• 60+ Healthy Freezer Meals for Busy Moms (+ All About Freezer Cooking)

    freezer mealsWith two part-time jobs, three small kids at home, and a home to manage, I know the life of a busy mom and the struggle to feed everyone healthy, homemade meals.  It’s easy to slip into fixing the family unhealthy convenience foods. Let’s face it.  Making dinner with a whiny toddler on your leg or while breaking up fights between the kids isn’t exactly fun. That’s why my friends and I started doing freezer meal cooking in a Freezer Club in 2007 and never looked back. Freezer meal cooking has transformed the way we grocery shop, cook, and eat. Preparing healthy freezer meals saves us money, cuts down cooking time, and helps us eat wholesome, delicious meals at home regularly.

    I’ve had so many people ask me over the years to share our favorite healthy freezer meal recipes and how to start a Freezer Club. So, all our secrets are here in one post now. Let’s start at the beginning…

    What is freezer meal cooking?

    Freezer meal cooking is simply planning meals ahead of time that can be easily frozen for later use. This can mean doubling a recipe you intend to cook for that day and freezing one of them for later. Or, this can mean cooking and swapping freezer meals with friends in a Freezer Club.

    Why cook freezer meals?

    Freezer meal cooking is a great strategy for saving money, saving mom’s sanity, and feeding our families nutritious home-cooked food.

    1 – By meal planning and buying in bulk, you’ll see your grocery bill go down significantly. Plus, for us, knowing I have ready-to-go meals within reach keeps us from spending money by eating out.

    2 – You’ll also cut down on your prep and cooking time each month by preparing the same one or two meals in a large batch.

    3 – If your Freezer Club is committed to a “real food philosophy” likes ours (see “What makes for a healthy freezer meal?” below), you’ll be giving your family a wide variety of wholesome, nutrient-dense meals and NOT processed junk.

    4 – A bonus to freezer meal cooking is that it’s easy to have meals on hand to take to new parents or someone in need.

    What is a Freezer Club and how does it work?

    A Freezer Club is a small group of friends (anywhere from 2-8 people ideally) who commit to cook freezer-friendly meals for one another each month. Freezer Club has been such a huge help to our family for seven years now! To learn more, read my detailed post called How to Start a Freezer Club. I share all about how a Freezer Club works and how to start your own.

    What makes for a healthy freezer meal?

    In these 60+ freezer meal recipes below, you’ll see Thriving Home’s REAL food philosophy represented. We aren’t about eating low-fat foods or cutting out food groups. We’re about cooking tasty homemade food and eating it in moderation. We’re about cooking with as many unprocessed, organic and/or local ingredients as possible and including a variety of:

    By simply making homemade meals for your family, you are cutting out loads of sodium, sugar, and harmful trans-fats that come from fast food and frozen pre-made store-bought foods. We’ve completely changed our diet since making freezer meals.

    What kind of containers do you store freezer meals in?

    I mostly freeze meals in BPA-free Glad Ovenware containers. They stack nicely in the freezer and the food pops out easily into an 8×8 casserole dish when ready to cook. Freezer bags work well for some foods, like meats in marinades and soups. I’ve also seen glass Pyrex 8×8 casserole dishes with lids that stack well and work in the freezer. Be sure to let your foods cool completely before putting them in plastic containers, to avoid chemicals being released into your food.

    The most important tip to remember when freezing food is that exposure to air makes food go bad in the freezer. So wrap your food up tight with plastic wrap or foil and make sure as much air is out of the bag or container as possible. I often put a layer of plastic wrap around a cooled casserole and then snap on the lid and even tape down the lid.

    How do I defrost freezer meals? How long can I safely freeze a meal?

    Many of you have asked the best way to defrost frozen foods and how long foods last in the freezer. A reputable and helpful resource is the USDA’s suggestions and guidelines for Freezing and Food Safety here.

    To keep up with our healthy, kid-friendly recipes, be sure to sign up for our Weekly Email Update or follow us via Facebook or Pinterest.

    60+ Healthy Freezer Meal Recipes

    Below I’ve listed some of our favorite go-to freezer meals to get you started. Unless stated otherwise, the dishes below should be frozen after cooking or baking.  Many of these recipes have freezer directions within the post, as well. Feel free to comment if you have a question and I’ll try to get back to you ASAP. I’ve cooked most of these multiple times and/or use them regularly with my family.

    *Below indicates my personal favorites.

    Beef

    Breakfast

    Casseroles

    Chicken


    Misc

    Pasta and Pizza

    Pork

    Seafood/Fish

    Slow Cooker Recipes

    Soups

    Vegetarian

    Note: Use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock in soups.

    * Indicates my personal favorites.

    Free Printable Menu Planner

    Here’s an easy way to get started on saving money and eating healthier–download our free printable menu planner!

    menu planner

    Check out our Recipe Index for TONS more healthy, kid-friendly meals and snacks.

    PIN THIS IMAGE BELOW so you can have these meals at your fingertips! AND sign up for our Weekly Email Update or follow us via Facebook or Pinterest for more healthy recipes, thrifty tips, and ideas for the home.

    freezer meals

     

    Share this post!

    { 26 comments… read them below or add one }

    Tina @ Freezer Cook Big December 13, 2012 at 4:33 am

    Lots of great recipes to try. Thanks!

    Reply

    Devin January 21, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    Oh, how I miss y’all! :)

    Reply

    sherry March 6, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    I have always wanted to be in a freezer group/club! Thanks for sharing all of these recipes…what a great resource for busy families. So glad you linked to the party!

    Reply

    Tiffany March 15, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    To freeze the chicken parmesan, did you go ahead & dip it in the egg wash before freezing? Thanks!

    Reply

    Rachel March 15, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    Tiffany,

    Yes, I do the entire breading and then freeze it. But, I do not top it with sauce and cheese until the end of the baking time. Hope that helps!

    Rachel

    Reply

    liz bayless March 16, 2013 at 4:45 am

    This is so awesome and inspirational! I loved the news clip-ha!

    Reply

    Misty April 11, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    Thanks for sharing your receipes! They look great!

    How do you thaw before cooking? I’ve frozen some stuff and thawed it out overnight in the frig only to have it still frozen when I go to put it in the oven =(

    My husband starts a new job on Monday and I work 3 12 hr shifts a week so meals it the freezer would be great!

    Thanks!!

    Reply

    Rachel April 12, 2013 at 8:57 am

    Great question, Misty. I try to follow the USDA safety guidelines for defrosting our foods: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/Big_Thaw/index.asp. As you begin to make more freezer meals, you’ll get the hang of how long different dishes take to defrost. Hope this link helps!

    Reply

    Jean August 15, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    What is healthy about any of these?

    Reply

    Rachel August 15, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    Jean, this is a fair question. I think it depends on what your definition of a healthy meal is. If you want only low-fat meals, this probably isn’t the list for you (although some of our recipes certainly are). I just updated this post to explain more about our real food philosophy. Hopefully this helps you understand where we are coming from.

    Reply

    Candice August 27, 2013 at 10:51 am

    Love the idea of a freezer club! When one of your freezer meals is meant to be served over rice or pasta do you include the rice/pasta alongside the frozen meal or just make a note that this item is not included? I don’t mean meals that have pasta or rice IN them, but ones that should have these items cooked at the time the meal is meant to be consumed.

    Thanks!

    Reply

    Rachel August 27, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    That’s a great question and one that’s important for your group to get on the same page with from the beginning. We decided not to supply the pasta or rice, especially since we all have different preferences for types/brands. But we usually email ahead of time and give each other a heads up to buy it. That way if someone wants to eat your meal the week they get it, they’ve got it on hand.

    Reply

    Tosha spivey August 29, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    Hey I was just curious ON Average…about how much money making 2 meals for 6-7 people would be? Just to get a mindset for budget!!:):)

    Reply

    Rachel August 29, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    I usually make my meals for four people for our Freezer Club and I’d say they are about $8-9 on average, if they include meat. We do try to use mostly local or organic meat and produce, though. So, I’m sure you could go cheaper.

    Reply

    Nicole September 23, 2013 at 9:53 am

    I was wondering what are the best disposable pans you use for casseroles etc?

    Reply

    Rachel September 23, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    Great question, Nicole, and I’m not sure how much help I will be. My freezer club has used Glad Ovenware for years. There are some pros and cons here. Pros: They stack well in the freezer and the size easily transfers to an 8×8 casserole dish. It is the perfect size for about 3-4 servings. I also recently found out they are BPA-free, too. I still wouldn’t bake in them myself, though. Cons: The lids also frequently crack. I’ve emailed the company a few times when the lids cracked and they’ve given me coupons to get more. I also freeze a lot of my soups or marinades in freezer bags. Be careful not to put hot food in them. The other and safer option you have is to go with glass casserole dishes with plastic lids. I need to research this more; I’d like to switch to this, especially if the lids are BPA-free. So sorry, but I don’t have recommendation for these yet. I hope that helps some! Happy freezer cooking!

    Reply

    Blayne September 24, 2013 at 8:44 am

    I have been searching for healthy and whole freezer meals that actually looked tasty! This is the jackpot! What a great resource. Thank you so much for sharing! :)

    Reply

    Rachel September 24, 2013 at 10:31 am

    I always say, it makes my heart happy to know our recipe collection can help others!

    Reply

    Nicole October 15, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    Hi-do you have more info on how to start, run and organize a freezer club. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel ;). Thanks for the recipes. I have been cooking and freezing meals for my college senior. He really loves the meals and not having to cook for one every night.

    Reply

    Rebecca January 3, 2014 at 10:51 am

    I would like to start making my boyfriend healthy meals to eat throughout the week. He doesn’t have a kitchen so cooking recipes and freezing it for him to heat up in the microwave is my only option. I noticed that most of your recipes are for prepping then freezing to bake later. Is it possible to bake the recipes and then freeze them for later?

    Reply

    Rachel January 20, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    Rebecca, any of the soups are a great option for this, as they are fully cooked and easy to warm up later. You can also make Pot Roast, Asian Lettuce Wraps (the filling and sauce), and lots of breakfast options (Savory Breakfast Muffins, pancakes, waffles) in advance. I hope that helps!

    Reply

    Kelly January 20, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing! I just adjusted my budget to pay more in rent to live alone and realized I have to cut out the thoughtless grocery shopping and eating out due to lack of energy (full-time job & 2 doctoral level classes). I agree, some are not as low fat/cal as I like, but everybody needs a pizza treat sometimes! I’m excited to try these out!

    Reply

    Polly January 20, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    Glad they can help!

    Reply

    jennifer l. rosedale January 25, 2014 at 7:16 am

    really enjoy “drooling” while I am reading some of these wonderful recipes. Looking forward to making some of these for my family.

    Reply

    Caryl Anne March 24, 2014 at 8:39 am

    This is a great post showing people how to save time and money on everyday recipes! Eating at home is definitely the best way to save money, and it can also be easy and healthy with the right recipes in place. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

    Lucy Newberry April 10, 2014 at 9:46 am

    Everything looks wonderful! I will have to give it a try! Thank you for sharing.

    Reply

    Leave a Comment

    *

    { 24 trackbacks }