How I cook 24 made-from-scratch meals in one hour with my healthy freezer meal batch cooking technique
As a working mom with two kids I don’t have a lot of time to be cooking every day. However, it is a priority for me to be able to serve healthy, tasty meals to my family. I am a Chef’s Wife after all!
Enter the beauty of the freezer meal. I’m pretty proud of my freezer meal stash. I don’t have a big kitchen or a double deep freeze, but on any given day you can open my freezer and find stacks of delicious, individually portioned home cooked meals, ready to go.
With very little planning it is easier than you think to stock your freezer. Here are a few of the lessons I learned over the years that I am happy to share with you.
Recipes included in this post:
Potage aux Légumes - healthy vegetable soup made with your leftover vegetables
Healthy 3 Bean Turkey Chili - Perfect on its on or to fill burritos, tacos served or on top of taco salad.
Le Chef’s Wife Minestrone - A super healthy meal in a bowl and the perfect freezer meal.
1. Use Ingredients that Freeze well:
Soups are my freezer meal go-to. Hearty, rich, meal-in-a-bowl soups that fill you up and are packed with vegetables. Through lots of trial and error I learned that some soups freeze much better than others. Chicken noodle soup, though a comforting classic, does not freeze well. The noodles soak up all of the liquid and you are left with a soup sludge when you reheat it. Same thing with any soup containing rice. Not good. Use potatoes as your starch and you will have a soup that tastes just as good defrosted 2 months later as it did on the day you made it.
2. Batch cook dishes using similar ingredients to save time.
Who has three hours to spend meal prepping? I don’t. Many of the batch cooking “hacks” I read about require waaaay too much chopping and organizing for my taste. I like to use fresh food and am not a fan of kitchen gadgets (I don’t have the room for them!) so I had to streamline the process.
Freezer meals are not meant to be consumed all in the same week, right? The idea is to stock your freezer to be able to pull from when you don’t feel like cooking. So why not cook multiple, similar dishes using the same ingredients to save you time?
Freezer Meal Batch Cooking example:
Perhaps you have noticed that Bolognaise Sauce and Chili have basically the same ingredients? They taste totally different and create very different meals but can be made side by side for maximum efficiency. Just be careful which pot you add the chili powder into!
If you are feeling ambitious, Minestrone Soup also uses many of the same base ingredients. Add in extra vegetables and you have a third super comforting meal in a bowl to pull out on a winter night.
When writing this article I timed myself making a pot of Minestrone, a pot of Bolognaise and a pot of 3 Bean Turkey Chili at the same time. (Click links for my full recipes) It took me 20 minutes to chop all of the ingredients, 10 minutes to get all the pots going and adding in the ingredients, and then 30 minutes of simmering time. Seeing all the burners going on my stove was so satisfying. I literally was able to cook twenty four delicious, made from scratch, healthy meals in one hour.
This week’s cooking is now done. Next week I likely will cook Chicken Vegetable soup, Chicken curry and a Potage aux Légumes… and so it goes. Continue to restock and within a few weeks you will have a wide variety of meals to choose from in your freezer.
3. La Mise en Place
This is a French culinary term that means “set up”. A tip I learned from Le Chef that has reduced my stress in the kitchen significantly. You will never see a Chef chopping carrots frantically while the meat is browning in the pan and the client is waiting. Non! They set up their work station in advance so that all their ingredients are laid out, pre-chopped and ready to cook when the order comes in. When there are children underfoot and multiple interruptions, this tip is a life saver. I can stop and come back to my cooking multiple times in the afternoon if I have to. I never turn the burner on until everything is ready.
Also – clean as you go! By not turning on the heat until the last minute you can avoid a big kitchen clean up at the end.
Storage containers: I use this set of ziploc plastic containers. They are inexpensive, freeze well and last a long time. By having all of the same set they store neatly in my drawer as well. Freezer bags do the trick as would freezer-poof glass containers.
3 large pots or at least 2 large pots and 1 medium sized pot for the minestrone. The size of your pot is a good indication how many meals you can make at a time.
For these recipes you really can use any pots you have but here are the ones I have in my kitchen that I have used 1000s of times (literally!)
A large 10 QT stock pot (Le Creuset Caribbean Blue)
1 medium Stock Pot (Le Creuset Caribbean Blue)
1 large Dutch Oven (Le Creuset Oval Dutch Oven Cerise)
4. Components of a meal give you more flexibility.
Sure, it is amazing to freeze a whole lasagna or casserole, though this has never worked for me because I do not have the freezer space to accommodate big platters. Also, I love having the flexibility to make multiple different meals out of my freezer stash depending on my craving of the day.
Meat Sauce can be served over any kind of pasta or spaghetti squash for a low carb alternative. Having the meat sauce ready in the freezer also significantly cuts down on prep time for making lasagna or roasted eggplant parmesan.
I love to eat Chili on its own, but I also like to use it in a burrito, a quesadilla, or as part of a taco salad. There are so many possibilities!
I like to keep my freezer meals in portion-size plastic containers. I reuse them over and over and can easily pull a single one out when I want a healthy meal for myself or take out several for a family dinner. Glass jars or Ziploc freezer bags can also be used.
FoodSafe tip: Let your food cool to room temperature before portioning out the dishes into the containers.
I also truly enjoy sharing my freezer stash. I have been known to make soup deliveries when a close friend or family member is in need of a pick me up.
At this time when we could all use a little more comfort, what could be better than that?
Please do let me know if you try my tips for Healthy Freezer Meal Batch Cooking, I would love to hear from you!
Le Chef's Wife