Need healthy freezer meals on a budget? I'm sharing my list of favorite freezer recipes, plus a shopping list you can print out and take to the store with you.
Ever since I did my first freezer cooking day at 9 months 2 days pregnant (waddling through it and sitting down as often as I could, I assure you) I've been hooked.
Being able to grab a meal out of the freezer and plop it into the slow cooker or oven while I'm going about my day meant spending more time with our little one − we didn't have to stop off and get takeout or spend an hour or so in the kitchen − as well as saving money, saving precious energy, and saving precious time.
Don't have children? Parents aren't the only ones who can reap the time and money rewards from conducting a freezer cooking day.
Note: These recipes below are ALL tested and thought to be delicious by us. I hope you like them as well!
Ever wish someone would just create a new, monthly freezer meal plan that fits your dietary needs to download and print?
Well…you're in luck. It exists! And I'm a member.
Click to download your FREE freezer meal plan, plus free online workshop.
2 Weeks of Healthy Freezer Meals on a Budget (Plus Shopping List)
You can steal my grocery shopping list to make the exact meals below (minus the breakfast burritos) by clicking the image (no opt-in required!).
You also might want to snag my meal plan for two with grocery list.
Servings Note: Most of these recipes are for at least 4 servings…so if you're a household of 2 or 1, you're going to have some great leftovers for lunches and dinners.
Tip: Don't forget to go through your cupboards and fridge to see what ingredients you have on hand WITH this list so that you can just cross off the list the ingredients you don't need from the store to end up with your actual grocery list.
- Hoisin Ginger Beef
- Crockpot BBQ Cranberry Chicken
- Freezer Stromboli Kits (4)
- Slow Cooker Chicken Curry
- Crockpot Hot Pepper Pork and Butternut Squash
- Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken
- Touchdown Chili (2): We freeze this in smaller portions (after eating it for two days) for a batch of chili-stuffed potatoes and Frito chili pie
- Copycat Taco Bell Cantina Bowls
- Chicken Pot Pies
- Better-than-Olive-Garden Chicken Alfredo (I add one cooked chicken breast per person, and either frozen peas, frozen spinach, or frozen broccoli to this recipe)
- Food Nanny's Chicken Barbecue Pizza, Food Nanny's Pizza Dough recipe
- Breakfast Burritos: I made four on the fly because it was right there so I went for it! While you can make these from lots of different ingredients, mine were simply flour tortillas, scrambled eggs, shredded cheddar cheese, sautéed bell peppers + onions, and avocados.
Notice there aren't 15 different recipes here? That's because not only do several of these recipes cover two meals for us (two adults), but I like to make several freezer Stromboli kits to have on hand, covering several meals.
Supplies + Equipment to Make Freezer Meals
Let's be real: the first piece of equipment any gal needs when doing a freezer cooking session is a hair band. I don't know about you − but I have to get my hair out of my face when I'm working on something.
Okay, what else do you need/want for a freezer cooking sesh?
- Slow Cooker: On the day you'll be using the recipe, you'll need a slow cooker. Some of the recipes go into the oven (the ones in the foil containers), but most are in the slow cooker. Here's the awesome programmable one we received for a wedding gift and use all the time.
- Gallon-sized Freezer Bags: I scored a free one-year pass to Sam's Club, and since I know I'll be doing lots of freezer cooking sessions, I splurged on a bulk package. Whatever brand you get, just make sure there's a label area. This is important because you can write what the heck it is on the outside, plus whether it needs to go on high or low and how many hours to cook it for (who wants to have to consult each recipe again)?
- Restaurant Foil Containers: These are great for recipes like the Copycat Taco Bell Cantina Bowls and homemade Chicken Pot Pie.
- Marker: You'll need this for labeling.
How to Do a Freezer Cooking Day
Ever wondered what a freezer cooking day (or batch cooking session) looks like? Thought I'd outline how I did the freezer cooking day at 9 months pregnant to give you an idea.
Step #1: Found Freezer Space
So, our freezer was alarmingly full when I opened it on the Friday before I was going to do a batch cooking session. The good news is that some of the stocked items already in there will fit nicely into my freezer cooking plan.
I spent an hour cleaning and organizing everything, plus wiping up several messes I didn't realize were in there.
Step #2: Made a List of What We’d Like to Eat
I had a vision for how the food situation was going to go in the first few months with our infant.
In my ideal scenario, I’m taking out beautifully-labeled and organized bags of food with easy prep (such as: unseal bag, throw into Crockpot in the morning, smell all day; or heat up in oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour) and pairing them with healthy, easy sides like a thrown-together salad or box of tomato bisque soup from the grocery store. Sometimes we get takeout (I’ve started collecting menus from some local places), and sometimes we stumble into grocery stores and raid their prepared food sections (Paul, I’m thinking this is you on the way home from work).
Then I fully expected to have an arsenal of 20-minute (Rachel Ray, eat your heart out!) meals that are super easy to make from scratch, like our staple Butternut Squash Mac’n’Cheese we both enjoy.
The kinds of meals that appeal to us:
- Some sort of Taco Bell-like Cantina Bowls (fresh ingredients to buy the week that we actually eat these would be sour cream, cilantro, and tomatoes)
- Crockpot Bag Meals (all the ingredients are frozen into a big bag, so you just dump it into the Crockpot at a certain point in the day and wait for deliciousness to manifest)
- Breakfast Burritos
- Freebirds-like, monster burritos (without the beans!)
- A few pasta dishes we can eat from for several nights and Paul can take into work for leftover lunches, like Paul’s delicious lasagna
- Chili (made by Paul, and frozen into smaller portions for some awesome, easy baked potatoes and frito chili pie)
- Homemade Pizza dough frozen in one-dinner-sized portions
Some items I want to have frozen in single portions, some in dinner-sized portions (so for two of us), then some in big portions for a few days of leftovers.
Pssst: Fast forward a few years, and I can tell you that it was a bit more survival-of-the-fittest than my ideal. BUT, the freezer cooking day I did was amazingly helpful in those first few months of being new parents.
Step #3: Figured Out Who has Good Recipes for this Kind of Thing
Here are the recipes I found that excited me + my palate:
- Chicken Tinga
- Chicken Tortilla Soup (a recipe we've been using for years)
- Bacon Ranch Chicken and Pasta
- Chicken Broccoli Alfredo and Pasta (will substitute jarred with homemade Alfredo sauce)
- Hoisin Ginger Beef
- Copycat Taco Bell’s Chicken Cantina Bowls
- Chicken Taco Bowls
- Breakfast Burritos
Step #4: Made a List of What to Get from the Store
First, I took a look in our freezer and pantries. We need the space in the freezer anyway, and it just makes financial sense to use what you’ve got.
Other than the ingredients itself, here’s what I bought:
- Gallon-sized Freezer Bags with labels
- Quart-sized Freezer Bags with labels
- Individual-sized, restaurant-style, aluminum foil takeout bowls you can put straight into oven
Step #5: Bought the Food + Materials in Preparation
This one sounds like a no-brainer. But when you’re 9 months pregnant (yes, perhaps I should have started this portion of my nesting a few weeks earlier), getting through a grocery shopping trip makes for a triumphant day. It’s amazing how winded I get on doing the simplest daily tasks!
Side note: I am often deeply touched by the kindnesses of strangers lately. For example, when I ‘made it through’ my two-week grocery shopping trip last week, the person bagging my groceries automatically called over an associate and said ‘he’ll unload for you in your car’ without me even asking. Which is a good thing because this DIY, farm gal can be terrible at asking for help.
Ingredients + Materials total: $95.08.
Step #6: *Actually* Did It
I wrote this while 9 months pregnant, working on this freezer batch cooking day:
Being 9 months pregnant, I have found that I seem to have a set portion of energy + motivation to use each day. And once it’s gone, I get a little cranky. There’s aches, there’s pettiness, and then I melt into sheer exhaustion on the couch until Paul tucks me in.
Sad, but true.
So actually carving out my time to do anything these last few weeks means that I am definitely saying ‘no’ to other things. And since I could really go into labor at anytime at this point, it puts a bit of urgency to everything on my to-do list.
Hint: is this totally not your thing? Check out my Blue Apron review, a meal delivery service that we absolutely loved for about a year.
Still, I know how invaluable spending a few hours in kitchen prep will be in the coming months, saving us not only money (I estimate each freezer meal I get prepped will be a realized savings of about $10-$15 in the next few months), but time, bad takeout food, sanity, and energy to spend with our little guy and alone together.
And I'm so happy that I prioritized this!
Here are the results:
- 10 Protein-errific Breakfast Burritos
- 4 portions of Butternut Squash Puree (I use this in the butternut squash mac'n'cheese, which takes under 20 minutes to make once you have the puree done)
- 3 One-Sized portions of homemade pizza dough
- 3 Chicken Broccoli Alfredo Dinners (that homemade sauce? Turned out soooo yummy)
- 2 Hoisin Ginger Beef Dinners
- 2 Butternut Squash Ravioli Dinners
- 2 Slow Cooker Bacon Ranch Chicken Dinners
Still to make:
- I still have tons of ingredients to make the cantina bowls, and hope to do so over the next few days. I estimate I'll get 4 meals from the ingredients left.
- Chicken Tinga (the recipe calls for 3 lbs. of chicken, which I did purchase and still have; however, that seems like a lot for two people to me! So I might play with the recipe). I estimate the ingredients left will yield 4 dinners.
- Chicken Tortilla Soup (2 dinners' worth)
Not bad! And if I don't get to the remaining meals, not only do I feel good with what I have already, but the ingredients aren't going anywhere, so we can use them in the months to come.
Granted, it took me all day. However, ‘all day' included built-in breaks to prop my feet up, keeping up with cleaning while I went, and eating at least every two hours (I also didn't start until about 10:00 a.m.). Besides, this was my first time freezer cooking, and at 36 weeks I'm a bit slower moving these days! I'm definitely feeling more prepared, and will likely continue doing freezer cooking days in the years to come.
Really think about the time + energy savings for a minute: I think it's reasonable to assume if I were to cook these meals individually, it would take an hour for each meal. Yet by batch creating them, I've made 15 meals in less than 5 hours (not to mention a video I get to share with you). Plus, all the dishes for these meals are basically done; on the actual cooking day when we use a meal, there will only be plates, forks, and a slow cooker to wash. And the kitchen will stay nice and clean!
That's a win-win-win if you ask me.
Have you ever done a freezer cooking day, or any other type of batch cooking? I'd love for you to share your recipes with me.
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