Health & Wellness

36 Easy Recipes To Make-Ahead & Freeze For Busy [Or Lazy] Nights

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Sometimes you just don’t want to spend an evening over the stove after you’ve spent all day working. Even if you work from home, you’re still worn out after a long day, and cooking for an hour or so just isn’t on your wishlist. Luckily, freezer meals can make your life a whole lot easier.

If you have a few hours free on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, or just some extra time and ingredients while you’re already doing some cooking, you can make an easy freezer meal. Then, on busy nights, just pull it out for a fast (but delicious) meal.

But not all foods freeze the same. While one soup or casserole can go from stove or oven to freezer and back again while maintaining its quality, others turn into sloppy goo when you try to reheat them. Avoid that kind of mess (and disappointment) by relying on tried and trusted easy foods to make and freeze — like these!

What Foods Freeze Well?

Freezer full of bagged freezer meals

But before you can jump into your next culinary adventure, it’s important to know what to avoid and what to embrace when it comes to freezing food.

While you can freeze most raw foods, the quality of your unfrozen and reheated food can really differ when it comes to cooked foods. Some cooked, easy-to-freeze (and then reheat) foods include…

  • Tomato-based pasta sauce (or other, non-cream-based pasta sauces, like pesto)
  • Most baked goods
  • Casseroles
  • Poultry
  • Undercooked pasta
  • Beef (from ground beef for tacos to cooked meatballs)

A few things you don’t ever want to cook and then freeze and reheat?

  • Cream-based soups and sauces
  • Fried foods
  • Fully cooked rice or pasta
  • Anything with mayonnaise, sour cream or gelatin in it
  • Lettuce or fresh tomatoes

Related: 15 Easter Brunch Recipes [That Will Make Your Mouth Water]

Easy Food to Make and Freeze

Looking at those basic guidelines, you can see that there’s not really much that you can’t freeze after cooking, for enjoying at a later time. Here are a few recipes to try for a start.

Breakfast Foods to Freeze and Reheat

Breakfast foods are a great place to start if you want to try your hand at frozen meal prep. You’ll easily see the convenience after you put away a stockpile of breakfast items on a lazy Sunday afternoon. You can then enjoy a hot, delicious breakfast every single weekday morning with very little work required on your part.

A few delicious (and very easy) breakfast items that you can make, freeze and reheat include:

  1. Bacon, Potato and Cheese Waffles
  2. Freezer Breakfast Panini 
  3. Freezer Breakfast Burritos 
  4. Bagel Breakfast Pizzas
  5. Breakfast Casserole
  6. Baked Oatmeal Cups
  7. Spinach and Mushroom Breakfast Sandwiches
  8. Freezer Croissant Breakfast Sandwiches 
  9. Freezer Smoothie Packs
  10. Homemade Toaster Waffles 
  11. French Toast Sticks 

Kid-Pleasing Foods to Freeze and Reheat

It’s no secret. Kids are some of the pickiest eaters on the planet. Something they loved yesterday could be complete garbage today. They could decide only to eat if their foods aren’t touching. They could decide they hate green foods simply because they’re green or that they only want to live on a diet of chicken fingers, Mexican food and pizza.

Whatever your child’s preferences are, you can probably find something for the picky eaters in your household (whatever their age — we’re not judging) on our list. Never spend a long time cooking up a dinner they just won’t eat when you can simply pull something from the freezer.

Adult-Favorite Foods to Freeze and Reheat

But not everything can be about the picky palates in your household. The adults have to eat, too. If you want to pull something out of the freezer that’s suitable for an at-home date night, having some friends over for a dinner party or even serving your in-laws, look no further.

Side Dishes to Freeze and Reheat

Maybe you don’t mind cooking up your main dish on the spot. Perhaps you find it relaxing to grill up a steak or broil a chicken at the end of the day. What you don’t want to fiddle with, however, is a bunch of time-consuming side dishes. If that’s the case, freeze up some of these yummy side dishes for easy reheating when you need them.

Related: 6 Ways To Tell If Your Eggs Are Bad [And A Few Eggy Recipes]

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Freezer Meals

Still have a few lingering questions regarding freezing and reheating your next meal? We’ve got you covered.

Can you put a food item straight from the freezer into the oven?

Woman taking casserole out of oven

Worried that you’re going to have to deal with a long thaw time for your frozen lasagna or casserole? Don’t be.

You can put your frozen food item straight in the oven from the freezer (so long as you prepped it in a dish that’s safe for this; check with the manufacturer if you’re not sure — the last thing you want is a casserole dish shattering throughout your oven because it can’t stand the rapid change in temperature).

Just make sure to give your frozen food a bit of extra time in the oven, about an extra half an hour, if you’re cooking it straight from the freezer, and always be sure to check the food with a thermometer before serving to ensure it’s reached a safe temperature.

If you’d rather thaw your food, though (which some might prefer) you just need to pop your frozen items into the fridge a day or two before you plan on eating them. You can also thaw your frozen items in the microwave, with the defrost setting.

Is there anything special I need to do before I freeze my finished food?

There are a few things you’ll need to do to your food before freezing it in the first place. You can’t just take your food from the stove to the freezer, even if you can take it straight from the freezer to the stove.

Let your item cool completely before freezing (you can set it in the refrigerator for this part). Once cooled, put your item in an airtight container. You can either use the same dish that you used for cooking (if it comes with a lid), or you can switch to a Tupperware container. Some items even work well in simple freezer bags.

Can I do half the cooking now, freeze my food and do half the cooking later?

Bag of chicken marinating

Absolutely! This works really well with pasta and rice, as you shouldn’t freeze fully-cooked pasta or rice anyway, as well as with baked goods. You can easily make dough for your favorite baked item and then pull it out of the freezer once you’re ready for the baking process.

You can also freeze slow-cooker meals that are uncooked by just mixing all the ingredients together before freezing, so you can finish off the cooking in your Crockpot or InstantPot on the day you actually want to eat the meal.

How long will food last in the freezer?

It really depends on what you’re cooking, but for the most part, you can expect your frozen meals to last up to three months.

Of course, the longer you keep your food in the freezer, the more the quality may decline, so you might not experience the same great textures in your frozen pasta a month after cooking it than you would a week after cooking it. However, it’ll still be perfectly fine to eat.

Related: 20 Vegetarian Instant Pot Recipes [That Will Fill You Up]

Can I adjust recipes I already like to make them more freezer-friendly?

Sure! There’s nothing stopping you. You’ll just want to take a look at the ingredients in your recipe and ensure there’s nothing that’s on the “do not freeze” list. If there is, just try to substitute it. Additionally, if there’s any pasta or rice in your recipe, you’ll want to adjust the cooking time to account for leaving the pasta or rice somewhat uncooked before freezing. That way, it doesn’t become mushy when you reheat.

Similarly, you can easily adjust any freezer meal recipes to match dietary needs you might have, including gluten intolerance or a special diet, like keto or paleo.

Tips for Planning and Cooking Freezer Meals

Couple cooking together

There are a few things that can either make or break your freezer meal experience. Follow these tips to ensure you get the most out of freezing and reheating your favorite foods.

Don’t overdo it.

While it can be tempting to jump on the freezer meal bandwagon in full-force and spend your entire weekend cooking up a batch of freezer meals to feed the family for the next month, be careful not to overdo it. You don’t want to burn yourself out. While spending the entire weekend cooking may save you some time later on in the month, it can also make for a stressful and somewhat boring weekend that could turn you off freezer meals for good.

Instead, try making maybe two or three freezer meals over the course of one weekend afternoon for use in the week ahead. Or, if you’re making dinner anyway on Saturday and Sunday nights, double up your recipes and freeze them for use during the week. This way, you’re not creating too much work on yourself, but you’re still benefiting from the process.

Related: Should You Try OMAD (One Meal A Day)? What’s This New Trend?

Make sure to vary it up.

If you aren’t careful to add enough variety to your freezer meals, you may find that you become really bored with them, really quickly. Make sure to plan a variety of flavorful meals — not only pasta or only soups or only casseroles.

Similarly, try to vary the form of dishes you freeze. Maybe you freeze one Crockpot meal, one oven-ready casserole and one InstantPot meal.

Label all your foods very clearly.

Frozen containers with post it notes

You may think that you can remember all that frozen food in your freezer, but chances are, after a few weeks, all of the red sauces and frozen soups and stews start to blend together. Make sure to label all of your frozen meals very clearly, write both what the item is and the date it was made on the container, using a Sharpie and a removable sticker.

Add a little extra pizazz to your finished foods.

While it’s certainly not required, it can be a nice additional touch to add a little extra pizazz to your reheated foods. It doesn’t have to be anything extra fancy. Maybe add some fresh cilantro to the top of your reheated taco soup or a dollop of sour cream to your reheated chicken enchiladas or burritos.

Try freezing individual ingredients versus an entire meal.

If cooking, freezing and reheating whole meals sounds a little overwhelming, you might want to first try freezing individual ingredients that you can use throughout a variety of meals.

For example, you could cook and shred some chicken breasts, freeze it and then later use it to make several meals quickly. (Think tacos, pasta dishes or soup.) If you already have plain pasta, bbq sauce or tortillas on hand, you’re well on your way to an easy, two-step weeknight meal.

You can also freeze chopped vegetables and fruits, like avocados, bananas, peppers, onions and others, for quick use in a smoothie, stir-fry or soup, without all of the prep work like chopping and dicing.

Make Your Life a Little Easier

Freezer meals can definitely make your life a little bit easier, no matter if you only cook one freezer meal a week or you fill your entire freezer with ready-to-heat meals. All it takes is following a few simple guidelines so you don’t end up with soggy or freezer burnt foods, and you can turn any family favorite into a convenient meal for any night of the week.

You might also be interested in: 5 Meal Prepping Tips (That Make Your Waistline And Wallet Happier)

36 Easy Foods To Make And Freeze:

  1. Bacon, Potato and Cheese Waffles
  2. Freezer Breakfast Panini 
  3. Freezer Breakfast Burritos 
  4. Bagel Breakfast Pizzas
  5. Breakfast Casserole
  6. Baked Oatmeal Cups
  7. Spinach and Mushroom Breakfast Sandwiches
  8. Freezer Croissant Breakfast Sandwiches 
  9. Freezer Smoothie Packs
  10. Homemade Toaster Waffles 
  11. French Toast Sticks 
  12. Homemade Frozen Pizza
  13. Homemade Baked Chicken Nuggets 
  14. Homemade Ham and Cheese Pockets
  15. Fiesta Mac and Cheese
  16. Freezer Burritos with Chicken, Beans & Cheese
  17. Pizza Noodles 
  18. Slow Cooker Chicken & Cheese Taquitos
  19. Mac and Cheese with Sneaky Sweet Potato 
  20. Ham & Cheese Sliders 
  21. Mini Meatloaf Muffins
  22. Curried Butternut Squash Soup 
  23. Argentinian Chicken Empanadas
  24. Spinach and Mushroom-Stuffed Chicken Breast
  25. Eggplant Parmesan Rolls with Swiss Chard and Mint
  26. Instant Pot Shrimp Biryani 
  27. Vegan Crabless Cakes
  28. Turkey, Broccoli and Phyllo Pie
  29. Shrimp, Cabbage and Carrot Potstickers
  30. Freezer-Ready Chickpeas
  31. Freezer Mashed Potatoes 
  32. Freezer-Ready Brothy Beans
  33. Freezer Dinner Rolls 
  34. Bacon, Mushroom and Spinach Pierogies 
  35. Slow-Cooker Summer Veggies
  36. Cuban-Style Black Beans

Holly Riddle

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