We’ve all been there… your flight lands at 7pm and you have no energy to get groceries and make a homemade healthy meal. Or the kids’ recital runs 2 hours late and they’ll be screaming in 30 minutes, not leaving you enough time to make the fancy meal you had planned. Or you get the motivation to hit an extra spin class mid-week … but then are tempted to undo those endorphins you gained by driving through fast food on the way home.
The solution to all of those issues is to have healthy meals in your freezer ready to go! While I prep most of my food each Sunday, having healthy freezer meals on hand is key to ensuring that I never (or at least, rarely) throw in the towel and call in takeout, unless it’s something I truly want and have planned for.
Healthy freezer meals save significant time, because you can make a bunch of them in advance, like you’re doing a weekly food prep session, but throw everything in the freezer! A little goes a long way – in just 2 hours, you’ll likely be able to get 3-5 meals done, and if each one makes 3-5 servings, you’ve got up to 25 servings of food ready for you for future use! Amazing!
Of course, healthy freezer meals save money, too. Even places that seem relatively inexpensive in the moment, like getting a quick Chipotle bowl or getting a Flower Child delivery, often wind up at a minimum $20 cost per person. If you do this just three times per week, that turns into $3120 per year! Could you use that? I’d sure take it!
Hopefully, I have you convinced that healthy freezer meals are the way to go. Now, how do you actually make them? Here are a few tips.
What foods freeze well
Things with a bit of liquid in the preparation freeze exceptionally well. Things like soups, stews, chilis, and one-pot meals are the absolute best. Most casseroles freeze well, as do meatballs. Single ingredients like produce that’s about to go bad but can be thawed and tossed into a soup later, or berries that you’ll use in smoothies later, also freeze well.
My personal preference is to freeze things in individual servings. This does require more space in the freezer, but it makes it much easier upon consumption. If you always eat as a family, feel free to freeze multiple servings together, but otherwise, having a single grab-and-go meal is priceless!
What foods to not freeze well
Any raw vegetables or fruit with high water content, that you plan to dethaw and eat raw, will generally not work. Things like lettuce, berries, and avocados just don’t have the same taste or texture after thawing out (you won’t notice this if you use them in frozen format, like tossing frozen berries into a blender). If you’ll be cooking up your veggies in a stir-fry or soup, they’ll be fine, but otherwise, try to eat them while fresh!
What containers should I freeze food in?
- Ziploc: The simplest and most common option is your standard gallon-sized freezer bag, like Ziploc. If you make a soup or stew, load into the bag, seal, and then lay flat, it will freeze in a sheet that is stackable and saves a ton of space!
- Stasher: A more environmentally-friendly option, I love Stasher bags, which seal just as well as Ziplocs if you press firmly and are washable and reusable.
- Glass containers: My most frequently used item is glass snapware. As long as you leave a bit of space for expansion as the item freezes, you’re fine to freeze in glass containers. Just be sure to not go straight from freezer to oven as it risks cracking. Thaw in the refrigerator for a day or so, or run warm water over the bottom to start the thawing before plunging it into high heat.
- Foil containers: a cost-saving and time-saving (because you don’t have to wash dishes!) option is to buy cheap foil containers like these. Also great if you’re delivering a freezer meal to a friend in need!
- Your regular bakeware with foil or press &seal wrap on top. If you have plenty of freezable ceramic or glass bakeware, feel free to freeze directly in here. Just follow the instructions above for “glass containers!”
- Vacuum sealer: I don’t have one, but I’ve heard rave reviews from clients that use vacuum sealers!
How do I prevent freezer burn?
Freezer burn is caused by excess air floating around during the freezing process. So, the best way to prevent freezer burn is to minimize the air in the container in which you’re freezing. When I freeze in glass snapware, I try to press some air out (still leaving space for expansion!), but honestly, there is occasionally freezer burn, and I’m just OK with it. The other options are better if you’re super sensitive.
Another tip is to be sure the food is cooled to room temperature first. So, if you’re making a big pot of soup or stew, cook it, then let it cool for several hours until it reaches room temperature. Then, seal it up and freeze it.
How to label healthy freezer meals
I like to use post-it notes, because I use post-it notes for almost everything! But if you’re using Ziplocs, you can label straight on the bag with a Sharpie (do this before you add the food so the marker doesn’t run). Or, you can use masking tape and a pen to label any container. I recommend writing the name of the recipe, date you made it, and number of servings on the label.
10 Healthy Freezer Meals
- Chicken Burrito Bowls. Simple, tasty, and delicious! I like to use cauliflower rice, and add tons of fresh lettuce, herbs, and guacamole upon thawing!
- Cauliflower Risotto with Bacon and Mushrooms. Risotto with bacon? That’s comfort food that’s worth skipping takeout for! From the author, Michelle, “Cook and store in a freezer safe container. Partially thaw in the refrigerator, and reheat in a pot or skillet on the stovetop to heat through.”
- Lentil Soup with Butternut and Kale. For those cold winter days when nothing but a soup will do, but you still want to get in your veggies!
- Instant Pot Chicken and Rice Soup. Feeling sick? Chicken soup actually does have healing properties – your grandmother was right! Pull this one out of the freezer for speedy recovery.
- “Emergency Meatballs”. Designed specifically for the purpose of reheating (recommended method is in simmering bone broth!) in “emergency” situations, these are great on top of a salad or zucchini noodles!
- Chicken Tikka Masala with Spinach and Cranberries. For some serious flavor, nutrition, and comfort, don’t skip over this one!
- Chicken Broccoli “Rice” Casserole. This one would be great to pull out after a week out of town when you need something simple and tasty! From the author Michelle, “Bake the casserole as instructed, cool, tightly wrap, and freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator and reheat in the oven at 350° F until heated through.”
- Beef Chili with Cauliflower. Hearty, filling, and comforting, and made all in one pot!
- Italian Sausage and Kale Casserole. If you’re anything like me, you used to hate casseroles, and now you think they’re the BEST. Funny how adulthood works. From the author, Michelle, cut this one “into squares and wrap each square in parchment and put it in a sealable container before freezing.”
- Super Easy Pumpkin Chicken Curry. I can’t wrap up a recipe roundup in October without a pumpkin recipe, now, can I? Enjoy!
Want to hear this information in audio format,
with a bunch of extra health tips, stats, and tactics?
Head over to the podcast episode on the same topic!
Click HERE to listen to
E.55: Avoiding Mid-Week Takeout with Healthy Freezer Meals.
Now it’s your turn … Which freezer meal looks best to you? Any others you like to keep on hand?