Share by e-mail Print This Post

Freezer Cooking: How to Save Time and Money on Meals

I’m a busy person. Spending all of my time in a kitchen cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner isn’t what I have in mind after I’ve been a student/wife/mom all day long. I started to look for alternatives when I realized my husband was cooking dinner four times a week on top of his full time job. I learned about several methods, but the one that I fell in love with was freezer cooking.

What It Is

Freezer cooking is exactly what it sounds like. Twice a month I take some of our family’s favorite recipes and spend all day cooking them.  I divide them into one-dinner portions for my family and freeze them. It’s as simple as that. When we decide to eat a particular meal, I set it in the fridge the night before, and then defrost/microwave it the next night. The best part about this is being able to make 2-3 hour meals in 30 minutes or less.

Not only am I saving on time, but I’m saving money. My family is also eating a lot healthier.  Before I found out about freezer cooking, we would be so tired from our busy days that we ended up eating out on a regular basis. Now if we’re running late, we just pop a dinner in the microwave, and it’s ready in a few minutes.

What To Make

I’m sure you’re wondering what kind of meals work with freezer cooking.  I’ve been freezer cooking for a good six months, and I haven’t had an issue with any meal yet. We eat a lot of chicken and hamburger in our home because my husband is allergic to most fruits and vegetables. Chicken is always on sale at my Walmart for $1.97/ lb or less, and I buy our hamburger meat in bulk for around $2.00/ lb.

I’ve found that freezing the meats in whatever meal I’m making works just fine. For example, Italian Chicken, BBQ Chicken, Taco Bake, Cheeseburger Meatloaf, Chicken Lasagna, Vegetable Soups, Stuffed Shells, or Lasagna Casseroles all taste the same. I also make Chocolate Chip Baked Oatmeal, Chocolate Banana Bread, Blueberry Muffins, and even Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Waffles.  We can all have a decent breakfast without waking up super early. I make cookies and freeze those too.  I always have dessert ready!

Time It Takes

People ask me if spending up to 8 hours at a time in the kitchen is worth it.  I have to say, I will never go back to the old way. I’m spending a maximum of 16 hours in the kitchen once a month instead of the 60 hours I was before. I don’t spend as much time doing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen, I’m not running out to get takeout last minute, and I’m planning our meals two weeks ahead of time. Freezer cooking has been a lifesaver for my family, and it’s taken a few inches off my waist too. I see everything that goes into our meals and can cut out what I think is unnecessary.

If you’re interested in freezer cooking, a simple search on the Internet will give you hundreds of recipes in seconds. If you want to try something out now, here’s my family’s favorite recipe for Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Waffles:

  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 ¾ cups milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup chocolate chip chips

Preheat waffle iron. Beat eggs in a large bowl with hand beater until fluffy. Beat in flour, milk, vegetable oil, sugar, baking powder, salt, and vanilla just until smooth. Pour ½ cup of batter onto waffle iron. Allow all waffles to cool for about 30 minutes, and then place in a ziplock bag, and freeze. When ready to eat, simply pull out waffles and heat in microwave for 1 minute. Serves 6.

This has been a guest post by August from Granite Falls, NC
Find out more about the KCL Contributor Network!

Leave a Reply

18 thoughts on “Freezer Cooking: How to Save Time and Money on Meals”

  1. Imona Budget says:

    I used to do this weekly…but I’ve fallen off, and now I just plan the dinners monthly, and cook every day during naptimes.
    This has motivated me to go back to preparing meals, and I love the idea of cooking for 2 weeks at a time instead of once a week…..
    In the summer, I would literally take ALL of the meat out of the freezer and grill them and freeze them. When it was time to eat, I’d take it out in the morning so that it would defrost and warm them up in the oven for 20 minutes! Warming it in the over with foil over it is the key to maintaining the fresh off the grill flavor and tenderness. And it was super easy to steam broccolli, carrots, squash or make a salad within minutes! 

  2. Debbie says:

    I always make a little extra when I make dinner. I then make “tv dinners” in the plastic containers, mark them and freeze them with a label and date. I use painters tape b/c it comes off easy and doesn’t mess up my containers. This way we always have a variety of dinners available for those rushed nights. I have been doing this for over 2 years and it has been a wonderful help.

  3. This is such a great idea! I am new to it and this might be a dumb question…but if you want to freeze lasagna or something do you cook it before you freeze it?? Or freeze it uncooked and then pull it out the night before to let it thaw and then cook it??  Thanks in advance for any advice!

    • It’s up to you! I wouldn’t cook it because I like things fresher tasting. I do freezer cooking, but don’t precook anything. Depends on if you want to be able to pop it in the microwave to eat, or don’t mind cooking/baking like normal. You’re still saving lots of time on prep either way :) 

    • I always cook mine before hand to save on actual eating time. It just depends on what’s best for you all. You can put thawed chicken breasts in a ziplock bag with italian dressing and it tastes better than if you cook it and then freeze it. Lasagnas are better, to me, when cooked first.  

    •  Thanks both Malinda and August for the responses! I am so excited to try it out!

  4. Anonymous says:

    I freeze things in the dish I want to cook it in freeze it, pop it out (sometimes I use no stick foil) wrap and back into the freezer. That way I don’t tie up all my corningware or pyrex.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I love freezer meals too!  BUT, sometimes I try a new recipe that I found on-line and it’s just plain icky!  The ingredients sound good, but something is amiss.  Anyway, if somebody has specific recipes that they’ve tried and loved, please post the link here!  Thanks!

  6. Darlene Creech says:

    I also do some freezer cooking, but I have problems with the containers….I like ones that freeze, bake and microwave… area they are hard to come by…/.anyone have any suggestions?

    • Jadda says:

      I was wondering the same thing, what containers do you all typically use?  I would prefer to use glass, as I worry about all the new research on chemicals being released from plastic when it is heated about a certain temperature (ie: microwaving) or frozen.

      My concern with the glass would be whether it would break and make a huge mess in your freezer?!  Great idea though, thanks for the article, as well as any container suggestions anyone may have!!

    • Karen says:

      Containers are a challenge, I do have some Glasslock containers that are glass with locking plastic lids that I got at Bed Bath and Beyond, The Container Store online line has some.  I use these for leftovers in the fridge and for the kids lunches, they are microwavable, but not for the oven.  I have never tried freezing these.  I usually use foil pans that can be frozen and go into the oven, but not microwave. Ziploc bags are great as you can freeze things flat and save on space, thaw and pop into a ceramic bowl to microwave.  I also use believe it or not the Hillshire Farm lunchmeat containers for my spaghetti sauce.  I pop the frozen sauce out  into a saucepan and heat on low on the stove.  I use them maybe once or twice, if I’m in the mood to wash, and it doesn’t matter if they get tomato stained.  They also stack nicely.  Hope this helps!!

      • Lana says:

        Karen,I like the lock-n-lock plastic containers, they are freezer and microwave safe they also keep fresh vegatables fresher longer in the frig. I buy them at QVC.I really love them. Hope this helps.Lana

      • Debbie says:

         To help with tomato stains, first give a spritz of cooking spray before adding sauce. Unless it gets overheated in the microwave, it doesn’t leave a stain! :)

    • Ivy Scoles says:

       I love my Pyrex. I have a lot of different sized and shapes so I can make enough for 2 dinners and 1 lunch meal, for me and my husband that works great. It can be an investment but I started getting mine with b1g1 deals at Fred Meyers years ago. Also a vacuum sealer is great for fruit, sauces and soups. 

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree, Pyrex is wonderful. Look in the clearance section of Wal-Mart or any discount store. I found 1 large bowl with lid for $5 & I had a coupon for $1. Glass is much easier to clean than aluminum when you bake and they come with plastic lids that also work in the microwave, freezer, dishwasher & fridge. You can use in the oven if you don’t use the plactic lid.I even use the bowls for mixing so they can go directly in the dishwasher.
      We also use the Hillshire Farm lunchmeat containers. Great to freeze in, just don’t heat anything up in them. The size is also perfect for a 2 family household dinner (lasagne, etc.). Even though I am retired now (cook everything from scratch) I still cook in large quantities and freeze. Great for those days you are out and in a hurry for dinner.

  7. Karen says:

    What a great article!  Some of my favorite things to make ahead and freeze are mashed potatoes, meatballs and homemade spaghetti sauce. I make the potatoes when they are b1g1f.  I boil them and add butter, cream cheese, an egg, salt and garlic powder beat and place in foil pans and pop in the freezer and I have at least one side dish ready.  For the meatballs, I usually make 4-5 lbs. at a time, using an ice cream scoop to make sure they’re about the same size and bake on foiled lined pans.  I freeze in a single layer that way we can defrost as much or little as we want.  I make sauce when the 28 oz. cans of tomato sauce and puree are on sale and make several big pots at a time.  I cool the sauce and divide into containers to have for spaghetti or homemade pizza.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I am a HUGE fan of what I call ‘Once a Month’ cooking. . .for all of the reasons listed here.  But I also find there are a couple of areas of hidden savings beyond these. . .one is that you use less electricity/gas/etc. when you cook things all at once.  You obviously save money on soap and water and heating when you don’t have to wash so many pots and pants, but you also don’t waste as much food.  If cooking individual meals, I tend to use whatever amount of meat is in the pack (though I always try to buy or portion out the right amount). But when you freezer cook, you cook up a load and use only what is really needed for that recipe. . .I find hamburger stretches much further this way.  While I am making a mess in the kitchen, I always use the food processor (which I wouldn’t for a single meal) to chop up a ton of onions and garlic and such, which freeze well. Can not express how much time it saves, as well as money and calories!!  :)

  9. wow, what timing!  our kitchen remodel is starting in a few weeks and I needed ideas on what to make for freezer to microwave meals.  looks like it’s something I may continue to do after the remodel if it really saves that much time.  thanks for the recipe!