Freezer meals are a great way to take the stress out of family dinners.
As we are preparing for the birth of our first child, I’m finding that I’m already losing my ambition for cooking dinner each night. By dinner time, I’m worn out, sore, and already hot and sweaty thanks to the fact that we are back living in our Phoenix house until the baby is born. Even though I know it’s healthier and cheaper to cook our meals at home, I really don’t want to cook dinner for my husband and me.
The fact that I am feeling this way a month before the baby is to arrive is making me realize the importance of putting together freezer meals to help feed us for at least a few weeks after our son is born. Mighty Mommy recommends preparing freezer meals as one of the 8 things to do during the last month of pregnancy, and she has eight kids. It’s probably a good idea to take her advice, right?
If you are expecting a baby, preparing for a surgery, or you just want to make dinnertime a little easier around your home, I’m going to share with you a few tips on how to efficiently and inexpensively make a freezer full of meals for your family.
#1 – Pick the Recipes
As I was thinking about what meals I would prepare for freezer meals, I started to think about some of our favorite meals. In our arsenal of recipes, there are a lot of recipes that we eat but don’t really enjoy as much as others. There are some that I like more than my husband does and vise versa.
When picking meals to freeze, I tried to pick the recipes that I know he and I both enjoy. In discussing his wants from the freezer meals, I discovered that there were a few meals that we hadn’t prepared in a long time that we both really liked. It was almost like I was getting bonus points for putting them on the list because we are now both excited to dig in to those meals when the time comes.
When picking meals to freeze, you will want to consider a few things. First, some things don’t freeze well. Freezing foods that use milk or cream can cause the dairy to separate. It’s still edible, but it might not look as pretty when you thaw and heat it. Pastas can work very well to reheat, but I’ve discovered they are best when you cook them a few minutes less than normal before freezing them. By doing this, they don’t become super mushy when you thaw and heat them. Also, if you are using a recipe with vegetables, it’s best to use cooked and dried veggies in freezer meals. Vegetables give off a decent amount of water when they thaw, so the dryer you can get them, the less watery your thawed and heated meals will be.
#2 – Family Meals or Individual Meals
Once you have your recipes picked out, it’s time to decide if you want to freeze them as large family meals or individual meals. This totally depends on how you think you’ll be eating the meals. If they are for family dinners, it makes sense to make a large pan of the meal that you can thaw and heat all at once. If you think you’ll be grabbing meals at different times, packing and freezing them as individual meals might be the way to go.
As we are preparing for life with Baby CEO, I imagine there will be two different ways we are going to eat. The first will be the grab and go between shifts of sleeping. The second will be when we are entertaining family and friends who come to visit. To be prepared for both situations, my list of freezer meals includes about 6 meals that will be made in large pans and can feed 4-6 adults. The others will all be packaged in smaller, individual size meal containers that my husband and I can grab when we have a spare moment. I am hopeful that the flexibility of the different sized meals and varying available menu will give us enough variety to get through the first few weeks of sleep deprivation and adjustment.
#3 – Decide on a Date
Once the menu is created, it’s time to set a date for making these freezer meals. If you are committing to making freezer meals on a regular basis to simplify your family dinner routine, it is probably easiest to commit to the same day and time each week to do your preparations. Creating a routine around the meals will help you stick to the schedule and consistently have the meals ready each week.
If you are making a large batch of meals for an upcoming birth or surgery, I’m finding that it was helpful to set a cooking date with a friend to help keep me accountable. I keep having friends offer to help, but I have struggled to officially ask someone to help me with the baby preparations. By asking a friend to come make freezer meals with me, it not only lightened my load, but it also is going to give us an afternoon to spend together before I’m up to my eyeballs in baby stuff. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends or family to help you with this project. It’s a big one, so you might as well make it fun for yourself!
One thing that I am realizing is that it’s good to set the date a couple weeks out to spread out the cost of the extra food. Our grocery budget is pretty tight, so by working in a few additional items each week when they go on sale is helping me to not have to spend money all at once on the food and packaging supplies.