Freezer Meals have been part of my Daily Life Survival Plan for many years. Being able to open the freezer, pull out a bag, dump it in a slow cooker, and not think about dinner again until 5:00 keeps me from wasting time making last-minute runs to the grocery store, refereeing fights from hangry children that are waiting on me for a meal I forgot to plan, and serving the same go-to desperation dinners 5 times per week. Freezer Meals are awesome!
Find the recipes & shopping lists in the FREEZER MEALS folder of our Subscriber Library!
Step 1: Make a Freezer Meal Plan
I have three approaches to making Freezer Meals.
COOK THEN FREEZE
Sometimes, I will make a large-quantity meal or a double batch of a recipe and cook all of it, then freeze whatever we don’t eat. I pull it out of the freezer on another day and reheat it. Freezing and reheating a cooked meal works better for some meals than for others, and all of the 10 recipes I am sharing today have done just fine with this approach. This may be the best approach if you are a single person or family of two, since all of these recipes make a lot of food.
COOK ONE, FREEZE ONE
The second approach to Freezer Meal prep is the one that I use the most. Instead of preparing many meals on the same day, I pick just one recipe and buy the ingredients to make two batches. Then, I prepare one fresh batch in the slow cooker and a second batch goes in a freezer bag, raw, to be cooked at a later date.
The third approach is to fill my freezer with a whole bunch of freezer meals in one fell swoop. It involves an epic trip to the grocery store, a couple of hours in the kitchen, a big mess to clean up, and peace of mind for a few weeks afterward.
In this post, I’ll share the materials to make it easy for you to use Approach #3 to stock your freezer with 10 meals in one afternoon, but you can also feel free to use the recipes with the other approaches.
Step 2: Choose your recipes
All of the recipes that I have chosen for today’s list are “Dump & Go”, meaning that there is no pre-cooking of any ingredients required. Some of the recipes that I shared in 2015 required pre-cooking (such as browning beef or boiling chicken), but the 2019 batch were all Dump & Go as well. I’ve found that making a big batch of meals is just so much easier when the only prep work is cutting up vegetables and opening cans!
Here are the 10 recipes for today’s list, and they can be found in the “Dump & Go II” folder in the Freezer Meals section of our Subscriber Library:
- East African Beef Stew – Published in the 2020 Fix-It and Forget-It Soups and Stews Magazine, this stew will blow you away! Although it is absolutely best with cardamom, I have substituted equal parts cinnamon and nutmeg for the cardamom when I was out. My kids LOVE this stew, and you can serve it on its own or over rice or with bread or flatbread.
- Thai Chicken Stew with Butternut Squash, from the Skinnytaste Meal Prep Cookbook (which I LOVE). My kids don’t like this recipe as much as I do, so I tend to cook this and then portion into containers for a week’s worth of lunches or dinners for myself. I always add a bag of frozen broccoli and then eat on its own like a stew, but my husband prefers to eat it with rice. This stew would also work well with Tofu substituted for the Chicken!
- Indian Butter Chicken, from the Instant Pot Miracle Cookbook. This chicken is AMAZING, and my kids will eat piles of it. You will need to add fresh heavy cream and butter (and ideally cilantro) on the day that you cook it, so make sure you remember to grab some at the grocery store on the week that you plan to cook it. I serve this over rice!
- Moroccan Chicken Tagine, from the Instant Pot Miracle Cookbook. This is probably my least favorite recipe on this list, but I think the spices and seasonings just need adjusting. Adding a good bit of salt when it’s done cooking has done the trick, but I also plan to experiment with doubling the spices in a future attempt. I was very surprised that my kids liked this, since the appearance of the dish is not something that they would usually go for.
- Caribbean Jerk Chicken, created by combining recipes from Simply Nourished Living & Jeanette’s Healthy Living. Everyone in my family loves this dish, and I highly recommend the extra effort of making the Cilantro Salsa on the day that you serve it (you’ll need cilantro, red onion, and a jalapeño). If you don’t want to make that fresh, I’d recommend grabbing a jar of pineapple salsa at the grocery store. Serve with rice! My husband likes to pile this into a tortilla and eat it like a burrito, and my younger kids eat it without the cilantro salsa.
- Zero Point Chicken Chili, from the Slender Kitchen blog. This is a crowd favorite, and it is delicious on its own or even better topped with sour cream, grated cheese, and crushed tortilla chips.
- Chickpea Spinach Tomato Curry, from the Skinnytaste Meal Prep Cookbook. This is the only by-design vegetarian recipe on this list, which I realized after I compiled everything. In the future, I’ll have to make a vegetarian-only list – because I’ve found some great ones! This recipe is very simple and very delicious. Plus… I love cooking anything with Garbanzo beans because, well, Garbanzo.
- Crockpot Chicken Parmesan, from the Damn Delicious Blog. It’s not as good as traditional Chicken Parmesan, but for the level of effort, this is pretty dang delicious! And, it’s a favorite among my kids.
- Mississippi Roast, from the Belle of the Kitchen Blog. This was my favorite pot roast until I found the next one on the list. Serve with rice or potatoes and you will be one happy human!
- Flavor Mosaic Roast, from the Flavor Mosaic blog. The problem with this roast is that once you make it, you’ll never want to make a different roast ever again. It is SO SO SO SO SO good. I wish beef weren’t so expensive these days, because I could easily make this once a week and my kids would not complain.
Look over the recipes and consider which ones match your dietary restrictions, which ones you’re not open to trying, what fits with your budget, how much freezer space you have, and which approach to freezer meals you want to attempt (Cook then Freeze, Cook 1 Freeze 1, or Freeze 10). Also decide whether you want to do this on your own or whether you want to have a freezer meal fiesta with friends! Then, it’s time to shop!
Step 3: Make your shopping list
If you are making all 10 Freezer Meals, I’ve got a complete ingredient list all ready for you! On the far left, you will see your combined shopping list for all 10 recipes. Scan through it and adjust based on what you already have in your pantry! For example, you may not need to purchase many of the spices on the list because you already have them at home.
There is also a column of ingredients for each recipe. If there is any recipe that you do NOT want to prepare, or if you want to prepare double batches of any recipe, you can easily modify the shopping list by making your own copy (File » Make a Copy). Go down the column of ingredients for the recipe that you want to eliminate or double and adjust the information in the master shopping list accordingly. For example, if you don’t want to make the Chickpea Curry, reduce the ingredient list from 19 cloves of garlic to 17 cloves of garlic, the Ginger from 3 Tbsp to 1 Tbsp, the onion from 5.5 to 5, etc. If you wanted to make two batches of Chickpea Curry, then INCREASE the master ingredient list to 21 cloves of garlic, the Ginger to 4 Tbsp, the onion to 6, etc.
Step 4: Make a shopping plan
Once you have your complete list, make a plan for how to purchase or acquire the ingredients in a cost-effective way. Beef is particularly expensive at this time, so you may want to wait until a week when roasts are on sale or you score a Manager’s Special. The spice list is quite extensive, so if you do not already have a wide range of spices in your pantry, it might make sense to ask a friend or neighbor to spare a teaspoonful or a Tablespoonful of a spice, or to prepare Freezer Meals with a friend and all share a single spice jar. The cost of spices can really add up! The Cook 1, Freeze 1 approach to making Freezer Meals makes it easier to take advantage of sales on proteins and to spreading out the cost of spices that you don’t regularly have on hand.
Step 5: Go shopping!
If you aren’t used to big shopping trips, make sure you bring enough shopping bags with you! It’s amazing how fast you can fill 10 bags on a trip like this. If you have young kids that usually ride in the cart, you may want to leave them home with your partner for this trip! Also, if the ingredients are not things that you normally purchase and you aren’t exactly sure where in your grocery store they are located, you’ll find it much less stressful to not have kids in tow AND to go shopping when you are not in a super time crunch.
Step 6: Unpack and prep
Unpack everything and organize it in whatever space you have – I like to organize things by ingredient type rather than by recipe, since many recipes use the same ingredients. Put all your vegetables together, all your canned goods together, all your spices together, all your proteins together, etc.
Then, pull out your freezer bags and marker and label all of the bags so that they are ready to go! Instructions for what to write on each label are included on the recipe list, which is in the Dump & Go II folder of the Freezer Meals section of our Subscriber Library.
Step 7: Vegetables
I like to peel, chop, and slice all the vegetables I am going to need at once! Scan each recipe to see what vegetables you need and how they should be prepared, then either add them to the bag for the recipe or have them at the ready to add along with the non perishables.
Step 8: Non perishables
Add all ingredients to each bag EXCEPT for the proteins. Open your cans and dump them in, flip in the spices, dribble in your vinegars and oils… everything goes in the bags! The bags that have quite a bit of liquid might need some support to stay upright and not spill over – they do sell bag stands for things like these, but I usually just stick the partially filled bag in a bowl or a pot, and that is sufficient to keep it upright enough to keep going.
Step 9: Add the proteins
I add raw beef and chicken last so that it doesn’t contaminate my work space. Salt and pepper or rub any meat that needs it, then add it to the appropriate bag.
Step 10: Seal & Freeze
Squeeze out air, seal the bags, smush together the ingredients, then flatten the bags as best as you can and slide them into your freezer!
Getting Freezer Meals into the freezer can take a good bit of work, but it is so worth it to be able to not have to stress about what’s for dinner on busy weekdays. With the recipes and shopping list, I think you’ll find that you can do the shopping and the assembly in a single afternoon.
Looking for more time-saving ideas? Check out these posts: