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Fill the Freezer to Save Money (Frugal Friday)

Fill the freezer with premade meals in order to save money on groceries as well as time and effort throughout the month.

Basic Freezer Meal Plan with Shopping List | Life as MOM

I’ve been cooking like a madwoman this week. Well, Monday and Tuesday, anyway. Last month during the Pantry Challenge, I emptied much of our reserve food storage. The deep freeze was emptied and defrosted. It sat unplugged for a few weeks while we ate from the kitchen side-by-side. Then it was time to get back to freezer cooking.

Having a freezer full of ready-to-go meals not only makes me feel more comfortable — we have food, we will be fine come what may — but it also helps us save money.

If there’s something easy for the kids to prepare, I’ll be less tempted to buy costly convenience food items.

If there’s something quick to prepare, I’ll be less likely to make a run for the border.

If there’s something yummy to eat, I’ll be less likely to want to go out to a restaurant.

When I’ve got easy, quick, healthy, and yummy recipes all prepared in the freezer, well, that’s like striking gold! We eat more healthfully; we spend less on groceries; and we stick to eating at home. Total win.

Freezer Meal Recipes

Earlier this week, I shared my freezer cooking plan, or at least the recipe list, over on Good Cheap Eats. Here’s what I ended up making:

I didn’t get to the baking, but that’s something I can delegate to the kids next week. I did get to try out the new FoodSaver machine. I am smitten. You can see why and enter for a chance to win one over on Good Cheap Eats.

If you’d like to make the above, print out the recipes that are linked above. Here’s the groceries that you’ll need:

Basic Freezer Meal Plan with Shopping List | Life as MOM

Grocery List

The amounts are approximate. Check each recipe and compare its ingredients list to what you already have at home. You can click the print button at the bottom of this post, if you’d like to print the list. Double check my math! It’s been one of those weeks. Let’s say that this cooking plan is in beta. ;) I’ll count on your graciously pointing out what I forgot.

  • 15 pounds ground beef
  • 10 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 5 pounds dried pinto beans
  • 10 cups chopped onion
  • 2 heads garlic
  • 3 dozen corn tortillas
  • 5 pounds cheddar cheese
  • 20 flour tortillas
  • bread crumbs
  • olive oil
  • sunflower oil
  • enchilada sauce
  • tomato sauce
  • #10 can crushed tomatoes
  • 6 eggs
  • milk
  • cream cheese
  • chicken broth
  • ingredients for your favorite chicken marinades
  • crushed red pepper
  • cumin
  • dried parsley
  • dried basil
  • kosher salt
  • oregano
  • garlic powder
  • onion flakes
  • chili powder
  • black pepper
  • bay leaf
  • peppercorns
  • onion powder
  • paprika
  • celery seeds
  • cayenne pepper

Here’s the method I followed:

Prep List:

  • shred cheese
  • chop onions and garlic

Basic Freezer Meal Plan with Shopping List | Life as MOMCooking Plan:

1. Sort the beans and rinse. Soak according to package directions. I soaked them in the evening and let them cook overnight. The next day, I divided the mixture into freezer-safe containers. Cooled the beans to room temperature, and chilled in the fridge before freezing.

2. Cook four pounds ground beef. Season with taco seasoning mix. Portion into meal-sized containers. Cool to room temperature. Chill in the fridge before freezing.

3. Form four pounds of ground beef into hamburger patties. (We like quarter-pounders.) Wrap, label, and freeze.

4. Start the red sauce on the stovetop. After it cooks for an hour, divide the sauce into meal-sized portions, cool, label, and chill in the fridge before freezing.

5. Make a bulk batch of meatballs (4 pounds) and get them started in the oven. Set the timer. When it rings, pull them out and allow them to cool to room temperature. Divide into meal-sized portions, label, and chill in the fridge before freezing.

6. Poach three pounds chicken. When done, shred, season, and allow the chicken to cool to room temperature. Divide into meal-sized portions, label, and chill in the fridge before freezing.

7. Prepare the marinated chicken in ziptop freezer bags. Freeze.

8. Season the chicken for grilling with a spice rub, like this one. Grill the chicken. Cool to room temperature. Divide into meal-sized portions, label, and chill in the fridge before freezing.

9. Prepare the granola. Set the timer. When it’s done, let the granola cool completely before packaging.

10. Cook the last three pounds of ground beef. Use it for the lasagnas and for burrito filling.

11. Assemble the lasagnas. Chill before freezing.

12. Assemble the burritos.  Chill before freezing.

13. Assemble the enchiladas.  Chill before freezing.

14. Put your feet up and order in.

Basic Freezer Meal Plan with Shopping List | Life as MOM

Costs

Time: two afternoons, so realistically, one FULL day

Money: I spent about $300 for the ingredients to make about 30 meals to feed 8 people

Having meals ready does cost me something up front: time, money, and mental energy. But, it pays off in the long run. Not only did I spend time prepping homecooked meals, but I also stocked up on some of favorite freezer items, like gelato (on sale for $2.49!), potstickers, pepperoni, and pizza cheese.

Want to know more about freezer cooking? Check out my series: 31 Days of Freezer Cooking, Free Printable Cooking Plans, or buy my book.

I feel like I’m ready for whatever may come, be it school, cookbook deadlines, or just a dull day when I don’t feel like cooking.

Freezer cooking helps us save money, but it also helps our quality of life.

Basic Freezer Meal Plan with Shopping List | Life as MOM

This is Frugal Friday. In an effort to make these weekly financial discussions more interactive, I’m no longer posting a link-up. Feel free to leave a link in the comments. But better yet, chat with us on today’s topic.

Do YOU fill the freezer with freezer meals?

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Comments

  1. I make 6 of 1 meal 1 day a week yielding 6 dinners. That works best for me.

  2. I don’t do a lot of meals but instead I freeze things “ready to create”. What I mean is when I buy meat in bulk I cook it all up then let it cool, then I chop it all up into casserole friendly size pieces and freeze it on cookie sheets before placing it in freezer bags so that I can scoop out pre-cooked meat by the cup full. I also do this with veggies, peppers and onions. I freeze cookie dough balls and cooked banana bread. I also love my freezer for storing bread from a bread outlet store that is located in a town I need to go to for errands now and again. Just the other day I picked up 14 loaves of bread that sells for $2.50 each in the stores for just $1.39 a loaf that saves us over $15 right there.

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      I call those “meal components”. I do a lot of that, too. Cooked chicken ready to go into a number of different things, red sauce, taco meat, etc.

  3. A freshly defrosted freezer is like a clean slate for me so that’s how I started a couple days ago. Starting to fill it up snail like but filling it nonetheless. My favorite is the loss leader ball park franks wrapped in butter horn triangle, unbaked. When my oldest leaves for colloege move in day, these are coming with us to feed the masses without running for a pizza emergency.

  4. I really don’t do a lot of freezer cooking as it just seems overwhelming to me but I have found it very helpful to freeze our leftovers on days we have bigger meals. So if we have BBQ sandwiches for dinner and do not eat it all, I will throw the leftovers in the freezer for a day when I don’t feel like cooking. Another thing I have just started toying around with doing is buying double the ingredients for my meal plans and throwing those in the freezer. Last week I had ham steaks on the menu and instead of buying one like I usually have done in the past, I bought two and put one in the freezer. I’m hoping doing that will be a help during the months when the budget gets a little tight.

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      You can start small, just by doubling dinner, so you don’t have to hope for leftovers to freeze. you know you’ll have another batch for another night.

  5. judy luthy says:

    I’ve been Freezer cooking for probably 25 years. Our oldest is 38, and we have 5 total. If you’ve never really tried it–give it a Go! I also make my own Pantry Items: biscuit mix, hot roll mix, cookie dough, etc. It makes life so much easier, and I can plan the Monster Cooking day using what is on sale at the time, or what I have in the freezer.

  6. My side by side broke, and I didn’t have money to replace it, so a wonderful friend sent me a small fridge with a small freezer. Sometime in 2014 I will get a new one and I can go back to freezing meals. There is only me, and I don’t eat dairy, fish or seafood, and I make gluten free bread. I love storing meals. This week I made Italian Eggplant, and I was able to freeze enough for 4 meals or 6 eggplant sandwiches. I can freeze up to 15 meals, so next week I will be making stuffed pepper soup, rarely I use meat, but i only use about 1/2 pound ground beef in the soup, and I will make a small meatloaf with the remainder. I also chop every vegetable, celery, onion, carrots, garlic, parsley, and freeze in small zip lock bags. Sometimes I have freeze dried or dehydrated back up but not usually in the summer. What a great site you have, enjoying reading it, wish there was a cooking for one site.

  7. Juliet Betzelberger says:

    When I brown hamburger, I never brown just 1 pound. I usually brown 10 pounds or so and then rinse, drain and mix with cooked bulgar wheat. It reduces the cost and adds whole grain to our meals. I then package it in 3 cup amounts (equivalent to about 1 1/2 pounds of meat) for our family of 6. Makes taco, sloppy joe, or some casserole nights super quick!

    • Renee Bosley says:

      Hi Juliet, About how much wheat do you use for the 10 lbs of hamburger? I think this is a great idea and would like to try it out next payday. TIA ~ Renee

  8. I made your red sauce a few days ago, yum! I have a freezer full now! I was thinking of adding some to go over meatloaf instead of a ketchup mix. What do you think?

  9. Absolutely!!!! I have recently begun my adventures with Once a Month Cooking and I LOVE it! I do several freezer meals with this food prep method, but it has been such a blessing for me because I do not have to make a meal every single night. As a mom of 5 with #6 due in October, it’s not uncommon for my brain to be fried come dinner time =0) Such is my Life as Mom =0)

  10. Rachel Durham says:

    How long can these meals last in a “zip loc bag” in the freezer?

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      It depends on how you store it (deep freezer or regular refrigerator freezer). Standard rule of thumb is 2-3 months, but longer depending on how steady the temperature stays and how well packed it is.

  11. Nicole Rao says:

    Checking this picture, I’m noting the foodsaver bags that have the zipper. Are those the ones that are made for the little handheld foodsaver? I’m just asking b/c I LOVE the idea of reusing those bags for cheese and such, and the zipper convenience, but didn’t know they could go in the freezer!

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      Yes, that’s what they are. There is also an attachment for the food saver that can be used with the zipper bags.

      • Nicole Rao says:

        Awesome thx!! I have the little freshsaver handheld thingy…I just didn’t know the bags could go in the freezer. Do you reuse them?

        • Jessica Fisher says:

          I’ve reused the bags in the sense that we don’t often use the whole bag in one meal, so I store it in the fridge and draw from it until it’s gone. I’m a bit of a germaphobe, so I don’t like to reuse bags that have held meat or dairy.

  12. Thank you for this! I can honestly say that grocery shopping and meal planning are one of my biggest burdens. Trying to feed a fam of 5 on a budget healthy food that they actually like can be exhausting. However, it appears that your list includes food we actually eat! I am going for it! Newbie freezer cooking mom! <—

  13. I was wondering… Do you have any recipes and ideas on what to do with WIC food? I have more pinto beans, black beans, kidney beans etc then I know what do with! I eat beans, but I have a ton of cans now and Idk what to make with it all. It’ll be a great pantry challenge :)

    Or what about a “living off canned food” challenge? I have a lot canned corn, green beans, pineapple chunks, cream of mushroom soup…etc. Most was given to me by Grandma when she was cleaning out her cabinet or if she got a bunch on sale. Also she got like 20 cans of tomato paste for free (she’s a couponer) and she gave them to me. I’m stuck on what to do with it all!! Hahaha. Any ideas would be great :)

    • I have lots of recipes for those items over on Good Cheap Eats. You can do a recipe search here: http://goodcheapeats.com/find-a-recipe

    • We make a lot of different kinds of bean dips. Hummus is great but our family favorite is Black Bean Salsa
      2 cans black beans drained and rinsed
      Half of a purple onion small diced
      1-2 fresh jalepenos seeded fine diced
      1-2 garlic minced
      1 large tomato diced (use a can if in a pinch)
      1 can corn drained
      About 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (yes you can leave it out or use less)
      Juice of one lime
      2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
      2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
      Salt, pepper and cumin
      Refridgorate several hours before serving
      Great with chips or topping for a burger, hot dog, taco salad, great in a wrap or burrito, even tasty with scrambled eggs

  14. What do you cook your five pounds of beans in at once? I do the slow cooker where I soak for 8 hours then low for 8 hours, but I don’t think even 2 pounds would fit in my 6 qt!

  15. I’m good at finding good deals, or during hunting season, separating the meat and Foodsavering them. But not good at putting stuff together so I can just grab the stuff and put in the crockpot or together for dinner. I do when making lasagna or Baked ziti make the entire package and split into a couple meals since there’s only 3 of us now. And for my husband when he works nights and I don’t have any leftovers! You have great ideas, really appreciate your posts and will try to start going by them to save more time and money!

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