If you follow along on Instagram, you maybe saw that a few weeks ago I shared in my stories that Mathew and I prepared a bunch of freezer meals to make after baby arrived. We made our first meal from the bunch last week and we made a second last night. Mathew and I both enjoy cooking and making dinner together, and we’ve never prepped a big batch of freezer meals before. Some of you were curious about what we made and how we organized everything, so I thought I’d write up a post.
Whether you’re expecting a baby or not, freezer meals are a great way to save time and sanity and still get dinner on the table.
Sure, you can stock up on Stauffer’s Lasagna and boxes of spaghetti, but nothing beats a homecooked meal. Plus, if you’re gluten free like I am there are fewer freezer meal options for the famliy.
Here’s how we broke everything down and organized for a successful day of cooking.
We thought about the kinds of meals we wanted to make and made a list. We picked a weekend and saved the date- making sure not to schedule anything else on that day. Then, we peeked in our pantry and made a grocery list of all the ingredients we would need. Also, make sure you’ll have plenty of freezer storage for all the meals you plan to make. Even if you don’t have a second freezer and can’t store everything in your freezer, maybe a family member or neighbor has extra storage they can loan?
Don’t forget about storage.
We don’t have tons of food storage containers, and we were planning to make quite a bit of food. We had to think about what sort of containers we would need to make and store our meals in. We decided to purchase disposable tin pans that came with lids. We also planned to make two chicken pot pies and we bought some pie tins as well. At first, we planned to store chili in plastic containers to freeze, but then I decided to switch the chili over to smaller portions and freeze in freezer bags. I recommend freezer bags for storing soup- lay them flat and stack them- easier for storage and for thawing!
Mise en place.
If you’ve seen a lot of cooking shows, you may be familiar with this French term for having all your ingredients measured, cut, sliced, and peeled before you start cooking. Once we had all our produce purchased and washed, we planned ahead and chopped and diced everything ahead of time. That way, on the day of we could just scoop what we needed without all the prep work. Quick note, we made two chicken recipes and we bought rotisserie chickens which Mathew pulled/shredded beforehand. Best idea ever!
We picked recipes we love and some that just sounded good. We prepped the food up until the point of cooking in the oven. Once we had our meals prepped and oven-ready, we packaged the food in our tins and covered with the lids. I wrote out what was in each tin and also a suggested oven temperature and cook time. Once everything was set, we popped it in the freezer.
Keep it organized.
Once everything is frozen, check your inventory and reorganize in a way that makes sense and such that all your meals are easily accessible. Also, be sure everything has a date so you’ll know if it goes past the best by date.
The Pioneer Woman has some great tips and ideas for freezer cooking- I definitely recommend reading her tips and ideas, especially if planning freezer meals is something you’re hoping to really dive into!
*Note: If your meal calls for the pot pie crust to be brushed with butter before cooking or topped with cheese for the last 10 minutes of baking, go ahead and write that instruction on your packaging. In the case of a cheese topping, you can even take shredded cheese in zippered freezer bags and store them with your tins. Just label accordingly so you don’t get confused and nothing gets lost. Freezers can become black holes when things get crowded.
What we made.
- Lasagna | We doubled this favorite recipe from The Pioneer Woman and substituted GF pasta.
- Chili | We made chili similar to this recipe. If you have the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (at least in my version) there is a page with make-your-own recipe suggestions. I highly recommend checking it out!
- Chicken Pot Pie | We used the America’s Test Kitchen all-butter pie crust recipe with GF flour, which I couldn’t find online. This is a great one too we’ve made in the past. For the filling Mathew used a variation of this recipe from a cookbook we have at home. BUT- to make it easy on yourself, maybe just try this recipe. 🙂
- Chicken Alfredo with Peas | We added peas to this recipe and substituted GF pasta.
- Meatloaf | I must say, I was never a fan of meatloaf until we made this recipe. It’s seriously THE best! We make ours with half ground beef and half spicy sausage. We sub the breadcrumbs for GF panko.
- Meatballs | This is a classic recipe. We always use half ground beef and half spicy sausage and use GF panko crumbs instead of breadcrumbs.
- Healthy Mexican Casserole | I added two cans of black beans to the bean layer in this recipe so we could stretch this into 3 tins.
- Banana Bread | Find it here. I made two loaves.
Since there are only two of us, we purchased smaller portioned tins and tried to split the recipes into two or three tins so we can get multiple meals out of each recipe. The only recipe we doubled was the lasagna recipe.
We ended up with 3 pans of Lasagna, 2 containers of Chili, 2 Chicken Pot Pies, 3 pans of Chicken Alfredo, 2 Meatloaf dinners, 3 bags of 20 Meatballs, 3 pans of Mexican Casserole, and 2 loaves of Banana Bread.
All that for a grand total of 18 meals!
We didn’t have to buy every single ingredient, but we did choose a lot of meals with meat, and even so, our grocery bill was around $200 for everything, including the tin storage. Because I have a gluten sensitivity, we made our own pie crust for the pot pies with GF flour, and we used GF pasta and bread crumbs in our other dishes.
Mathew and I started cooking around 9 AM on a Saturday morning and were mostly in the kitchen until around 2:30. We made everything except for the meatballs and the Mexican casserole, which my mom came over to help me with the following day.
Like I said, Mathew and I enjoy cooking, so we had a fun time making everything and listening to music in the kitchen all day. We were tired of standing and had sore backs and feet by the end of the day, but I think the payoff will be well worth it.
We wondered together if making freezer meals is something only first-time parents do, and we’re curious if we’ll be able to do something like this when we’re expecting a second baby. I think if you have a busy family schedule and you can’t set aside an entire day, it would probably work to make an extra meal or two each weekend for a few weeks leading up to your due date, or whatever busy event is upcoming that you’d like extra meals for.
Hopefully, some of my tips help you! Let me know if you have additional questions about our planning, organization, cooking, or storage.
Have you made freezer meals before? If you’ve had a baby, did you have any friends or family bring meals over for you in the weeks following your baby’s arrival?
PS- looking for more recipe inspiration? Here are some must-try fall soups! mo