Let’s face it: The world hasn’t caught up to creating easy dinner solutions for those of us with dietary restrictions. Buying food from the prepared foods section at the grocery store, ordering takeout, eating at a restaurant or using a meal kit service can feel like a very risky gamble not worth taking. Anybody with me?
Enter freezer meals: 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.
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 $158 total on ingredients for all eight recipes, which equals $19.75 per meal, or around $3.95 per serving. Definitely less than you’d spend on takeout or a meal kit service.
- 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 around 5 servings. 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.
Please note: This post includes affiliate links to featured products for your convenience. If you make a purchase using one of the links, I may receive a small commission, at zero extra cost to you. Win-win!
Your Summer Freezer Meal Plan:
7. The Family Freezer’s Beef-Lime Cilantro Chili (just be sure to omit the optional cheddar cheese garnish, or replace with Violife Just Like Cheddar Shreds)
8. And just for fun: Sunbutter Elvis Popsicles for ready-to-go desserts!
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 chopped pineapple, diced red onions, diced bell peppers and minced garlic.
- 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.
This list includes everything you’d need for all eight recipes. If you’re making two of each, be sure to double the amounts on your shopping list.
Please note: Many of the ingredients on the shopping list may contain allergens, especially pantry items such as sauces. To save you time, I included some links to versions that did not contain any of the top eight food allergens as of the publish date of this post. Remember to always check ingredient labels before purchasing ingredients.
You also likely already have many of these items on hand – I already had most of the pantry items and spices – so you can print the ingredients page out, cross off the items you don’t need and buy the rest. Easy!
Produce and Fresh Herbs:
12 ounces coleslaw mix or shredded cabbage
13 garlic cloves, minced
2 small shallots
2 green onions
3 medium yellow onions, diced
1 1/2 cup fresh pineapple chunks
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
2 small knobs of ginger
2 frozen bananas
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
2 tsp chopped fresh oregano
Cilantro (garnish for beef chili)
1 cup frozen peas
1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 pounds of skirt steak
1 small boneless pork butt (about three pounds), twine removed
1 pound lean ground beef
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup vegan, soy-free mayo, such as Chosen Vegan Mayo
¼ lb dried kidney or pinto beans, soaked overnight and drained
¼ lb dried cannellini or navy beans, soaked overnight and drained
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup chicken stock
1 25 ounce can or box crushed tomatoes
1 14.5 ounce can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
4 15 ounce can plain tomato sauce
2 13.5 ounce cans or boxes of garbanzo beans
2 13.5 ounce cans or boxes of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 13.5 ounce can full-fat coconut milk
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon coconut aminos
Splash of white wine vinegar (this is for the slaw; whatever vinegar you have on hand will do)
1 tsp soy-free, gluten-free hot sauce (I used Siete)
½ cup gluten-free panko breadcrumbs (I like Ian’s Gluten-Free Original Panko Breadcrumbs, which is one of the only options that does not contain eggs)
½ of a 4 ounce can of diced green chiles (I like to use mild, but you could use medium for more heat)
½ cup Sunbutter (sunflower seed butter; be sure to check that the brand you choose does not include soybean oil)
1 pound small, gluten-free pasta such as Le Veneziane Ditalini (corn-based)
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp honey or agave nectar
¼ cup cacao powder or unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp dark brown sugar or coconut sugar
Barbecue sauce (check for your allergens; we use Blue Sky)
¼ cup oat milk or other nondairy milk
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.