5 Freezer Meals to Make This Weekend

Do you want dinner on the table fast and with minimal effort? Are weeknight dinners a problem for you? Do you often opt for takeaway, purely because you just don’t have enough time to get a meal on the table? All you need is a few hours – here are 5 freezer meals to make this weekend.

My freezer is our saving grace during the week. With both of us working outside the home for the majority of the week, we often don’t arrive home until 6pm. That means we need to have dinner on the table fast if we are to get our little one to bed at a reasonable time. I use my weekends to prep our meals for the week. And my freezer is stocked with great meals that we can simply defrost and heat up in the oven.

Want dinner on the table fast? These 5 freezer meals to make this weekend will see you feeding your family with ease next week.

Here are our favourite 5 freezer meals to make this weekend.

#1 – Chicken Parmesan Casserole

I whipped this one up last weekend. I had spent the day making chicken stock – so I had a whole lot of chicken to use. This dish was perfect.

And it was SO easy to whip up. It was just an assembly process really. Layer it all in the pan (I use an aluminium foil pan) and then cover, label and stick it in the freezer. All done in less than 15 minutes – and dinner #1 is done.

You can check out the recipe here.

#2 – Roasted Butternut Pumpkin Macaroni & Cheese

You can hardly taste the pumpkin in this one – but it is such a bonus vegetable in an otherwise pasta only dish. As a Mama of a little one, any chance I can include another vegetable is a win in my books.

I followed the instructions on this one to freeze it. I made it well ahead of time – and it was still super delicious once we defrosted it.

It does take a little more prep time than the other meals – but it also makes a LOT. I’d suggest dividing this up into smaller freezer meals, and serving this as a side dish with sausages and some green vegies.

You can find the recipe here.

#3 – Four Cheese Baked Penne

This is another one that I whipped up last weekend. It was super simple again – I really love the ‘assembly’ style freezer meals. If you manage your time right, you can prep a whole bunch in just a couple of hours.

I opted to include the additional parmesan and skip the feta in this one – so technically it was a 3 Cheese Baked Penne in my house. But oh yum – it was delicious.

Check out the recipe here.

#4 – Spaghetti Bolognese Sauce

I always have this in the freezer. Always.

Honestly – all you need to do is cook up a batch of pasta, reheat this sauce (no need to even defrost this) – and dinner is served.

I make a large batch, and divide up into sandwich size snap lock bags. I lay these flat in the freezer until they are frozen, and then I can stand them upright – kinda like a “library of sauces”.

Definitely give this one a go.

#5 – Burgers

Now this is not technically a meal – more a prep technique. But still – it is a time saver. And you can make a whole lot in bulk – and they’ll last months in the freezer.

All you’ll need to do is have some buns, and some salad items ready – and you can have a burger made for dinner in no time at all.

Check out the method here.

 

Get cracking this weekend – and you can have dinner for next week sorted. These 5 freezer meals to make this weekend will see you stock your freezer in no time.

What other recipes do you like to make as a freezer meal? Tell us in the comments below.

How to Eat from the Freezer – Yet Still Eat from Scratch

Eating healthy freezer meals all starts with planning ahead. When I meal plan each week, I always start by thinking about the week ahead. Am I working late this week? Is there something on that means we’ll need a quick dinner? Or is there a lazy weekend ahead where I can take my time and prep something from scratch?

Once I know this – I then start slotting in my meals.

For those nights when I am coming home late from work – or towards the end of the week, when we’re all just tired and won’t feel like cooking – I simply jot down “Freezer Meal”.

In my freezer – we have a bunch of different types of “freezer meals”. These are a saviour. They have saved me when I was pregnant, when I had a newborn – and they continue to save me today with a toddler.

Convenience is clearly a big tick for Freezer Meals. However, they also bring more to the table.

I also know that even if I choose a Freezer Meal, I am still providing my family with a healthy, wholefood meal – that I have cooked myself.

This is HUGE for me. One of the biggest barriers that people quote when they start to think about cooking from scratch each night – is time. Who has the time to cook a meal from scratch every night of the week? Dinner needs to be on the table in minutes not hours.

And you know what? They are right. No one has the time to do this every night of the week. Well – there are some of us – and I am envious of you!

But in my kitchen, on a Wednesday night with a toddler who is hungry and tired – and a partner who has been at home all day with said toddler, and a Mama who has been in back to back meetings all day with very little breaks apart from a Nursing Mother break where she multi-tasked pumping milk, eating lunch and answering emails – we need dinner on the table pretty much as soon as Mama walks in the door.

But I don’t want to feed my family junk or processed food. I want us to eat food that I know – and that I have made. Eating from scratch is the best way to skip any processing, and to ensure I know what is in my food.

So not only do I need dinner on the table quickly, I also want to feed my family as if I have still cooked the meal from scratch.

Freezer Meals are what enable us to do this.

The Empowered Cook shows you how to eat from the freezer while still eating from scratch - meaning healthy freezer meals for you and your family.

What exactly are Freezer Meals though?

They can vary – but I tend to stick to the following types. I find these work best for my family.

Pinterest is full of inspiration too. I have a Freezer Meals Pinterest board here too.

#1 – Frozen Leftovers or Pre-Cooked Meals

This is the easiest and fasted way to get a meal on the table. Simply defrost, heat and serve. Easy.

Our supply of these Pre-Cooked Meals is added to constantly and built up over time. Whenever I make a meal, I always make more than we eat (I think this comes from being taught by a Mum who was used to cooking for a lot of people). We either use the leftovers for lunch the next day – or we freeze them.

An example could be a pasta bake, or a curry and rice. We’ll simply package these up in containers, label the meal and date it, and then pop it in the freezer.

The fun part is that sometimes we only have enough leftovers for a single serve. Why is this fun? Because it means that we can have a freezer meal ‘potluck’. We can all choose something different from the freezer and yet all still eat a meal together at the same time. This is one of my favourite dinners. My partner might opt for Sweet and Sour Chicken, I might have Baked Tofu and Fried Rice, and our toddler will enjoy Spaghetti Bolognaise (his favourite). Mind you, our toddler will also help himself to fried rice and chicken too – he can’t miss out!

At any one time, we have probably 4 – 5 meals like this in the freezer. And we eat from the Freezer at least once a week, sometimes more. This keeps a good cycle going in the freezer – so just be conscious to choose the older meals first, and you’re set.

#2 – Frozen ‘Ready to Cook’ Meals

The other item we have in the freezer are meals that are almost ready to eat. They just need to be baked.

For us, this is mainly casseroles. Things that I have assembled, but that just need to be popped in the oven to cook for about 30-40 minutes (or longer if you cook from frozen).

My favourite is this pumpkin mac and cheese or any of these spring casseroles. We simply prep these to the point of going in the oven, and instead freeze them.

To save on freezing my casserole dishes (I only own a couple!) – we line the dish with aluminium and baking paper – with excess hanging over the sides. Pop your casserole in, and freeze for about an hour or until it has hardened. Then remove it from the casserole dish. Use the excess foil to cover the top. You might also need to wrap it again in another layer of aluminium foil to make sure it is air tight.

When it comes time to defrost, I take out the nicely wrapped package from the freezer and put it back in my casserole dish (if you have many different dishes – make sure you label which one you used on the package to save trying to play a game of mix and match when you take it out the freezer). I then defrost and cook.

The only thing to remember about these meals is that you do need to remember to defrost them. Because I meal plan – I have made it a habit of checking my meal plan the night before, so that I can defrost what I need to. If that is one of these meals, I simply pop it in the fridge overnight and it is defrosted by dinner time. I do check this throughout the day though – and will sometimes defrost this on the kitchen bench if it isn’t defrosting quickly enough in the fridge. Note: this is something you’ll need to research and be comfortable doing. There are some safety concerns about defrosting food on the bench. I always make my own educated decision about this (like not leaving it in the sun, or out for hours at a time), and recommend that you do too.

To reheat these – I put the cold casserole in the cold oven. And then the dish and the oven heat at the same rate. This avoids a potential disaster of putting a cold dish in a hot oven. Been there – done that! Maybe that is why I only have one casserole dish now…

#3 Slow Cooker Freezer Meals

This is a Pinterest Phenomenon.

It seems there are thousands of ways to do this – but they are all based on the same premise.

In a large snaplock bag, pop in a protein (meat or legumes), vegetables and a sauce – and then freeze the whole lot raw.

To cook, you simply defrost the bag (or in some cases, don’t!), and then add the lot to your slow cooker and cook as normal.

I was wary of this option – it seemed weird to freeze everything raw together. I mean chicken and sauce and vegetables together? But in a way, it is kinda like a marinade.

I have also had some very dodgy recipes fail miserably. I think this is possibly related to how different I think the American tastes and flavour requirements are to my own – or it could be that my slow cooker is different. Either way – I had to play around with finding some recipes that worked well.

I like Sweet and Sour Chicken, Beef Stew, and Chinese Beef and Broccoli.

I also have a Pinterest board where I have pinned quite a lot of recipes that I have either tried, or that I want to try. You can check it out here.

And there you have it – this is how we eat from the freezer – and yet still eat from scratch.

What are you going to try first? Do you have any other tips you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below.

How to Get Started with Freezer Cooking

Having ready made meals in the freezer has been such a wonderful addition to our family dinner repertoire. It has helped immensely in getting dinner on the table. It was super helpful when nesting and preparing for bub to arrive, but it has also been a blessing now that I am working full time outside of the home. Sometimes it is just hard to get dinner on the table, you know?

I had read many hints and tips about cooking for the freezer. Looking at Pinterest though – Freezer Cooking can seem quite overwhelming. Those photos of huge freezers stocked to the brim with aluminium trays and snaplock bags full of food. Or bags and bags of slow cooker freezer meals. It looks amazing – but how on earth do you get to that point?

Yes – my freezer is mostly full these days. And yes – it is a bit of work. But mostly, it is just a good dose of organisation and planning.

I don’t spend my whole weekend cooking for the freezer. We also don’t eat every meal from the freezer. But I do have a system that I have mastered over the last few years, and that is what I want to share with you today – how you can get started with freezer cooking.

I started very basic – I made an extra batch of spaghetti bolognaise sauce and popped it into the freezer. When it came to later in the week and I couldn’t be bothered cooking but I didn’t want to eat take-away – I was poking around in the freezer and saw the frozen sauce. I cooked up some pasta, defrosted the sauce and wow – a homemade meal in about 10 minutes. It was delicious and tasted like I had made it all from scratch that night.

That is the beauty of freezer cooking though. You get to eat wholesome, homemade food – cooked from scratch – every night of the week, without actually having to cook every night of the week.

Want to know how to get started with freezer cooking? The Empowered Cook shares 3 simple steps to help you with freezer cooking, and get dinner on the table.

So – where to begin?

Step 1: Assess your freezer

There’s no point cooking up a storm if nothing will actually fit in your freezer.

It’s time to do a stocktake of what is actually in your freezer, and give it a good tidy up. Try different storage methods too. It helps to keep like with like – so sort what you do have into sections. If you can afford them, I find that using plastic tubs work well to store grouped items together. See my Pinterest board for some inspiration!

Once you’ve cleared it out, make a note of how much space you actually have available to store some freezer meals.

Step 2: Locate containers

Again – there’s no point cooking up a storm if you have nothing to store it in!

I use a few different methods to store my freezer meals:

  • Snap-lock bags. This is by far the easiest method – and it also can take up the least amount of space. The trick is to freeze the bags flat first. Once you’ve filled them with spaghetti bolognaise sauce or chicken curry or whatever, lay the bags flat in your freezer. Once they have frozen solid – you can then stand them up next to one another – kinda like books on a bookshelf. And now you have a ‘library’ of meals to choose from!
  • Glass / plastic containers. I prefer glass here because I can take it from the freezer, defrost it, and then pop it in the oven without having to transfer it at all. But plastic will work perfectly fine – it just means you’ll need to move it to another container to heat it up.
  • A ‘homemade’ container – when I am baking casseroles or pasta bakes for the freezer, I don’t want to keep my actual baking dish in the freezer. But I don’t really have another container to store these larger meals in. So – I do this instead:

I line my casserole with a couple of sheets of aluminum foil, a layer of baking paper and then I add my casserole to that. I then put this whole dish in the freezer for about an hour or so – until it firms up.

Once it is solid – I lift the casserole from the baking dish. I wrap it up in more aluminium foil and label it – including a reference to which baking dish I made it in. I then freeze just the casserole and the baking dish goes back in the cupboard.

When it is time to reheat it, I take the casserole from the freezer, put it back in the same baking dish and let it defrost. I can then reheat it directly in the oven. Super simple and saves me buying extra casserole dishes.

  • Some other ideas might be to buy disposable aluminium foil containers, or plastic food containers. These are convenient – but can be expensive.

The key is finding a method that will fit your space.

So go back to Step 1 – check your available space and choose the right mix of containers for that space.

Step 3: Start Small

If you start out with one giant leap – it is far more likely that you will get overwhelmed. You might have a ripper freezer cooking weekend once – but that is it. You might buy all these ingredients to cook 10 different meals and end up only cooking one.

But – if you start small – and just weave a little freezer cooking into your normal dinner routine, you’ll find your own rhythm and your own version of success.

My suggested starting place would be a meal that your family eats at least once a week. Something that you can easily prepare and something that you are likely to reap the benefits of quite quickly. There’s something very motivating about that.

For me – this is spaghetti bolognaise. We eat this once a week, and I can make it with my eyes closed.

Next – you need to decide which parts of the meal can actually be frozen.

Not all things freeze well – but most things freeze well if you figure out in what form they are best to freeze.

Take pasta for example: pasta can be a massive fail if you don’t freeze it before it is fully cooked through. But if you partially cook it, have a lot of sauce, you can freeze it.

It is a little hit and miss though. And it doesn’t really save you much time – as pasta can be cooked in less than 10 minutes.

So for spaghetti bolognaise, I simply freeze the sauce and cook the pasta fresh when we eat it.

I prepare the sauce in one of two ways: I make a batch specially for the freezer – or I simply make double when I am cooking it for dinner. Either way – we end up with several serves of pasta sauce in the freezer.

 

Once you’ve mastered these 3 steps, you can move on to trying another recipe, and another, and another.

Before you know it, you will have a freezer with ready made meals – and you will be well on your way to having dinner on the table, every night of the week.

What meal could you try? Unsure how to freeze it? Pop a question in the comments below and I’ll be sure to help you out!