How Freezer Cooking Saves Money
You may be wondering “Does freezer cooking save money?” After buying all the groceries, storage containers, and better part of a day cooking, you may think that freezer meal prep is too expensive and time-consuming.
It’s actually the opposite! I have found that eating home-cooked vegetable-filled meals is not only healthier for me and my family, but also cheaper.
Having a well-stocked freezer saves even more money by removing the temptation of takeout. It also saves prep, cooking, and cleanup time during the week so you can enjoy time with your family.
I’ll show you the steps I use in order to plan out and stock my freezer with easy meals my family loves. This method can be used for any recipe style that suits you.
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Ways Freezer Cooking Saves Money
Initially, it seems counterintuitive that buying a large amount of food at once saves money on groceries. But it really does! Not sure how large your grocery budget should be? Learn what the average food budgets are for most.
Below, I go over the reasons why freezer cooking is a great way to save money on groceries, eat healthier food, and end up with more family time.
Buy Bulk Food Items
Typically with freezer cooking, you’re doubling or even tripling a recipe. This allows you to take advantage of the Costco-sized bag of vegetables since you’ll be using them all up.
Bulk-sized produce and dry goods from bulk bins all cost less per unit size.
Prevents Unplanned Grocery Shopping
Making enough meals to eat for a month cuts down on the number of times you go to the grocery store. You may still need to get breakfast or lunch foods but the frequency will drastically be cut.
Even if you bring a grocery list, people typically leave with more than they had on the list. Impulse purchases or seeing products on sale are marketing tactics to get you to buy.
Fewer Convenience Foods
Pre-cut vegetables and meals-to-go are all convenience foods. They’re designed to be enticing to grab when you’re hungry and short on time.
Since you’re dedicating a day and planning out your meals, you won’t need to grab on-the-go snacks and meals. Along with being convenient, their prices are substantially marked up.
No More Takeout
Well, probably not “no more” takeout. BUT if you already have dinners planned out, it makes the convenience of ordering out no more convenient than heating a freezer meal.
Since you’ve already spent the money and time to prepare the food, you’re more likely to eat your healthier meals at home. The key to making your freezer meals more appealing than takeout is to make sure you have a few indulgent meals stored away.
After working, shuttling kids around, helping the kids out with homework, and trying to squeeze in “me time”, there’s little time left for making nightly dinners.
By meal prepping, you’re dirtying up your kitchen once a month instead of the daily stress of kitchen prep and cleanup. You’ll end up with more time for you and your family and end up healthier and happier.
How Long Do Freezer Meals Last?
Generally, a frozen meal can last 3 months in a standard freezer before it may start showing signs of freezer burn. Deep freezers that aren’t opened as frequently can keep meals fresh for 4-6 months
This is only an estimation though. If you properly stored the food, got most of the air out of the container, and don’t open the freezer often, the freezer meals may last longer.
If you aren’t sure, when you pull out the meal to thaw and it doesn’t look freezer burnt, then it’s probably good. Check out this guide from the FDA on fridge and freezer storage estimates.
✅ This is what we used to store freezer meals in an apartment. It tucks out of the way perfectly!
Tips For Planning Freezer Meals
Starting to plan freezer meals can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. The following tips will help you in planning your freezer meals to make the process as easy and painless as possible.
1) Setting Yourself Up For Success
Setting yourself up for success is the key to sticking your health and food goals. This could be to eat healthier or start a new way of eating (plant-based, keto, no oil, etc.)
My favorite way to do this is to make sure my freezer is stocked with meals. I make sure to have some meals that are quick to grab like burritos and others that are hearty like lasagnas and stews.
Label each meal with the date, what it is, and how to heat it up. Otherwise, it’s difficult to tell what’s what once it’s frozen.
These are my favorite ways to store freezer meals. They hold up well and are easy to pop into the oven without transferring the food first.
2) Finding Recipes That Do Well In The Freezer
I know what I’ll want to grab after a long day so I make sure that’s what I have stocked. A few days before the freezer meal cooking day, I gather my recipes together.
My favorite way to do this is by looking up recipes on Pinterest or these books. Browse through your family’s favorite recipes to see if any of them might make good freezer meal candidates.
In the next section, I show you how to assess a recipe and determine if it will make a good freezer meal.
3) Make An Ingredients List
Once you’ve around 5-6 recipes, write out your shopping list. Try to use up as many of the items in your pantry as possible before buying more. This is a great way to use up food odds and ends.
My pasta casseroles usually are a mixture of the rotini, penne, and elbow noodles that I hadn’t finished. Hey, they still taste the same. If the recipes include beans or rice, go to your local bulk bins grocer to save even more money.
Make sure to go over your list two or three times before heading out. You don’t want that pit in your stomach feeling when you go to grab something in the middle of cooking 4 recipes only to find that it didn’t make your list.
4) Plan A Shopping Day
I find grocery shopping to be mentally taxing. Maybe it’s the fluorescent lights and how they seem to keep rearranging the aisles every other week?
Whatever it is, I recommend not to shop on the same day you intend to cook. Instead, shop a few days beforehand and set those ingredients aside so that they aren’t accidentally eaten for your freezer meal cooking day.
5) Prep Beforehand
If you want to drastically cut down the time of the batch cooking day, get as much of the food prepped beforehand. This includes washing produce, soaking nuts and dried beans, and even making part of a recipe ahead of time.
Chopping produce is time-consuming so try to do that the day before. Store the ingredients in reusable airtight containers ready for the next day.
My favorite way to store most items is in Mason jars that are rated for freezing. They’re completely reusable and I haven’t had one crack yet.
For lasagnas and casseroles, I’ll use a glass baking sheet with a cover stuffed into a freezer bag to prevent freezer burn.
How To Choose A Recipe For Freezer Meals:
Not every recipe will make a good freezer meal. Some foods become too mushy or soggy after being frozen.
Even if a recipe would make a good frozen meal, there are some guidelines when picking recipes to cook together. Here are some things to consider when choosing the recipes to cook on the freezer cooking day.
1) Use Recipes With Some Overlap
Since the goal is to cook as many meals as you can in as little time as possible, it makes the most sense to have some overlap with the recipes.
If one recipe calls for chickpeas, look for another that uses them as well so you can cook a larger batch to be used with both recipes.
Same with slightly more time-consuming items like cashew ricotta. Make a larger batch but use it in a few of the recipes.
You can use similar ingredients but still ensure the flavors are different by using completely different seasonings. Nothing more boring for your tastebuds than having the same meal over and over again.
2) Find Recipes That Aren’t Time Consuming
Freezer meals aren’t the time to try out new cooking techniques. If you want to try your hand at flambéing, freezer meal day is not the day.
Save your more adventurous cooking exploits for other days of the week when that’s all you will be focusing on.
This also applies to recipes with multiple cooking steps. Stick with recipes whose focus is sauteing and then dumping it in a pot.
Soups and stews are great for this. Make a huge batch and portion it out into smaller serving sizes since no one wants to eat the same stew for 6 days straight.
3) Instant Pot Freezer Meal Recipes
An Instant Pot is the perfect tool to use to prepare the longer cooking items like dried beans. Once you add all the ingredients, you can set it and forget it while focusing on prepping other ingredients.
You can even find entire recipes to cook in the Instant Pot that will hold up well in the freezer. Some people opt to have a larger and smaller sized electric pressure cooker so they can have multiple cooking at once.
4) Slow Cooker Recipes
Try to choose one recipe that works in a slow cooker. This will be that night’s dinner after a long day of cooking. By doubling the recipe, you will also have some of it to add to your freezer stash.
Here are some of my favorite places to find slow cooker recipes.
Tips For A Short Freezer Cooking Day
You’ve finally made it to meal prep day! With all of the prior planning, this day will be a breeze albeit long.
These following tips will help make your freezer cooking day faster:
- Get the slow cooker recipe going first since once that’s going, it’s pretty much done.
- Move onto anything you can cook in the Instant Pot since once set up, it doesn’t require any more focus.
- Soups/stews on the stovetop are next since, again, they don’t require much attention once going.
- Lastly, focus on lasagnas and casseroles. Those are the most time consuming and you can focus on them when all the other meals are started.
Once all is cooked, I let it cool and then portion it out. I like to portion everything into 2-4 person servings, except the lasagnas/casseroles. If you had smaller dishes it’d be easy to portion those down.
Before anything makes it into your freezer, write what the food is, date, and reheating instructions on a piece of masking tape. Stick the tape to the top of the container so that it doesn’t fall off.
Seriously, soups/stews look the same once frozen. I didn’t label some of the meals the first time I meal prepped and it was like playing roulette with my dinner for the next month.
How To Make Freezer Meals Without A Batch Cooking Day
If everything I explained above sounds entirely too overwhelming, I have a less intense alternative for you.
When I first started out, I did what I called “gradual freezer meal cooking.” It’s super simple and if you’re already cooking nightly dinners, you’ll hardly notice a change.
Gradual Freezer Meal Cooking
All you do is double the normal recipes you’re making for the week. If you’re already chopping one onion, chopping a second onion isn’t going to add much additional prep time.
By doubling your weeknight recipes, you have an entire meal’s worth of food that you can save for the freezer.
This is a great option if a marathon cooking extravaganza sounds about as fun as kicking rocks. It’s also perfect if you don’t have a deep freezer and can only utilize your fridge/freezer combo.
Additional Freezer Meal Questions
The following questions are the most asked questions I receive about freezer meal cooking and storing.
Do You Cook Freezer Meals Before Freezing?
You don’t necessarily have to cook your freezer meals before they go into the freezer. It depends on the recipe and how those foods hold up in the freezer.
If your meals will end up in a slow cooker, cooking over a long period of time, you may not want to have pre-cooked the food since it may become too mushy.
Other recipes such as casseroles, soups, and curries hold up well in the freezer precooked. You can even portion out raw smoothie ingredients to freeze for quick to grab meals.
What Is The Best Container To Freeze Food In?
The best containers to freeze food in are ones that are stackable, creating a tight seal, and reusable.
To store food in the freezer without plastic, opt for glass or metal containers. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Wide-mouth Mason Jars (freezer safe)
- Individual glass containers with lids
- Divided glass containers with lids
- Stainless Steel containers with lids
Can Freezer Burn Make You Sick?
Freezer burned foods will have an “off” taste. The texture, color, and taste won’t be as flavorful. This doesn’t automatically mean the food is bad and will make you sick though.
For small freezer burnt areas, you can cut that area off before cooking and eating. It’s best to trash the food if it smells strange after you thaw it just to be safe since that may mean it was improperly frozen and has gone bad.
Now that I’ve gotten more comfortable cooking, I don’t mind a marathon cooking session once every month or so. I’ll find recipes on Monday and make my grocery list, grocery shop on Thursday, prep ingredients on Friday, and cook all day Saturday.
My end results are enough meals to give myself weeks-long cooking breaks. And we save a lot of money by not ordering pizza or greasy take out. In our house, we can definitively say that freezer cooking saves money.
I’d love to know what your family’s go-to freezer meals are!
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