The ultimate guide to filling your freezer to make meal times easy! Here is my list of freezer meal prep ideas for new parents, busy times of year on the farm or just to be organised!
With baby number 2's arrival only a couple of weeks away, I'm happy to say my freezer is officially full!
When I was pregnant with Sadie I prepared a few meals for the freezer but knowing what life is like with a toddler and having a pretty fair idea of what I'm in for with a newborn this time, I knew I wanted to be much better organised this time around. To be honest, I actually found cooking dinners with just Sadie as a baby easy enough, but the thought of preparing dinner for Sadie, getting her to bed, dealing with the witching hours of a newborn and trying to get something healthy and delicious on the table for Josh and I was completely overwhelming and something that I knew I could have control over if I was organised.
So the ultimate list for pre baby meal prep was born and I got cooking!
This time around I've gone for a couple of different prep methods. I have a few traditional freezer meals like lasagne, macaroni cheese, mince pasta and meatloaf - things that are cooked and can be defrosted and heated through before serving but I've also made a few slow cooker prep bags. Meals that we love where I have thrown all ingredients into a bag and frozen it, ready to defrost and cook in the slow cooker or multi cooker/instant pot for a fresh cooked, easy meal.
I've also made a few batches of cookie dough that I've frozen in balls, ready to pull out and bake. Perfect for if we are having visitors, or for Josh to take in his lunch to work. I included a batch of oatmeal chocolate lactation cookies and some bars in there too to have as good breastfeeding snacks for me!
Tips for freezer meal prep:
- Plan ahead - write your list of meals you would like to put in the freezer and start shopping for ingredients as they are on special
- Start early - I started preparing meals for the freezer at 30 weeks. It seemed early but it meant I could slowly chip away at it over several weeks which made it much less work!
- Double up! Cook twice as much as you need for dinner and freeze half.
- Prepare meals that your family actually enjoys eating. Sure, lasagne freezes really well but if you don't like lasagne (ok, bad example!) don't make them!
- Write what each meal is and any instructions you need on the bag or container e.g. if the meal needs to be cooked in the slow cooker and for how long, if anything extra needs to be added or if it just needs to be reheated. This way you won't forget and someone else can take charge of dinner!
- Freeze things in individual portions as well as main meals. I froze soups and macaroni cheese in smaller containers to pull out for lunches for me or for a quick dinner for Sadie.
- Add veggies to everything! I added grated zucchini and carrot, spinach, onions, peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms...all sorts, to most of the meals I froze. This way I don't have to worry about cooking veggies too and I know we are getting a good healthy meal.
- Keep a list as you make the meals and put them in the freezer. This way you can quickly see what you already have and what sorts of meals you want to add and the list is super handy to have when it comes to planning meals for the week - you will be able to go through and select from a menu!
My list of freezer meals:
Cooked meals and sides:
- Macaroni Cheese - I froze this in individual servings to pull out for easy dinners for Sadie or lunch for me!
- Cheesy mince pasta
- Marinara sauce (I added lots of extra veggies and froze the sauce to add to meatballs or cooked mince for a quick spaghetti bolognese)
- Meatballs (I cooked and froze them individually and without sauce so that I can either pull out a big lot for our dinner or just 2 or 3 at a time for Sadie)
- Chicken enchiladas (shredded chicken in enchilada sauce that can be thawed and assembled into enchiladas and then baked to heat through)
- Mexican mince (perfect for burritos, nachos or tacos)
- Slow cooker pulled beef with BBQ sauce (perfect for serving in buns with coleslaw)
- Beef, potato & kumara hotpot/casserole
- Sausage, rice and peas dinner
- Bacon, egg and cheese breakfast muffins
- Pumpkin soup (froze in individual portions)
- Veggie soup (froze in individual portions)
- Quiche (frozen in individual slices)
- Frozen homemade pizzas using this pizza dough. I make the dough, roll it out and assemble the pizza like I was going to bake it and then freeze on an oven tray before transfering to a snaplock bag ready to bake from frozen.
- Fried rice
- Garlic and cheese bread knots (like bread rolls but as a great side dish for serving with lasagne...recipe coming soon
- Ciabatta garlic bread slices - frozen individually ready to pull out as many as we need
Slow cooker prep bags:
- Devilled sausages (added all sauce ingredients and sausages to a snaplock bag and will cook in slow cooker for 4 hours on high)
- Butter chicken (added all ingredients except cream and butter to a snaplock bag and will cook in slow cooker for 3 hours on high, then stir through cream and butter before serving)
- Sweet & sour chicken (added all sauce ingredients and chicken to a snaplock bag and will cook in slow cooker for 3 hours on high - then stir through about 1 tablespoon cornflour with 2 tablespoon water at the end to thicken)
- Lamb shanks
- Smoothie bags
- Lactation cookie dough balls (made the dough, scooped it into balls and froze on an oven tray before transfering to a snaplock bag)
- Chocolate chip cookie dough balls
- Oatmeal chocolate cookie dough balls
- Chocolate coconut slice (baked, sliced and frozen individually)
- No bake peanut butter chia bars (made, set in fridge, sliced and then froze)
- Slice and bake cookies
I always love seeing what other people like putting in the freezer, so comment below with your go to freezer meal/snack ideas!