Last modified on March 2nd, 2018 at 7:46 PM

How-To: Make Ahead Freezer Meals

Make ahead freezer meals are a fantastic way to always have a homemade dinner on the table, even on busy days where cooking isn’t an option. Get the details on stocking your freezer, great freezer meal ideas, and how to make any meal a freezer meal!

Basket of eggs next to a bowl of chopped onions, a bowl of chopped red peppers, a bottle of milk, and a plate of cheddar cheese.

It is no secret that I am IN LOVE with my freezer. It’s fine, you can tell Andy – he already knows. HA! But seriously, I love having a stockpiled freezer full of make ahead freezer meals. It makes homemade meals on busy days a breeze, makes meal prep easier and keeps food from going to waste. AND it makes stocking up when there is a good price at the grocery store possible. Ultimately, all of these things will save you money!

That’s the reason I worked hard experimenting with my freezer in the first place, as college students and newlyweds we needed to save some money! When we were first married, we traded a 1990 Ford Bronco {one heck of a vehicle, ha!} for some cash and an old chest freezer with a quarter of beef in it. Talk about a redneck deal! But it was awesome. Great beef AND I now had a giant freezer I could fill.

I can turn almost any meal into a full make ahead freezer meal or a partial freezer meal. First, here are some basic rules of thumb for freezing food:

  • Wrap all food tightly and eliminate any air in the bag or container. Not only does this save space, it can reduce freezer burn.
  • Let food cool completely before freezing. I have found that sticking hot food directly in the freezer can dry it out. It is also hard for your freezer to accommodate that drastic change in temperature.
  • Think about portion sizes before freezing. Don’t freeze a whole package of chicken breasts if you only use 2-3 at a time. Wrap muffins individually if you only grab one in the morning for breakfast. Portion food before freezing!
  • When possible, double wrap bread. If you only eat one muffin every morning, wrap each muffin in parchment and then freeze. Not only does this make breakfast easy and fast, it keeps the muffins fresher.
  • Always use freezer bags for food when possible. They are thicker and prevent freezer burn and keep food fresh.
  • Label! I can’t tell you how many times I have put something in the freezer thinking I would remember what it was but have no idea when I look at it a month later.
  • Freeze soups and other liquid recipes in stackable containers or freezer bags that you lay flat and then stack once frozen. {See this great example!}

Make Ahead Freezer Meals

Breakfast Freezer Meals

Breaking and easy blueberry muffin in half over a muffin tin full of blueberry muffins.

DinnerFreezer Meals {unless noted these recipes will be assembled and frozen, not cooked}

Three beef enchiladas on a white plate with a pan of beef enchiladas in the background.

How to Freeze Bread

  • The Best Homemade Bread Recipe – if it’s already baked, I double wrap the loaf in plastic wrap and then put it in a loaf bag or an extra large freezer bag {it’s too big to fit in a gallon freezer bag}.
  • The Best Homemade Bread Recipe Dough – This can be frozen in loaves just like the loaves of bread you buy in the store.
    • Always freeze dough BEFORE the last rise step, after it has been shaped. 
    • To freeze loaves, simply line your loaf pan with plastic wrap, place the dough in the pan, freeze until firm {about 3 hours}, remove from the loaf pan, wrap in the plastic wrap, and store in a zipper top bag.
    • To bake, remove from freezer and remove from plastic wrap.
    • Let thaw and rise until doubled or the dough is above the edge of the pan. Bake as the recipe directs.
  • Easy Dinner Roll Recipe – I freeze these after I shape them BEFORE their last rise.
    • I place them on a sheet pan, place the pan in the freezer, freeze until firm {about 2 hours}, remove from sheet pan and pile into a gallon size freezer bag.
    • When ready to bake, remove the desired number of rolls from the freezer bag and place on prepared sheet tray {this is great if you only eat a few rolls per meal but make a whole dough recipe}.
    • Let rise until thawed and doubled, as recipe directs.
    • Bake as recipe directs.
    • If you are in a hurry, these can be placed into a COLD oven, frozen on a prepared sheet tray. Turn the oven on to the temperature the recipe directs and bake 10-12 minutes longer until rolls are baked through.
  • Homemade Focaccia Recipe – we rarely eat all of this recipe at once but it keeps in the freezer very well.
    • Slice what you will eat and then portion the rest for more meals.
    • Wrap the leftover portions tightly in foil.
    • Place them in a gallon size freezer bag.
    • When ready to eat, remove a portion from bag and place on a sheet tray. Warm in a preheated oven at 325 degrees F for about 15 minutes, checking periodically. The time will depend on how large your piece of bread is.

Showing that the homemade focaccia dough should stick slightly to fingers once you are done kneading it.

 

Dessert Freezer Meals

  • Easy Cinnamon Rolls – I freeze these after I shape them BEFORE their last rise.
    • I place them on a sheet pan, place the pan in the freezer, freeze until firm {about 2 hours}, remove from sheet pan and pile into a gallon size freezer bag.
    • When ready to bake, remove the desired number of rolls from the freezer bag and place on prepared sheet tray {this is great if you only eat a few rolls per meal but make a whole dough recipe}.
    • Let rise until thawed and doubled, as recipe directs.
    • Bake as recipe directs.
    • If you are in a hurry, these can be placed into a COLD oven, frozen on a prepared sheet tray. Turn the oven on to the temperature the recipe directs and bake 10-12 minutes longer until rolls are baked through.
  • Baked portions of pie or cobbler – I wrap the portions in foil, put them in a zipper top bag and then freeze flat.
  • Pie crust dough – portioned into rounds equal to one pie crust.
  • Soft Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe – All the following cookie recipes can be frozen in dough form. Simple portion dough, flash freeze on a cookie sheet, and the put in baggies. Bake from frozen in an oven 25 degrees colder than the recipe directs and for 2-4 minutes longer. See this detailed post on making and freezing cookies for more information!
  • Molasses Ginger Cookies
  • White Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Recipe – I freeze dessert bread in whole loaves wrapped in plastic wrap and then a gallon zipper top bag.
  • Citrus Thyme Bread

Peanut butter mixing in with creamed butter and sugar.

Make Ahead Freezer Meal Components

Other helpful items I prepare and store in the freezer:

What I buy from the Freezer Section for stockpiling:

  • Frozen veggies I didn’t freeze from my garden
  • Puff pastry
  • Ice cream

What I freeze straight from the store:

  • Bread – I don’t do anything special, I just throw it in the freezer.
  • Butter – this can take on flavors in your freezer, so I put the whole box in a freezer zipper top baggie. But don’t toss these bags after you take the butter out! They are perfectly clean and can be reused.
  • Cheese blocks {you can also do shredded cheese} – I freeze any and all kinds of cheese, I don’t usually wrap them any more than they already are because I use them within a month or two. If you were going to keep it in there for a longer time, you would want to wrap it in a freezer bag as well.
  • Milk – I have only frozen milk a few times but it actually works well. You need to pour out about 1 cup of milk from the carton so it has room to expand and you need to allow at least 24 hours for it to thaw out. I also recommend thawing it on a sheet tray lined with a towel because a lot of water will come off the carton and you don’t want a mess in the fridge!
  • Anchovies – this may sound strange but I only use a few at a time so I freeze the rest.
  • Fresh Ginger – portion it and place it in a zipper top bag with the skin on. It’s easy to peel when frozen.

Top view of bagged, flash-frozen, fresh tomatoes ready for the freezer. Easy way to preserve tomatoes.

Tips for Using Make-Ahead Freezer Meals

  • When possible, thaw overnight or over 2 days.
  • If you forget and need to bake it from frozen, lower the oven temperature down 25 degrees F and put the meal in a cold oven {not preheated}. Plan on baking it for about 20 minutes longer.
  • If it isn’t a meal that goes in the oven {stovetop} and you don’t have time to thaw it, add 1/2 cup of water as you thaw it on the stovetop.
  • If it is a crockpot meal, I rarely thaw them out before putting them in the crockpot. I usually cook them on low for 8 hours with no issues.

Want more Make-Ahead Freezer Meals?

My Favorite Products for the Freezer

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Make ahead freezer meals are a fantastic way to always have a homemade dinner on the table, even on busy days where cooking isn't an option. Get the details on stocking your freezer, great freezer meal ideas, and how to make any meal a freezer meal! #makeaheadmeal #freezermeal #freezermeals #makeahead #easydinner #fastdinner #mealprep #dinnerprep

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