I've helped quite a few people get started cooking freezer meals over the course of the last few years and there's one question that keep coming up. This question usually comes up sometime during the first frantic week of planning, shopping for and preparing freezer meals. The person will look up at me with a completely lost look in their eyes and will ask, "Are freezer meals really worth all this work?"
If you're looking for a method of cooking that requires no work at all, freezer meals aren't that method. There is no magic freezer meal fairy who will sneak into your house at night and fill your freezer with delicious meals. Making large batches of multiple meals in a single day requires a lot of planning, preparation and, yes, a good deal of actual work.
The Main Benefit of Freezer Meals
While freezer meals do require work, I would say they are indeed worth the effort because they require significantly less work when it matters most. You spend one day cooking a week, every couple of weeks or even once a month, once you get good at it, and you'll be able to go on cruise control in the kitchen until it's time for another cook day. Instead of spending an hour in front of the stove preparing food every night, a few hours of work on the weekend affords you the ability to pull a meal from the freezer, toss it in the slow cooker, a pot on the stove or the oven and have it ready with minimal effort the rest of the week.
Time saved during the week is the main benefit of freezer meals. It's up to you to decide whether working really hard for one day is worth spending multiple days not working very hard. Before you make your decision, there are a handful of other benefits that must be considered.
Freezer meals can save you money, and depending on how much preparation you're willing to do, they can save you a decent amount of money over the course of the year. As long as you're willing to peruse the weekly ads and look for deals that are too good to pass up, you'll be able to take full advantage of these deals when they roll around.
Watch for deals on the meats and produce you use most. When these items go on sale, as they inevitably will, you have to be ready to pounce on them. Freezer meals allow you to purchase large amounts of the items you use the most when they're on sale, because you don't have to worry about using them before they go bad. As long as you cook them and get them in the freezer before they start to turn, you're good to go.
When you're forced to buy groceries once or twice a week you're at the mercy of the stores and often have to pay full price for the foods you need. Having a bunch of meals in the freezer allows you to take advantage of whatever's on sale that week and forget about everything else until prices go down.
Peace of Mind
Preparing for a freezer meal cook day can be a frantic event, especially when you're first getting started. Your mind is spinning with the possibilities of everything that could go wrong and it can all be a bit overwhelming. The days leading up to your first cook day will probably leave you wondering time and time again, "Is it really worth it?"
Then something magical happens. The cook day comes and goes. You may or may not have made some rookie mistakes, but inevitably the cook day passes and you now have a bunch of meals in the freezer. Now, instead of worrying about the fact that dinner is looming over your head, you have peace of mind. Dinner's in the freezer. You've got things covered. Life is easier.
It Gets Easier
Don't write off freezer meals because the first cook day doesn't go smoothly. There's a lot to remember and even more to do and you'll inevitably forget something. If every person who cooked freezer meals judged them by that first cook day, there wouldn't be very many of us still doing it.
The good news is it gets much, much easier. The more you practice, the better you'll get. You'll already have your lists of ingredients and those lists will include the items you forgot last time. You'll know exactly how long it takes to prepare certain items and can plan accordingly. You'll also know which meals require minimal effort to prepare and which meals aren't worth the extra work.
Invariably, when a person I'm working with looks up after a frantic day spent chopping, cutting and cooking with flour dusting her hair and the remnants of the day's recipes splattered on her apron, I look her in the eyes and tell her, "It's worth it. It gets easier."