Let me start by clarifying: I DO NOT cook freezer meals, I practice the Art of Freezer Meal Assembly (FMA). This means that I am not pre-cooking and then freezing massive amounts of food. It means that I am assembling casseroles (raw), freezing them, and then later baking them one time and one time only. It also means that I work with a lot of meats in marinades, because they are the easiest to assemble! All kinds of meats and all kinds of marinades. These I have learned to bake, sauté, fry, grill, and broil. All fabulous ways to get great flavor- most in a very healthy way!
Ok- here’s the Quick Start Menu
1. Only start with 2 weeks worth of meals. (forget the whole month at a time stuff, it will only overwhelm you.)
2. Remember, when I say 2 weeks, this may not be 14 different meals for your family. At my house it’s more like 8-10. Friday night is pizza night, some nights we have leftovers or cold cereal.
3. Gather up your family’s favorite recipes. What do you like to eat? What do your kids get excited about?
4. Google Freezer Cooking and visit a few websites like this one:
5. Pull out the store ads (this one is not required, I just like saving the money!)
6. Now- here’s where the fun begins. Start tallying up how many chicken breasts you’ll need, how many pork chops, etc. Figure out if you need any extra ingredients that may not already be in your pantry. Put those on the list. This is what I like to call “Focused Shopping”. Then take it on over to the grocery store.
7. Before assembling, some things to consider:
- Gallon freezer bags are vital. 90% of what I freeze, I freeze in Ziploc (yes, I buy this brand only) freezer bags.
- The other 10% of the stuff that I freeze I put into foil pans and then cover with a sheet of freezer paper, topped with a layer of aluminum foil to seal it.
- Another option for casseroles, etc is that you can line your 9x13 pan with foil, assemble the casserole, freeze, and then once it's frozen, remove from the pan and wrap the casserole for storage. I have tried this and it works great. When you're ready to bake it, you just remove all the wrapping, put it in your original pan and bake.
8. Assemble your meals by meat type. You don’t want to cross-contaminate, so assemble all your raw chicken at once, then the beef, etc.
9. Very last thing: don’t forget to label; . Put the date assembled, name of the item, and if possible cooking instructions.
A few common questions:
I don’t have a separate freezer, will all that food fit in my freezer?
- Yes. All of these meals will freeze flat, either in the Ziploc bag or because it’s in an aluminum pan or in the shape of a 9x13 mold. They will be stackable and will not take up a lot of room.
How long does it take to thaw a meal?
- In a bag, usually over night in the fridge or a few hours in cold water in the sink.
- A casserole (most casseroles can be cooked frozen) usually take 24-48 hours in the fridge, so I try to plan ahead for those, if they absolutely must be thawed.
Really, FMA just requires planning and thinking ahead- which I realize can be really hard to do when you’re taking care of the rest of your life!
Tomorrow I’ll post a list of all the recipes that I will be using with the meat that I purchased today.