Meal prep is great for knocking out various components to use in breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout the week, but complete make-ahead freezer meals can be even better for those nights you just can’t manage anything beyond reheating.
It’s hard to get a home-cooked meal on the table after a long day at work, especially if you have a commute that’s 30 minutes or longer. But you value homemade dinner, and all the benefits that come with it: healthier meals, conversation with your loved ones, a feeling of closeness and connection, saving money, and better eating habits in general. The solution for many of us is to make a big batch of something on Sunday and use it for the week. Even better? Double your freezer-friendly meals whenever you’re already cooking, and freeze the extra half for another time, next week or next month.
What Freezes Best
- Hearty soups and stews (e.g., beef and barley, lentil, bean)
- Long-cooked braised dishes and stews (beef short ribs, osso buco, beef stew, chili, curries)
- Casseroles and baked pastas (e.g., sausage and peppers, enchiladas, mac and cheese, lasagna)
- Juicy meats cooked in (or to be served with) sauces
Related Reading: 10 Staple Foods You Can Freeze Besides Meat and Produce
Tips for Freezing Food
- Divide recipes into whatever portion sizes work for your needs before freezing. If you have space, make multiple batches at once, then divide.
- Be sure to label each package with contents, preparation date, and reheating instructions.
- Another trick is to line small gratin dishes with non-stick foil (or spray it with oil), fill the dishes, and freeze. Once the food’s frozen, you can peel the foil off and pop the frozen “bricks” of food into freezer bags, which stack neatly. When it’s time to reheat, the packets fit right back into the gratin dishes for serving. It’s an idea Chowhound funwithfood gave us.
- Small foil takeout containers and lids from a restaurant supply house are another easy solution. These are the right-size for single servings of entrees or doubles of soup and they’re easy to freeze, stack, and reheat. Sixteen-ounce hot/cold cups (sold at Costco) are also good for freezing and reheating soups.
Reusable Gallon Freezer Bags, 4 for $15.99 on Amazon
These extra thick, leak-proof silicone bags are perfect for storing broth until you need it; lay flat to freeze without taking up much space.
Make-Ahead Freezer Meal Recipes
With its not-so-secret ingredient of a wedge of bittersweet chocolate to add depth, this chili develops even more flavor after a day or two, so make some on the weekend and stash it in the fridge or freezer to eat later in the week. Get our Jerk Turkey Chili recipe.
This simple fall-winter soup using one of our favorite squashes is pretty straight-forward to make. It gets a bit more complexity with sautéed onion, apple, and sage, and a bit more rich with a hit of heavy cream. Once you let it cool, store it in the freezer for up to a month. Get our Roasted Butternut Squash Soup recipe.
Make and freeze these meatballs in their creamy sauce. When it’s time for dinner, all you have to do is boil those egg noodles and defrost the saucy meatballs. Add vegetables if you wish. Get our Swedish Meatballs recipe.
Hafi Lingonberry Preserves, $11.78 on Amazon
And lingonberry jam, of course.
This filling, comforting soup infused with ham flavor from a bone or hock is easy to make in a Crock-Pot first off, and then it’s easy to freeze for the week. Get our Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup recipe.
You can make the enchiladas through step 3, then cover and freeze for up to two weeks. To finish, bake it at 350°F uncovered and straight from the freezer, until the cheese is all melty and awesome, about 40 minutes. Get our Cheesy Enchiladas recipe.
Brisket can handle time in the freezer. It’s already falling apart, and it’s supposed to. You can swap turnips for daikon radish or another hearty root vegetable. Get our Chinese Brisket and Turnip Stew recipe.
If you’re new to making lasagna, this recipe is a good starter one. Learn the basics and then throw in the twists and substitutions. You can freeze it cooked or uncooked. If you freeze it cooked, let it cool down first, and then cut it into single servings, placing the portions in Ziplock bags or Tupperware. If you freeze it whole and cover it with aluminum foil, spray or rub oil on the foil so it doesn’t stick to the cheese and you can get it off when it’s frozen. For unbaked versions, people often don’t cook the noodles beforehand to avoid mushiness. Get our Easy Spinach Lasagna recipe.
Besides the name sake vegetable, you get green beans, yellow onion, and chickpeas in there, and the sauce made with Thai green curry paste (bottled or canned … it’s a weeknight, OK?), coconut milk, soy sauce, garlic, and lime juice. You might want to use only half the salt suggested in the recipe, and then add more after it’s ready, to taste. Get our Cauliflower Green Curry recipe.
No one will complain about this simple, comfort food classic. It’s like Hamburger Helper, but from scratch and without all the time and effort if you’re pulling it out of the freezer to reheat. There are peppers, onions, and tomatoes in there too, so it’s not just meat, cheese, and pasta. Get our Beefy Macaroni Casserole recipe.
Meat like short ribs in sauce does well when reheated, and it can be time-consuming to start from the beginning on a weeknight. But not so much if you make it in an Instant Pot—or, even better, make it ahead and pull it out of the freezer to thaw and reheat. Get our Pressure Cooker Cola-Braised Beef Short Ribs recipe.
11. Easy Lentil Soup
Use any color of lentils, except the red ones, to make this soup that you can adjust to your liking. It’s got the fiber, protein, and vegetables you need, all in one bowl. Get our Easy Lentil Soup recipe.
Related Video: How to Maximize Your Freezer Space
— C. Thi Nguyen wrote a 2006 version of this article.
Header image by Chowhound.