If you’re looking for a way to save time and money while feeding your family healthy food, ‘no-cook’ freezer meals are your answer. Simply combine the meats, vegetables, sauces and spices, and freeze! Then, cook in your slow cooker or oven when you’re ready for dinner.
I’ve personally made hundreds of ‘no-cook’ freezer meals. They’ve simplified my life, inspired three freezer cooking eBooks, and changed the way I make dinner. If you want to do the same, here are 15 things you need to know to get started…
Q1: Why should I make freezer meals in the first place?
There are three main benefits:
- You can save money by buying the ingredients in bulk when they’re on sale.
- You can save time by prepping a bunch of meals at once.
- You can prepare simple and healthy meals that your family will love.
Q2: What exactly are ‘no-cook’ freezer meals?
Meals that can be frozen without any cooking ahead of time. Simply combine the meats, vegetables, sauces and spices, and freeze!
Q3: Do you really freeze everything raw? Even the meat and vegetables?
Yep. I used to brown my ground meat before freezing, but I found it was completely unnecessary and only took more time. All of my frozen raw veggies turn out great – even potatoes! The only vegetable that I don’t freeze raw is broccoli, because I don’t like its taste and texture after cooking. I use frozen broccoli florets in my freezer meals instead.
Q4: Is it safe to freeze raw meat with veggies?
Yes. If you’re nervous about combining raw meat with other ingredients, let me assure you that it’s perfectly safe. (Remember, people cook raw meat and vegetables together in their slow cookers and ovens all the time!) According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, freezing to 0 °F inactivates microbes present in food (like bacteria, yeasts, and molds). The standard freezer setting in the United States is 0 °F.
Q5: Do freezer meals actually taste good?
You bet. Since they’re frozen without any cooking ahead of time, they cook for the first time out of the freezer. That means they taste like freshly-prepared meals and not like leftovers at all. Yippee!
Q6: How does freezing affect the texture, taste, and nutrition of the meal?
Since they’re frozen raw, the texture and taste doesn’t change a bit. According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, the freezing process does not break down nutrients and the nutritional value should change very little.
Q7: What do I need to start making ‘no-cook’ freezer meals?
You don’t need anything besides basic kitchen tools, like a vegetable peeler, chopping knife, and cutting board. Slow cooker recipes are easy to freeze, so I recommend a 4-quart or 6-quart slow cooker (bonus if it has a timer). If you’re going to prep a bunch of meals at once, these hands-free baggy clips are very helpful.
Q8: How do you package your freezer meals?
I store my slow cooker freezer meals in gallon-sized plastic freezer bags and my oven freezer meals in glass or aluminum pans covered with layers of plastic wrap and foil.
Q9: How long will a freezer meal last in the freezer?
Most freezer meals will last in a standard fridge-freezer combo for at least 3 months.
Q10: Do you need to thaw them?
I recommend thawing frozen slow cooker meals because it’s hard to fit a frozen square block in an oval slow cooker. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service also recommends using thawed meat in the slow cooker (instead of frozen meat).
For oven meals, I cook a lot of them frozen (For example, my brown sugar meatloaf and homemade hot pockets). They will cook quicker if thawed, but sometimes I forget to do that.
Q11: How exactly do you thaw a freezer meal?
I thaw my slow cooker meals by placing them in the refrigerator the night before I’m planning to cook them. They are not always 100% thawed in the morning, but they’re thawed enough to fit in my slow cooker and they always cook perfectly. You can also thaw meals in a bath of cold water or in the microwave (If you use this method, you will need to transfer the meal from a freezer bag to a microwave-safe dish).
Q12: How do you cook ‘no-cook’ freezer meals?
It depends on the recipe, but I make ‘no-cook’ freezer meals for my slow cooker, oven, grill, even the microwave!
Q13: How do I turn my favorite recipe into a ‘no-cook’ freezer meal?
Most slow cooker recipes are easy – just combine all of the ingredients in a gallon-sized plastic freezer bag. The only ingredients I’ve had issues with are fresh broccoli, rice, pasta, and some dairy products. If you want to convert your favorite slow cooker recipe to a freezer meal, these instructions on Money Saving Mom are helpful.
Q14: Can you recommend some recipes?
Of course! Here are some of our faves:
- Slow Cooker Chicken Curry
- Slow Cooker Beef Barley Stew
- Slow Cooker Mexican Chili with Cornbread Topping
- Easy Homemade Hot Pockets (that cook in the oven)
- Freezer-to-Microwave Bean and Cheese Burritos
If you want to start prepping a bunch of ‘no-cook’ freezer meals at once, this blog post lists 17 freezer meal prep sessions that I’ve tried myself.
Q15: I’ve been thinking about making freezer meals for a long time now, but I can’t seem to get started. Any tips?
My best advice is to jump right in. Once you see how easy it is to make a ‘no-cook’ freezer meal, and how much time and money it saves you, you will be hooked. Pick a recipe from my site and make it next week. Or, pick a slow cooker recipe to make for dinner and double the ingredients so you can make a second bag for the freezer. So easy!
If you’re new to freezer cooking, my ‘no-cook’ freezer cookbooks contain a lot of great recipes and tips.
We buy our meat from a locker. We buy a side of beef. It comes already very frozen. I don’t want to thaw the meat to re freeze it in the baggies. I’m try to figure out the best way to handle this.
How are you using it right now? When people use frozen meat, I typically say to add it to the bag frozen or wait to add it the day of cooking, but your situation is a little bit tricky since it’s such a big piece of meat.
Kathy, Can you do it like I do with my chicken? I buy the big packs of the breasts when they are on sale – and then freeze. There are usually 6-7 breasts in a package. I am not thawing them to put them in the baggies and refreeze (which I don’t think is recommended anyway). So, I just make up baggies with everything else. Then, I thaw the package and a baggie or two, use the chicken for the “freezer” meals, and if there are any left, make a “regular” meal with them. [I assume that your side of… Read more »
Kathy – what I would do is have the butcher divide the meat into 1 lb or 1-1/2 lb packages. That way you can just transfer the frozen meat into a bag with the rest of the ingredients and put right back in the freezer.
In the freezer bags place everything except the meat. When you ready to make that specific meal just pull out the meal bag and the meat. My problem right now is I don’t have any room left in my freezer. Between a cow, a pig, and frozen summer bounties of fruits and veggies my freezer is full.
Kelli, thank you for the ideas! I have a question-if you freeze raw meat with vegetables, then put in the crockpot, do you ever run into a problem with grease collecting at the top? Do you drain once done? Thanks you in advance!
No, it doesn’t seem to be a problem. I try to buy at least 85% lean ground meat though. I’ve used ground chuck without a problem, but you can see some of the liquid fat in the broth of soups. We still eat it that way though. Tastes delicious.
Hi Kelly, I just came across your site from Pinterest and I’m going to make a bunch of freezer meals for my sister who is pregnant. One question, I can often find large bags of frozen vegs (carrots, broccoli, peppers & onion strips) on sale at my local store. Could I use frozen vegs or do you recommend using fresh then freezing them? I wouldn’t want the meals to get watery if I used already frozen vegetables. I’m also jealous you have an Aldi near you because their prices are so good! I may be able to spend less on… Read more »
Yes, I think frozen veggies will work just fine. I’ve used them many times. It’s so nice of you to help your sister, Jess!
Hey, I like the idea of frozen prepped meals but i don’t have a slow cooker. It should be possible to thaw the bags and then fry them in a pan, right?
thanks a lot
Yes, a lot of them can be cooked in the oven or on the stovetop.
I am a full time RVer and love this idea because my freezer space is small. Plus traveling it’s nice to have a good meal when you arrive at your destination. Plus once I grocery shop I prepare all my vegetables by chopping and peeling and putting them in storage bags. Then I pull out what I need and just make a mess once.
Such great ideas! Thank you for all the work you have done. Have you ever thought about making the labels, so that they can be printed out?
oops, just saw them at the top:)