In this article: Learn the simple steps of how to do a monthly meal plan along with over 10 freezer meal recipe ideas. It will save you money and time!
It’s no secret that cooking isn’t my favourite pasttime. However, after cooking for my family for 28 years, I’ve learned a thing or two in the kitchen department.
My number one time and money-saving tip for the kitchen is to plan meals for an entire month ~ and tuck away as many meals as possible in the freezer.
I’ve had requests for details of this process, so I’m going to include it all in this one ginormous post. It will be a sort of an “Ultimate Guide for Monthly Meal Planning”. I’ll try to include as many details as possible so you, too, can find the freedom and simplicity of this method.
How to Make a Monthly Meal Plan with 10+ Freezer Meal Recipes
Plan your menu
The first step is to sit down with your most trusted recipe books, a big cup of coffee, and plan a menu. Think of things you already enjoy cooking and eating as a family, and put them on a monthly calendar. Unless you really desire to have 30 completely different meals during the month, feel free to have the same meal multiple times throughout the month. I generally have the same meal at least twice.
As you are looking for recipe ideas, think of things like soups, casseroles, and meat marinades. A list of my favorite freezer recipes is included below.
Take stock of your pantry items & make a shopping list
Once you have your menu planned, go through the recipes and see if you already have pantry (or freezer) grocery items that you will need.
This time, I grouped the items for each recipe together and wrote what each group was for. That saved me from buying grocery items I already had.
As I put together my shopping list, I categorize items according to the flow of my grocery store. For instance, I make categories like Paper, Deli, Meats, Dairy, Canned, Bakery, etc… and list them in the order that I travel through the store. When we’re in a really big hurry, my husband and I rip the list in half. He starts at one end of the store, and I at the other. We can get done really fast that way!
Make sure you have containers to freeze meals in
I use freezer bags for most things – soups, marinated chicken, meatballs, burritos, etc. They can lay flat when frozen, and can be labelled easily with a Sharpie marker.
Over the years, I’ve collected enough pans to freeze casseroles in like lasagna. However, if you don’t have enough pans, the dollar store has many disposible options at an affordable price.
Clean your kitchen, fridge, and freezer.
Before you head to the store for your big monthly grocery shop, make sure you can come home to a nice, clean kitchen and appliances. It is so much more efficient to start with everything clean and ready to go!
Shop for your groceries!
Once you have all your groceries all bought, it’s time for the freezer meal prep to start.
Ideally, I like to do this on the same day as grocery shopping (to avoid putting away all those groceries just to take them out again). But, if that’s not possible, it can always be done the next morning.
Now that our family is just 2 or 3 of us, the freezer meal prep goes much quicker, but at the time of this original post, I generally divided up the cooking into 2 2-hour cooking sessions. In one, I did all the hamburger meals, and in the other all the chicken meals. But, feel free to play around with the system to find one that works for you.
Cook with a helper if possible.
I know this isn’t always an option, but after trying many things, my husband and I started doing meal prep together. He enjoys helping, and we found we could accomplish so much more (and quickly) when we worked together.
Divide the tasks into batches
I started by chopping all the veggies for the recipes we were working on. As I chopped away, I made sure I chopped enough of everything for all the recipes we were working on. This month’s recipes included onions, celery, carrots, and peppers.
While I was chopping, my husband worked on browning and sauteing the hamburger meat. Since I have
2 big pots and 2 big burners, we do our cooking in batches based on that.
As I finished chopping things, he started adding items together to make the meals for the freezer.
Here was the exact system we used that day:
Batch #1 was
- White Chicken Chili (x2) and
- Chicken Cacciatorrie (x2)
While those things were simmering, I put together 2 recipes of Sweet and Sour Sausage. This requires no cooking or heating… Just pop all the ingredients into a big ziploc bag, and it’s ready for the crock-pot.
Once that batch of recipes was finished, packaged, and put in the freezer, we washed dishes and started the next batch:
~ Batch #2:
Then, packaging, into the freezer, and more dishes…
Here are a few helpful things to note in the packaging food for the freezer department:
- Mark items clearly with a sharpie marker. I like to use Freezer Tape on items.
- Include in your labelling how to bake the item. I bake most casseroles from frozen ~ covered with aluminum foil for at least half the time. Baking times depend on the item and size of the casserole, but I generally figure baking at 350 degrees for about an hour. Some items from frozen may take longer. For more information on how to cook your freezer meals, check out this post.
- It’s important the the items are covered and sealed well, so I often cover casserole dishes with plastic wrap before I cover them with aluminum foil. (Just remember to remove the plastic wrap before baking!!)
- Soups and other meals for the crock pot are most easily packaged in large ziploc bags. I lay them down flat in a single layer on baking sheets in the freezer until they are frozen, and then they stack nicely in the freezer.
- If soups are of the creamy variety, I freeze them without the milk or cream. Once I take them out of the freezer, I heat them thoroughly and then add the milk. (Like with the White Chicken Chili.)
Arrange meals in the freezer
Although, we have a chest freezer, I wanted to see if I could fit these all in our fridge freezer. They did…19 meals plus two bags of freshly grated cheese. However, I did rearrange the bags the next morning to make sure they all froze well.
This time I timed the process. From the start to the final dish, we worked 2 1/2 hours. Keep in mind, however, that I’ve been doing this for quite a while. I don’t think I was that quick when I first started.
Also, speed cooking is the closest thing to a marathon I’ll ever run.;)
If you are looking for more freezer meal recipes, here are a few more of our favorites:
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