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! The amount of brain space it has freed up to not having to worry about what I am going to make for supper every day is awesome. By spending one or two days cooking, I am able to have enough meals to feed our family for one to three months! That is what I call a good use of my time!
As far as cost goes, by prepping three months of meals ahead of time, 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 carefully plan 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. 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. I do this about half the time, and it takes what can be mundane and makes it fun.
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 favorite recipes that I have adapted into a freezer meal or that I know will freeze well. I like to be sure that I choose recipes that I can whip up 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 here: freezer meals menu plans.
I 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, since Chili and Sloppy Joes both require browning the meat and chopping onions, I make them together. If I am going to make Spanish Rice, I will also make several meals of Chicken Fried Rice as well.
I also select recipes that call for the same ingredients so that I can shop in bulk and save more money. As an example, Tex Mex Casserole calls for adding cans of corn, so I will also make Corn Chowder to freeze. That way, I can buy a case lot 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. Make 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 them, 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. 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 can save time, stress, and money when it comes to meal planning for your family.