November 28, 2011
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.
Life is about to get easier thanks to this guide on how to make freezer meals! Today I’m breaking down the freezer meal process step by step and sharing all sorts of breakfasts, pastas, soups, slow cooker recipes you’re going to want to try.
It’s back to school season, which means back to jam-packed schedules and busy weeknights. During this time, I rely heavily on meal prep and make ahead freezer meals. Not the prepackaged ones from the grocery store, but fresh, homemade meals you prepare and freeze for busy days ahead!
They’re my go-to plan for bringing a full meal to the table, each night, with minimal kitchen duty.
If this sounds like something you could use, you’re in the right place. This step-by-step guide for freezer meals answers all your questions and includes recipes you can freeze ahead for future dinners you’re family will love.
How to Make Healthy Meals for the Freezer
When the kids are in school, weekdays are nonstop. Keeping the freezer stocked with cooked meals is an easy way to stay prepared and bring fresh meals to the table without spending all your time in the kitchen. There are two approaches to preparing meals for the freezer and I use a combination of the two. I suggest giving them both a trial run to see which method best helps you to keep a stocked freezer.
Choose Your Method
1. The first method is to set aside an entire afternoon/morning so you can cook multiple meals and prep ingredients all at once. It’s a lot like a regular meal prep session, but the goal is to pack away entire meals for the weeks ahead. Be sure to select a variety like pasta, soups, sheet pan dinners, etc. so you don’t wind up with pasta for five nights out of seven from week to week.2. Another way to prep freezer meals is with double-batch cooking, which can be done whenever you are preparing a meal for the night or next day. Double the recipe and freeze the leftovers in single-serve or family size portions. Recipes like chili, salsa chicken, pancakes and burgers are perfect for double batching because they don’t require extra steps if you want to make it in large quantities. Simply prepare the recipe as directed, doubling and tripling the recipe, and freeze whatever you don’t use for another meal.
How To Freeze Meals
- First, cook the recipe as directed.
- Once cooked, allow the food to cool down to room temperature.
- Once cooled, transfer the food to a freezer-safe container or resealable bag.
- Before placing the container of food in the freezer, label it with the recipe name.
- Freeze for 2-3 months.
If you love using freezer meals and batch cooking to save time, then you’ll love the way MOMables Family Meal Plans are organized! Each week our members are set up with five healthy recipes, a completed shopping list, and meal prep guide to save you even more time in the kitchen.
Learn more about what we’re cooking up with our meal plans here and grab a free sample while you’re at it.
Can I Freeze Glass or Baking Ware
Using freezer-friendly jars and containers is another way to pack food away without using plastics. However, there are a few precautions:
- Don’t overfill the jar. As contents freeze, they tend to expand, which can lead to cracks, shatters, and messes in your freezer. To avoid the mishaps, leave at least 1 ½ inches between the contents and lid.
- Don’t bake directly from the freezer. I don’t recommend using your casserole dish or glass baking ware as containers for freezing. While it would preserve the food, cold glass is known to shatter when exposed to heat, so transferring a casserole from the freezer to the oven could be a disaster.
How to Freeze Soup
Items such as soups, stews, and chili are best in large batches so you can eat it for dinner that night or later in the week and freeze the extra for later. Here’s how to freeze soup:
Allow the soup to cool down to room temperature; this will take around 2 hours. To speed up the process, transfer the soup to shallow containers and place in a bowl of ice, a little over the top, but it does work.
Divide the soup into gallon-size freezer bags or plastic containers. Let out any air and seal.
Before freezing, label your choice of container with the date and recipe name. If using zip bags, lay them flat in a single layer on a sheet pan and freeze. Once they are frozen, you can stack the bags to save space.
The night before you plan to eat, remove the soup from the freezer and allow to thaw in the fridge overnight. Reheat on the stove-top over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
How to Thaw Freezer Meals
Want the good news or bad news first? Good news? I thought so!
So here it is- thawing is optional. YAYYYY!
Okay, time for “bad news” (which isn’t that bad), thawing does impact how much time a dish will need to reheat. If thawed, it will require less time in the oven or on stove-top and vice versa.
What do I do? I’m the kind of person that likes to pop food in the oven, straight from the freezer. It does take longer to cook, but I plan ahead and take care of other things around the house will dinner cooks itself.
However, you might want your food on the table sooner, and that’s understood so here are three tried and true options for defrosting frozen meals:
By far, this is the easiest method to thaw freezer meals. Transfer the planned meal from the freezer to the fridge 24 – 48 hours before cooking.
This works for smaller portions or entreé based items like meatballs, shredded chicken, etc. Immerse the sealed food in cold water. Allow it to sit out at room temperature and cook immediately after thawing.
Remove the frozen food from plastic bags and containers, place in a microwave-safe dish, and defrost according to microwave instructions.
This method is faster than the first two however, it is known to dry out food or leave it unevenly cook food. The best practice is to save this option for single-serve portions, soups, and cooked meat.
How Long do Freezer Meals Last
Once your meal is tucked away in the freezer, you have 2 to 3 months until it’s time to toss. A smart tip to keep track is date and label the recipe on the containers before freezing them.
Thankfully with these amazing recipes I’ve included below you won’t have any reason to wait that long!
Make-Ahead Breakfast Ideas
Weekend mornings are our big breakfast days. I like to batch cook pancakes and waffles, then freeze the leftovers for future mid-week breakfasts.
If I have extra time, I’ll bake a batch of muffins or prepare the batter and freeze those for future breakfasts and treats. Didn’t know you could freeze muffins? YASSS! You’ll find the entire process along with some recipes to test out in this post. Meanwhile let’s get to the breakfast recipes!
Everyone needs the basic pancake recipe and these are it!
Double Chocolate Chip Pancakes
Whoever said you can’t have chocolate for breakfast never had this breakfast phenomenon. Syrup is optional but I prefer whipped cream.
Mini muffins with the light, fluffy texture of pancakes, what could be better? Having a stash ready in the freezer!
Everyone needs a good waffle in their life, and these fluffy buttermilk waffles fit the bill. Stack them high, drizzle on the syrup and dig in!
Chocolate Chip Pancake Muffins
Pretty much the Classic Pancakes with chocolate chips because chocolate is #life. Next time you plan to make these for breakfast, double the batch and freeze leftovers.
Classic English Scones
Break out these bad boys when you need a breakfast or snack to impress. Bonus points if served with tea and clotted cream.
A grain-free version of the Blueberry Scone from your local coffee shop’s bakery case. This one uses a combo of almond flour and coconut flour to make it even tastier.
Banana Oatmeal Muffins
Delicious breakfast banana muffins so easy your kids can make it, thanks to the blender.
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
You won’t be making any other banana bread recipe anytime soon. The chocolate-y goodness makes all the difference in this recipe.
This protein-rich breakfast makes is great when you need a meal on the go. To reheat, warm in the microwave or toaster oven.
Homemade Egg Muffins
Like the drive-thru egg muffins but this one includes real eggs and ham. Pop it in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes and breakfast is served!
Pasta Freezer Meals
Pasta night is a must and thankfully our favorites here on the blog also happen to be freezer-friendly. A pro-tip for reheating pasta is to add a little liquid like chicken broth or water to help the sauce reach the right consistency.
Salsa Verde Chicken Pasta
Thanks to leftover chicken from the Slow Cooker Salsa Verde Tacos this immaculate skillet pasta was born. Once reheated, stir in ½ to 1 cup chicken broth until the sauce is the right consistency.
No time for classic baked lasagna? I got you! This skillet meal has all the flavors in half the time.
Sundried Tomato Chicken Pasta
You know that lonely jar of sundried tomatoes sitting in your pantry? Here’s what to do with it.
Skillet Chicken & Broccoli Alfredo
Alfredo sauce, chicken, pasta, and broccoli, this combination never gets old.
Baked Chicken Cordon Bleu
The pasta version of the breaded baked chicken we all know and love. This one’s a keeper.
Family Friendly Freezer Meals
Finding a recipe that the entire family will love and eat can be… well, exasperating.
But I aim to please and put together an entire collection of tried and true recipes that both kids and adults can dig. You’ll find tacos, pasta, soups, and so much more but for today, let’s stick to the freezer friendly ones. Though if you’re in a rush, you can see all my best dinner ideas for tonight right here.
Sheet Pan Dijon Pork Roast
If you’re looking for a multi-purpose meal, this pork roast is it! It serves as an impressive main dish for the holidays, guests, or hearty weeknight dinner.
All Meat & Veggie Chili
The #1 recipe on this blog and it’s freezer friendly! Double, triple the recipe and use it for all things chili; hot dogs, Frito pies, campfires, etc.
American Beef Goulash
I can’t stress enough on how much you need to make this cheesy, delicious beefy pasta dish. Let’s just say, my husbands and kids, downed their portion in 5 minutes then asked for seconds.
Asian Beef & Broccoli Bowls
Freeze the meat and broccoli in a large container and the rice in another or turn into single-serve portions with these to-go containers.
Black Bean Veggie Burgers
The ultimate veggie burger recipe packed with flavor and it won’t dry your mouth out. It’s my favorite meal to make with a can of black beans and a few pantry staples.
Mango Shrimp Stir Fry
A handful of ingredients go super far with this tangy shrimp stir fry. Don’t have fresh mangoes on hand, swap it with frozen pineapple pieces.
Jamaican Pork & Pineapple Stir Fry
This one’s always a hit for dinner. Make it low carb by swapping the rice for cauliflower rice. You can also freeze it in single-serve portions and reheat for office lunches.
Get your omega-3’s and nugget fix with this one recipe. Panko breadcrumbs add extra crisp without the calories. It’s a keeper!
Chicken Freezer Meals
If there is one ingredient I’m fully confident in, it’s chicken! And having go-to chicken dinner ideas you can make on any occasion is a must! These recipes are high in protein, easy to prepare and best of all, kid-approved!
Most of the recipes below like Chicken Nuggets, Pizza Chicken, and Chicken Teriyaki can be doubled, and leftovers frozen for future dinners and lunches.
I copied my kid’s favorite drive-thru nuggets, and the results are more than wonderful. Find out for yourself, oh, and bring the BBQ sauce.
HOLY SHMOKES this stuff… I swear I get more excited to eat this Pizza Chicken than the kids.
Sheet Pan Roasted Chicken
Pro Tip: Bake extra chicken to use in other meals like this Buffalo Chicken Salad.
Honey Chicken Drumsticks
Tender, moist baked drumsticks with a crispy, sweet coating, this one will be a keeper with the whole family.
Chicken & Veggie Stir Fry
When you need something healthy but satisfying, this stir-fry hits the spot!
Say buh-bye to the takeout because this homemade teriyaki DOES NOT disappoint. We’re talking fresh-out-the-wok kinda’ good.
Best Soups to Freeze
One of the easiest items to freeze and reheat is soup! The best part, it tastes just as good, if not better, when reheated. You’ll notice I didn’t include any recipes with pasta, and for a good reason. When pasta is frozen in liquid, then reheated it tends to fall apart and turn to mush.n Trust me, stick to the rice and veggie-based soups.
Paleo Chicken & Veggie Chili
Low-carb or not, this Keto Chicken Chili is the BOMB.COM, and it freezes beautifully.
Mexican Bean & Vegetable Soup
A hearty, vegetarian soup hits, made with basic pantry staples, and it hits the spot on cold nights.
Tomato Veggie Soup
It might look like ordinary tomato soup, but this recipe packs a TON of flavor and veggies, all thanks to an immersion blender. Bonus points if you serve it with grilled cheese sandwiches.
Soul warming soup you can make in a matter of minutes. Cumin, chile powder, and smoked paprika bring this vegetarian Enchilada soup to a new level.
Best Crockpot Freezer Meals
These slow cooker meals are about to be your favorite go-to dinners. They are more entreé based, meaning you can build multiple meals with it. For instance, the salsa chicken, you can make in the slow cooker and then use the meat to make tacos, salads, burrito bowls throughout the week.
Below are favorite slow cooker meals here on the blog and in our family meal plans.
Taco Stuffed Lettuce Cups
Strictly speaking, the only thing that should be frozen from this recipe is the cooked taco meat. Of course, you can swap the lettuce cup for a tortilla shell for simple Beef Tacos.
When you want lasagna but don’t feel like making it, this soups hits the spot.
Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas
Taco truck quality pulled pork from the comfort of your own kitchen. Use it to build tacos, burrito bowls, on top salads; however, your heart desires.
Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken
What will you love the most about this recipe? The fact that it’s made in the slow cooker with only two ingredients? Or because it gives us Salsa Chicken Tacos and Chicken Burrito Bowls, I’ll let you decide.
Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken
This buffalo chicken saves lives and I saved it for last because it’s THE ABSOLUTE BEST!
Best Kitchen Equipment for Prepping Freezer Meals
The list is long and you will have most of the items available. I’ve found everything from the large baking sheets to kitchen tongs to be super helpful during the batch cooking and freezer meal process but this list will focus on the absolute MUST HAVES for freezer cooking.
Plastic Food Storage
Leakproof, freezer-friendly, microwaveable. These containers really do it all, as long as you don’t mind using plastic for your reusable containers.
Heavy Duty Freezer Bags
Inexpensive, easy, and they fit A LOT of food. If you don’t like using plastic, these reusable ones work great too.
Tin Foil Pans
These are my go-to for baked pastas and casserole type meals. Each pan comes with a lid and you can get a few uses out of them.
If you want to prep single-serve portions for office and school lunches, I’ve found the containers below to be super useful.
Glass meal prep
You’ll want to allow the food some time to defrost before heating in the microwave. We don’t want any shattered glass.
Plastic Meal Prep Containers
These are total life-savers. While they’re not as durable as glass containers, they still hold up well in the freezer and microwave, and you get multiple uses.
I use these to freeze smoothies, chopped veggies, and single-serve portions of buffalo or salsa chicken.
More Meal Planning Ideas for Busy Families
I believe dinner should consist of wholesome ingredients and more time at the table, not in the kitchen. In fact, you’ll find recipes just like the ones above in our dinner meal plan, because I know they give us moms a break without sacrificing taste or quality.
Like freezer meals and batch cooking, having a meal plan can save you time in the kitchen and save you money each week. Our family meal plans figure out what to make and break it down into a shopping list and prep tips, so you have one less thing on your to-do list. It takes the guesswork out of what to make and helps you create meals your family will look forward to.
Okay, so here’s the part where you pick three recipes to make and freeze! While they’re all bonafide family-favorites, I’m partial to the Buffalo Chicken.
Do you do make-ahead freezer meals? If so, do you have a favorite recipe? Here’s one to get you started.
Healthy Freezer Meals for Families
Mexican Vegetable Soup
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup carrots coarsely diced
- ½ cup green pepper diced
- ½ cup onion diced
- 2 small zucchinis chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 14 ounce can petite diced tomatoes
- 14 ounce can black beans drained and rinsed
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- ½ cup uncooked rice
- Cilantro for garnish
- Heat the oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add in carrots, bell pepper, onion, zucchini, and garlic. Sauté until just tender, and add in the cumin, oregano and chili powder. Stir and cook for a minute until spices are fragrant.
- Pour in the tomatoes, broth, beans and water. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Stir in the rice and simmer for an additional 20 minutes (35 if you use brown rice). Garnish with cilantro to serve.
I am in love with freezing! It just makes sense. As far as individual portioning, what kind of containers do you use?
Blessed Little Family
I do. My favorite tip is to cook my ground beef right when I buy it and freeze it. It makes for easy spaghetti and taco nights or anything else that calls for cooked ground beef. I also love to freeze just about anything!