Whether you’re expecting a new baby or looking for guidance on freezer food prep, look no further. Here are 8 useful tips for preparing freezer meals, plus recipes, freezing instructions, and thawing directions.
Feeling ambitious toward the end of my pregnancies, I cooked a couple of times each week and ended up stocking our freezer with several large-batch meals, plus cookies, healthy snacks, and breakfasts. I felt accomplished and prepared, but more importantly, my mind was at ease knowing we’d have homemade food for all meals and snacking.
Even when my family and I aren’t preparing for a baby, we still prepare meals in advance, which is tremendously useful for busy days or for serving to guests.
Overview: 8 Tips for Preparing Freezer Meals
It’s so handy and convenient to have prepared meals stocked in your freezer. Here’s what you’ll want to do first.
- Clear out your freezer. Unless you have a spare freezer in the garage or basement, clear out as much room as you can in your kitchen freezer.
- Containers + labeling. I like to freeze flat foods in zipped-top freezer bags. Things like cookies, bars, and muffins are perfect for stacking because they are relatively flat. I layer them on paper plates then put the whole plate into the zipped-top freezer bag. Freeze foods like chili, soup, pulled meat, and meatballs in freezer-friendly containers. (Update: I recently began using these glass freezer containers and they’re fantastic for larger batch items.) Label everything with the recipe name and the date.
- Freeze in smaller portions. Sometimes it makes sense to prepare food in large batches, but I would lose my mind if I had to eat chicken noodle soup or pulled BBQ chicken for lunch and dinner 5 days in a row. In these instances, I freeze the meals in smaller portions. Smaller portions also reheat quicker. This variety pack of glass freezer containers is very useful for varying portions.
- The slow cooker is your BFF. Take full advantage of your crockpot when preparing freezer meals. I often choose “set it and forget it” meals, like my slow cooker chicken chili pictured above, because they don’t require a ton of standing, stirring, chopping, and prep work. Utilizing the slow cooker makes cooking in bulk much easier since it requires little “hands-on” time.
- Concentrate on easy and filling meals. Stick with easy, satisfying meals and any recipe that can simply be reheated on the stove for a quick meal.
- Bonus if they’re healthy and nutritious. If you have a new baby, a large family, or a super busy schedule, I bet your energy is zapped. Healthy meals sustain you.
- Don’t forget about breakfast and snacks. Most people who meal plan only focus on dinners, but breakfast and snacks are just as important. I’m usually running around a lot in the mornings and something as simple as brewing coffee feels like a victory. I link to a bunch of freezer-friendly healthy breakfasts and snacks below.
- Don’t stress. You CAN do it all, but you can’t do it all at once. Don’t beat yourself up if you plan to make a dozen meals and only end up preparing 4. At least it’s something!
8 Freezer Meals
The recipes here are ideal for freezing. They don’t require too much time to prepare and they freeze well. You’ll find that most soups, stews, pasta bakes, and pie dough are great for freezing.
- Slow Cooker Chicken Chili. (Picture above.) This meal keeps on giving because it’s super filling and freezes wonderfully. Freeze it in a big container or a few smaller ones. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or place the container/bag in the sink filled with cool water. Once thawed, cook in a large pot on medium heat for about 30 minutes, or until heated through. Or reheat in the microwave until warmed throughout. (Freeze up to 3-4 months.)
- Vegetarian Lasagna. The entire lasagna was prepared in a disposable 9×13 inch pan, covered tightly with aluminum foil, and frozen (unbaked). Defrost it in the refrigerator overnight, then bake (covered) in a 375°F (191°C) oven for 45-50 minutes. Remove aluminum foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes until heated through. (Freeze up to 3-4 months.)
- Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup. (Pictured below.) This soup is incredibly flavorful, tastes super comforting, and will keep you full for hours. Freeze in 1 big container or a few smaller containers. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or place the container/bag in the sink filled with cool water. Once thawed, cook in a large pot on medium heat for 30 minutes. Or reheat in the microwave until warmed throughout. (Freeze up to 3-4 months.)
- Taco Spice Turkey Chili. I LOVE this satisfying chili because it packs big flavor in each bite. Freeze in a big container or a few smaller ones. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or place the container/bag in the sink filled with cool water. Once thawed, cook in a large pot on medium heat for about 30 minutes, until heated through. Or reheat in the microwave until warmed throughout. (Freeze up to 3-4 months.)
- Turkey Meatballs. I made a double batch of these meatballs – plain. Meaning, I just made the meatballs and baked them in the oven without using the slow cooker or adding the tomato sauce. (You can also skip the browning step: just prepare/roll the meatballs and bake at 400°F (204°C) for 25 minutes.) Chicken meatballs work great also. I recommend making and freezing plain meatballs because when thawed out, you can enjoy them a bunch of different ways such as enjoying with pasta, as meatball subs, or plain with your favorite dipping sauce. Simply thaw overnight in the refrigerator. (Freeze up to 3-4 months.)
- Coconut Chicken. This chicken recipe is a family favorite. After the chicken is coated in the coconut, place on a parchment paper or a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat and freeze for 2-3 hours or until frozen solid. Transfer the chicken to a large freezer-friendly bag or container. See the recipe for how to bake/reheat the uncooked frozen chicken. (Freeze up to 3-4 months.)
- Slow Cooker Honey Teriyaki Chicken. This teriyaki chicken is easy, relatively healthy, saucy, and super versatile – what’s not to love? Place the cooked chicken into a freezer-friendly container. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or place the container/bag in the sink filled with cool water. Once thawed, cook in a large pot on medium heat for 10 minutes, until heated through. Or reheat in the microwave until warmed throughout. It’s great over rice or quinoa, with steamed veggies, or sandwich-style in buns. (Freeze up to 3-4 months.)
- Pulled BBQ Chicken. Easy and versatile! Freeze in a big container or a few smaller ones. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or place the container/bag in the sink filled with cool water. Once thawed, reheat in the microwave or on the stove until warmed throughout. Great as is, for pulled BBQ chicken sandwiches/sliders, or on top of a salad. (Freeze up to 3-4 months.)
How to Freeze Breakfast + Healthy Snacks + Cookies
I love whipping out “fresh baked” cookies if we have company over. And when the moment calls for something sweet, these delicious and nutritious treats will win over most crowds.
- Breakfast Cookies. Of course I prepped a bunch of my favorite healthy, gluten-free, and dairy-free cookies. Pile the cookies onto a paper plate, place the cookies + plate in a freezer-friendly bag or container (no need to layer them between parchment), and thaw a few at a time in the refrigerator when you crave a quick and nutritious snack. (Freeze up to 3-4 months.) See note in that blog post about turning these into Lactation Cookies.
- Healthy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies. Pile the cookies onto a paper plate, then place the cookies + plate in a freezer-friendly bag or container (no need to layer them between parchment), and thaw in the refrigerator. They’re delicious! (Freeze up to 3-4 months.)
- Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Granola Bars. Like both cookie recipes listed above, pile the bars onto a paper plate, then place them into a freezer-friendly bag or container (no need to layer them between parchment), and thaw in the refrigerator. (Freeze up to 3 months.)
- Breakfast Casserole. Packed with healthy veggies, this quick and simple breakfast will keep you fueled all morning. When I want to freeze it, I bake it in a disposable aluminum pan, then set it aside to cool completely. Cover it tightly with aluminum foil, then freeze. When ready to eat, thaw it for about 24 hours (covered) in the refrigerator, then bake it in a 350°F (177°C) oven for 25-30 minutes. (Freeze for up to 3-4 months.)
- Zucchini Bread. This unfussy batter is a cinch to whip up; there’s no mixer required! After the bread bakes and cools, transfer it to a freezer-friendly container. Thaw at room temperature for a few hours before serving. (Freeze up to 3-4 months.)
- Apple Crumb Cake. I knew we’d have a lot of visitors when the baby was born, so I made this to serve to family members who’d spend the night. You can bake and freeze it in a disposable 9 × 13 pan or cut the cooled cake into slices and freeze it in a freezer-friendly bag or container. (Freeze up to 3-4 months.)
- Cookies! I baked a few batches of cake batter chocolate chip cookies so we could enjoy some treats when we had visitors. To freeze cookies, you can pile them on a plate and place in a zipped-top bag OR cover tightly with foil. Or you can layer between sheets of parchment paper in a freezer container or bag. Thaw at room temperature for a few hours before serving. (Most cookies can be frozen up to 3-4 months.)
Reader Comments & Reviews
Hi Sally! I’m wondering how do you avoid freezer burn? I’m leaving soon and I’d like to stock some goodies for my mom, since she doesn’t like to bake at all . However I found ice crystals on my practice batches, maybe I’m doing something wrong? Thank you ♡
Hi Valerie, when freezing baked goods, it’s important to seal out any moisture, so wrapping tightly in plastic wrap, and then perhaps another layer of aluminum foil helps. If using a freezer bag, squeeze out any air or you can use vacuum-sealed bags. Here’s a really helpful page I refer back to often when freezing different foods/meals. Super handy: https://happymoneysaver.com/prevent-freezer-burn/
Thanks for sharing Sally. This is so awesome!!!
These make ahead meals are great suggestions for any age. I’m 77 y/o and often don’t think about dinner until 3:00. Then it’s panic time. These will help tremendously with the “what’s for dinner” problem. Thanks a bunch.
You’re so welcome and I’m glad you find this page helpful!
This is what I do all the time. I freeze single serving portions of just about everything I make. My personal go-to is snack size resealable baggies. They fit a full cup of food, and they are perfect to bring to work. I put my rice and small pasta shapes in them. I have a blog devoted to freezing stuff. Thebountifulfreezer.com. Check it out!
I realize that this is an older post, but wanted to add for anyone reading this. You can also cook bacon and sausage in bulk and stick them in the freezer for quick breakfasts or adding to recipes. It helps so much to be able to just pull out what you need and quickly heat it up!
This post is so helpful! I’m due at the beginning of June and am starting to plan for freezer meals now that we’re stuck inside do who knows how long. Many of the recipes say they freeze well for up to three months, so I’m hoping I’m not starting too early!
Saw this when I first found out I was pregnant and have been waiting to try. In my last month right now, so getting started making some of these. Thanks for posting!
My daughter who is 31 weeks pregnant with her 2nd child asked me to help her with some freezer meals to have after (and probably before) the baby is born. This post is just what I needed to start! Great idea to freeze in smaller portions. I hadn’t really thought of freezer breakfast foods, yet will definitely do this!
This is seriously one of the absolute best posts I’ve seen on freezer meals! Totally snagging some of these recipes and tips! Kudos to you for being so organized at the end of your pregnancy! 🙂
I just had my little guy 2 weeks ago today and bought things to go ahead and make and store! I’m going to make the chicken chili tomorrow and have these meals ready for when I have to go back to work and need something quick and hearty on a weeknight! This post is perfect!
Freezing meals is a wonderful idea for everyone! You are so smart Sally! Thank you for sharing this on your blog. 🙂
Ok, i’m a busy nurse and student. Finishing my last prerequisite for my RN.
When I start the program, RN, this will be a godsend to me and hubby. Classes will be 6 days a week- lecture and clinical. So make ahead and freeze, thaw and enjoy. HOORAY.
This goes into the file for school, so I can grab and go.
I love this post! Very inspiring. I seriously want to get on the freezer meal train. With a mostly vegetarian household, I find it harder to plan freezer meals though. You included a couple here that can work. One thing I am good, though, at is freezing cookie dough. Whenever I make cookies, I make a double batch, so that I can freeze the balls of dough. It allows me to have freshly baked cookies at any time. My favorites are your chewy chocolate chunk cookies and your pumpkin snickerdoodles 🙂
This is perfect timing for me! I am due in 2.5 months with baby #2. Last time I made zero meals and it was a major struggle when the baby came. This time I am determined to prepare as many meals and snacks as I can. Thank you so much for sharing this!!!
Yes yes yes to this! And let me say it’s helpful even when your not having a brand new baby! I work in a tax and accounting firm so January to April is soooooo crazy for me. I do freezer meals so I know my family is getting a good home cooked meal even when I can’t be home to make it. I always do lots of meatballs, chili, and chicken pot pies. And whenever I make a quick bread, I do the little mini loaves and freeze a couple of those too!
The labeling thing is key! I forgot to label my freezer meals when I was pregnant- hello pregnancy brain- and we ate mystery dinners for a month a lot of the things I cooked looked very similar when frozen so it was always a surprise!