How To: Prep Ahead Freezer Ideas

We are big on bulk in our house. Buying our meat in bulk that is.

I’ve written about shopping at Costco before, and obviously everything that you buy at a warehouse store like Costco or Sam’s Club is sold in bulk. We also like to buy a lot of our meat from Saleem’s Market in the Strip District, and it’s easier to just get several of our favorite cuts of veal, lamb, and beef, pack it up in the vacuum sealer, and throw it in the freezer, than it is to make weekly trips to the store.

A few weeks ago, we had eaten our way to the end of our stockpile and made our shopping list when I got the bright idea to try the whole make-ahead-freezer-meal thing that I’ve heard so much about.

We didn’t actually make whole meals, but we did prepare marinades for half of the chicken, all of the lamb, and all of the veal. We also pre-seasoned some ground beef.

What you need to know:

–          Plan ahead. Before hitting the stores you need to pick your recipes, check the pantry and spice rack, and make shopping lists. Figure out how many batches you want of each recipe, and decide how you will break it down (i.e. you could make 1 batch of a recipe that serves 6, but break it down into 3 freezer packs with 2 servings each)

–          This is a pain in the butt. Be prepared to set aside a whole day to shop for meat and missing ingredients, as well as mixing, bagging, and freezing. It is worth it though.

–          Before sealing the bag with your vacuum sealer, make sure the meat and marinade are frozen or else the liquid will get sucked into the machine. To do this, fill the bag with the meat and marinade and carefully position it upright in the freezer. Once frozen, vacuum and seal.

–          If you don’t have a vacuum sealer and aren’t ready to buy one, you can use freezer bags, just do your best to push out any air before zipping the top.

–          Label, label, label. I cannot stress this enough. While rearranging stuff in the freezer we found so many unmarked packages, leading to questions such as Is this hot sausage or breakfast sausage? Is this pizza dough, or naan? Does this sauce have meatballs in it?

–          If you can, recruit help. If Yuseff and I didn’t have each other to split the work, it would have been overwhelming! Chances are, the job would have been abandoned halfway through.

–          Remember to season your meat with salt and pepper before dropping into the marinade.

–          Just keep in mind the reason you’re doing this. For me—it was because I was starting to feel like I was shackled to my kitchen. With so much of the prep work done, All I’ll have to do is defrost and cook. Whenever I felt like saying Okay, I’m done, I want to quit, I thought about how glad I’d be that I pushed through it when the time comes for me to cook these meals.

What to Make:

I’m going to share the recipes that I used to prep our freezer food, but don’t limit yourself to this list. You know what your favorite recipes are, and chances are that you can freeze them just fine.

Lamb: I got 8 lamb chops from Saleem’s. I prepped 4 for Moroccan Lamb and 4 for Rosemary Lamb

Veal: I also picked up 4 Veal chops and froze them with the marinade for Lemon Parsley Veal. Instead of using dried parsley, I used fresh parsley. This is a great excuse to buy fresh herbs. Since you’re freezing everything, you know they won’t spoil before you get around to using them up!

Ground Beef: We pre-mixed the meat with our favorite seasonings for burgers, tacos, and meatloaf. An added bonus? Not only will whipping up these quick meals be even quicker, but the seasonings will now have plenty of time to flavor the meat.

Chicken: Here is where we dedicated the most time! I found a ton of recipes for “Dump Chicken,” over at When the Dinner Bell Rings. I picked out four (from her 28 fabulous recipes) that contained ingredients that we already had:

Herb Wine Chicken:
1 cup Red Wine
2/3 cup Vegetable Oil
2 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
2 Tbsp Fresh Minced Parsley
1 tsp Dried Thyme
4-5 Basil leaves, chopped
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper

Honey Sesame Chicken:
1/2 cup Beer
3 Tbsp Sesame Seeds
3 Tbsp Honey
2 tbsp Dijon Mustard
1/2 tsp Pepper
2 tsp minced garlic

Garlic Dijon Chicken:
1/4 cup Dijon Mustard
2 Tbsp Lime Juice
2 tsp Minced Garlic

Teriyaki Chicken:
(forgot to take a picture with the chicken in it…)
1 tsp Minced Garlic
1/3 cup Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp White Wine
1 1/2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1/2 Tbsp Powdered Ginger

Each of these marinades should cover 1 1/2 lbs of chicken. Since that’s more than we’re likely to eat in one meal, we split it up and made multiple freezer packs of the same recipes.

We also found a great recipe for Thai Chicken Satay which will actually warrant it’s own post later. Here’s a sneak peak of the chicken in the marinade:

This recipe contains a long list of ingredients so I am extremely happy that we made it ahead. We doubled the recipe and made up four packs of chicken. Since the recipe involves a lot of specialty ingredients, this was a good way to ensure that they get used up!

Sandwiches: I made a dozen Make Ahead Breakfast Freezer Sandwiches. I switched it up by using English Muffins this time and made half of them with sausage patties instead of bacon.

I also pre-made two weeks of PB & J sandwiches for Marco to take to his babysitter’s house. Yup. Spread PB on both slices of bread to keep it from getting soggy, smear on your favorite flavor of jelly and place in a ziplock bag. Then put all of the sandwich-filled ziplock bags back into the bread bag and stick it in the freezer. This will be my new thing for school lunches. No more preservative-laden/ unfairly-expensive Uncrustables. (I know it’s not that hard to make them in the morning, but I really hate making PB & J sandwiches. I can’t stand how sticky everything is and I also always end up throwing away moldy and/or stale half-loaves of bread. This just gets the torture out of the way and ensures that I don’t waste bread).

Zuchinni Patties: A batch of Grandma’s Zuchinni Patties stay great in the freezer. Layer them on wax paper and slip into a freezer bag. I pop a few out after work, re-heat and enjoy them as a snack. By snacking on them during my alone time, I don’t have to share!


So what do you think? Are you brave enough to try this out? Do you have any favorites in your freezer?

12 thoughts on “How To: Prep Ahead Freezer Ideas

  1. This a great post! How many meals worth do you think you ended up with? I keep wanting to try this, but I wouldn’t know where to start with the meal planning part. ~Amy

    • I ended up with 2 nights of tacos, 2 nights of burgers, 2 nights of lamb, 1 night of veal, 4 nights of chicken satay, 2 nights of herb wine chicken, 1 night each of the other three chickens, 12 breakfast sandwiches, 8 PB & J sandwiches, 5 nights of meatloaf muffins (recipe coming soon). So, that’s like… 21 dinners right there as well as some grab and go breakfasts and pb & j sandwiches. We also left stuff plain (i.e. chicken thighs to make regular fried chicken, steaks for the grill, tilapia, shrimp, etc). The day afer we did this, I think I counted a total of a month and half worth of dinners, Things like rice, quinoa, and cornmeal for polenta stay good in the pantry so you always have an option for sides. I’m also conviced that potatoes stay good forever (not really… but you know…)

      If you aren’t sure where to start, then just start small. Don’t try to cook ahead for a whole month. Just buy a pack of bulk chicken and make ahead a few dinners like the ones above. Keep space in mind, too. We have a deep freezer in the basement and whithout it, we wouldn’t have done as much as we did.

      Stay tuned– I have a post scheduled in the next couple of weeks for how to make a meal plan!

      And if you want help just let me know and we can make up a plan for you

  2. i’m so glad you are discovering the joys of cooking. i do not take credit for passing this along to you; but it was a thing your dad did love to do. good for you for cultivating all these skills on your own. OR maybe in a previous life you were the cook for the king and queen and all those living in the castle. do you know how to break the neck of a chicken, pluck it clean and prepare it in a kettle hanging over the fireplace ?????

    i was ruined for life when i was a teenager and i had to pull all the skin off of several pounds of chicken pieces. i would dry heave and gag the whole time i had to do it. i also had to leave the house and go many blocks away from it if my mom was cooking liver. i was, however, a big fan of pork chop nights. you just had to spread them out on a pan to get those ready for dinner. oh, the stories i could tell of all the kitchen incidents that scarred me for life when it comes to preparing a meal.

    i was so delighted though when you were a little girl and your favorite meal that i made was sloppy joes and mac-n-cheese. it’s still one of the best things i can make and the only one meal sam eats that isn’t frozen, microwaved, toaster ovened or fully prepared from a take-out joint.

    my real talent was washing dishes and CLEANING.!!!!! i was probably the maid of the castle in another life.

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