To start the series, I wanted to give a little background, because it's not like freezer meals are a new concept. Unfortunately for me, it got tangled up with the concept of once-a-month cooking, which I'd learned about first and never really worked for me. I think that's why it took me so long to figure out why freezer cooking is so wonderful.
Here's the difference: The idea behind once-a-month cooking is that you cook just once a month, freeze a bunch of meals, and then all you have to do for the month is defrost, heat up, and eat. By contrast, the idea behind freezer meals (at least as I use the term) is to do the prep work ahead of time, but not necessarily the cooking.
I really wanted to love once-a-month cooking but it never felt like a good fit. The food often didn't taste great because the meals just weren't the same once they had been frozen, a lot of the recommended meals were ones my family and I didn't like, and it may have required cooking only once a month, but that was one session that required a huge amount of planning and a giant chunk of time (like all day).
It was Kelly at New Leaf Wellness and her method of freezing slow cooker meals before cooking them that transformed my relationship with freezer meals.
For a while, I froze meals according to Kelly's recipes, but after a while, I got the hang of converting meals into freezer meals, and freezing parts of meals.
Now, I buy meat when there's a sale - I'm always looking for discount stickers at Target and Ralphs. Usually, the meat is discounted because it's the sell-by date. So later that day, I turn the meat into a freezer meal: ground meat becomes a meatloaf or chili, chicken thighs get cut up and marinated in a miso paste, chicken breasts get cut into bite size pieces to be breaded on the night I'm cooking them, etc.
Some meals are just assembled, ready to be baked. Some meals get dumped into a slow cooker and left alone all day. Some "meals" are just components that need to be assembled and cooked, requiring more work on my part - but much less work than if I had to do everything at once.
Because I'm cooking the food for the first time when it comes out of the freezer, it tastes fresh. I can make the meals when I have time and/or find a great sale and want to stock up on an ingredient like meat. Most of my family's favorite meals can be adapted to the freezer in some way, whether it's freezing the entire meal ahead of time or freezing components to speed things along.
Freezer meals also make meal planning super easy, because most of the meals are already made - I don't have to worry about what's on sale or whether I have to buy ingredients. Many of the meals can be made ahead of time so they work for my busy schedule. For example, I plan slow cooker meals for the nights the boys have practice, and the food needs to be ready the moment we walk in the door. Most nights, I cook enough for leftovers so my husband can brown bag a lunch the next day. Since he doesn't like taking messy foods like soup or pasta with tomato sauce, I save those meals for the weekends.
I hope I've converted you and made you as excited about freezer meals as I am! Stay tuned for more in this series, and let me know if you have any questions or if there's something specific you'd like to see addressed in an upcoming post.