and Sour Chicken and Orange Chicken both require bite sized chicken pieces. So cut them both at the same time, then fill bags, and last make the sauces.
- Have a good plan: If you are making Lasagna Roll Ups, Taco Soup, and Hamburger Gravy over rice, for instance, you could brown all your ground beef at once, rather then three separate times. Try to evaluate what you are making and the logical order for preparation. A little planning saves a lot of time.
For today’s freezer meal cooking day I was preparing food for my sister to feed my kids while my husband and I are on a much-needed vacation. So my goal was to have foods she could just pop into the oven or crock pot. That means my bag meals are out, as they do take prep on the day of. And instead I made:
And a new recipe: BBQ Chicken Casserole
This recipe is everything you would barbeque on the grill, but together in one pan. We love it. Plus it is really easy to make and freeze!
Last but not least I wanted to reiterate how useful Can Bandz are on a freezer cook day. My garbage can has a lid, so for everyday use I do not rely on Can Bandz as heavily, but on a freezer cook day, things are fast paced, I am trying to maintain a tight schedule, and not let something on the stove burn while chopping up something else. This means I do not want to mess with lifting the lid, or dealing with a slipping liner, I hate having to clean out spilled foods in the can, so these are wonderful.
Can Bandz are really stretchy rubber bands that you put around the outside of the can to hold the liner in place. They work well on both large and small cans. I have not tried any other brands, but I don’t have to, as these really do the job.
They keep the bag in place while you compact the trash. This is huge for me because I don’t like emptying the can a million times, but in the past I had to fish the side of the liner out of the can because when I pushed down on cardboard boxes and empty milk jugs (mmm, I should probably recycle) the liner would slip.
These are not only great for freezer cooking, it is also great for keeping the liner in place when doing yardwork. And you might find yourself reaching for one when a regular rubber band won’t do the trick!
You can order them at www.officesupply.com or try your luck at winning a set here. Entry is easy.
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I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.