Dinner time can often be the most hectic time of day for busy families. After school and work is often a flurry of extracurricular activities, errands, and social time. And, as much as families want to, sitting together around the dinner table together can be difficult and time-consuming. However, like most families, enjoying dinner together, stress-free, is probably something you would love to be able to do with your brood. Luckily, we have a solution that is making dinner time hassle-free, easy, and convenient for families just like yours—family freezer meals! Here’s our quick-start guide for beginners.
What Are Family Freezer Meals?
Family freezer meals are exactly what they sound like—meals that come out of the freezer and you gleefully serve to your family! We are not talking about the store-bought, prepackaged, frozen dinners, however.
You want your family to eat healthy and nutritious meals every time. Although it is not always possible, when you make family freezer meals in advance with wholesome ingredients you love, it gets a lot easier. (Be sure to get the most out of your freezer with our family freezer tips!)
Some families love using freezer meal-making day as an activity where every member of the family can contribute. These pre-cooked meals can be quickly and easily reheated to make dinners a breeze.
How do I Start Making Family Freezer Meals?
The best way to start making family freezer meals is to start looking through recipes online for freezer meals and pick a few of your favorites. Or, you can try batch cooking some of our favorite go-to meals. Basically, choose a meal that’s simple to prepare and multiply by a factor of two or three.
Other than the actual food, you will also need to have proper freezer supplies on hand. You will need to have freezer meal containers such as Pyrex or glass meal storage containers with lids. It is crucial to get containers specifically designed for freezer storage to ensure your meals do not end up freezer burnt.
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Choose one day each month that you will tackle making your family freezer meals. Some people choose to do their grocery shopping one day to get all the ingredients and then prepare and cook the next day. If you are making freezer meals for kids and a large family, you might even shop and prep on day one and then do the baking and cooking on the second day. Aim for no more than two days spent on making your family freezer meals; however, freezer meals are meant to make your busy life more manageable and not take up more time!
Be mindful that family freezer meals, especially casseroles, and other meals in larger pans and containers, take up a lot of space in a standard residential freezer. Many families choose to add a deep freezer to their home or garage to accommodate the space needs. Individual freezer meals will take up much less room if you are just cooking for yourself. There are great storage solutions available to help organize individual freezer meals in your standard freezer or deep freeze.
Reheating Your Family Freezer Meals
You will also need to remember to thaw freezer meals at least 24 hours in advance for best results. Make sure to move your freezer meal containers from the freezer to the refrigerator the night before you will eat them. Reheating the meals can take anywhere from 20-45 minutes in the oven, depending on what meal you are eating.
You can also reheat the meals straight from frozen; however, your cook time will most likely need to be doubled. If you are worried about getting to practices, after-school activities, or other events in the evening, thawing your meals ahead of time will make mealtime faster.
What Are the Best Meals to Freeze?
So, what family meals can be frozen? The best meals to freeze are meals that can thaw evenly in the oven. Some of our favorites include:
- Soups and chili
- Anything you can make in the slow cooker.
- Smoothie packs
- Egg muffins
- Breakfast sandwiches
- Pot pies
- Shepherd’s pie
- Baked or grilled chicken
- Shredded pork, beef, or chicken
- Baked pasta dishes like ziti or Lasagna baked al dente.
- Pot roast
- Veggie burger patties
- Turkey burger patties
Making your family freezer meals with your kids while using your favorite family recipes is an excellent time to bond. It will also teach valuable lessons about the importance of family meals, eating healthy, and preparing fresh foods. There are dozens of online recipes that are perfect for large family meals and smaller portions for individuals.
What Should You Not Put in the Freezer?
Not every meal your family might want to eat will work for a family freezer meal. Several foods just do not freeze well because of how mushy or watery they get when thawed. Some dairy-based foods also do not freeze well because the fat and milk product separates from the water and becomes unpleasant.
Avoid these ingredients when making freezer meals:
- Fried foods
- Jell-O or gelatin
- Sour cream and cream cheese
- Raw or hardboiled eggs
- Cream-based foods.
- Fresh tomatoes
When using pasta or rice in a family freezer meal, make sure to cook them al dente. Fully cooked rice or pasta will become mushy when thawed. Cooking rice or pasta al dente allows the ingredients to become fully cooked, rather than overcooked, when thawed in the oven.
How Long do Family Freezer Meals Last?
Freezer meals will start to become freezer burned around the 90-day mark and sooner if they are not sealed correctly or stored in freezer meal containers. For the best taste and quality, family freezer meals need to be eaten within 60 days. We recommend making your family freezer meals monthly, so you are always eating fresh meals.
The best freezer meal containers need to stack easily, have sealed lids, and withstand both freezing temperatures and the high temperatures of an oven. Consider using glass or Pyrex. They work best for these purposes because many of the meals can be prepared, cooked, frozen, thawed, and reheated without moving to different containers. (But you will need to be cautious about drastic temperature changes!) Some family freezer meals such as soups or meats can be vacuumed sealed in freezer bags and then opened and reheated in another container.
Investing your time in making family freezer meals will yield significant benefits! It will help the rest of your week and month go smoothly and be more manageable. And, it allows your family to eat healthy meals together and spend time bonding. There’s never been an easier way to get dinner on the table for busy individuals and families.
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