The Beginners Guide To Freezer Meal Prep
Freezer cooking (or freezer meal prep, as I will call it) is a cooking practice made to save time in the kitchen, especially during busy periods.
You might have heard of the term 'Meal Prepping', where people will make one batch of food and eat it throughout the week. I prefer freezer meal prep as I get bored eating the same thing day in, day out. I want to have variety, but I don't want each day's meal to take an unnecessary amount of time.
So what exactly is freezer meal prep?
Freezer cooking is freezing meals or ingredients for a meal, in order to make meal times easier, most often done in bulk so you have a few meals at a time. -Once A Month Meals
Preparing the ingredients or dish in advance cuts preparation time in half on the day you want the meal. It also means a set time of work gives you several meals to have over a few weeks or months.
By the end of this guide, you will have a better understanding of what's involved in the meal prepping process, feeling comfortable and confident in trying it for yourself!
Who Is Freezer Meal Prep For?
Freezer meal prep is for anyone who wants to save time and hassle with making meals, especially during the busy work week.
It's for those who want to have healthy, home cooked meals every night that can easily be thrown in the oven, or created with less than fifteen minutes of work on the day.
For those who want to make more than one meal's worth, who want cheaper food bills, and for those who want to try new recipes and explore the wonderful world of meal prepping.
How Do I Store The Food?
Plastic, glass, and food bags.
When it comes to storing your food, there's two main options I use. Plastic food tubs and glass containers. The plastic tubs are cheaper, whereas the glass is more costly, and best seen as an investment.
I started — and still use — plastic tubs. They're brilliant and can be reused many, many times. I used them when I had no glass storage, and I use them now to store things like chilli and pizza dough.
With glass containers, I always go for Pyrex. They cost a little more, but I look at stores which are known to be cheaper (such as The Range) and for sales. I try to stock up on a few containers when there's a good deal, knowing these will last my lifetime.
Do not use plastic contains for meals you need to put directly into the oven, (in said container) only use glass for these recipes.
Soup bags are an excellent addition to the meal prep kitchen. Designed to safely store your liquid-based meals. They have sturdy seals to prevent leaks while they freeze and defrost.
Always go with what's best for your budget. If you have the money spare to invest in glass — go for it! Just be sure to avoid containers with anything that isn't plastic, glass, or silicone. Avoid wooden lids, and if you plan to make pasta bakes, casseroles, or anything that cooks in that container, you need to use glass or some oven-safe dish with a secure lid.
What Equipment Do I Need?
These are my go-to kitchen equipment. Not all are needed at once, as it depends on the recipe. But some things it's nice to have a few of. (Such as spatulas and measuring jugs) This list doesn't include the meal prep containers, all of which are mentioned above.
Spatulas (I use wood and silicone types)
Measuring Cups (I have some American-based recipes which use cup measurements)
Measuring Spoons (or at least a 1 tablespoon measuring spoon)
Not all items are necessary. A soup made in a slow cooker could just as easily be made in a stockpot or saucepan. It all depends on the recipe(s) you're cooking and what you have to hand.
My 1.5L slow cooker is the latest addition to my kitchen items. A second hand buy from my local charity shop, it cost a few pounds and allows me to cook something for two without having to keep a constant eye on it.
When Should You Use Prepped Food By?
My rule of thumb is to use food within three months of making and freezing.
Some foods can last up to three months, some six. Because there's a variety, I play it safe by sticking with no longer than 3 months. Not that food I make lasts that long.
If you have any doubt about the quality of the food, don't eat it. Doesn't look right or smell different? Don't eat it. I've never had an issue with the food I've prepped in terms of going off.
Does Any Food Not Freeze Well?
The only food I've had issues with is pasta when heating it on the hob. Oven baked? It works perfectly. It all depends on how you cook it.
Save pasta for the bakes, leave it out if you're making soups or stews, adding when you reheat it.
While I've never used it myself, I've heard that rice doesn't freeze well. Instead, add it after while you cook the defrosted portion.
How Long Does It Take?
I would love to tell you an exact amount of time. But I wouldn't be correct. Why? Because it depends on how you plan to go about it.
I can spend half a day in the kitchen working on a few different recipes, I could also spend an hour making two batches of flatbread pizza dough. Look at the recipes you want to make, allow yourself extra time per recipe (especially if it's one of the first few tries making it). If you want to cook a few meals, give yourself extra time to clean as you go plus in between recipes.
When you get into a good rhythm with it, you'll know what time frame you need. You'll know if you need breaks in between (like I do) or if you can power through and get more done than you planned to.
Beginner Friendly Meal Prep Recipes To Get You Started
To get you started, here are some recipes from the blog that I believe to be easy and beginner-friendly. They're also a great introduction to those wanting to start meal prepping too.
While I don't talk about meal prepping this. You can freeze leftovers or make portions to put in the freezer. You defrost it before use and reheat it in a saucepan on the hob. Simple!
I love pizza. I also love the freedom of making it myself. Super easy and kid-friendly. A recipe you can get the whole family involved in!
This is a game changer. No more buying instant mash or constantly having to make it for meals. On the day you use it, it's cooked and ready to serve in five minutes.
I believe this is something you won't know is for you until you actually try it. See the results, see how it works for you in your day to day life. Maybe you only like having sides such as mashed potato ready, maybe it's not for you at all. Once you've really given it ago can you see whether or not it works.
Do you have any more questions about freezer meal prep? Ask below and I'll do my best to answer!