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Stock Your Freezer for Spring and Summer (all Top-8-Free)

I was first introduced to the genius concept of freezer meals by my friend Kelly over at The Family Freezer. Kelly has been writing recipes and cookbooks on the subject for close to a decade. Here’s how it works: Place proteins, spices, vegetables and sauces into freezer-safe bags or containers ahead of time, stock your freezer, then thaw the night before you plan to serve them. Depending on the recipe, simply toss them in a crockpot, sear them on the grill, roast on a sheet pan or saute in a skillet.

You wouldn’t believe how much time and mental load it saves when you know you have a freezer full of safe, pre-made meals on hand.

I find this way of cooking to be especially wonderful for families with food allergies and intolerances who can’t turn to other conveniences like buying from the prepared foods section at the grocery store, ordering takeout, eating at restaurants or using a meal kit service. Freezer meals give you the convenience of having food on hand that’s a breeze to cook, and the peace of mind that you created it all from scratch, so there isn’t the chance of one of your allergens sneaking its way in.

Added bonus: You can save money in the long run cooking this way, by buying ingredients in bulk or on sale.

I shopped at Whole Foods and spent $206.36 total on ingredients for 16 meals (I made two bags of each recipe), which equals $12.89 per meal, or around $2.57 per serving. Definitely less than you’d spend on takeout or a meal kit service.

My husband and I worked together to make these 16 freezer meals, and it took us a total of 2 hours.

Notes:

  • Each of these recipes can be made fresh or as a freezer meal; read the whole recipe, looking for the section that reads, “To Make it a Freezer Meal” before you get started. No cooking is required for the freezer meal versions until the day you want to serve the meal.
  • All of these recipes are for one freezer bag’s worth and 4-5 servings, but during this round, I prepped two bags of each at a time, for a total of 16 meals (woop woop!) If you want to prep two or even three of each recipe at a time, click the serving size on the recipe and increase according to how many meals you want to freeze, prep ingredients for the full amount and divide evenly among the bags. So, for example, if you want to make two bags of Sunbutter Chicken Satay, increase the serving size on the recipe from 5 to 10, buy and prep ingredients accordingly, then divide among two separate bags.

Your Spring/Summer Freezer Meal Plan (Top-8-Free)

Three-Cup Chicken
Maple-Mustard One Pan Chicken
Pulled Pork
Sesame Honey-Mustard Chicken
Herbed Skirt Steak
Sunbutter Chicken Satay
The Family Freezer’s Crockpot Curried Sweet Potato Soup
Martha Stewart’s Chicken Curry: NOTES: Martha’s recipe makes about 10 servings. You can follow her recipe to a T, dividing ingredients into two bags, or halve it for one bag’s worth. Also, her recipe calls for putting everything directly into a slow cooker, so to make it a freezer meal, I place all ingredients except for the coconut milk and peas into a freezer bag. On cook day, I pour the bag contents into the slow cooker and set it to low for four hours. After that, I stir in one can of coconut milk and one bag of frozen peas and let it warm through, for about another half hour on high. PLEASE BE SURE TO OMIT OPTIONAL CASHEW GARNISH!

Freezer Meal Tips:

  • In general I’ve found that it’s easiest to follow these steps:
    • Line up your recipes so you can see all of them at once
    • Label your bags or containers with the name of the meal, how to prep once it’s thawed, ingredients and expiration date (three months from the date you prepped)
    • Chop once for all recipes: For example, if you know you’ll need four red peppers total for two recipes, chop them all at once, then divide evenly among your bags
    • Place proteins in the bag first, then veggies, then spices, then sauces
    • Seal the bag well, then smoosh the ingredients around so everything is mixed and coated
    • It’s more expensive, but if you can swing it, buy as many pre-chopped vegetables as you can. For this round, I bought diced onions and peeled garlic (I would have gone for chopped garlic, but all of the options at my grocery store were preserved in soybean oil).
    • Work as a team: If you can enlist the help of another adult, freezer meal prep goes much more quickly and smoothly
    • Use re-usable bags to cut down on plastic waste
    • Invest in baggy stands. These hold your bag upright while you place ingredients in, minimizing the chance of a meal spilling all over your kitchen floor
    • When you’re defrosting, place your meal in a casserole dish or large bowl in the refrigerator, just in case it leaks while thawing

Shopping List:

This list includes everthing you’d need for all eight freezer meals. If you’re making two of each like I did, be sure to double the amounts on your shopping list.

You also likely already have many of these items on hand – I already had all of the oils and spices, mustard, coconut sugar, cans of coconut milk, frozen peas and (of course) white wine – so you can print the ingredients page out, cross off the items you don’t need and buy the rest. Easy!

Meat:
1 pound chicken breasts
16 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 small pork butt, twine removed
2 pound skirt steak

Veggies and herbs:
2 pounds sweet potatoes (to save time, you could buy them already peeled and cubed)
3-inch piece of fresh ginger (or buy it already minced or pureed to save time)
30 cloves garlic (10 whole; 20 minced) (buy pre-peeled or minced if you can, checking for soybean oil)
5 medium yellow onions, diced (buy it pre-diced if you can; about 5 cups worth)
6 green onions, sliced
1 small shallot, chopped
Two limes
Fresh herbs for the skirt steak. I used:
Thyme
Oregano
Basil
Parsley
1 package of frozen peas

Pantry items:
1 cup plus 1 tbsp sesame oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine or rice wine
1 1/2 cups plus 5 tbsp coconut aminos
½ cup maple syrup
¼ cup plus 3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp dark brown sugar or coconut sugar
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup chicken stock
4 cans of coconut milk
1 4.25 ounce can of diced green chilies
½ cup of sunbutter or pumpkin puree if your family has a seed allergy
1 jar of barbecue sauce (check for your allergens; we use Blue Sky)
¼ cup plain tomato sauce
1¼ cup mustard (any kind will do for both recipes that call for mustard; I prefer Dijon or whole grain)

Spices:
Salt
Pepper
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp chili powder
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tbsp plus 2 tsp yellow curry powder
1 ½ tsp cumin
½ tsp coriander
1 tbsp garam masala
Sesame seeds (optional garnish)

For more tips on freezer meal cooking, my friend Kelly’s website, The Family Freezer, is a great resource. If you have any questions for me, please submit a comment below or email me at liz@octofree.com.

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Hey there, I'm Liz!

As a former food editor and everyday home cook, I’ve spent the past 15+ years testing, tasting and saving delicious, Octofree recipes for my family. It’s with lots of love that I share the best of the bunch with you, along with tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.

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Join Octofree to get a handy, printable chart of Octofree substitutions for common ingredients.

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Join Octofree to get a handy, printable chart of Octofree substitutions for common ingredients.