Life is about to get easier with this freezer-friendly guide!
Keeping the freezer stocked with meals that are ready to be cooked in the slow cooker or served after a long day’s work is a stress-free way to stay prepared, with minimal kitchen duty.
Whether it’s back-to-school season, you’re about to have a baby, or you’re just plain busy, these simple tips will allow you to skip the drive-thru and bring a healthy dinner to the table each night.
If you're expecting
One of the BEST pieces of advice I (Kalie) got while I was pregnant was to make a bunch of freezer-friendly meals before our little girl arrived. Around 36 weeks, I spent a weekend batch-cooking meals (breakfast AND dinner) to store in our deep freezer. Having pre-prepped meals that were ready to go was a LIFESAVER after we headed home from the hospital and our house was filled with explosive diapers, a crying baby and one absolutely exhausted momma.
Trust us, once your bundle of joy arrives, you’ll be highly focused on your new duties as a momma and less likely to have the time (or energy) to prep healthy, home-cooked meals—at least for the first few weeks. And while your family and friends will probably drop off a few meals, having your own healthy stash in the freezer ensures a less-stressful time in the kitchen.
There are two approaches to preparing meals for your freezer
- By designating a larger chunk of time over the weekend to prepare all your freezer meals at once (pick your meals, purchase ingredients and prep)
- By making double batches of any freezer-friendly meals you’re making throughout the week
We use a combination of the two. If we’re planning to make a freezer-friendly dish throughout the week we double (or triple) the amount because it doesn’t take much more time and everything is already out and dirty.
Give them both a trial run to see which method works best for you and fits into your family’s schedule.
General tips to follow
- Choose foods that freeze AND reheat well.
- Make them healthy by adding lots of veggies.
- If cooking ahead, let them cool completely before freezing.
- Divide your meals into individual meal-size portions.
- If you’re wrapping any of your meals in foil, place them into a freezer bag for added protection.
- Label your food with type and date.
- Freeze your items as flat as you can (they’ll freeze, stack and thaw more easily).
- Keep your freezer organized by food type (breakfast, dinner, soup) OR by date.
- Completely thaw your frozen meals in the fridge (about 24 hours), rather than just tossing them in the oven. Cold glass can shatter when exposed to high heat, plus thawing your food helps it to cook evenly.
Items that tend to freeze well
- Baked goods (like muffins, pancakes or waffles)
- Fruit (like blueberries and bananas) that aren’t overly mushy
- Meats (like grilled chicken, cooked beef, steak or pork)
- Soups and stews
- Thick sauces (like Homemade Meat Sauce or Teriyaki Sauce)
Items that don't generally freeze well
- Milk or yogurt
Mushy, wet fruits (like watermelon or cantaloupe)
How to store your freezer meals
Because your meals will be in the freezer for a few weeks, you won’t want to use your everyday casserole dishes and pans. There are a few ways you can store your freezer meals. Here are some of our favorites:
- Disposable baking pans
- Freezer bags (most 2 gallon freezer bags can hold disposable baking pans in them)
- Glass storage containers with fitted lids
- 16-ounce wide mouth mason jars (great for soups, chili and homemade sauces)
- 4-ounce glass storage containers (great for smaller portions, homemade baby food, vegetable purees and condiments such as hummus)
- Wrapped in heavy duty foil and placed in a freezer bag
If you’re storing your food in a freezer bag, squeeze or suck out any extra air (it helps your food stay fresher and prevents freezer burn). Pro tip: You can use a straw to gently suck out excess air. When you see the bag collapse around the contents in it, keep sucking while slowly pulling out the straw. Then quickly press down on the opening and seal the rest of the bag shut.
If you’re freezing fruit or chunks of veggies (we do this a lot for smoothies), flash freeze them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet so they don’t stick together in one big brick. Once they’re frozen, toss them in a freezer baggie.
When wrapping a larger meal (such as stromboli) in foil, you may want to flash freeze it in the foil so it’s nice and flat before placing it into a gallon-sized freezer baggie.
Don't overfill glass jars or containers
If you prefer to use glassware when packing your food, leave at least 1 & 1/2 inches between the contents and the top of the container. We’ve made this mistake before and when the contents in the jar expanded, we ended up with a cracked container and broken glass all over the freezer.
There’s nothing worse than thawing out pancakes and thinking they’re pizza. Before you toss your food in the freezer, write the name of the food, the date it was made and the use by date (if you know it). You can even include instructions such as “serve with…” or “chicken – already marinated, thaw and heat in oven at 375.”
We’ve tried to label our freezer food with masking tape and it just didn’t seem to stick once the food was frozen.
Freezer tape and fine-tip permanent Sharpie marker has worked wonders ever since. If you’re making something that requires directions, you can even write them out on an index card and tape the card to your meal. And, if you’re wrapping your food in foil, you can use the freezer tape for sealing.
How long do freezer meals typically last?
Generally speaking, if your freezer meals are stored properly, they should last between 2-3 months.
Thankfully with the delicious recipes we’ve included below, you won’t have any reason to wait that long!
Make-ahead brekki ideas
- Easy Egg Casserole
- Fluffy Whole Wheat Pancakes or Low-Carb Pancakes (Gluten-Free)
- Southwestern Breakfast Burritos (Freezer Burritos)
- Bakery-Style Blueberry Apple Mini Muffins
- Classic French Toast
- Freezer Smoothie Packs—when you’re ready, just add milk, water or juice
- Ham, Egg and Cheese Breakfast Sandwich (make-ahead freezer breakfast sandwiches)
- Mediterranean Egg Mufflets
- Sunrise Breakfast Burritos
Family-friendly dinner ideas
Most of these meals have a variety of ways you can make them (with chicken, beef, pork or vegetarian). They’re all simple to make and will last in the freezer for weeks.
- Beef BBQ or Carnitas for tacos, burritos, sandwiches, on top of rice or salads
- Chicken Enchilada Casserole
- Easy Italian Stromboli
- Lasagna (or if zucchini is in season, Zucchini Lasagna)
- Orange Chicken
- Make-ahead Salmon Burgers
- Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya
- Vegetable Beef Soup
The perfect prep-ahead snack
Let’s make freezer-friendly meals a stress-free way to stay healthy – together!
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