How to Make Your Own TV Dinners Gourmet Meals for the Freezer

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No doubt about it – having a few meals stashed in your freezer is extrememly helpful on busy nights when you’re too tired to cook or your meal plan has flown the coop. How can you swing that? You could stock up on Hungry Man and Stouffer’s or you could do some “bulk cooking” and make your own. It’s really not that difficult.

I promise.

Last week I talked about some basics to freezer meals. Here is a more in-depth example of how I go about it. I am, by no means, the expert on this. Someone else probably has a better way. But, this is what works for me.

I have a chart that I fill out when I’m ready to throw an all-day cooking bash. It helps me think through the process of what to make and how to tackle all the tasks involved. You can see a modified version of it here. Today I’m going to walk you through it.

Here’s how I go about my freezer meal planning:

1. Choose what I’m going to make. On the chart I have listed meals that I know freeze well, divided into three categories: beef, chicken, and vegetarian/other. If I were going to cook for a month, I would choose 10-12 different items and spread them out over the categories so that we weren’t stuck eating all ground beef dishes all month long.

I circle the items that I want to make/eat for the coming month. In this walk through, I’m going to talk about recipes that use only one kind of protein: ground beef. So the meals I’ll choose are Quick Tomato Sauce, Boules de Picolat, Lasagna, Meatballs, and Meatloaf.

2. Adjust recipes. Since I’m going to make triple batches of each item, I’ll pencil over the amounts in the recipes so that I’m sure to have enough of everything.

3. Prepare my grocery list. I go through each recipe and write down all the ingredients that will be involved. I start with the first recipe and add anything to my list that I don’t already have. I make sure to pencil in the amounts. Then, when I get to the second recipe, I’ll add those ingredients, increasing the amounts of common ingredients accordingly. If I need two pounds of ground beef for boules de picolat and 3 pounds for lasagna, my tally increases to five pounds. And so on until all the recipes’ ingredients have been tallied.

4. Read through each recipe and see what recipe items could be prepped ahead of time. This would include chopping onions, grating cheese, and browning meat. I write these on the chart and keep a running tally of amounts that need to be prepped for each ingredient. For instance, chopped onions is called for in several recipes, so I’m going to do ALL my crying onion chopping at one time: 2 cups for the boules and 2 cups for the meatloaves means that I’ll need a total of 4 cups chopped onion.

5. Plan the best order in which to assemble my dishes. Since I need the pasta sauce to make the lasagna, that has to be first. Then, since the lasagna may have hot, cooked meat and sauce in it, I’ll make that next so that it has time to cool before freezing it. I’ll mix all the meatballs and meatloaves at the same time. But, I’ll do the meatballs before the meat loaves, again, so that they have extra time to cool after baking.

6. Lastly, I get cooking!

Hopefully, this gives you an idea how you can go beyond the double batch and make a ton of food to squirrel away for winter — or next week.

Any questions? Fire away in the comments section.

Related: For more kitchen tips, visit Tammy’s Recipes every Tuesday.

About Jessica Fisher

I believe you can get great meals on the table -- and still keep that pretty smile on your face.

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  1. Carey says:

    I love freezer cooking. I try to do it once a month, and my process is very similar to yours. I’m planning another big cooking spree next week. I think it’s a fun day spent in the kitchen, and I always thank myself later on those nights that I can’t (or don’t want to) cook!

  2. Katie @ goodLife {eats} says:

    That sounds like a great method! I wish I had more freezer space, because I would really love to have a few things in the freezer for crazy days. Years ago I saw a program done by Real Simple Magazine on tv w/ Freezer Fundamentals. It had great tips for freezing meals.

  3. Jenn @ Beautiful Calling says:

    Hi there. I have a completely unrelated question. How do you type and strike through? In your title you have the TV Dinner crossed out. How to do you do that?

    And I was sad last week with no spicy dish to contribute. I do have some baking recipes that freeze really well so I’ll see you on Thursday!

  4. UnfinishedMom says:

    Not to sound ignorant or anything, but what is Boules de Picolat? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that.

    Also, I’m looking forward to Thursday because while I do freeze stuff for breakfast – muffins, pancakes, waffles, etc. I’ve never really done much in the way of freezing for dinner. I’m looking for some good ideas.

  5. FishMama says:

    UnfinishedMom, you’re not ignorant, it’s probably not that common. I’ll be sharing the recipe at URS.

  6. Keowdie says:

    Great post! I started bulk-cooking to prepare for the birth of our second child last year. (We ate a LOT of carryout after our first son was born. Ick.) I’ve continued the practice, though I’m not nearly as organized as you.
    And for me it’s a continuous process. Whenever I make meatloaf, for example, I just double the recipe so I have the one we’re eating that night, and a spare for later.

  7. Heather says:

    This is super helpful, thanks for sharing

  8. Anonymous says:

    Sadly…. I'm 50 years old and have never had an all day baking/freezing day. I really have to try this. I'm just fearful of where to even start! Doesn't it get expensive to buy all of the ingredients at once??

  9. FishMama says:

    Julie, it depends on how much you want to tackle and how you shop. Even if you make a triple batch of something, you'll have freezer meals in reserve. That's a great way to start.

    If you stock up on ingredients at a really low price that allows you to buy more than you might have if you just buy it when you want/need it. I do this on a regular basis, so I'm cooking with a lot of things that I already have. So, in a sense, I'm just cooking ahead. I'll be posting about the $ aspect of this on Friday.

  10. Jeanine Lafave says:

    wow….i have been searching for a way to eliminate the im tired lets go out to eat days!! this makes so much since and so easy to fallow….i wish i could hug you!!! i am going to go get some freezing dishes right now!!

    • Jeanine Lafave says:

      @Jeanine Lafave,
      i have even thought about tring the fresh made meals that are delivered , but at 200 a week for 1 person, i tihnk this will work better!! thank you so much again you are truly an angel!

  11. Rosemary Gregoire says:

    The first Tuesday of the month is 10% off at our local grocery stores. It would be a good time to get extra ingredients.

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