You may be wondering how you build a stash of freezer meals so that they are free. It's simple really - portion control. We're a family of five, so most of my recipes make at least six serves. I dish up five when the meal is cooked, and as I'm dishing up I put the extra serve straight into a container and put it into the fridge to cool. Then after tea I put the lid on it and pop it into the freezer. One free meal added to the freezer meal stash. If the recipe makes more than six serves, I have more than one free meal to put into the freezer.
Hint: Use some masking tape and a marker to label the containers. Strangely enough chicken soup looks a lot like vegetable soup when it's frozen, as does bolognaise sauce and vegetable pasta sauce. Labelling the containers also stops everyone from pulling them all out, opening them to see what's in them then putting them back in the freezer.
Sometimes there are no leftovers or extra serves. That's OK. But when there are I take full advantage of them. I think it's far better to put a single serve into the freezer for a freezer meal than stash it at the back of the fridge until garbage night then toss it out - that really is just putting money in the bin.
Take a look at your recipes. Are there any you could perhaps stretch to an extra serve or two? If so, those extra serves could become freezer meals. I have a couple of recipes that serve four. I add a few extra ingredients (grated veggies or rolled oats or rice or even water or stock) to stretch them to make six serves. Then they feed us all and give me at least one freezer meal.
There are a couple of tricks to using free meals from the freezer though:
1. you must pay for them and
2. you must use them.
I budget $5 a dinner. When we have freezer meals I take $5 from my grocery budget and put it straight into the grocery slush fund (you could add it to your Emergency Fund or pay it off a bill or similar) because the meal is already paid for. That $5 is a lot easier to find than the $30+ that takeaway costs too - think about freezer meals next time you're tempted to dial for pizza!
Not everything freezes so plan your freezer meals around dinners that will freeze. Things that freeze well are pasta dishes, rissoles, stews, casseroles, soups, pies, pasties, sausage rolls, fried rice, cooked sausages (great for a quick curry) and quiche.
Then write "freezer meals" into your meal plan at least once a month. We usually have them on a Saturday night. I always plan a meal for Saturday night, just in case we don't have any freezer meals, but usually it's a GYO night. Sometimes we're all home for tea, sometimes there is only Wayne and I, sometimes it's just me.
It doesn't matter, if there are freezer meals then Saturday night in our house is simple - go to the freezer, choose a dinner and enjoy it because who doesn't enjoy a free meal.