Earlier this month, I talked about getting your systems in order now so you will be ready to start implementing healthy changes in the New Year. One system I encouraged you to think about was make ahead and freezer meals.
As a busy working parent, I find make ahead and freezer cooking to be the best (and sometimes only) way to get wholesome nutritious meals on the table every day. I say it all the time – it is easier to eat healthy when you have healthy food ready to eat.
While make ahead and freezer cooking is not as easy as purchasing boxed dinners and/or take out it is not as difficult as you might imagine. I know most people don’t even give it a try because they are overwhelmed and have no idea where to start. They can visualize the benefits of having meals ready but can’t conceptualize how to actually make it happen.
If you can relate then don’t worry because I am here to help.
The first thing I want you to understand is there are no hard rules for fitting make ahead and freezer cooking into your lifestyle. This means you do what is best for you – period! If you want to try cooking all day then go for it. If you only want to do mini freezer cooking sessions then that is fine too. Do what works for you. Ease yourself into this and experiment with different styles and find which one is best. In my opinion, a little freezer cooking is better than nothing.
I am not married to one method of make ahead and freezer cooking. It really depends on the time of year and how busy my schedule is. If I have more time I will try to fit in a couple full days of freezer cooking. If time is limited then usually I will double up on recipes during the week. My rule of thumb is to stock up on meals when I have the time so my family can eat healthy foods when I don’t.
If make ahead and freezer cooking is on your agenda for the New Year I have a few tasks you can do now to get started.
Read up on freezer cooking.
Confidence is created by education. The more you learn the better you feel about giving something new a try. Of course at first glance make ahead and freezer cooking can seem very technical and specific. What can be frozen? How do I adapt a recipe? Can I substitute ingredients? What containers should I use? These are all questions that many people have and ones that keep people from testing the waters. Take time to read before you begin. Keep in mind no amount of information can take the place of hands on experience. So yes take in the information but also set a time that you will begin.
And some other articles I wrote:
Resource I use and recommend:
Research and collect 5- 10 easy freezer friendly recipes.
Before you start looking at brand new recipes take a look at the meals you are already eating. More than likely components of the recipes you currently eat can be frozen ahead of time. For example, do you eat tacos a lot? If so, you are in luck because tacos are my number one go to freezer meal. Try not to get fancy right away. It takes time to feel comfortable with anything new.
I list make ahead and freezer cooking instructions on all my recipes. Take a look and see if there is anything you would like. I also put together a list of easy freezer recipes for the beginner freezer cook you might find helpful.
Other websites that offer family friendly freezer cooking meals:
Look ahead at your schedule and plan blocks of time to plan, shop and cook.
In an ideal world I would grocery shop after work on Thursdays or Fridays so I am ready to go for the weekend. However, many times I end up shopping Saturday morning and then cooking Sunday. Look at your schedule and pick times that work for you. Keep in mind, as busy parents, we need to be flexible. What works for us one weekend may not work the next. Also, if your weekends are filled with all kinds of activities and birthday parties then make time to fit some make ahead and freezer cooking in during the week. Again, do what works for you.
Stock up on freezer supplies.
The last thing you want to happen is to have a kitchen full of meals and no supplies to store them in the freezer. Take some time now to stock up on freezer bags, plastic wrap, and freezer containers. Here is a list of freezer supplies I use. Don’t go overboard a couple of packages of each will be fine when you are starting out.
Pick 1 recipe to cook and freeze this week.
I know you are ready to jump in head first and cook up a bunch of meals for the next month but I want you to wait just a little bit. While I want you to be excited I also don’t want you to get overwhelmed. Before you go full throttle freezer cooking I want you to pick and make one recipe this week. After that I want you to make a plan to eat it within the next 7 – 10 days. The reason for this is I want you to get a feel for the benefits of freezer cooking. Once you can see the benefits of make ahead and freezer cooking you will more likely give yourself the time to make it a priority.
I hope you find these simple make ahead and freezer cooking tasks helpful. A little pinch (or more) of intention, planning, and effort is all you need to keep make ahead and freezer cooking a part of your healthy lifestyle and routine.
What are your make ahead and freezer cooking questions?