Making freezer meals, sometimes referred to as “once a month cooking” is a great way to not only save time and stress, but also money.
I have been making freezer meals for our family for over three years now. It has saved me thousands of dollars, not to mention the amount of brain space it has freed up not to have to worry about what I am going to make for supper every day. By spending one or two days cooking, I am able to have enough meals to feed our family for between one and three months! That is what I call a good use of my time!
As far as cost goes, by doing once a month (or in my case, once every three months!) cooking, I am able to significantly lower our grocery budget. I am able to feed 9 people for an average of $10 a meal! That works out to $1.11 per person per supper. In months when I am really careful with planning this, I am able to cut that to between $8-$9 per meal, working out to less than $1 per person.
***Note: I haven’t done a freezer meal day since I started couponing, so I expect that the cost will now be much lower than that from now on!
You can cut the cost by getting together in a group to make the freezer meals, which I do about half the time.
These first four steps should be done a week or so before you plan to make the freezer meals.
Choosing the recipes. I use a combination of sources for my recipes. Some are family favourite recipes that I have adapted into a freezer meal or that I know freeze well. I like to be sure that I choose some recipes that I can whip up really quickly and others that will provide my family with the best nutrition possible. I have now come up with such an arsenal of recipes that I offer freezer meals menu plans.
I do choose a variety of meal types when planning, but also choose recipes that involve some similar preparation steps to cut down the time involved. As an example, in a month that I am choosing Chilli, I will also choose Sloppy Joes, as they both require browning the meat and chopping onions. If I am going to be cooking rice to make Spanish Rice, I will make several meals of Chicken Fried Rice as well.
I also will choose recipes that call for the same ingredients so that I can shop in bulk and save more money. As an example, if I have a recipe that calls for adding cans of corn, such as a Tex Mex Casserole, I will also make Corn Chowder to freeze. That way, I can buy a caselot of corn and save money.
Photocopy your recipes. These will later be used at your stations. Stations will be explained later.
Make grocery lists. If you have access to a warehouse store, you will want to make a list for that store as well as a list for your local grocery store to buy the items not stocked at the warehouse store. Make your grocery lists as you are writing out your recipe list. As you are going through, make tally marks next to the ingredients as each recipe calls for them. As an example, once you have onions on your list, every time a recipe calls for a certain amount of onions, make tally marks to indicate how many you will need. Doing these first two steps at the same time will allow you to plan more clearly.
Call ahead with your meat order. Especially if you are doing this with a group of friends, you will need a large quantity of meat and your local grocer may not have it in stock when you need it. I call the meat department ahead and put in my meat order. This saves time as well as when you are in the store, the order is ready for you. It can also save you money as most meat departments are willing to give you a discount because you are ordering in bulk. This step is very important.
My second article in this series will detail what needs to happen the day before the big day and then the last article will go through instructions for assembling your freezer meals. By following this plan, you too can save time, stress, and money when it comes to meal planning for your family.