Not too long ago I decided to give this freezer meal prep thing a try. It seemed like such a lovely notion to be able to just walk to my freezer and pull out dinner for the evening and all I would need to do is just pop it into the oven.
Well, as with most things that I try, there was quite a bit of failure. (I always chalk this up as experience that I can share with you...what I did wrong: now you don't have to waste your time and energy making the same mistakes.) I am not going to say that the entire notion of freezer meals is bad. Far from it. I'm not going to say don't do it. However, I'll tell you what I did wrong and then you can keep this in mind when you're beginning. Also, check out my other blog post about a great first step to get into freezer meals.
Setting out, I had already done the things I had mentioned in that blog post so I thought this would be a walk in the park. Just a little more time and effort and I would be good to go. I was wrong on quite a bit of things.
First, know that it's going to cost you a bit up front if you're preparing for any larger amount of time. This is going to have to come out of your budget if you're going beyond what you normally spend. For example, if you're prepping for a month but you normally only buy two weeks at a time, know your budget is going to double up front.
Second, know that there is going to be a slight cost to the items you will need. If you're only doing prepared freezer bags that you'll pop into the crock pot, that's great, it will only cost you the price of the baggies. However, if you're making casseroles and pans of food, you'll have to purchase those and they're not extremely expensive but that is an expense to keep in mind.
Now onto the food...
My first failure was twice baked potatoes. I did the initial baking of the potatoes, scooping them out, mixing up the filling. Then wrapped them appropriately and froze. These had such a horrible texture when they were reheated. They were grainy and gritty and just not pleasant at all. I don't know if I did something wrong in the prep or the storage but yuck! (If you have had success with these, let me know in the comments how you do it!) So there went an entire 10lb bag of potatoes down the drain or out the door if you will.
My second failure was meatloaf. I made two or three prepared meatloaves, uncooked. After being in the deep freezer, I sat one out overnight in the fridge to thaw. The next day I baked for an hour...still raw inside. Kept baking for another hour...still raw. No joke. I think I got to three hours, still not done inside and I decided to give up and toss it. With the second meatloaf that I tried to bake later, I tried to learn from my mistake and defrosted this bad boy in the fridge for a few days. I think it was three. I get quite wary letting raw meat sit in the fridge for that long. But when I went to bake it again, same thing! It took forever! Dinner that night was ruined. Hubby had to do a quick fast food or pizza run. I at least continued cooking this one so that we could have it the next day. I think this one took three hours. THREE HOURS! AFTER THREE DAYS OF DEFROST! YES, I'M YELLING! haha. Maybe my freezer reaches Arctic temperatures?!
So, what I think I've learned from that is that if you're going to prep a casserole, maybe a huge chunk of meat is not the best way to go. Apparently in a deep freezer it hits some sort of unthawable state of no return. So I will never, ever ever ever, place a prepared meatloaf in the deep freezer again. Sheesh!
My third failure was not wrapping everything well enough. The pans that I bought had large plastic lids which I found didn't go well in the freezer. First, there's a huge distance between the food and the top of the lid which means tons of air in there to spoil your food faster. I was wrapping with foil first then popping the lid on. Let me tell you, these casseroles get heavy and when you're trying to stack them in the freezer the weight doesn't go onto those flimsy plastic lids. So my first handful of casseroles resulted in broken lids. With the second batch I just left the lids off. The mistake with that, however, is that now it was just covered with foil. Foil isn't very durable and can easily be poked through. Needless to say I had a few items that ended up getting freezer burn just because of the foil being damaged. So just be careful how you wrap your items, stack your items, and transfer them to the freezer.
I think I'm done freezing full casseroles. A full day spent on soooo many failures. Such long defrost times (even the non-meatloaves took a while to defrost. If you're not organized like me, I need more spur of the moment options, you might have problems with this too). I did have a few successes but overall, I'm done. I'm going to stick to my basic setup, and I may venture to try the freezer baggies next time. So be on the lookout for that. I'm sure I'll have a few interesting successes and funny failures to share with you then!