You’ve got a short window of time to get food on the table after a long day with the kids or at work, but a big freezer. Money Smart Mom: Financially Fit Parenting author Sarah Deveau has the solution for you! In this three part series on Freezer Meal Planning, she’ll teach you everything you need to know about cooking for the freezer.

Being prepared with the right tools is critical to enjoying the process of a freezer meal cooking day. Here’s what you need.

Great Recipes

It’s so disheartening to dig into a freezer meal you put a lot of effort into making on a freezer meal day, only to discover no one in your family likes it. It’s even worse when you remember you made six of those meals! After suffering through four of the most awful pizza casseroles that no amount of added cheese could liven up, I now test drive a single family serving of each meal before I commit to adding it to my next freezer meal plan.

Check out my favourite websites, Onceamonthmom and Everythingmom for tried and true freezer recipes, or pick up a copy of The Big Cook or Don’t Panic – Dinner’s in the Freezer: Great-Tasting Meals You Can Make Ahead. Many of your family’s favourite recipes are likely freezer friendly already.

Containers

Whenever possible, I use Ziploc freezer bags, as they’re sturdier than no name brands for meals. It’s easy enough to place them in a large bowl to stand it up to fill, them lay them flat on cookie sheets to freeze. Some things are easier to freeze in the pan, but there’s a trick to not sacrificing your pan to the freezer until you’re ready to eat that meal. Simply wrap the pan or casserole dish in aluminum foil before assembling the meal inside. Freeze, then pop out the meal and wrap tightly in another layer of foil. When you’re ready to bake that meal, just remove it from the freezer, drop it into the correct size dish, and bake! When freezing individual lunches, I usually use the small square Ziploc containers – though I do find leaving them frozen for more than a month or two invites freezer burn.

You can freeze in glass – just don’t forget to let the dish cool before popping it in the freezer, or warm up before placing in the oven.

Label it!

Regardless of the container you’ve used, you’ll want to ensure everything is labelled. Don’t trick yourself into thinking you’ll remember what’s in a specific container – trust me, three months later you’ll barely be able to name any of the recipes you made.  Be sure to include cooking instructions.

If you’re super keen you can print adorable labels from Martha Stewart but the truly frugal will simply write on the bag or foil with a sharpie, or slap a plain label on the bag or container.

Sarah Deveau is the author of Money Smart Mom: Financially Fit Parenting. She blogs about money at Yummy Mummy Club.