Swedish meatballs recipe
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Meal prep is great for knocking out various components to use in breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout the week, but complete make-ahead freezer recipes 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, after all, especially if you have a commute that’s 30 minutes or longer—and even now that many of us don’t have commutes, working from home (particularly if you’re also wrangling kids all day) doesn’t necessarily make it any easier.

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.

Related Reading: 5 Big Batch Recipes and Tips to Save You From Cooking Every Single Night

What Freezes Best

Turkey Pot Pie recipe

Chowhound

Related Reading: 10 Staple Foods You Can Freeze Besides Meat and Produce

Tips for Freezing Food

how to store food in freezer

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  • 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.
  • Always allow food to cool completely before freezing it.

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Related Reading: The Best Way to Store Food in Your Freezer

Make-Ahead Freezer Meal Recipes

Visit our recipe page for more make-ahead weeknight dinner ideas, and check out the Chowhound community for more favorite freezable meals. See Rachael Ray’s Top 20 Freezeable Recipes too. And consider our favorite recipes to freeze below:

1. Jerk Turkey Chili

jerk turkey chili recipe

Chowhound

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.

2. Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

roasted butternut squash soup

Chowhound

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.

3. Swedish Meatballs

Swedish meatballs recipe

Chowhound

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. (Or try IKEA’s Swedish Meatball recipe!)

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4. Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup

slow cooker split pea soup recipe

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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.

Related Reading: 21 Cheap & Easy Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

5. Cheesy Enchiladas

cheesy freezer enchilada recipe

Chowhound

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.

6. Chinese Brisket and Turnip Stew

Chinese brisket and turnip stew recipe

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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.

7. Easy Spinach Lasagna

slow cooker spinach lasagna recipe

Chowhound

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.

8. Cauliflower Green Curry

cauliflower green curry recipe

Chowhound

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.

9. Beefy Macaroni Casserole

beefy macaroni casserole recipe

Chowhound

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.

10. Pressure Cooker Cola-Braised Beef Short Ribs

Instant Pot braised beef short rib recipe

Chowhound

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

Easy Lentil Soup

Chowhound

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.

12. Broccoli, Mushroom, and Gouda Quiche

Spinach Quiche with Weisswurst Sausage

Chowhound

You can switch up the add-ins depending on what you have on hand, but make sure your baked quiche is fully cooled before you freeze it, and bake it straight from frozen when ready to eat (i.e, don’t thaw it first). See how to freeze unbaked quiche too. Get our Broccoli, Mushroom, and Gouda Quiche recipe. Or freeze our Bacon Cheddar Mini Quiches for snacks or impromptu appetizers.

13. Empanadas

beef empanada recipe

Chowhound

Empanadas are great on the plate or on the go. These handheld pies can be filled with whatever you like (beef, chicken, veggies, even breakfast), and a big batch will last a while. You can freeze them before or after baking; if freezing before, skip the egg wash in the recipe and apply it just before you bake them later on. One on its own makes a great lunch or snack, while two or three (depending on how big you make them) plus a salad is a perfect easy dinner. Get our Empanada recipes.

Related Video: How to Maximize Your Freezer Space


— C. Thi Nguyen wrote a 2006 version of this article.

Header image by Chowhound.

Amy Sowder is a writer and editor based in NYC, covering food and wellness in publications such as Bon Appétit, Women's Health, Eat This, Not That!, Upworthy/GOOD, Brooklyn Magazine, and Westchester Magazine. She loves to run races, but her favorite finish lines are gelato shops. Learn more at AmySowder.com.
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