Want to make your freezer meal prep session easy? Try these hacks for both Crock Pot and Instant Pot meals that make healthy, make-ahead dinners even simpler!
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After making a few hundred different freezer meals over the years, I've learned some freezer meal hacks along the way. Some of these are simple items you can buy to make your freezer meal prep easier, some are rules that will help you prep the food safely, and some are just organization tips to simplify your life. I have personally used each and every one of these freezer meal hacks – they really do work!
My Favorite Freezer Meal Hacks
1. Use bag holders to keep freezer meal bags open while prepping.
When you're adding the ingredients of your freezer meals to zip-top bags, chances are you aren't going to have a free hand to hold the bag open. These tong-like holders keep your bag open, making bulk meal prep so easy! Simply clip the bag into the top of the holder and slide off once ready to freeze.
2. Lay freezer meal bags flat while freezing.
You will be able to store so many more freezer meals in a small space by laying the bags flat when freezing. This makes the bags thin, stackable, and even vertically fileable…my favorite way to store. If you “plop” the meal on a flat surface for freezing, it takes up a ton of extra space! Just remember to lay the meal on a truly flat surface for freezing (not a grated surface, like the shelves of a deep freezer). You can put a cutting board or even a piece of cardboard under your meal to make it freeze flat if needed.
3. Use round containers so your meals fit in the Instant Pot while still frozen.
Tip #2 isn't one I recommend for Instant Pot meals. The width of a gallon-sized bag won't fit in a 6 quart Instant Pot, forcing you to thaw the meal before putting in the pot. That's not very convenient!
Instead, I recommend freezing your meals in these Instant Pot-shaped containers. Unfortunately, the set I have isn't available anymore, but I've had many people tell me that this set from Amazon is wonderful. These fit perfectly in an Instant Pot, eliminating the need for thawing before you cook!
4. Skip the liquid.
This is especially true for Instant Pot meals – while you do need liquid to get a pressure cooker to work, too much can make your food downright watery. You can always add later, but it's difficult to take liquid out of a recipe once added. It's also kind of pointless to freeze unnecessary water in freezer meals, making the meals bigger and more difficult to freeze/store. If water/broth is called for in a recipe, leave it out until your cooking day. You can even add Better Than Bouillon to your meals in place of broths and just add the water element on serve day.
5. Put printed freezer meal labels in plastic baggies.
If you've ever added a printed label to a freezer meal, you probably know about the ink issue. The label will almost always collect condensation, making the ink run and the label curl. Not very pretty and usually kind of difficult to read!
An easy solution is to place your label in a small plastic baggie. This protects it from any kind of moisture that collects in the freezer. You could always laminate labels if you use them frequently, but that's a lot of time and work for just one use. It takes seconds to pop them in a baggie and they're really inexpensive! I simply attach these to my container with packing tape to keep them together.
6. Have a plan.
Having a plan is probably my favorite of all the freezer meal hacks! Going into a freezer meal prep session without a list of recipes, the right amounts of the right groceries, meal labels, and step by step instructions is just setting yourself up for failure. I've been there – and having to remember what did and didn't make it into your bags is just a massive pain. It's also so frustrating to search your freezer only to find an unlabeled meal with zero instructions on how to serve!
But, as of today, I've got you even more covered than before. There are four new Freezer Meal Boot Camps now available!
This collection of FMBC packs is made especially for the slow cooker. Each FMBC includes 10 home-cooked meals that you can take from freezer to table with minimal effort. Make families that your family will love with just a few hours of work and weeks of easy cooking!
Click here to check out the four new packs and the rest of the FMBC line-up! Through Friday (10/1), you can use the code fmbcscsite for 10% off of your freezer meal pack order.
7. Keep frozen meat frozen.
This is purely a safety rule, but is super important to know if you're making freezer meals. If your meat is already frozen, it must stay frozen when you put in/with your meals. Thawing and re-freezing meat is a no-no! The exception to this would be if you're cooking the meat before re-freezing (that is fine). Yes, this makes combining ingredients a little more difficult, but nobody wants food poisoning.
8. Mix the contents of your meal before freezing.
This is another freezer meal hack that can help you in the safety department. When placing the ingredients of your meal in the container (whether it is a bag or a plastic bowl), make sure your meal is stirred before freezing. Often, similar ingredients can clump together, making it more difficult to get denser ingredients (like mat) thoroughly cooked before serving. By mixing your ingredients, the denser ingredients will be evenly distributed, allowing for more even cooking. This also ensures that flavors are evenly distributed throughout the meal.
9. Cook double the recipe and freeze the extra meal.
Sometimes, you don't even have to have a full freezer meal prep session to have a few backups in the freezer! One of my favorite ideas is to cook double of what you'll need for a meal and freeze half. This is perfect for things like soups, stews, and meats for sandwiches.
I love using these Souper Cubes to make individual servings of meals. They are silicone trays that allow you to measure out just what you need for a single serving – that way, in a pinch, you can thaw just for one or two people. (Sidenote: these trays are also amazing for baking mini loaves of banana bread!)
10. Keep an inventory on your freezer.
While yes, you can search through your freezer to see what meals you have on hand, placing a simple printable on the door makes inventorying your stash a breeze! And I've got the perfect one for you today…of course I had to coordinate it to my Freezer Meal Boot Camps. 🙂
Simply click here to download this pdf. You can hang it on your freezer and cross off/add meals as they come along – doesn't get easier than that! This is also a great way to make sure meals are used within a few months of freezing.
Happy freezer meal prep, friends! Hope these freezer meal hacks help you along the way. Click here to see more of my Instant Pot content.