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15 things you need to know about ‘no-cook’ freezer meals

By July 27, 2015Freezer Cooking Tips

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.

15 Things You Need To Know About No-Cook Freezer Meals

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:

  1. You can save money by buying the ingredients in bulk when they’re on sale.
  2. You can save time by prepping a bunch of meals at once.
  3. 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!

15 Things You Need To Know About No-Cook Freezer Meals

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.

15 Things You Need To Know About No-Cook Freezer Meals

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.

15 Things You Need To Know About No-Cook Freezer Meals

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.

15 Things You Need To Know About No-Cook Freezer Meals

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.

15 Things You Need To Know About No-Cook Freezer Meals

Q14: Can you recommend some recipes?

Of course!  Here are some of our faves:

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!

15 Things You Need To Know About No-Cook Freezer Meals

If you’re new to freezer cooking, my ‘no-cook’ freezer cookbooks contain a lot of great recipes and tips.

Thoughts or questions?  I’d love to hear from you.  Please leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. 

31 Comments

  • Kathy says:

    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.

    • Kelly says:

      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.

    • Karla says:

      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 beef is already divided up into different cuts, as that is the way I get my sides of beef from my parents’ cattle farm.]

      Good luck!

    • Debi says:

      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.

    • Karen says:

      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.

  • Mary says:

    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!

    • Kelly says:

      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.

  • Jess says:

    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 the meals once I have a stockpile of spices, frozen vegs etc but that’s only after buying them once!

    • Kelly says:

      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!

  • fab says:

    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
    fab

  • Pattieann says:

    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.

  • Christine says:

    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?

    Just curious.

  • Gladys Lopez says:

    Hi you freeze meals and cook in pressure cooker instead of slow cooker ? ? If so how do you know the time setting ?

  • Chris says:

    Kelly- you said you have not had any trouble with freezing the potatoes raw– any discoloration of them? Even when you are thawing them overnight?

  • Jkink says:

    You mention you do not brown your ground meat. How do you freeze the ground beef then? Do you break it up? Do you cut it in chunks? I’m just imaging a big block of cooked ground beef at the end of cooking in the crockpot and not the little pieces like normal. Also, does it have the same consistency as browned meat? Any tips would be great! Thank you!

    • Kelly says:

      I add it to the bag like a block and break it up after cooking. I think the consistency is a little bit “softer” than ground beef that has been pre-cooked, but we prefer it that way.

  • Naiara says:

    How can i make no-cook food without a crockpot?

  • Karen Michele says:

    I just learned about freezer cooking and I would really like to do this tomorrow. The problem is I did my shopping earlier in the week and my meat is all frozen. I have plenty of meat of all kinds so I don’t want to buy more. Can I just add the rest of the ingredients into the freezer bags with the frozen meat and put it right back into the freezer so the meat doesn’t thaw out? I don’t want to thaw and refreeze. I rather not wait until my next shopping trip because lately I have been wasting food. I have fibromyalgia and diabetes and I often too sick to prepare meals after I have already defrosted the meat. This way will be so easy for me no matter how sick I am. Especially the slow cooker recipes. No prep involved after tomorrow. 🙂

  • Rose says:

    Is it necessary to thaw the freezer meals before cooking? I just worry I’d take it out and it would sit out too long if plans change or something. How long is too long once you take the freezer meal out to thaw before cooking?

    • Kelly says:

      I’m not sure. I think they’d be fine for at least two days. Another option is to wait and thaw in the morning in water. That’s what I do when I forget to plan ahead.

  • Teri says:

    I have made individual stir fry’s; used to cook everything beforehand, but veggies were soggy. Just made some with uncooked veggies, but already cooked chicken. The veggies were great, but chicken not as tender and drier than I like. (I use microwave to cook frozen meal; from 6 to 8 minutes). Could I just slice my chicken thin, and leave it raw too? I cook my rice beforehand, then just put everything in a quart baggie, and flatten. To cook I just cut bag, put on a plate and cover with a plastic lid I have. (everything except for sauces which I freeze separately in baggies so I can change sauces, and I add the sauce about half way through cooking. Do you think the chicken (or beef) sliced thinly would cook enough?

  • Bobbie Zipperian says:

    I’m cooking lean and green meals, so would like to make zucchini lasagna, for example. When we make it fresh, the zucchini gives off allot of water. How can we prevent this in a freezer meal?

    • Bobbie, I have not made the Zucchini Lasagna as a freezer meal for the crockpot because it requires layering. I’m sure it would make a great freezer-to-oven meal. Anyhow, I cut back on the sauce to avoid too much liquid.

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