How to Eat from the Freezer – Yet Still Eat from Scratch

Eating healthy freezer meals all starts with planning ahead. When I meal plan each week, I always start by thinking about the week ahead. Am I working late this week? Is there something on that means we’ll need a quick dinner? Or is there a lazy weekend ahead where I can take my time and prep something from scratch?

Once I know this – I then start slotting in my meals.

For those nights when I am coming home late from work – or towards the end of the week, when we’re all just tired and won’t feel like cooking – I simply jot down “Freezer Meal”.

In my freezer – we have a bunch of different types of “freezer meals”. These are a saviour. They have saved me when I was pregnant, when I had a newborn – and they continue to save me today with a toddler.

Convenience is clearly a big tick for Freezer Meals. However, they also bring more to the table.

I also know that even if I choose a Freezer Meal, I am still providing my family with a healthy, wholefood meal – that I have cooked myself.

This is HUGE for me. One of the biggest barriers that people quote when they start to think about cooking from scratch each night – is time. Who has the time to cook a meal from scratch every night of the week? Dinner needs to be on the table in minutes not hours.

And you know what? They are right. No one has the time to do this every night of the week. Well – there are some of us – and I am envious of you!

But in my kitchen, on a Wednesday night with a toddler who is hungry and tired – and a partner who has been at home all day with said toddler, and a Mama who has been in back to back meetings all day with very little breaks apart from a Nursing Mother break where she multi-tasked pumping milk, eating lunch and answering emails – we need dinner on the table pretty much as soon as Mama walks in the door.

But I don’t want to feed my family junk or processed food. I want us to eat food that I know – and that I have made. Eating from scratch is the best way to skip any processing, and to ensure I know what is in my food.

So not only do I need dinner on the table quickly, I also want to feed my family as if I have still cooked the meal from scratch.

Freezer Meals are what enable us to do this.

The Empowered Cook shows you how to eat from the freezer while still eating from scratch - meaning healthy freezer meals for you and your family.

What exactly are Freezer Meals though?

They can vary – but I tend to stick to the following types. I find these work best for my family.

Pinterest is full of inspiration too. I have a Freezer Meals Pinterest board here too.

#1 – Frozen Leftovers or Pre-Cooked Meals

This is the easiest and fasted way to get a meal on the table. Simply defrost, heat and serve. Easy.

Our supply of these Pre-Cooked Meals is added to constantly and built up over time. Whenever I make a meal, I always make more than we eat (I think this comes from being taught by a Mum who was used to cooking for a lot of people). We either use the leftovers for lunch the next day – or we freeze them.

An example could be a pasta bake, or a curry and rice. We’ll simply package these up in containers, label the meal and date it, and then pop it in the freezer.

The fun part is that sometimes we only have enough leftovers for a single serve. Why is this fun? Because it means that we can have a freezer meal ‘potluck’. We can all choose something different from the freezer and yet all still eat a meal together at the same time. This is one of my favourite dinners. My partner might opt for Sweet and Sour Chicken, I might have Baked Tofu and Fried Rice, and our toddler will enjoy Spaghetti Bolognaise (his favourite). Mind you, our toddler will also help himself to fried rice and chicken too – he can’t miss out!

At any one time, we have probably 4 – 5 meals like this in the freezer. And we eat from the Freezer at least once a week, sometimes more. This keeps a good cycle going in the freezer – so just be conscious to choose the older meals first, and you’re set.

#2 – Frozen ‘Ready to Cook’ Meals

The other item we have in the freezer are meals that are almost ready to eat. They just need to be baked.

For us, this is mainly casseroles. Things that I have assembled, but that just need to be popped in the oven to cook for about 30-40 minutes (or longer if you cook from frozen).

My favourite is this pumpkin mac and cheese or any of these spring casseroles. We simply prep these to the point of going in the oven, and instead freeze them.

To save on freezing my casserole dishes (I only own a couple!) – we line the dish with aluminium and baking paper – with excess hanging over the sides. Pop your casserole in, and freeze for about an hour or until it has hardened. Then remove it from the casserole dish. Use the excess foil to cover the top. You might also need to wrap it again in another layer of aluminium foil to make sure it is air tight.

When it comes time to defrost, I take out the nicely wrapped package from the freezer and put it back in my casserole dish (if you have many different dishes – make sure you label which one you used on the package to save trying to play a game of mix and match when you take it out the freezer). I then defrost and cook.

The only thing to remember about these meals is that you do need to remember to defrost them. Because I meal plan – I have made it a habit of checking my meal plan the night before, so that I can defrost what I need to. If that is one of these meals, I simply pop it in the fridge overnight and it is defrosted by dinner time. I do check this throughout the day though – and will sometimes defrost this on the kitchen bench if it isn’t defrosting quickly enough in the fridge. Note: this is something you’ll need to research and be comfortable doing. There are some safety concerns about defrosting food on the bench. I always make my own educated decision about this (like not leaving it in the sun, or out for hours at a time), and recommend that you do too.

To reheat these – I put the cold casserole in the cold oven. And then the dish and the oven heat at the same rate. This avoids a potential disaster of putting a cold dish in a hot oven. Been there – done that! Maybe that is why I only have one casserole dish now…

#3 Slow Cooker Freezer Meals

This is a Pinterest Phenomenon.

It seems there are thousands of ways to do this – but they are all based on the same premise.

In a large snaplock bag, pop in a protein (meat or legumes), vegetables and a sauce – and then freeze the whole lot raw.

To cook, you simply defrost the bag (or in some cases, don’t!), and then add the lot to your slow cooker and cook as normal.

I was wary of this option – it seemed weird to freeze everything raw together. I mean chicken and sauce and vegetables together? But in a way, it is kinda like a marinade.

I have also had some very dodgy recipes fail miserably. I think this is possibly related to how different I think the American tastes and flavour requirements are to my own – or it could be that my slow cooker is different. Either way – I had to play around with finding some recipes that worked well.

I like Sweet and Sour Chicken, Beef Stew, and Chinese Beef and Broccoli.

I also have a Pinterest board where I have pinned quite a lot of recipes that I have either tried, or that I want to try. You can check it out here.

And there you have it – this is how we eat from the freezer – and yet still eat from scratch.

What are you going to try first? Do you have any other tips you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *