Freezer meals are all the rage, but I had a hard time with them. Each time I put together a few freezer meals for my family, it took hours, made a mess, and cost more than I’d hoped. When we went to eat it, I always felt like it took more time to prepare than it should have, considering the hours I’d spent getting it ready for the freezer. And the recipes were ones that I’d found online in my search for easy make-ahead freezer meals, so they weren’t ones that my kids were used to. None of us liked the meal as much as we would have liked something I’d prepared then and there.
My requirements for easy make-ahead freezer meals
I knew that if I wanted to take advantage of the freezer meal concept, which appealed to me, I’d have to meet a few requirements.
- Be quick and easy to put together before freezing.
- Include inexpensive, familiar ingredients that I could use in other recipes.
- Be meals that are familiar to us.
- Require little day-of preparation and time.
- Include all components that need to be cooked (not including fresh ingredients for toppings, etc.)
Seem impossible? I thought so. But it’s not!
*This post contains affiliate links. I am compensated for purchases made through these links at no extra cost to the purchaser. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, click here*
When cooking some of your family’s favorite meals, consider whether or not it might freeze well. If so, make it a double batch. It won’t take much more time than making one meal, it won’t include expensive ingredients that you wouldn’t usually purchase. And it will be a meal that’s familiar to your family.
Soups are one of the easiest foods to freeze. Making a big batch of soup isn’t hard either. So, make a big pot of soup and eat some of it for dinner! Let the rest cool and then put it in glass freezer containers, mason jars, or freezer bags and stick it in the freezer. If you or someone in your household needs to pack a lunch, a quart sized mason jar is a great way to freeze soup! The night before you need it, put it in the fridge. It should be thawed by lunch time the next day.
Photo by sheri silver on Unsplash
A good casserole can be such great comfort food, but many of them take a lot of work to put together. There is usually something you have to cook before putting it in the casserole dish. In my opinion, casseroles are more work than they’re worth, unless I can get multiple meals out of one cooking session. Casseroles are also generally easy to batch cook. Make a big pot of pasta, cook a lot of ground beef or chicken, and have plenty of sauce and cheese to top it with. Divide into pans and you’re done.
Of course you can put these in foil pans, but I actually prefer glass pans that are both oven and freezer safe like these ones. That way, you can also thaw them in the microwave if needed. And there’s less waste involved, because you’ll just wash them and reuse them when you’re done!
Each type of mexican food will freeze differently, depending on what it is. For enchiladas, the casserole method works well (there are freezing directions on the link below). For lentil tacos, or any taco filling, simply make a big batch and freeze the leftovers in a freezer bag or container. Rice bowls, which we eat essentially as taco salad, uses the same freezing method as taco filling.
Anything with pasta is an excellent contender for a freezer meal, because it freezes well and is usually slathered in some kind of sauce, so it never tastes dry or different after freezing. Again, the freezing methods will vary depending on the dish. For a skillet meal like goulash I recommend just putting it in a freezer container or bag. For a dish like spaghetti and meatballs, you have two options: freeze it as a casserole or as separate pieces. I usually flash freeze my meatballs and store them in one container, and then store the spaghetti in another. When it’s time to use them, I add a jar of sauce to the meatballs and warm them on the stove. Stuffed shells would work well either in a casserole dish or flash-frozen to use a few at a time.
Make it work for your family
My hope in posting this is that you will be able to find meals that your family loves that can be frozen. Think about your soups, casseroles, Mexican dishes, and pasta dishes. Rice also freezes well and can be a great contender for freezer meals, though it does dry out a bit. I would recommend using it in something saucy if you freeze rice.
Next time you’re making a meal your family loves, try doubling it and sticking half in the freezer! You won’t regret it!
Below is a freezer guide that gives you tips for freezing food and a reference on safe ways to thaw and reheat the food. Sign up for the Mother Simply monthly newsletter to download!