While we all strive to have healthy, home-cooked meals on the table each night, there are times when just making it through the day feels like an achievement. It’s those days when frozen meals seem like a Godsend. Thaw, pop into the oven and you have a meal ready, without the fuss of ordering food or resorting to a drive-thru.
But have you seen what’s in those frozen food meals? The long list of preservatives, low-quality ingredients and steep prices are usually enough to keep me away from the frozen aisle (with the exception of frozen fruits and veggies, of course!). Luckily, there’s a better way to have delicious, homemade, easy meals ready for you in the freezer — by making them, of course!
I love freezer meals, because you can do it so easily. You can either double up on meals you were already cooking and freeze extras, or designate a cook-up day, like a Sunday, where you prep and cook meals for the sole purpose of freezing them for later use. Not only does this free up valuable dinnertime, but it also means you’ll always have a meal you’ll love waiting for you.
You can easily freeze both individual portion sizes and entire meals, making it easy to feed just yourself or the whole family with minimal fuss. You can even cook up and freeze specific meal ingredients. For instance, if you find a great sale on chicken breasts, you can cook up a batch and freeze, ready to be pulled out for ingredients that call for cooked chicken or added to salads.
Freezer-ready meals are also an awesome gift to take to friends and family with a new baby or who are going through life changes, like illness or a death in the family. They’ll appreciate your gesture at a time when things are hectic.
Freezer Meal Tips
Once you start freezing meals, you’ll likely be a convert, but here are some tips to make the transition easier:
- Mark each meal with the date it’s been prepared, what it is and reheating instructions.
- Don’t leave foods in the freezer forever! Eat meat-based foods, like steak and chicken, within three months. Fish is good for about six, while fruit- and veggie-based dishes are OK for about six. But trust your gut: If something smells or looks “off,” best to chuck it.
- Let meals cool completely before freezing. If the food is still warm, it can change the freezer’s temperature, causing foods near it to thaw and then re-freeze, which can change the taste of food and even cause bacteria to grow. Similarly, once you’ve defrosted a meal, don’t re-freeze.
- If you’re feeling especially organized, you can even make a “freezer inventory” to keep on the fridge, where you add new additions to the freezer along with the date and cross out those you’ve eaten.
- You can turn most recipes into freezer-friendly meals, by prepping and freezing the main part of the meal and adding things like seafood or fresh herbs when you’re reheating.
- Metal and glass containers stack in the freezer neatly and mean that you don’t have to worry about BPA toxic effects. Otherwise, wrapping food in aluminum foil and then storing in a freezer-specific plastic bag are good options, too. Zip-top bags are also fantastic for storing individual smoothie packs or liquid foods, like sauces and soups.
- So your food tastes its best, defrost freezer meals in the refrigerator — never at room temperature. In a jiffy, you can also defrost in the microwave.
I’ve rounded up some of my favorite freezer meals from around the web. You’ll love how they taste, both fresh and after freezing. These are sure to make your steady frozen meal rotation!
20 Freezer Meals You’ll Love
1. Black Bean Burger
Burgers are one of the easiest freezer meals to freeze, even when they’re vegetarian, like these are. Made with fiber-rich black beans and quinoa flour, these burgers are super filling — you won’t even miss the meat! Make an extra batch and freeze these in individual portions for a quick lunch or dinner. Pair with gluten-free buns and your favorite burger fixings when you reheat.
Photo: Dr. Axe
2. Buffalo Chicken Tenders
These saucy chicken tenders are perfect to serve on game day, whether that’s today or in two months. They’re so simple to make and reheat beautifully in the oven. Add a little hot sauce before reheating and then add additional sauce if necessary just before serving.
3. Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole with Butternut Squash and Cranberries
Casseroles have a reputation for being unhealthy meals full of weird “cream of” canned soups, but not this one. This is the kind of freezer meal you could happily serve to guests with no canned soups in sight. Full of juicy chicken thighs, colorful squash and zesty cranberries, no one will believe it’s come from the freezer.
Photo: Well Plated
4. Chicken, Broccoli, Bacon & Potato Bake
These easy little potato bake takes just minutes to prepare and makes enough to keep one for now and freeze another for later. Though it’s meant to be dinner, these would work well as a hearty breakfast, too. Opt for turkey or beef bacon instead of pork and enjoy.
5. Country Breakfast Bowls
These make-ahead breakfast bowls are sure to kick-start your morning. They’re packed with oven-roasted potatoes, scrambled eggs, salsa and cheese, and reheat beautifully. Serve these with fresh scallions, sliced avocado for some healthy fats and a cup of coffee for a delicious start to the day.
6. DIY Freezer Oatmeal Cups
While gluten-free oatmeal is already a pretty easy breakfast to make, these oatmeal cups are genius. You can make them with your favorite seasonal fruits, like berries or peaches, and enjoy the “fresh” flavors for months afterward. Make a few different varieties in the same batch!
7. Easy Make-Ahead Breakfast Muffins
These easy, low-carb breakfast egg muffins are a tasty way to have breakfast ready throughout the week. I love the different flavor pairings, like the Italian-style one with sun-dried tomatoes, spinach and Italian seasoning, or carrots, roast beef and onions, just like your favorite deli sandwich.
Photo: Sprinkle Some Fun
8. Freezer Mashed Potatoes
While not full freezer meals, these frozen potatoes are fantastic to have on hand. Not only do they complement mains beautifully, but they’re a huge timesaver on those busy evenings and much easier than those gross boxed “potatoes.”
9. Green Smoothie Freezer Meals
Do you often buy fresh produce, just to forget about it in the crisper and sadly toss it away a week later? These smoothie packs have come to the rescue. In just 20 minutes, you can make two weeks’ worth of healthy smoothie packs, perfect for breakfasts or an after-workout snack.
10. Homemade Frozen Pizzas
These frozen pizzas are genius. With health store frozen pizzas costing $8–9 a pop, why not just make your own? You’ll start by making a fresh dough and tomato sauce from scratch, then loading up your favorite ingredients. When it’s time for pizza night, just pop the pie in the oven and dinner’s ready. These are great for teenagers and spouses frightened of the kitchen, too.
Photo: Intentional By Grace
11. Make-Ahead Black Bean & Spinach Enchilada Casserole
This vegetarian main doesn’t use any special ingredients, but it is packed with flavor. Assemble the dish and then pop in the freezer before baking for a Mexican-inspired meal any day of the week. Serve with your favorite taco fixings, like guacamole, sour cream and salsa.
12. Make Ahead Freezer Breakfast Sandwiches
McDonald’s who? These breakfast sandwiches have everything you love about the drive-thru version, but all fresh from your own kitchen. I’d opt for a whole grain or sprouted English muffin. Serve with this Anti-Inflammatory Juice instead of the Golden Arch’s sugary sweet orange drink for a ready-in-minutes freezer meal the whole family will love.
Photo: The Suburban Soapbox
13. Make Ahead Breakfast Quesadilla with Cheese Spinach and White Beans
These breakfast quesadillas will help power you through right to lunchtime. They’re stuffed with eggs and beans, so they’re heavy on the protein, and have a serving of anti-inflammatory spinach in them for a dose of vitamins and minerals before you’ve had your coffee. When possible, thaw these out the night before and reheat in a pan for a crispy exterior oozing with cheesy goodness.
14. Mexican Zucchini Lasagna
This grain-free lasagna is a lightened up take on an old classic. The noodles are made from zucchini, making this a great option for those who can’t eat gluten, and the Mexican flavors meld nicely with the ricotta and tomato sauce.
Photo: Food Faith Fitness
15. Mushroom Spinach Lasagna
This veggie lasagna is sure to make your list of favorite freezer meals. Instead of a red sauce, it uses a homemade creamy one to coat the mushrooms and spinach. And unlike some lasagna recipes, this one comes together quite quickly.
16. Paleo Chili
Chili is always a frozen meals all-star, and this recipe is no exception. What really makes this one stand out, though, is that this chili has no beans in it. Instead, it’s loaded with sweet potatoes, pumpkin, tomatoes, cauliflower and other veggies.
Plus, you can prepare it with ground bison or keep it vegetarian — everyone wins! To make this main even simpler, prep the ingredients the night before, throw them all in the slow cooker the next morning and watch as 8 hours later, you have enough food to feed a small army ready.
17. Preserve Avocados
OK, so this isn’t a real “recipe.” But if you’ve ever struggled to find a good avocado in the dead of winter, you’ll appreciate this easy way of stocking up on avocados when they’re inexpensive and in season, and having them on hand during avocado droughts. Fresh guacamole anytime? Sign me up!
18. Sweet Potato Sage Pancakes
Pancakes freeze surprisingly nicely and, when you make these, you’ll be happy they do. These Paleo pancakes are more savory than sweet, but they’re full of nutrition, since they’re made with sweet potatoes and coconut flour. And though these are wonderful for breakfast or brinner (breakfast at dinner), you can also use them as hamburger buns for a healthy change of pace.
Photo: Living Loving Paleo
19. The Perfect Freezable Meatball
These meatballs are a life-saving ingredient to have in the freezer. You can use them in a sandwich, add them to a spaghetti sauce or serve with a dipping sauce and salad and call them a meal. The perfect freezable meatball indeed!
20. Turkey, Broccoli & Mashed Cauliflower Layered Casserole
This light casserole is reminiscent of shepherd’s pie. The base is made up of meaty, diced turkey breast and broccoli, while mashed cauliflower makes up the top layer, crisp on the outside and fluffy once you bite into it. Freeze this Paleo freezer meal before baking.