Freezer meals and batch cooking have taken the world by storm - in recent AND past years. Easy, Cheap Freezer Meal Ideas for Any Budget is full of pro tips and suggestions for freezer cooking, without breaking the bank.
What is freezer cooking?
Freezer cooking is a meal preparation method where you prepare and cook meals in advance and store them in the freezer for later use. The concept behind freezer cooking is to save time and effort by doing a large amount of meal prep at once, so you have ready-to-eat or ready-to-cook meals on hand when you need them. Crockpot freezer meals can go from frozen to cooked in the crock pot.
You do not have to prep homemade freezer meals a month, or a week, in advance. For me, freezer cooking often means making two or three of something, eating one that day, and freezing the others for another day. Make-ahead freezer meals can be assembled at any time, in any amount. I like to make frozen healthy freezer meals in small portions so whoever is home at dinnertime can pop one in the oven and eat.
- What is freezer cooking?
- Freezer cooking offers several advantages.
- CHECK OUT SOME OF OUR Easy, Cheap Freezer Meal Ideas for Any Budget
- SOUPS AND STEWS
- FAJITAS, TACOS AND BURRITOS
- BBQ RIBS
- Check out these other great resources for cooking without breaking the bank!
- Pro Tips for Easy, Cheap Freezer Meal Ideas for Any Budget
The process of freezer cooking typically involves several steps including the following:
Decide on the meals you want to prepare in advance. Consider the number of servings needed and the types of meals that freeze well.
Choose recipes that are suitable for freezing. Certain dishes freeze better than others, such as soups, stews, casseroles, pasta dishes, sloppy Joes, and marinated meats. Avoid recipes with ingredients that don't freeze well, like potatoes, eggs, and mayonnaise-based sauces.
Make shopping lists based on the ingredients required for your chosen recipes. Buying ingredients in bulk is often more cost-effective when doing freezer cooking. Always keep your freezer space in mind when shopping. A good thing budget-wise may end up a bad thing space-wise.
If doing bulk cooking set aside a dedicated day or weekend for cooking. Start by chopping vegetables, browning meats, and preparing sauces or marinades. Then assemble the meals in a suitable airtight container, freezer-safe container, plastic or glass container, foil pans, a Ziploc bag, a freezer bag, or plastic wrap. A plastic bag is not sufficient protection. I often use more than one to guarantee the best results.
Always, always, always label the food and the date it was frozen. Nothing is worse than having to thaw something out to determine what it is and how long it has been in the freezer. Invest in freezer-safe sticky labels and a freezer pen. Keep them as close to the freezer as possible.
Once the meals are assembled, label each container with the name of the dish and the date prepared. It's important to cool the meals completely before freezing them to prevent the growth of bacteria. Place the containers in the freezer, making sure to leave enough space for air circulation. Important!
Thawing and Cooking:
When you're ready to enjoy a freezer meal, transfer it from the freezer to the refrigerator to thaw overnight. Some meals can be cooked directly from frozen, but others may require thawing before cooking. Follow the recipe instructions for proper cooking or reheating methods.
Freezer cooking offers several advantages.
It saves time and effort by consolidating meal preparation into a single session, reducing the need for daily cooking. It also allows for better meal planning and budgeting, as you can take advantage of sales or discounts when purchasing ingredients in bulk.
Additionally, freezer cooking can help reduce food waste, as you can portion meals according to your needs and avoid throwing away unused ingredients.
By adopting freezer cooking techniques, you can simplify your mealtime routine, have a variety of homemade meals readily available, and reduce the stress associated with daily cooking.
Meal prep and freezer cooking can be an enjoyable, quiet time alone in the kitchen or fun with a helper or two.
Easy freezer meal recipes, cooking your meals in batches, and saving for later by freezing are great ways to reduce your grocery bill and ensure that all your ingredients are used up before expiration! Generally, easy freezer meals are possible if you plan and prepare in advance. They make your life easier, and save money on groceries!
CHECK OUT SOME OF OUR Easy, Cheap Freezer Meal Ideas for Any Budget
SOUPS AND STEWS
Soups and stews are a great option and one of the easiest freezer meal ideas to execute! There are so many variations on soups and stews that you can create a great recipe rotation for your favorites and have something different every week! Soups and stews freeze extremely well; simply put them in a ziplock bag and save them for another day.
Casseroles are super easy to make (most just have you throw ingredients together before throwing them in the oven) and highly cost-effective! There are tons of casserole recipes out there - find a few of your favorites and rotate them out each week. Cheeseburger casserole, Fennel Leek Casserole, and Chili Mac are among our favorites!
Casseroles are also a great reheatable lunch option for those who pack their lunch to take to work! Before retiring I took my munch to work in a mini crockpot that I plugged in when I arrived. When lunch rolled around, I had a tasty hot meal to enjoy at my desk without having to go out. Huge money saver!
Lasagna is definitely a fan favorite, as freezing it is so easy to do! Consider making your lasagna in a foil pan so that you can stick it right in the freezer that way and portion out as needed. Not only does it freeze well, but you can typically find fairly cheap ingredients to make your lasagna with, making it a great option for those on a budget. Additionally, this is a great meal to make if you're planning to deliver it to friends and family for any reason!
Chicken is a tried and true staple freezer meal idea! There are so many variations of chicken you can make depending on what meals you're planning for the week. Cooking chicken for the week is made much easier by choosing a simple freezer meal recipe and using it in various ways throughout the week for different meals! You can eat the chicken as a standalone meal or make other meals out of the chicken meat.
FAJITAS, TACOS AND BURRITOS
This is one great way to use up boneless chicken thighs and breasts that you've cooked as a freezer meal but you can also use any protein of your choice! To make it even easier, cook in the slow cooker throughout the day while you're gone and come home to a ready-to-eat meal.
Shred chicken for use in tacos, burritos, and taco salads. After that, all leftovers can be safely kept in the freezer to enjoy all week long or even the next! Serve alongside frozen brown rice and canned black beans for easy weeknight dinners.
These are another great option as far as freezer meal ideas are concerned. These can easily turn into a summer favorite! Whether you're grilling or baking these delicious ribs, you'll be able to save and stretch your meals for as long as you need to. If you're able to find ribs on sale for a great price, grab them while you can, cook them, eat what you want, and freeze the rest for later!
Chili is another quick and easy option for those cooking batch-freezer meals. Chili is an easy-to-make frozen meal. Chili is a very "set it and forget it" type of meal. Once your chili is done cooking for the day, you can enjoy it immediately and save the remainder for the coming weeks!
Chili can be reheated quickly, and is very versatile. Just reheat and garnish one of my favorite ways, topped with sour cream, diced white onion, chopped cilantro, and a drizzle of hot sauce. Serve on a busy night when the last thing you want to do is cook.
Check out these other great resources for cooking without breaking the bank!
Pro Tips for Easy, Cheap Freezer Meal Ideas for Any Budget
Invest in some good kitchen tools to make your freezer meal cooking easier. Namely, a slow cooker, some foil pans, and freezer storage bags are a good place to start stocking up! Keep in mind that freezer bags and foil pans can be found extremely cheap at places like dollar stores.
As far as slow cookers, if you're wanting to save some money and avoid a new kitchen gadget purchase, you can check thrift stores as well! Thrift stores are great places to check for any kitchen needs you might have as long as you don't need it to be new. You might even find something you like more in a thrift store than a big box retailer!
Start slow! You don't have to jump right into batch-cooking your freezer meals. If it's easier, start with one freezer meal a week and portion it out for your next week's meals. Whatever is easiest to accommodate and fit into your schedule is the best way to start.
After all, you might start slow and realize you love it and want to dive right in the next week and do a big freezer meal cooking day to prepare for the whole week! It's all about finding the balance in what is easiest for you to manage in your lifestyle.
Freeze ingredients individually in a single layer whenever practical! For instance, if you found a great deal on some ground beef at the grocery store, there is no harm in cooking it up and freezing it as is to use later as an ingredient in a meal! This can save you loads of time and money if you can shop deals regularly!
Additionally, it will help you save money by reducing the amount of food waste in your kitchen. This way, you aren't letting things expire before you get the chance to cook them. Be sure to freeze foods as quickly as possible before they can come up to room temperature.
Avoid freezer burn by squeezing as much air out of anything you're planning to freeze. Freezer meals can be a huge lifesaver, but can also be prone to freezer burn, so make sure you're taking steps to prevent that and preserve your food! Wrap foods well, and use food as quickly as possible, within reason, after freezing to maintain flavors and avoid freezer burn.
Also important, the temperature of a freezer should be set and maintained at 0 degrees Fahrenheit (18C) so everything stays very cold. A freezer should be cold enough to keep food frozen and preserved until ready to be cooked or reheated. Check your freezer's temperature monthly.
If you're still struggling to find good freezer meal ideas, there are also many cookbooks specifically for batch-cooking freezer meals. These easy recipes can be helpful in discovering new recipe ideas for your freezer meals! Alternatively, if you're just looking for new ideas to add to your rotation so you don't get tired of the same old meal, this is a great option as well.
One of the best things about putting in the effort to make freezer meals is the satisfaction you get by opening the freezer door to find a number of delicious meal options from which to choose.
By engaging in batch cooking and preparing freezer meals, you can streamline your meal planning, reduce stress, and enjoy delicious and nutritious food even on your busiest days.
Do you do batch cooking and save good freezer meals for busy days? What are your favorite freezer meal ideas? Share with us in the comments below!