When I had my first baby, I kind of thought magical things would happen, like that food would magically appear and my laundry would magically do itself and I wouldn’t be sobbing over a Red Lobster commercial playing from the living room while I nursed my baby for the 10 millionth time that day in a dark room. Luckily, my oldest sister Holley came and rescued me and matched socks and cleaned my bathroom and filled my freezer with meals I could pop into the crock pot after she was gone. Seriously, if you’re ever wondering what you can do for a new mom, you can a) tell her that crying over Red Lobster commercials is totally not weird (even though it kind of is) and b) bring her freezer meals.
When I was getting ready to deliver my daughter, I neurotically cooked and planned and filled my own freezer with meals in the weeks before she was born. I also flew on a plane and went to a zoo when I was 34 weeks along…I feel a lot older this time around.
I kind of thought I’d do that this time. And I still have time. But oh, man, I’m so tired. And I have no room in my freezer. And I really need a freezer in my garage, but that would mean I’d have to clear out space in my garage to put a freezer and that sounds hard. So I’m hoping that telling you guys about how to adapt recipes to cook later, I’ll get overwhelmingly excited to stock my freezer with dinners and skip those 16 and Pregnant re-runs. I’m pretty sure making freezer meals would be way better for my mental health.
One quick thing–I’m talking a little about products that I’ve used and liked and that have worked for me. This post isn’t sponsored in any way. Ziploc, Gladware, Sharpies, and Hello Kitty are not doing me any favors besides being awesome.
Now…I’m not a freezer meal expert. There are blogs and books and people who do this all the time. However, I do do a lot of cooking and I’m going to share what’s worked for me and what hasn’t.
Some things to keep in mind:
- Pick recipes you’re going to eat. Duh, I know, but there’s nothing worse than something taking up space in your freezer that you’re never going to eat. Well, I guess there are a lot of worse things, but this isn’t a good thing.
- This is just my personal opinion, but when it comes to slow cookers, I think the things that come out the best are things that need to be cooked for a long time, anyway. Soups, chilis, sauces, tough cuts of meat–those things are perfect for a slow cooker. Casseroles and lean cuts of meats like chicken breasts and pork tenderloin? There are other ways to use those in freezer meals, but cooking them alone in a slow cooker isn’t the tastiest way.
- Many soups and sauces can be fully cooked, frozen, and then reheated on low in your slow cooker. This is a great way to do freezer cooking without getting super overwhelmed–just double the recipe, cook it through, and then freeze half of what you make for later.
- You’ll often find cream of something soups in slow cooker recipes because they’re more stable and won’t curdle. The double-edged sword here? We have exactly one recipe in our collection of 600+ recipes that calls for cream of something soups. Also, it can be very tricky to freeze and heat milk and other dairy products without them curdling. So most of the recipes that I’m including/recommending are not milk based.
- You know how the meatballs taste in Spaghetti-Os? Whenever I make meatballs in my slow cooker, that’s how they taste. I don’t know why. I don’t like it, so I’m not encouraging you to do that. However, if you love the taste of meatballs in your Spaghetti-Os, totally go for slow-cooking meatballs because everything else in that recipe is perfect for it.
- When you have a stash of frozen meals in your freezer, keep a list somewhere handy of what you have and then cross them out as you cook them. Along with that, have a list of things you’ll need to go with the recipe when you make it–if you’re making sandwiches, make sure you have bread and cheese handy along with any side dishes you want to serve. This is especially handy if you’re sick or recovering from having a baby and need to send someone to the store; all you need to do is check your list and you’ll know exactly what you need.
- After your package up whatever you make, use a permanent marker (I love my silver Sharpie for no other reason than it makes chili more glamorous) what it is, when you made it, and any directions you might need to remember right on the packaging. Try and eat whatever you make within three months, both for safety and taste reasons.
There are some supplies that will make your freezer-mealing life a little easier.
- When I stocked up before, I used those disposable Ziploc or Gladware containers, which work. However, they also take up a lot of space in your freezer. I think it’s easier to use heavy-duty freezer Ziploc (or generic) bags and then lay the bags flat in the freezer.
- There are some recipes that have more than one element–they may not all go into the slow cooker or oven at the same time. To keep everything together, you could use one of those big, fat rubber bands or you could use duct tape. If you’re feeling super fun, you could get that cute Hello Kitty duct tape and horrify your husband.
Now…to make life a little easier for you guys, I put together a mini cookbook of some of our favorite freezer recipes. If you use a PC, use this version and if you have a Mac, use this version. It isn’t all of our freezer recipes–there are some here that I didn’t include. I’ve also adapted some of our recipes that weren’t freezer meals to be made ahead and cooked later. These recipes include the supplies you’ll need, things you’ll want to keep handy (like bread or cheese or pasta), and possible side dishes. You can print it out, stick it in protective sheets in a 3-ring binder, and refer to it when you need a few extra meals in your freezer. There are others I didn’t get to–I’d love to have a comprehensive list of all our meals that can be adapted to use as freezer meals, but I’d also love to take some Advil, witness world peace, and have 1.3 million dollars in my bank account. And meet Kyle Chandler. Please let me just run into Kyle Chandler and let it be a day that I did my hair and am not wearing yoga pants in public.
——->Click here for the PC printable freezer meal mini cookbook!<——-
——>Click here for the Mac or PC printable freezer meal mini cookbook! <——