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:
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!
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
- Creamy Chicken Taquitos – Our Best Bites
- Hawaiian Haystacks – Mel’s Kitchen Cafe
- Make Ahead Chicken Marinades – The Many Little Joys
- White Chicken Enchiladas – Our Best Bites
- Cool Ranch Shredded Chicken Tacos – New Leaf Wellness
- Baked Chicken Penne – Our Best Bites
- Honey Sesame Chicken – Damn Delicious
- Meatballs (gluten free) – Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures
- Aardvark Pies – The Many Little Joys
- Mexican Casserole – The Many Little Joys
- Pork Carnitas – Carlsbad Cravings
- BBQ Beef Sandwiches – Betty Crocker
- Baked Ziti– Six Sister’s Stuff
- Spaghetti Pie – Mel’s Kitchen Cafe
- Korean Beef – Damn Delicious
- Taco Soup – The Many Little Joys
- Beef & Barley Soup – Girl and the Kitchen
- Zuppa Toscana (slow cooker) – The Chunky Chef
- Lasagna Soup (slow cooker) – Thirty Handmade Days
- Blueberry Muffins – The Many Little Joys
- Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins – The Many Little Joys
- Mini Egg Frittatas – The Many Little Joys
- Freezer Hash Brown Casserole – Real Mom Kitchen
Have you tried freezer cooking before? What favorite meals, tips or tricks do you have to share?