Quick and easy freezer meals like the ones in this post are exactly what will help you avoid going through the fast-food drive-through on a busy school night. A little extra planning will help you enjoy delicious, home-cooked meals even on the craziest nights.
When I first started my weight loss journey way back in 2010, I was working full-time outside the home and my kids were very little. I know I’ve said this before but I want to say it again.
Life at that time was extremely busy. I had zero time to cook after work, and even if I did, the energy wasn’t there. Not to mention the entire family was screaming for dinner within 20 minutes of getting home. It’s no wonder I depended on quickly processed meals for many years – it was the only thing I had time for!
My first concern after I made the commitment to lose weight was how in the heck was I going to eat healthier homemade foods. As I said, I didn’t have the time to cook from scratch every day.
Let me just say…freezer cooking was my saving grace! In fact, if it wasn’t for cooking freezer meals, I wouldn’t have ever changed my eating habits and lost weight.
Not many people truly understand freezer cooking – they think it’s just about freezing leftovers but it’s way more than that. It’s about cooking fresh homemade food or meals when you have time so you can eat healthy when you don’t!
The Secret Behind Make-Ahead Freezer Meals
The real magic behind freezer cooking is preparing in bulk, aka batch cook easy freezer meals. This means you can take 1-2 days every couple of months and stock your freezer with complete meals and snacks. So now, you only need to think about cooking once a month. This means the only thing you’ll need to purchase every week are perishables like fruits, veggies, and dairy.
This was a total game-changer for me – more than once a week meal prep!
Don’t get me wrong, I still took time to make mason jar salads, overnight oats, and other things like that on Sunday but the bulk of my cooking was done. All I needed to do was remember to take the freezer meals out. This was huge especially with my time being so limited as a working mom.
If you have the freezer space and time, you can get 2-3 months’ worth of meals stocked up or you can do 2 weeks at a time. My preferred method is once a month or every 2 weeks. I find this is the most time-efficient for me.
Batch cooking make-ahead meals can also help you save money. Also, having freezer meals means you don’t need to go to the store as often and it prevents take-put because you have food ready to eat or cook.
Freezer meals do take planning and effort but in my experience, the benefits completely outweigh any negatives.
Containers and Supplies Needed To Make Freezer Meals
- Plastic freezer bags – These are specifically made to be used in the freezer and helps prevent freezer burn.
- Disposable aluminum containers – These are great if you want to make freezer meals to give to a new mom or someone having surgery. They also work great for freezing casseroles or other larger meals.
- Silicone freezer bags – If you want a reusable option, then consider purchasing some silicon freezer bags. They come in all sizes and are great in the freezer.
- Glass containers – Glass containers are another reusable option for freezer cooking. The cons are they take up a lot of space and can break. Make sure to be careful placing glass containers in the freezer and if you’re using a liquid then leave some room at the top for expansion.
- Plastic wrap and foil – This is to wrap recipes or add an extra layer to protect from freezer burn.
Tips To Create The Best Freezer Meals In Bulk:
Once you have all of the containers and supplies you need, use some of these tips to put together make-ahead meals and have a successful meal prep day!
1. Keep it simple
You don’t need to cook 20 different meals. Choose a single recipe that you can double or triple.
2. Have a plan
Putting together freezer meals in bulk is not something I recommend doing by the seam of your pants. You need a plan! Pick and shop for recipes ahead of time and then have a cooking plan of action.
For example, start with dinner recipes first to get all the raw meat out of the way. Clean up and then move on to smoothie kits and other breakfast recipes.
3. Have all of your ingredients out and ready
You don’t want to waste time searching for ingredients in the middle of a recipe.
4. Choose recipes you don’t need to cook right away.
For example, chicken marinades, burgers, slow cooker freezer kits, or meatloaf are all recipes that can be assembled quickly and frozen in bulk.
5. Prep vegetables for all the recipes at the same time
For example, if 4 different recipes call for chopped onions, then chop it all at once instead of chopping for each recipe.
6. Don’t package up hot food to freeze right away
This can cause ice crystals and bring down the temperature in the freezer. Let the food cool in the refrigerator and then package and freeze.
I can’t stress this enough – especially when you make a bunch of meals at once. Make sure to label everything because trust me once it enters the freezer you won’t know what it is if it’s not labeled.
Quick and Easy Freezer Meals to Stock Up On
Here’s a list of the best freezer meals to batch cook. I’ve been making these for over a decade now!
Each one is easy to prepare and taste great once warmed up and/or cooked. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself every time you open the freezer to find some of these meals all ready to go.
Smoothie Freezer Packs
Smoothie packs are super easy to make in bulk and, obviously, require no cooking.
Also, any smoothie recipe can be turned in an individual kit for the freezer. Just purchase enough of the ingredients you need to make the number of kits you’re planning to make.
When I’m planning on making a bunch of these kits I’ll purchase most, if not all, of the ingredients in bulk from my local warehouse store BJ’s Wholesale or Costco. They offer everything I am looking for that is organic which is a lot cheaper than purchasing it at the local grocery store.
You can read more about putting these smoothie packs together here!
These are some of my favorite smoothie freezer packs to put together:
Steel Cut Oatmeal
Another breakfast recipe I love to freeze is steel-cut oatmeal. As you probably know, steel-cut oats can take about 30 minutes to cook on the stove. Let’s face it; when you have a super busy morning, there’s no time to spend cooking oatmeal in the kitchen!
When I want to make a lot of steel cut oats at once, I’ll usually cook them in the crockpot. One batch of steel-cut oats gets me at least a month’s worth of breakfast.
To freeze, I wait till the oatmeal cools and I put it in quart size freezer bags or freeze them in a muffin tin. You can read more about freezing steel-cut oatmeal here!
Here are several different kinds of steel-cut oats you can make in your slow cooker:
Breakfast Burritos and Sandwiches
My kids (okay, and me) are completely obsessed with these breakfast burritos and sandwiches. It’s definitely a freezer breakfast favorite! When I stock my freezer, these recipes are always being made. I make at least 20-30 at a time.
These do take a little more effort to assemble but it’s completely worth it. If you want to spend less and save some calories by avoiding the drive-through breakfast sandwiches, then I highly recommend getting your freezer stocked with these. You can read more about making frozen breakfast sandwiches in bulk here!
Here are some other types of burritos and sandwiches you can make:
- Sausage and Egg Breakfast Burritos
- Power ‘Greens’ Breakfast Sandwich
- freezer breakfast burritos
- frozen breakfast sandwich
When I first started to batch cook freezer meals, I would make 3-4 lbs of meatballs at a time (cooked and uncooked). This takes less than 45 minutes to put together and cook. Then, I have about 3-4 dinners ready for the whole family that month. It’s a total time saver!
To make these turkey meatballs freezer-ready, let them cool completely after they have been baked. Then, put them into a freezer bag and lay flat in the freezer. This way you can stack the bags on each other.
Grab this turkey meatball recipe here!
Rice and Other Grains
This is more of a meal starter but having portioned out packages of cooked brown rice is helpful for getting meals together quickly. You can warm it up and serve it as a side or use it in a soup or casserole.
Brown rice takes about 30-40 minutes to cook so making this in bulk and freezing for later is timesaving.
You can check out how to cook and reheat brown rice instructions here.
The best part is you can use this same method for quinoa, bulgur, or other grains!
Soup and Chili
Soups and chili are great freezer recipes to make in bulk because 1 recipe typically makes a ton.
After the soup or chili cools, you can portion it out into individual containers for a quick grab and go lunch. You can also pour into larger containers to have ready for a family dinner. If you don’t have a lot of room in your freezer, you can freeze in large quart-sized freezer bags and then flatten out to freeze!
My only recommendation when freezing soups is not to freeze pasta in with the soup. In my experience, the pasta gets gross and mushy. Just quickly make it and bring it with you to lunch or have with the soup at dinner time.
My favorite soup and recipes to make ahead of time are:
- One-Pot Detox Chicken Soup
- Pizza Soup
- Zuppa Toscana
- Buffalo Chicken Chili
- Spicy Turkey and Vegetable Chili
Taco meat was one of the first dinners I froze in batches. Sure, it’s easy to whip up a pan of taco meat but it’s even easier to heat and eat. When you have taco meat cooked ahead of time and frozen you can have dinner on the table in less than 20 minutes.
Dinners I quickly make with taco meat are:
To freeze taco meat you need to first cook ground beef in taco seasoning. Let it cool and then portion out into freezer bags. Flatten the taco meat out in the bag and then freeze.
Turkey meatloaf is another freezer meal favorite!
They are super easy to assemble which makes it simple to prepare 3-4 at a time. When I plan to make a few meatloaves for the freezer, I’ll purchase ground turkey in bulk from my local warehouse store. This saves us a bunch of money!
To make it easy, I’ll use the same meatloaf recipe or similar recipes. If I want to switch it up, I’ll make two of the same recipe and then two from another. This way, I have a variety.
You can read more about freezing meatloaf in this post.
Here are different variations of meatloaf you can make:
- Greek Turkey Meatloaf
- Pizza Turkey Meatloaf
- Zucchini and Feta Turkey Meatloaf
- Reuben Turkey Meatloaf
- Bacon Cheeseburger Turkey Meatloaf
How Long Do Freezer Meals Last?
Freezer meals, if stored properly, will last between 4-6 months. To be honest, I’ve had freezer meals last much longer and still turn out totally fine. A good rule of thumb is to try and eat them up before 6 months.
However, the plan with batch cooking is to eat up the meals you cook within a couple of months. We’re cooking to eat, not look at them in the freezer. If you are looking for some more insight, check out my series for Freezer Cooking Basics.