Making meals ahead of time
October 13, 2004 3:15 PM   Subscribe

Need advice on make-ahead meals, saving money on food & buying a freezer... (More inside)

We used to have a chest freezer we could use, but it belonged to someone who moved out of our house. We're trying to save money, and I've heard that the make-ahead meal thing can save lots of money. (There are several books about spending one weekend a month cooking meals for the whole month, which you put in the freezer and then pull out and bake one a night.) I'm thinking that the normal freezer compartment of my fridge is not going to hold a month's worth of meals, or even two-weeks worth. We found a place that has good deals on reconditioned appliances, and we can pick up a 17 cubic footer for around $150.

Previously, we were able to do things like buy 8 turkeys when they were on sale for $4-5 a piece and store them in the freezer, or get 20 lbs ground beef for $1 per pound. Now we only have the regular freezer. To give a rough idea of our food costs--We eat most meals at home, most of the time prepared from scratch, and go out maybe twice a month, if that. Now we have two adults (although my husband really eats barely anything), a teenage boy and a baby (still on formula and baby food) every day, and a 9 year old and a 4 year old on weekends. Both girls. (The 4 year old eats like a bird, but the 9 year old, I think, eats more than the teenager.)

Has anyone ever done this? Do the meals get boring? Are they all casseroles and lasagnas? Does it really save money? Would it be cost-effective to get a freezer in order to do this? Any others tips on cheap, yet nutritious and tasty meals?

Also, anything I didn't think to ask, but you think might be helpful to me is welcomed.
posted by Shoeburyness to Food & Drink (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Always a great discussion. This thread covers similar ground, and check out Danelope's post for three more.
posted by tirade at 3:53 PM on October 13, 2004

You can google for 'Once A Month Cooking' resources. There used to be a great online cookbook at, but it's gone now, and the WebArchive doesn't seem to have archived the actual book, just remnants of the old site. I still have a copy, though - drop me a line and I'll e-mail it to you if you like.

Most of the savings come from buying bulk and not eating out. If you don't eat out a lot now, then you have to figure whether the expense of buying/running a freezer and the hassle of defrosting stuff is offset by the savings you get from buying bulk. It was for us - we live in a reasonably cold climate so running costs are low, and got a great deal on a new freezer from a friend in the industry. Defrosting is just a matter of popping the meal in the fridge overnight.

We don't do the whole OAMC thing. We tend to use the freezer for 'fiddly' things we're likely to want to eat semi-regularly - if you're making chicken soup, it's not a lot more effort to make a few gallons and freeze the remainder. Ditto with vegetable lasagne, or pizza dough/pizzas, or curries, or casseroles.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:31 PM on October 13, 2004

Chili is another good make ahead meal. Freezes well, gets better with reheating and to make good chili you have to make more than a single serving each for even a large family. My wife and I make chili in a 24l pot and then store it in the freezer in those tupperware light containers from glad/ziplock.

A note on freezers if you don't already have one. The upright variety take half the floor space and are way way easier to find things in. Plus if your short you don't have to worry about falling in. They will also freeze larger quanitities more evenly because the coils are distributed within instead of around the casing. They are theoretically more energy hungry because of air spillage when you open the door but if you have a frost free fridge (which contains a heating element that comes on 2-4 times a day) this isn't something you should worry about
posted by Mitheral at 3:01 PM on October 14, 2004

This thread on Kuro5hin might be helpful.
posted by subgenius at 3:26 PM on October 14, 2004

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