Freezer Meals 101: tips, recipes + free printable freezer inventory

Whether you’re preparing for a new baby or just trying to manage the after-school rush, these 23 recipes for freezer meals that actually taste good (along with my free printable freezer inventory) will help make your busy days just a little more manageable.Whether you're preparing for a new baby or just trying to manage the after-school rush, these 23 recipes for freezer meals that actually taste good (along with my free printable freezer inventory) will help make your busy days just a little more manageable.

35 weeks and counting. This baby of ours is going to be here in just over a month, and–let me tell you–I can feel it. By the time I get my toddler’s shoes on and get the kids in the car, I’m already winded! Whew. It’s kind of ridiculous, but I suppose that’s what happens when a little person is pushing on your diaphragm and limiting your lung capacity.

Despite the leg cramps, Braxton-Hicks (which have been SO much more frequent this time), and heartburn, I know I’m blessed to have pretty good pregnancies overall…and I’m grateful for that. Plus, I’m getting excited to meet this little guy. I had the sudden realization the other day that he really is his own person in there now…and if he was born now, he’d likely be just fine. It’s a relief to reach this point.

Then I get curious…will he have my same dark hair and eyes, or will he be the one to get my husband’s hazel eyes? Will he be as crazy and rough-and-tumble as his brothers (probably), or will he be more calm and reserved (doubtful)? I guess we’ll soon find out.

Because I’ve been through the “bringing a new baby home” process two times before, I have a pretty good idea of the things I need to prep before the baby arrives to make life more manageable in the days afterwards. Somehow, despite all the birthing classes, I was NOT prepared for the toll childbirth would take on my body with my first baby. To say it was rough would be a huge understatement. I had no idea what an emotional and physical train-wreck I would be. Thankfully, I was more prepared with number two, and the delivery was easier, so I think the physical recovery really was better that time.

Still, when you’re exhausted, adjusting to your family’s new version of normal, and trying to care for a newborn, there’s not a lot of extra room for things like cleaning and cooking. Before I had baby #2, my wonderful mom, sisters, and sisters-in-law got together and made me a bunch of freezer food to keep on hand. It was such a life-saver! I could handle keeping the kids alive all day, but the thought of cooking those first few weeks months, was pretty daunting. It was so nice to be able to pull something out of the freezer and have a healthy–and actually tasty–dinner ready with minimal effort.

Last time I was pregnant, my family made all those wonderful meals for me at a family reunion that just happened to be the week before I was due. This time, there’s no reunion planned…so I’m on my own. They were SO nice to have though, that I’ve been working on building up my own stockpile the past few weeks, and I’ll continue to add to it until this little guy arrives. It makes me so happy to look in my freezer and see all those yummy meals ready-to-go and smiling back at me.

Not pregnant? Freezer meals are still brilliant!

Even if you’re not expecting, freezer cooking is a great tool to have in your mom tool belt. With the school year looming, wouldn’t it be great to have some easy meals to pull out of the freezer for busy nights when you’re running kids to practices, work, club meetings, or wherever?

It’s really about planning ahead to save time without sacrificing the quality of food we are feeding our families.

Sound good? Read on to see how I’m making freezer meals work for my family…

I’m using two main strategies to stock my freezer:

  1. Double what you cook on a normal night

    For the past month or so, I’ve tried to plan at least one meal a week that I know would make a good freezer meal. I buy double the ingredients and just cook a double batch. This works really well for things like enchiladas, lasagna, meatballs, soups, and Hawaiian haystacks. It’s not a lot of extra effort to make a larger quantity, but it means I can add 1-2 new meals to my freezer stash each week. Over a month or two, that’s significant!

  2. Mass produce (make it a party!)

    Although I don’t have family to cook for me this time around, I have a good friend down the street who is due in just a few weeks with her own #2 baby, so we got together last week for a mass cooking session. We each planned four meals, and then bought ingredients to quadruple the recipes. We spent four hours cooking (and exhausted ourselves), but we both came away with 16 meals for our families. Success!

Tips for freezer cooking:

  1. Choosing meals: Not all foods are created equal when it comes to freezing. Here is some great information about which foods freeze well, and how to prep them so they taste good after freezing. Above all, do NOT try to freeze uncooked potatoes–trust me. Mushy doesn’t begin to describe the tragedy.
  2. Storing meals:  I don’t have an extra freezer, so everything I make has to fit in my normal side-by-side freezer. For me, that means limiting the number of casseroles I cook, and opting instead to store as many meals as possible in high quality freezer bags. This works great for soups and dump meals. For meals that really do need a dish, I buy the cheap aluminum pans from the dollar store so I can just throw them away when I’m done. I know that’s not very green of me, but I’m cutting myself some slack when I have a newborn.
  3. Think outside of the casserole: Speaking of casseroles, they are only the tip of the iceberg for freezer cooking. There are so many additional options that freeze well: soups, meatballs, muffins, sauces, and more! See the list below for some tasty non-casserole ideas.
  4. Freeze basic ingredients: Remember that you don’t have to freeze whole meals either. Freezing food is all about saving yourself time when dinnertime rolls around. Any ingredients you can prep (or partially prep) ahead of time will make cooking faster and easier on a daily business. One of my favorite things to do is cook large batches of chicken, shred it, and freeze it for later use in enchiladas, soups, etc. Other possibilities are freezing chopped onions or peppers, dicing or cubing raw chicken rather than freezing whole chicken breasts, etc.
  5. Keep a freezer inventory: If you’re anything like me, it’s hard to keep track of what is buried in the back of your freezer…so I created a free printable freezer inventory sheet to stay organized. Print it out and post it on the side of your fridge or in a cupboard nearby. Then, as you make meals or add ingredients to your freezer, add them to your list. When you use a meal, cross it off. It only takes a few seconds, but it will save you from finding a once-delicious pan of enchiladas that is freezer burned beyond recognition after a year of neglect…not that I would know.

Want to print your own freezer inventory?
CLICK HERE to download.Whether you're preparing for a new baby or just trying to manage the after-school rush, these 23 recipes for freezer meals that actually taste good (along with my free printable freezer inventory) will help make your busy days just a little more manageable.

Alright, now that we’ve got all the basics covered, you’re ready to cook! Here are my favorite recipes for freezing. Some you cook then freeze; others you can prep uncooked and plop in the crockpot on the day of use. I’ve separated them by category (chicken, beef, soup, breakfast) so you can find what you like best. Enjoy!

23 Make ahead meals that are great for freezing

CHICKEN

BEEF/PORK

SOUP

BREAKFAST

Have you tried freezer cooking before? What favorite meals, tips or tricks do you have to share? 

Whether you're preparing for a new baby or just trying to manage the after-school rush, these 23 recipes for freezer meals that actually taste good (along with my free printable freezer inventory) will help make your busy days just a little more manageable.

25 thoughts on “Freezer Meals 101: tips, recipes + free printable freezer inventory

  1. I love the idea of a ‘party’ style of making lots of meals! For my first, I think the best thing I did was make single serving frozen food, like burritos or muffins. We didn’t really need whole meals (my hubs is a pick eater and doesn’t do left overs and I can only eat so much lasagna..) but having something I could easily reheat for myself for lunch or breakfast while nursing a baby was a life saver

    1. Yes! I love having single serving stuff. I’ve also learned to cook 9×13 meals in two smaller pans (like 8×8)…one for the night of and one to freeze. We don’t go through a giant casserole either, and my husband is also not super helpful about eating up leftovers.

    1. I’ve thought about trying to get a freezer meal group together, but I’ve always been worried about ending up with food from others that my family won’t love and then wasting food. Did you have this issue?

  2. Some of these recipes sound delicious but sadly I’ve never had much luck with freezer meals. For me, it’s easier to just freeze pre-cooked meat for fast meal prep (like browned ground beef or turkey, shredded or cubed chicken, etc). But then again, I seem to fare better flying by the seat of my pants. ??

    1. I’ve also done a lot of freezing the first step of a meal… meat that is already cooked or even just cut up. I find it’s nice to have at least a few freezer meals completed though for days when I just don’t have time to cook.

  3. Can’t wait to give these a try! I’m going to probably double these up and take some meals over to my Snl who is due with twins. I also love the reminder that you can freeze parts of a meal. I’ve done that before with meats. Makes meal prep soooo much easier!

  4. It’s back to school time and I am a teacher and a mom so these freezer meals will definitely come in handy. I love how you said to think outside of casserole. You are so right. So many times people think freezers meals only exist in casseroles but there are many more options! I will be using this this week! Thank you!

  5. This couldn’t have come at a better time! I’m about 6 weeks away from my scheduled csection due to pregnancy complications. I need to start wiping some of these up ASAP!

    1. It’s not too hard to get started in small ways. Just doubling a recipe to freeze half once a week or so can really cut down on prep later.

  6. I thought I remembered you posted about freezer meals, so now that I’m 3 weeks until d-day, I’m starting to panic! I made a bunch for the slow cooker before Lucy came, but they didn’t end up being very good (basically jars of sauce and meat), but these look much better. Can you suggest a few favorites?

  7. I’ve been using my stash for the past month, and it’s been awesome! I especially love the taquitos, meatballs, and soups. Good luck with the newest little one! P. S. – Have you noticed that we always have babies at the same time?

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