Looking to get started with Freezer cooking, but don't know where to start? It is pretty intimidating...the planning, shopping, weekend long binge-cooking...but the satisfaction you get when you start with an empty freezer and in only 2 days, have enough meals to feed your family for a MONTH, is awesome.
I posted some tips a while back, you can find that post HERE.
Starting small and working your way up is the key.
I begin by choosing the recipes I want to make for the month. It's nice to have a bunch of freezer meal recipes in your repertoire. I make 15 different dinners (two of each). So, I go through my recipes, choose 15 that sound good for that month (if chicken is on sale the day you go shopping, try to choose more chicken meals for that month). I make my grocery list of ingredients to make 2 of each meal. That gives me one dinner a night for 30 days.(Onceamonthmom.com has some good recipes and even a monthly meal planner with grocery lists and step by step instructions).
First, know that most of the time, you aren't cooking the meat before you freeze the meals. The meat is raw until the day you plan on eating the meal. Not a whole lot of actual "cooking" is involved in your weekend of Freezer cooking. It's more like "Freezer Assembling", really. The point of this method is to get all your ingredients organized and designated into dinners. Instead of spending time thinking about what make for dinner, and then preparing the ingredients, cooking the dinner, and then starting over the next day, you do all that planning beforehand, assemble the components, freeze, and then it's just a matter of pulling out the components and throwing them in the oven.
For example: My Italian Tenders are a big hit with my kids. I used to defrost my chicken tenders, marinade them in a bowl of Italian dressing for a few hours, and grill or bake. This was a super easy recipe to freeze. Put your raw chicken tenders in a labeled gallon freezer bag, pour Italian dressing over them, seal the bag, and freeze. Then the morning of the day you plan on eating them, take out the frozen tenders bag, put it in the fridge, go to work, and when you get home, put the defrosted tenders in a baking dish and cook. It just cut out a step.
Another easy freezer meal is meatloaf. Line your loaf pan with tinfoil then saran wrap. Combine your raw meat and other ingredients in a bowl, spoon the meatloaf into the lined loaf pan, and freeze. Pop the meatloaf (with the tinfoil and saran wrap) out of the loaf pan once frozen, put in a labeled Ziploc bag and put it back in the freezer. The day before you plan on cooking the meatloaf, take it out of the freezer, unwrap it, and put the raw meatloaf "ice cube" back into the loaf pan you froze it in. Let it defrost in the fridge until you're ready to cook it. Once defrosted, bake as normal.
I have full upright deep freezer but freezer cooking can be done with even a side by side fridge/freezer. Maybe you won't be able to fit 2 months worth of meals in a side by side but you can get a few weeks worth of dinners in there.
You don't need to buy any special containers for freezer cooking. You just need your baking dishes, saran wrap, and tinfoil, and gallon sized freezer bags (Ziploc works best in my opinion). I have two 9X13 dishes, two 8X8 dishes, two loaf pans, in my kitchen. I'm able to freeze two large casseroles, two small casseroles, and two meatloaves at one time. My favorite freezer meals are the Ziploc bag wonders.
A favorite is the BBQ chicken. Put raw chicken drumsticks in a labeled gallon freezer bag with a chopped onion. Pour a small container of BBQ sauce over the chicken and seal the bag and freeze (literally takes 3 minutes to make this meal). The night before you plan on eating the meal, take it out of the freezer and let it defrost in the fridge. The next morning, pour the chicken and sauce into your slow-cooker and cook on low for 4-6 hours until the chicken is done.
Another easy crockpot freezer meal is Pot Roast. In a bag, layer mushrooms, sliced raw carrots and celery, a chopped onion, a can of cream of mushroom soup, a pack of onion soup mix, and a 3-4 lb roast, cut in half, seal and freeze. Let it defrost the day before you plan on cooking it, pour into crockpot, and cook on low for 7-9 hours.
I make two of every meal. I don't mind eating something twice in a month.