We’ve all been there. Suddenly, it’s 5:30 in the evening and there’s no plan for dinner. You’re hangry, your kids are hangry, and the fridge is running low. What remains falls short: a few eggs, a slew of condiments, and a forgotten bag of carrots. The thought of picking apart the pantry—and scrounging up bits from the crisper—feels daunting. Rather than slave away in the kitchen, you Postmates the nearest taco joint. An hour later, everyone is well-fed and happy. BUT… you put a dent into your weekly food budget and your latest health goal. The solution? Healthy freezer meals. Whether you’re a new mom, work a demanding schedule, or simply want to set yourself up for success, freezer meals are it. They’re the gift that keeps on giving (or so I’m convinced). Today, I’m breaking down the best storage tips, what does—and doesn’t—freeze well, and the best healthy freezer recipes. 

Featured image by Michelle Nash.

Edie Horstman
  • Double-certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and Nutrition Consultant
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Edie is the founder of nutrition coaching business, Wellness with Edie. With her background and expertise, she specializes in women’s health, including fertility, hormone balance, and postpartum wellness.

Are freezer meals worth the effort?

Let’s start here: Are healthy freezer meals worth the hype? Yes, they definitely are. As a mom of a toddler, when I need a quick, healthy dinner on the table, freezer meals are my go-to. And I’m not talking about store-bought frozen dinners (although there’s a time and place for those). These are nutritious meals I make, label, and freeze myself. Stored and reheated the right way, these freezer meals are just as flavorful as the day they were made. And having a few of them on hand can help conquer any craving. From soups to lasagna, making a delicious, healthy dinner is as simple as heating one up.

Image by Michelle Nash

Benefits of Freezer Meals

When you’re deep in the throws of making healthy freezer meals, it may not seem like you’re saving time. But I promise, it’ll make sense once the initial work is done. You’ll be shuffling your kids home from practice, and within 30 minutes of walking in the door, you’ll have a home-cooked meal on the table. Not only are you saving time (and your sanity!), but you’re saving money, too. We all know that buying in bulk is better for your wallet. You can save hundreds of dollars by buying and cooking in bulk. When you cook in bulk, you have more food to freeze. It’s a win-win. Lastly, it’s an opportunity to get together with family or friends. Throw together an iced coffee bar, turn on your favorite cooking playlist, and then it’s all hands on deck.

What Foods Freeze Well?

All of these everyday ingredients will freeze well:

  • Meat, poultry, and seafood (3-6 months).
  • Almost all produce can be frozen (3-6 months). For herbs, freeze them in water (or oil) to be used in cooked dishes or dressings. For garlic, freeze minced garlic (or peeled cloves) in oil. I like to use an ice cube tray for freezing both herbs and garlic. For bananas, be sure to peel them first.
  • Dairy. Butter and margarine can be frozen for 3 months. Grated cheese, like parmesan, can be frozen for up to 4 months and can be used straight from the freezer. Milk can be frozen for 1 month.
  • Most bread and bagels, except crusty varieties (i.e. French bread), will freeze well for up to 3 months. Hot tip: make sure your bread is sliced before freezing it. You can toast bread straight from the freezer.
  • Raw pastry dough will freeze for up to 6 months and takes an hour to thaw.
  • Sauces, like pesto and tomato sauce, freeze very well.
  • Stock. Veggie and animal-based stock freezes beautifully. Freeze in freezer bags or ice cube trays.

In terms of recipes specifically, you can freeze everything from lasagna and soups, to stews, chilis, pot pies, and breakfast burritos. 

Image by Ashleigh Amoroso

Au Contraire—What Not to Freeze

While there are plenty of individual ingredients you can freeze, some foods simply aren’t freezer-friendly. For example:

  • Veggies with a high water content, like lettuce, radishes, and cucumbers.
  • Egg and milk-based sauces, like mayonnaise and sour cream (they’ll separate and curdle).
  • Speaking of eggs, while a frittata freezes very well, hard-boiled eggs don’t (they’ll get rubbery).
  • Soft herbs, like basil and chives are fine for incorporating into dishes, but not for garnishes.

How to Label Food for the Freezer

Now that you know what does (and doesn’t) freeze well, let’s talk about labeling. Labeling is key, as you don’t want to mistake your spicy tomato sauce for creamy tomato soup. Begin by labeling your ziplock bags or tupperware using painter’s tape and a Sharpie. It’s best to do this before you’ve put any food in your containers. In terms of what to label, follow this model: Name, date, serving instructions. For example, “Black Bean Chili, 3/2/2022, reheat in a pot on the stove.” Proper labeling will help you avoid confusion, remind you when you made it, and provide quick instructions for reheating.

Image by Hannah Zahner

Freezer Meal Starter Pack

Good news—you don’t need much! Glass (or BPA-free) tupperware, silicone ice cube trays, gallon storage bags (or environmentally-friendly bags), painter’s tape, and a Sharpie. You can also use a combination of parchment paper and aluminum foil to wrap certain foods, like burritos.

6 Food Freezing Tips

Regardless of your freezer size, use these principles for successful freezing:

  1. Label. Put the recipe’s name, date, and re-heating instructions on the container. As mentioned, this is key.
  2. Last in, last out. Put the newest freezer meal(s) in the back of your freezer. This way, you’re more likely to eat what’s at the front of your freezer. These are the meals that will expire sooner, faster.
  3. Cool foods before you freeze them. They don’t have to be completely cold, but freezing hot food will increase the temperature of your freezer.
  4. Wrap properly. Make sure your meals are sealed properly to prevent freezer-burn.
  5. Consider portions. Slice or pre-portion certain recipes so that you don’t have to defrost an eight-person chili if you’re only feeding four people.
  6. When in doubt, throw it out (or compost!). Contrary to what most people think, freezing doesn’t kill bacteria. If you’re unsure of how long a recipe has been frozen, no need to take chances. On that note, it’s not necessarily helpful to freeze old food. The point of freezing is to keep food at its prime.

Keep scrolling for 12 of my favorite healthy freezer meals that make weeknights a breeze.

Skillet Eggplant Lasagna

Loaded with veggies, this Skillet Eggplant Lasagna is a cozy, one-pot dinner for chilly nights. It’s a simpler, lighter way to enjoy all the delicious flavors of the classic.

Get the recipe for Skillet Eggplant Lasagna.

Vegan Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Who doesn’t want to dive into a bowl of Vegan Cauliflower Mac and Cheese? This recipe is so creamy, cheesy, warm and comforting—you won’t know it’s vegan. Made from a velvety vegan cauliflower cheese sauce, this dish freezes beautifully.

Get the recipe for Vegan Cauliflower Mac and Cheese.

Baked instead of fried, this Crispy Falafel recipe is delicious, flavorful, and won’t take up much storage in your freezer. Shortly before you’re ready to serve dinner, pop the falafels back in the oven, and create an assembly line of store-bought pita, hummus, leafy greens, a jar of olives, a container of feta, and sliced cucumber.

Get the recipe for Crispy Falafel.

Turkey Meatballs by Downshiftology

Forget the pre-made frozen turkey meatballs. These Turkey Meatballs are truly the best. They’re garlicky, herby, and simmered in a heavenly maple mustard sauce for a soon-to-be favorite weeknight dinner.

Get the recipe for Turkey Meatballs.

Vegetarian Sheet Pan Curry

This Vegetarian Sheet Pan Curry with cauliflower and kale features one amazing hack—rice that cooks on the sheet pan along with the veggies! Once it’s cooled, toss it into tupperware for weeknight curry.

Get the recipe for Vegetarian Sheet Pan Curry.

Vegetarian Enchiladas by Love & Lemons

Nothing like straight-from-the-oven, piping hot enchiladas. These Vegetarian Enchiladas get their filling from a sweet and spicy mix of butternut squash, black beans, and scallions. Freeze, reheat, and top with sliced jalapeños and guacamole.

Get the recipe for Vegetarian Enchiladas.

Chicken and Rice Soup

Whether you’re looking to boost your immune system, or simply have leftover chicken and don’t know what to make, this is your answer. Once thawed from the freezer, top with lime, avocado, and fresh herbs—you’d never know it was previously frozen.

Get the recipe for Chicken and Rice Soup.

Detox Lentil Soup by Pinch of Yum

Detox Crockpot Lentil Soup is a clean and simple soup made with onions, garlic, carrots, olive oil, squash, and protein-packed lentils. It’s super healthy and easy to make. Once thawed, pair it with crusty bread and shaved parm.

Get the recipe for Detox Lentil Soup.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

This Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili is packed with hearty black beans, flavorful veggies, and loads of spices (plus, all those toppings) so no one will miss the meat. It’s the perfect freezer meal for a new mom, too!

Get the recipe Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili.

Chicken Tuscan Pasta Bake by Rachel Cooks

Creamy, flavorful, and healthy, this Chicken Tuscan Pasta Bake is perfect to eat right away or to prep ahead and freeze for another day. Great for sharing with people in need of a home-cooked meal, too.

Get the recipe for Chicken Tuscan Pasta.

One-Bowl Morning Glory Muffins

While most freezer meals focus on lunch and dinner, definitely don’t forget about breakfast! These easy, healthy One-Bowl Morning Glory Muffins are just that—glorious. For busy mornings, grab a couple of these from the freezer.

Get the recipe for One-Bowl Morning Glory Muffins.

Healthy Freezer Breakfast Burritos by Slender Kitchen

These Healthy Freezer Burritos are packed with scrambled eggs, black beans, pepper, onions, and cheese. They make the best savory meal-prepped breakfast.

Get the recipe for Healthy Freezer Breakfast Burritos.

Do you have a few favorite healthy freezer meals? Share in the comments!

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