How to Stock Your Freezer with Make-Ahead Meals
Once I got into the third trimester of my pregnancy, I started to make a list of all the things I wanted to stash away in the freezer for after the baby was born. So many of my friends told me that it was a life saver, so I was all-in. My mom ended up making all of the main dishes for me, and I stashed away a lot of breakfast and snack foods. All of my friends were absolutely right – when you’re sleep-deprived and starving, it’s phenomenal to be able to reach into the freezer and grab something, throw it into the oven and have a hot meal.
There are definitely certain foods and meals that freeze and reheat better than others, and I’ve listed my favorites below along with some tips on how to keep your frozen meals as fresh as possible.
If you’re planning to stock your freezer either because you’re expecting or maybe just to make things a little bit easier on weeknights, your first plan of action is to decide what to make. Some recipes freeze better than others, but your possibilities are vast. This list is nowhere close to being comprehensive, but here are some of my favorite freezer meals:
- Baked pasta of any sort – lasagna, ziti, stuffed shells, etc.
- Pasta sauce for quick spaghetti dinners
- Pizza dough for quick homemade pizzas
- Pizza sauce
- Fully assembled pizzas
- Meatballs (serve with spaghetti or throw in the slow cooker with sauce for meatball subs)
- Muffins (banana and blueberry are my favorite!)
- Breakfast burritos
- Breaded chicken (great for a meal or adding to a salad)
- Cookies or cookie dough balls
Tips for Freezing Meals
- Sauce-based dishes: If you’re freezing something like baked ziti or enchiladas, I’ve found that adding extra sauce to the dish before freezing keeps the reheated dish from being a little dried out.
- Pizza dough: Freeze after the dough rises, but before shaping. Just form it into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag.
- Large-yield recipes: For things like baked ziti, chili or a big pot of soup, freeze in smaller portions. This lessens the likelihood that the food will go to waste or that you’ll get tired of eating the same thing for days on end.
- Soups and sauces: To save freezer space, portion out soups and sauces into gallon-size freezer bags, seal and lay flat to freeze, then stack them.
- Containers: Whenever possible, I freeze in disposable containers so that clean up is easy and there aren’t any dishes to wash. For baked pastas or casseroles, this means foil pans. For things like muffins, cookies or breakfast burritos, I wrap individually in plastic wrap then place then a freezer bag.
Whether you’re planning ahead for yourself or making something for a loved one, having an easy hot meal in the freezer is a fabulous idea.
What are your favorite recipes to keep in the freezer for a rainy day?
Get more than that usually. Also always get https://etechups.com/
citrus with thin skins because they have more juice. I use the reamer or squeeze handled thing.
Great tips and recipes. I wish I had done more freezer meals before our little one was born. The grocery shopping and cooking aren’t so bad but the dishes. Oh that was just the kicker each evening.
Your stuffed pepper recipe freezes amazingly well!
This is very good advice and something I need to do more of
I have been stocking my freezer for years. Meatloaf slices are a favorite. Beef stew, roast beef slices, roasted turkey, ham slices, chicken noddle and all sorts of casseroles stock my freezer. Generally I double my meal daily meal recipes and freeze half. Even when I cook on the grill I freeze half of the grilled meats wrapped in foil inside a sealable plastic freezer bag. Cakes especially unfrosted pound cakes whole or sliced freeze well and are great for unexpected guest. Wrap the cooled cake in plastic wrap a couple of times then seal in heavy duty aluminum foil.. I pre bake fruit pies and wrap in foil then place in a plastic freezer bag and freeze. During summer months Farmer markets have an abundance of fruits and vegetables which can be prepared and frozen. Label and date everything. Organize your freezer to be able to easily locate items. Just about any item can be frozen if properly prepared. Biscuits, corn bread cubes, muffins, garlic bread even breakfast sandwiches made with english muffins or biscuits can be frozen. Leftovers can make a future meal or snack so freeze them. Not only do I save money buy most important my family eats a variety of healthy meal and even on days when there is no time to cook we have a selection of delicious meals including desserts waiting in our freezer.
Great ideas, thank you! We found frozen meals a life-saver with a newborn. And now that my husband and I are both back to work, they really help too. I also like slow cooker meals, which I know you have recipes for. Any interest in doing a best of slow cooker list??
Another thing I do is make big batches of crepes and freeze them individually. They’re great thawed and filled and can be used for main dishes or desserts.
Great advice my only recommendation would be to freeze in glass containers due to plastic being hormone disruptive. Also pre-marinaded chicken and beef is great too. And all you have to do it throw in refrigerator the night before to thaw and then on the grill or in the oven.
For pizza dough, I would actually flatten it into a disk – so much easier to stack, and no heavy ball of dough rolling out and landing on your feet! Anything you put in baggies, too. Stack them flat so that they freeze flat. I get so irritated when my husband stands them upright and then they freeze in all sorts of odd shapes – so inefficient.
If you premake casseroles and the like, cook your pasta AL DENTE or it’ll be a bunch of mush when you reheat it. Or use no-boil pasta but add extra sauce.
Bake a huge chicken or turkey for Sunday dinner than portion the leftovers into single serve baggies for quick salads, sandwiches, or future casseroles.
We freeze a lot of pre-cooked dishes. We also freeze excess fruit during the summer and eat it all year long…well until the kids eat it all. Nothing better than having homemade and home grown food in your freezer.
Hi! Question about freezing which Melissa R mentioned above- do you fully cook these things first? Thanks!
Hi Courtney- I wouldn’t bake before freezing, personally.
You are so right!!! I do all of my stocking in the winter. It’s just too hot to cook in the summertime. We actually purchased 2 freezers when they went on sale so that we can be as frugal as possible. One is our meat freezer, when meats go on sale, we stock up and typically purchase enough for the year. Each shelf is a meat, i.e. a pork shelf, beef shelf, chicken shelf, seafood shelf. The other is stocked full of make ahead meals. Yesterday we had potato soup. It was awesome, just pulled the bag out of the freezer. One day I made 4 large pots of soup, another day I made 150 meatballs and broke them down into 15 different packs. Great for meatball subs or spaghetti or appetizers. I just started making pizza dough and freezing it. My husband loves it.
I can not urge families enough to do this. It saves you so much MONEY and time!!! Great blog!!! Thank you for the time it takes you to do this.
Quiche also freezes well. I make mini crustless quiche in my muffin tins and then freeze them after they’ve cooled. To store I put in ziploc bags and then place those all in a freezer safe gallon bag. Any moist muffin also freezes well.
I agree on the extra sauce thing- I totally helps! I would also suggest that anything that needs to be topped with cheese- like enchiladas- don’t freeze the top layer of cheese, add that just before baking.
The only other thing I’ll add is that I assemble, freeze, thaw overnight, then bake- though I know some bake, then thaw and reheat.
Thanks for the list! I love seeing freezable things- it makes life so much easier!