Make Freezer Cooking Work for You Even if You Don’t Like Casseroles

Guest Post by Jessica from LifeAsMom

Freezer cooking has been touted as a great way to save money, time, and energy. Also known as Once-A-Month Cooking (OAMC), it offers the home cook a respite from daily kitchen tasks as the freezer is stocked with an assortment of pre-made frozen meals. Since freezer cooking involves one large grocery shopping trip, often buying items in bulk at a reduced rate and then cooking the meals all at one time, this method of meal planning can produce great savings in the pocket book and on the schedule.

Typically when people think of frozen meals, images of stacks and stacks of casseroles come to mind. But, what if you don’t like casseroles? Or what about that small freezer of yours? Thirty meals are not going to fit. Maybe you just like having some flexibility at dinnertime and don’t want to commit to a 30-day meal plan. You might think that freezer cooking’s just not for you.

Au contraire!

You can still reap the benefits of bulk buying and bulk cooking without having to eat Lentil Sausage Surprise for the next month or having to buy a deep freeze. You can have your freezer meals and be creative, too.

Freezer cooking is ultimately making your own convenience foods, tailored to your family’s budget, size, and tastes.

You can easily adapt the standard “OAMC” methods to your own preferences. Think about the meals you regularly prepare and then consider how to make part of that meal ahead of time.

Prepare “dinner kits” for easy to assemble meals such as tacos, burritos, or pizza. Cook and season the meat. Portion the cheese. Cook and season dry beans. Cook up a pot of rice. You can even mix up the pizza dough. Package each of these components in meal-size portions and place all the bags for a certain meal in a larger bag. Be sure to include tortillas. Label and freeze. The work is practically done for you come dinner time. You can easily make kits for sloppy joes, hamburgers, or chili dogs. Just prepare all the components and stash them in the freezer.

If you’re pressed for space in the freezer, you may not have room to bundle each component. Instead, store the items in the best space-saving way and keep track of what you have.

Love to cook outside? Is your family a bunch of meat eaters? No problem. Trim your cuts of meat, season or marinade and seal in a ziptop bag. Label and freeze. On the day of serving, dump the roast in the crockpot, arrange the chicken in a baking pan, or throw the steaks on the grill. Your dinner prep is half done! Add a side dish and a vegetable and you’re good to go.

Assemble baking mixes for pancakes, muffins, scones, biscuits, brownies, or quick breads. Label a ziptop bag with the recipe name, list the wet ingredients to add later as well as the baking instructions. Measure out the “dry” team into the bag, seal it, and store in the pantry for later use. You’re halfway to homebaked goodies which will be tastier and less expensive than store bought mixes.

Freezer cooking is very adaptable to however you like to feed your family. With a little creative thinking, you can most definitely make freezer cooking work for you. Ready to get started? Check out this step-by-step freezer cooking tutorial.

What is the biggest challenge for you in making freezer cooking serve you best at dinnertime?

– Jessica Fisher, also known as FishMama, regularly feeds her freezer so that she can feed the hungry masses who call her “Mom.” She posts daily about life’s joys and challenges at LifeasMOM and shares delicious ways to act your wage at Good Cheap Eats.

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Comments

  1. says

    Great ideas! I recently did my Whole Foods in a Hurry menu and did hardly any casseroles–just having the main part of the meal done is a big help. I’ve been freezing homemade bun and pizza doughs too, which makes it super easy the day of.

    I just have an over-the-fridge freezer, and I have to freeze a lot in gallon Ziploc bags instead of casserole pans, but I managed to fit a whole month of meals in there!

  2. says

    I haven’t done a real freezer cooking day yet, though I would like to try it out. I do often brown hamburger in bulk and then divide and freeze in containers of 1lb. each. It’s nice to have that ready to make into taco meat, sloppy joes, or add to pasta. I also have made and frozen guacamole in batches when avocadoes go on sale cheap. I do have the luxury of two extra freezers, so I really should try out the OAMC! Also, never thought of pre-making baking mixes. Excellent tip!

  3. says

    Great article! I needed the inspiration to think outside the box when it comes to freezer cooking. My family gets tired of casseroles quick but there are so many other things you can freeze. Thanks!

  4. says

    Great post! I’ve cut down our casseroles to once a week and we’re still eating out of the freezer for most of the month. It’s all about being creative with what you have on hand. I think we all learned how to do that during the pantry challenge! Can’t wait until Monday :)

  5. says

    We rarely eat casseroles and have enjoyed our OAMC stash! I can’t wait to cook in a week…this time I have a friend doing it with me! Great ideas for the baking mixes…will make some this go-around.

  6. Jackie says

    How do the leaveners- is that a word? leavening agents?- like baking soda and baking powder do when they’re premixed? Do they lose potency, or doesn’t it matter?

    What about yeast? Can you premix for yeast breads and refrigerate if you’re planning on using them within a few weeks? Or should the yeast be omitted and added later?

    • says

      @Jackie, baking powder and baking soda seem to do fine. You can store them in the freezer for longer storage if you have the space.

      I would leave out yeast. The few times I bought yeast bread mixes, the yeast was in a separate package.

  7. says

    I personally love casseroles, but my family does get tired of them. I also have a few friends who would like to cook ahead but they don’t ‘do’ casseroles. Thanks for the ideas!

  8. says

    I did my first freezer cooking day earlier in the month. As a work-outside-the-home mommy, timing was a bit of a challenge — I didn’t want to devote a weekend day to it (that’s family time) and my evenings are short and sometimes rather full. I am reasonably happy with the way I split things up with two evenings of prep and two evenings of cooking, although I honestly overdid it….being 36 weeks pregnant, I’m blaming the new baby on that one. Also….as a new deep-freeze owner, I have learned that cooking times definitely vary by freezer!

  9. says

    I haven’t done the freezer cooking, because my family doesn’t do well with it, but I love these ideas! I’ll have to put them to use! Thank you.

    I really love the pre-made baking goods. My husband is a cookie lover, reminds me of the cookie monster! :D I will definitely HAVE to do that for him!

    Thank you!

  10. Shannon says

    Thanks so much! I am just getting started with freezer cooking and to begin, I’ve only just started to double up on casseroles and freeze one so I don’t have an “official” freezer cooking day yet. I love the idea of making up baking mixes and have never thought of it before!

  11. says

    My biggest challenge in freezer cooking is definitely the space. We are apartment dwellers, and a deep freeze is not an option. If I have my frezer full of ingredients that I have bought on sale/stock-up (like cheese, veggies, mark-down meats), I don’t have much room to store the completely prepared meals…even if they are in ziplocs. But I am going to try to do at least a few meals, and see how it works. I grew up with a OAMC mom, so I am very familiar with the process and benefits of freezer cooking!

  12. says

    I think my biggest obstacle is mental! The planning, organizing, etc. is difficult, due to the many distractions and my tendency to be easily distracted. (I really appreciated your earlier post–very helpful!) Plus my husband likes the freedom of spontaneity in cooking, since we share the kitchen. But we were talking it over, and I think I have a good solution that would be considered do-able. Rather than trying to do a bunch of different things, pick two (for me, lasagna and cranberry Chicken), and just do 3-4 batches of each. We would then have some favorite stand-by’s to go to when we wanted, or even once a week, and still have flexibility. We also are limited in our freezer space for now. But when I do give it a try, that’s what I’ll be doing.

  13. Rachel Knox says

    I was wondering how Baked Ziti freezes. Would I cook it and then freeze? Our put all the ingredients together (includes sour cream…I’m not sure how that would freeze) then freeze without cooking? I would appreciate any input! :D Thank you for this post and having me think outside of the casserole-only-freezer-cooking box! :)

  14. Julie Jansen says

    I love OAMC! I used to do it all the time. But my biggest obstacles now are dietary restrictions (the only starch we can really eat is potatoes, which don’t freeze well,) and the size of our family (with 8 of us including 6 growing boys, each meal literally fills a stockpot or two 9X13 baking dishes.) I would really appreciate any ideas for meals that I could freeze, tips on freezing potatoes, and ideas for how to freeze such large portions. It would be great to be able to do this again!

  15. LS says

    We will soon be the proud owners of a deep freezer and can’t wait for the related posts!! With a soon to be two yr old and returning full-time to school I’m sure to be a busy lady. We’ve been talking about doing this for quite some time at our house and any help is appreciated :)

  16. Christan says

    My biggest challenge to starting this is our families need to avoid dairy and processed foods. A wheat sensitivity also hinders me. How would you freeze a roast chicken? I did make red beans and rice, took leftovers and pureed them for burritos to freeze, so I kinda got started. It would be nice to have freezer meals for two or three nights a week. I’m still following along hoping to make it work for us.
    I also read the site that does the GF freezer, but we don’t do most of the meals she had listed.

  17. maria says

    Love this!! I personally look for oamc other than casseroles or items that do not have just pasta or cheese.

    I like variety in our cooking not cafeteria type foods.

    I do make lasagnas and enchiladas in bulk, but love the dinner kit ideas

  18. Maran Campbell says

    I did some freezer cooking when I was engaged and newly married and would like to get back into it. My mother gave me a cookbook that was really helpful called The Warehouse Gourmet (it’s now expanded and called Fix, Freeze, Feast). There’s a wide variety of recipes and very few are casseroles.