Freezer meals have become a huge staple in our family, as one of my priorities is to save money in any way that I can. We were spending $400 a month on groceries and I felt like I could do better: so I did.
With freezer meals, I am able to save us at least $300 a month in grocery expenses. Additionally, it also saves me time in the kitchen, which ultimately gives me more time with my husband. The best part is that one freezer meal run can last us 2-3 months, depending on how many meals we can create! You may be wondering what the term “freezer meals” even means or what it involves! I want to give you a glimpse into my way of doing freezer meals in hopes that you may incorporate it into your own lifestyle and save more time and money!
Freezer meals, in a nutshell, are meals that you prepare in advance and store in your freezer to reheat later. Some can be fully cooked beforehand and others can be simply prepped raw. Different recipes call for different preparation techniques.
Now that you know what freezer meals are, I want to teach you how to do them!
I should mention that there are many different ways to do freezer meals. Pinterest is full of all kinds of ideas and strategies, but I have my own system of planning and preparing for freezer meals.
1. I pick my recipes.
This is a very important step because everything else stems from it. Picking the recipes you want to do freezer meals for can be complicated, because there are many things to consider. Do you want super healthy meals? Will your family really eat 6-10 broccoli casseroles? Is this recipe expensive to make? How much room do you have in your freezer? All of these things matter when considering different recipes.
I like to pick my go-to recipes and put them into a little book as a freezer meal archive. This way, I can flip through and pick 5 or 6 recipes that sound good for this run and choose completely different ones for the next run.
2. I evaluate the cost.
This step can really make or break the cost-saving aspect of freezer meals. Here, you want to pick and choose from your recipe bundle and create a balance between really affordable recipes and semi-costly recipes. If you have too many high-cost recipes in one freezer meal run, that could really put you over your budget.
Also, this is a great time to mention that I pray before every shopping trip that God would stretch my dollar and help me as I shop! I believe He is the key reason this has been such a great thing for us. I also shop at Walmart Supercenter to help keep me under budget. I know the produce at high-end grocery stores is amazing, but it could easily put you over $100 in the long run. When you are buying in bulk, it’s important to save every penny you can.
This brings up another great point. Evaluate which items are worth sticking with and which ones are better to purchase their generic copycat. I know firsthand that some items are just better when they are the real deal. I totally get it, but not everything has to be full price. You can save a ton of money just by opting for the generic brand every once in a while! Good examples of things to choose the generic brand for are pasta, spices, canned veggies, cheese and baking essentials, such as sugar and flour.
3. I make my lists.
I have two lists people – two lists. The first list contains all of my ingredients and their quantities. Here, I plan for how many servings/dinners I want to make out of each recipe. I then figure out how much of each ingredient I need to purchase and list it out. I also consider the necessary way to store and cook each recipe. Some recipes need to be stored in a tin baking tray so that they can be placed right into the oven for cooking. Others can be simply stored in a large freezer Ziploc bag. It’s important to consider each recipe and how those meals need to be stored. Don’t forget to add those storage items to the list.
My second list has each recipe written down in simple terms, just so I know which ingredients go with what. Trust me, there have been many times when I accidentally left out ingredients or I used ingredients for the wrong recipes. It’s just handy to have something for reference.
4. I organize my first list.
This step is an optional step, but I find that it saves me a ton of time and frustration at the grocery store.
What I like to do is visualize the aisles from when I first walk into the grocery store and arrange my list to make it so that I seamlessly pass each item as I see it in the store. It just helps me to not miss items because of it being in the wrong order on my list. I start with produce and end with dairy! This is just my recommendation!
5. I prepare for the shopping trip.
This step is no joke! I make sure I have a little sweater if I get cold in the freezer aisle, wear my comfy shoes, eat before, charge my phone (being that it holds my grocery lists) and even choose a grocery cart with solid wheels and turning abilities. I also make sure to plan on being at the grocery store for at least an hour and a half.
I highly recommend bringing many reusable bags so that you don’t have to pay for plastic bags!
6. I go shopping.
Yes. This is the step where you actually gather your ingredients. I always try to just take my time and make sure I pick fresh ingredients. Check those expiration dates!
My tip for a pleasant shopping experience is going from 7 a.m. – 12 p.m. It’s the least crowded during that time, which really helps when you’re on a mission.
7. I purchase the ingredients.
In this step, I usually have a minor anxiety attack. I do my best to push my heavy cart to the check out line and continue to pile all of my items onto the belt that seems to never move. People will stare, and that’s okay.
What I really feel the need to express is that the cost is always scary upfront. It may be more than you usually pay per week for groceries, but when you consider the fact that you are stretching not only your dollar but your meals over a 2 to 3 month span, you will feel a whole lot better swiping your card. Just breathe!
8. I put all of the groceries away.
This step may sound surprising, but let me be the first to admit that this experience is exhausting. Only once have I purchased the groceries and prepared the freezer meals all in one day – and once was enough for me! I find that I have more energy to prepare the freezer meals when I do them on a different day. It’s just good to put everything away and take a break because preparing the freezer meals can take sometimes half of a day to do (by yourself at least).
9. I do all of the food prep.
This is the time to wash, chop, assemble and season! For some recipes, this step involves browning ground turkey before adding it to the rest of the ingredients to be frozen. For other recipes, this could involve adding everything into a Ziploc bag raw, drizzling in olive oil and shaking it with salt and pepper. Regardless of the particular recipe, this is when you cover tin trays with foil and zip up bags and strategically place them into the freezer.
It may seem a little overwhelming, but keep rearranging different meals around in the freezer until everything fits! It can be a fun challenge!
10. I enjoy the freezer meals.
This is the best part! Depending on what each recipe calls for, you can pop one of your tin meals into the oven and just come back later to enjoy it with little mess. For the Ziploc meals, you can simply cut the bag and place the meal on a skillet to heat it up. You decide which meals to eat when and how to cook them, but you have all of these great dinner options just waiting in your freezer to be devoured at your convenience. You can even give some away to those in need, as it’s all ready to go!
There you have it, folks! It may seem like a lot of work – and it is – but know that in the end, it truly benefits you! I don’t think I could go back to having to get groceries every single week ever again. I love doing freezer meals and it’s a new way of life for us. I’d love to hear your feedback if you have done freezer meals or if you are now planning on giving them a try! Thanks for reading!