I've got a confession to make. Although I've published several well-regarded cookbooks, I have days where I really don't feel like cooking. I have days when I've been running around all day running the kids to and from school, football practice, ice skating, karate, gymnastics and any number of other activities they're involved in, all while working a full-time job and trying to keep the house clean.
By the time dinner rolls around, I don't feel like even thinking about dinner, let alone standing in front of a hot stove while cooking a traditional meal.
I'm sure many of you out there can relate. Regardless of why you're busy, be it kids, work, school or any number of other time-vortexes in your life, it remains a fact that most of us simply don't have time to cook full meals. Every precious minute saved cooking is a minute we could spend on other more important tasks. You know, like downing a glass of wine while catching up on one of those shows we've had sitting on the DVR for the last 5 years.
Freezer meals have been a blessing around my household. They save me a ton of time and, as an added bonus, they save a bit of money as well.
What Are Freezer Meals?
Freezer meals, also known as make-ahead meals and freezer foods, are meals that are made in large batches and are then packaged and stored in the freezer. When you have a day where you're too busy to cook a traditional meal (or you simply don't feel like cooking), freezer meals can be pulled out of the freezer and prepared in a few simple steps.
Most, if not all, of the prep work has already been done, so instead of spending hours during the week getting meals ready, you'll spend a few minutes tossing the meal into a pot or a pan to cook.
How Freezer Meals Save Time
The reason most people start cooking freezer meals is in order to save time in the kitchen during the week. A day or two of cooking a month equates to freedom from slaving away in the kitchen for the rest of the month.
You can save even more time by choosing meals that have similar ingredients and prepping them all at once. Say you have 4 meals you want to cook as freezer meals that all call for shredded chicken. You can cook all of the chicken breasts at once, shred them and have the shredded chicken you need for all 4 meals ready at once. The amount of time saved really starts to add up when you find meals that have multiple ingredients that are similar that can all be prepared at the same time.
Cooking large batches of each meal saves even more time. It really doesn't take that much more work to prepare four meals than it does to prepare a single meal. Sure, there's a bit more cutting and chopping involved and maybe some additional assembly required, but the amount of time spend making the extra meals is negligible in comparison to how long it would take to cook each of the meals separately.
You also save time you'd normally spend running to the grocery store (or to pick-up Chinese food for the third time this month). If you only cook freezer meals once or twice a month, you won't be running to the grocery store a couple time a week to buy something easy to cook for dinner since you forgot to take something out of the freezer in the morning before you left for work. You'll have something in the freezer that you can cook for dinner.
How to Save Money with Freezer Meals
I know, I know. This sounds almost too good to be true, but freezer meals don't just save you time, they save you money as well.
Instead of buying food every week and being forced to pay full price for the food you need for the week, you'll have the luxury of waiting for the food you use in your meals to go on sale. When you see a price that's too good to pass up, you can take full advantage of the sale by stocking up and making a bunch of freezer meals.
Say you normally pay $4.65 a pound for stew meat, but it goes on sale once a month for $3.79 a pound. You'll be saving $0.86 per pound by waiting until the stew meat goes on sale. If you purchase 30 pounds of meat to make freezer meals, you'll save more than $25 by waiting until the stew meat goes on sale.
Vegetable prices vary based on local availability. When veggies are available from farms close to home, the prices usually hit rock-bottom. This is a great time to stock up and to store some in the freezer for the rest of the year. When prices start to rise again, as they inevitably do, you won't have to pay the higher prices.
Yet another way freezer meals save you money is by allowing you to purchase bulk amounts of food. Bulk food prices are usually lower than the prices when you buy lesser amounts, so you'll save cash there as well.
Stay Tuned for More Info!
This article is the first in a planned series of articles on freezer meals. Stay tuned for more tips, techniques and freezer meal recipes you can use to save both time and money.