You can make easy freezer meals without all the trouble so many people cause themselves! Here are some easy ideas how to make freezer meal prep much simpler! Don’t overcomplicate it! After all, you want to spend less time in the kitchen and still get great meals on the table! Here’s how!
Easy Freezer Meals Made Simpler!
We get asked a lot in our Save on Groceries Facebook Group about how to make easy freezer meals. Most people intuitively know that the kind of freezer meal prep that many others promote is unnecessarily time consuming and difficult.
I will be honest and say that Mom and I don’t do freezer meals in the way you might expect – and it’s SO much simpler to think of freezer meals in the way that we do it. We’ll be sharing some easy tips today to prepare freezer meals without spending a lot of extra time in the kitchen, and these meals will be much fresher and adaptable to your needs.
Most of the time people pre-cook their freezer meals, put them in the freezer and then warm them up later… and it tastes nasty! The other con that I’ve seen with the freezer gurus is that they spend 4-8 hours preparing 20-50 meals, wearing themselves out making all these meals in one day! Often, they recruit friends and family and even need to arrange for child care so that they have the time to put together all those meals all at once. And then there’s a massive cleanup effort required behind the scenes, after you’re tired and worn out!
But make ahead freezer meals can be so much easier and not require a major physical collapse or anxiety medicine when you’re finished! Most of our meals take 15-20 minutes to prepare so why waste your time and energy wearing yourself making a bunch of freezer meals.
STOP THE FREEZER MEAL MADNESS!
We are going to share some of favorite easy freezer meals with you. We’ll show you how to make them taste like they are homemade and how to do it so you don’t completely wear yourself out in the process.
Freezer Meal Tip #1: Freeze Ingredients
This is the way I make my freezer meals. I will brown 10 pounds of hamburger at once (don’t forget 70/30 IS THE CHEAPEST!) :-).
Then I will package 1/2 pound portions into fold top sandwich bags and then put those in a freezer bag. Freezer bags are expensive, but if you use the fold top bags inside the freezer bags the freezer bags can be reused but you don’t have any mess!
Some of the individual ingredients I freeze are:
- browned hamburger
- shredded chicken (roast a chicken, shred leftovers, package and freeze)
- shredded pork (prepare the same as chicken)
- shredded roast
- chicken breast in marinade
- bananas, chopped
- salsa, homemade from garden, drain before using
- frozen veggies or veggies from the garden already chopped up like onions and peppers
- any food item that is left over that I don’t want to waste
When you freeze the individual ingredients instead of entire meals, then you just have to pull it out and add the other ingredients and in 5 minutes or less you have dinner cooking and you can be on to other things.
This is especially helpful because you can customize your meals based on what you want on any given day and the individual ingredient packs take up a lot less space than fully prepared meals.
Freezer Meal Tip #2: Cook your Freezer Meals in the Oven or, if you have to, the Crockpot.
Crockpot freezer meals are overrated! Sure, you can cook your freezer meals in a slow cooker, but there’s a better way!
So neither Mom nor I are fans of crockpots, but I know a lot of people are. Here’s the thing: If you cook your freezer meals in the oven they will taste 100% better! I only use my crockpot for is broth, soups and roasts in the summer. EVERYTHING ELSE gets cooked in the oven. The oven is a VERY safe way to cook and your food tastes SOOO much better when cooked in the oven!
The secret oven trick:
There is a secret that most people under 50 don’t know. The trick to have having moist delicious food in the oven is to cook at a low temperature and very slow! Cook your food in the oven for 8 hours at 225 degrees and it will be moist and juicy!
People are afraid that if you cook it at that low a temperature in the oven, the food will grow bacteria and you’ll die of food poisoning BUT did you know that a crockpot on low cooks at just 200 degrees and on high, it cooks at 300 degrees?
Save your crockpot for soups, stews and broths and cooking in the hot part of summer when you don’t want to heat the house. The other 9 months of the year, USE YOUR OVEN to cook your freezer meals (or any meals) and your food will taste 100 times better!
Most ovens actually cost less to run than a crockpot. A crockpot stays running the entire time but an oven cycles on and off as needed to maintain the temperature and uses less energy than a crockpot.
Freezer Meal Tip #3: Stop Doing Big Freezer Cooking Days!
Seriously! Big freezer cooking parties are crazy time consuming! They DON’T actually save you any time and instead just wear you out!
Here’s a much easier way to do it. On the days that you cook, just make a double, triple or quadruple batch. It doesn’t take any longer than cooking a single batch. Then, just dish the extra batches into separate containers and freeze. Then you’ll have 2-4 additional meals ready to go when you’re in a hurry.
When I make meatballs, I don’t just make tonight’s meatballs. I quadruple the batch and make up meatballs to have for the next month. Often I separate the extra before adding a sauce so I can choose to make a different flavor for the next meal.
When I make green chili (one of the few precooked freezer meals I make), I quadruple the batch and then, when we want green chili, I can just pull it out of the freezer, heat up and add my fixings. If I make a Shepherd’s Pie, I will make 2 or 3 of them and only bake one. I will freeze the others unbaked and then pull them out and bake them when needed. This makes them taste much fresher.
Using these freezer meal methods, I only really “cook” 1-2 times per week! And with no significant extra effort on the cooking days! One or two nights per week, I will “cook” and freeze the extra meals. Two or three nights per week, we will pull out freezer meal ingredients or the full freezer meals, put them in the oven, and in less than 5 minutes dinner is ready. Then the other nights are leftover nights or every man for himself!
Most families have a small number of favorite meals and this method allows you to make these meals in bulk at a time when you’re already cooking them, so you don’t spend any extra time. Then you can use all that extra time you would have been making a huge over-complicated production to do something you really want to be doing!
Freezer Meal Bonus Tip
When you get ready to freeze you pre-made dinners, such as Shepherd’s Pie or enchiladas, line your baking pan with foil, put in your freezer meal dinner, cover with more foil and freeze. Then, when it’s frozen, take it out of the pan, put the foil meal packet in a freezer bag and label.
Then, when you’re ready to cook your freezer meal, just put it back in the same pan. There’s no reason to waste money on foil pans.
Make Ahead Freezer Meal Recipes – Meals That Freeze Well
This easy homemade meatloaf recipe makes a yummy main dish that is super versatile. Most families love homemade meatloaf and it can be the basis for lots of different tasty meal variations. It’s also a great recipe to use for freezer meals!
Easy Meatloaf Recipe
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. pepper
3/4 cup quick cooking oatmeal or 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup ketchup or barbecue sauce
Mix everything together except the ketchup. Put into a loaf pan. Spread ketchup over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until done. Serves 6.
This is THE BEST homemade barbecue meatballs recipe! The recipe makes a quick and easy meal that’ll be a huge hit with families and kids and it’s super easy to make in bulk to use for freezer meals.
These barbecue meatballs are my grandmother’s recipe that she has made for more than 50 years! They’re always a HUGE hit at every get together and the best part is that it only takes a few minutes to throw everything together and get it in the oven. If you add some potatoes for baking you have a delicious dinner in a just a few minutes prep time!
If you’re using this recipe to make freezer meals, you might want to put the barbecue sauce on only part of the batch. Then if you like, you can use the extra meatballs for a different meal altogether when you take it out of the freezer.
The BEST Homemade Barbecue Meatballs Recipe
3 lbs. ground beef
2 cups oatmeal
1 tsp. onion powder or 1 Tbsp. onion, finely chopped
1 cup evaporated milk
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. pepper
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and blend well. Form into balls. Put in a 9×13 inch pan and an 8×8 inch pan. Pour barbecue sauce over the top of the meatballs. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Makes 30 medium meatballs.
Easy Barbecue Sauce
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 cups ketchup
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
2 Tbsp. liquid smoke
Combine all ingredients and mix well. Sauce may be refrigerated several weeks.
This homemade pizza dough recipe makes it easy to make tasty pizza dough at home. We also have pizza recipes to top off your homemade pizza with your favorite pizza toppings! If you like making freezer meals, this homemade pizza dough is a great option, as you can make it ahead of time and freeze for up to 6 months!
Homemade Pizza Dough
1 cup warm water (120 degrees)
1 pkg. or 1 Tbsp. yeast
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. oil (Olive oil is best)
2 1/2-3 cups flour
2 tsp. crushed garlic (optional)
1 tsp. basil (optional)
1 tsp. thyme (optional)
1 tsp. oregano (optional)
Dissolve yeast in a bowl with warm water. Add sugar, salt and oil. Add spices as desired. Mix well. Gradually add flour to form a stiff dough. Knead on floured surface until smooth. Place in greased bowl. Turn dough over in the bowl in order to grease both sides. Cover and let rise until doubled.
To freeze after first rising wrap in plastic wrap, put in freezer bag and freeze for up to 6 months.
To make pizza with this dough, use the pizza recipes and ideas here!
This green chile recipe makes a tasty light meal when eaten with tortillas or poured over rice. You can also use it to top a lot of different Mexican themed dishes! Mike and I especially love it as a meal. I do often pre-cook this recipe and freeze and it’s a super easy freezer meal any time I’m not feeling well. It’s super delicious!
Homemade Green Chile
1/2-1 lb. pork roast, or chops cubed into small pieces
10 1/2 oz. chicken broth
1 onion, finely chopped
1/4 – 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 can (7 oz.) green chiles, diced
1/4 jalapeno, finely chopped
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. flour or cornstarch, dissolved in water
flour tortillas (or corn tortillas if you’re gluten free)
cheddar cheese, grated
This homemade pizza or spaghetti sauce recipe makes a yummy homemade sauce to go with your homemade pizza or pasta of your choice! It’s super easy to make big batches for make ahead freezer meals. Get the recipe here along with lots of other freezer meal recipes and ideas for making freezer meals simpler!
Homemade Pizza/Spaghetti Sauce Recipe
1 onion, chopped
1/2 lb. Italian sausage
2 (16 oz.) cans stewed tomatoes, chopped, with juice
1 (8 oz.) can tomato paste
salt to taste
1 clove garlic, pressed, or garlic powder (to taste)
1 bay leaf
2 tsp. Italian Seasoning (p.304)
Crumble sausage in a 2-quart saucepan. Brown with onion.
Drain fat. Add other ingredients and simmer for 1 hour.
Remove bay leaf before serving. Serves 4.
This Mexican casserole recipe is a tasty and hearty dish that’s very popular with families and kids. It’s super easy to make, easy to adapt to your own tastes and it makes a perfect easy freezer meal!
Mexican Casserole Recipe
1/2 to 1 lb. of hamburger*
Cream of chicken soup
1 small can of tomato sauce
1 small can of green chilies, chopped
8 to 16 oz. of cheese, grated*
12 corn tortillas
green onions for garnish
Fry hamburger in pan and drain. Add soup, tomato sauce and chilies.
In a casserole dish or baking pan layer tortillas shells, meat mixture and cheese. Bake at 300 degrees for 30-45 minutes. Garnish with green onions before serving.
*This recipe is very flexible. You can adjust the hamburger and cheese to pretty much to what you have on hand. I use cheddar cheese but you can use Monterey Jack, Mexican mix or any combination you want.
This maid-rite recipe is one of the recipes I do precook and freeze. It’s a tasty recipe similar to Sloppy Joe but with a different, milder taste. It’s an easy freezer meal idea to make ahead and freeze.
6 lbs. ground beef
8 slices bread, cubed
3 cups milk
1 1/2 cup tomato juice
onion powder (to taste) or 1 cup chopped onion
salt (to taste)
Mix ingredients together. Pour into three 9×13 pans. Bake at 300 degrees for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours (until done). Stir frequently. Serve with pickles on hamburger buns or bread as with Sloppy Joes. You can halve the recipe, and it freezes very well. Serves 30.
This shepherd’s pie recipe is an easy way to use leftovers and is very flexible. You don’t have to use the ingredients exactly as listed. You can add more vegetables or meat if you want. It is perfect for freezer meals – one of those meals you can have ready to pop in the oven in just a few minutes with very little work.
The next time you have mashed potatoes and gravy, plan on making a little extra or use the leftovers to make this Shepherd’s Pie recipe the next day. You can keep cooked ground beef in the freezer to use and use canned gravy to make things go really fast if you don’t already have leftover gravy.
The Best Shepherd’s Pie Recipe
1 lb. ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (10 1/2 oz.) can beef gravy
1 cup frozen mixed veggies
1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
2 1/2 cups mashed potatoes
Cook beef, onion and garlic until beef is brown. Drain. Add the rest of the ingredients except the potatoes. Place in a greased 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Spread potatoes over the top. Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes until heated through. You could add some butter cracker bread crumbs or cheese to it for a little extra if you want.
This easy homemade enchiladas recipe is one of our family’s favorite recipes! This quick and easy meal is one of my go to recipes and it’s easily adaptable! It’s easy to make ahead a little extra as a freezer meal and heat it up later when you don’t have a lot of time!
Easy Homemade Enchiladas Recipe
6-8 tortillas, warmed
1 cup Cheddar cheese
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 can of enchilada sauce or homemade (see below)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix Cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, onion and garlic. Place enchilada sauce in a bowl. Dip 1 tortilla into sauce. Place in greased 9×9 inch pan. Spoon about 1/4 cup cheese mixture down the center of each tortilla. Roll up and tuck in ends; place seam sides down. Repeat with the rest of tortillas.
Top with the remaining enchilada sauce and sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top. Bake covered until the cheese is melted and bubbly (about 40 minutes). Serves 4.
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1 Tbsp. chili powder
5 Tbsp. green pepper, chopped (optional)
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. salt (more to taste)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. cumin
Combine all ingredients in saucepan, mixing well. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened. Makes 2 cups.
Find more easy freezer meal recipes in our cookbook:
Click here to get the Dining On A Dime Cookbook, with tasty recipes and great tips to make your life easier and save you money!