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Nothing beats coming home on a busy weeknight and knowing dinner is only a few moments away. If you take the time to make these meals ahead, you’ll have lasagna, a cheesy casserole, a hearty beef stew and dessert all stocked up and ready to go. (Did we mention the enchiladas?)
These freezer-friendly foods are super easy to make and even easier to dig in to.
The quintessential make-ahead freezer meal to cure the weeknight blues is a piping hot pot of chili. It is super simple to prepare and you can add or omit any flavors or ingredients to customize your creation. Not only is it flavorful and rustic, but the generous amount of fiber in beans makes chili incredibly filling and satisfying. For a low-maintenance dinner, try this instant pot beef chili recipe, and feel free to adjust the spice level to your liking.
Lasagna is cheesy, hearty and full of carbs — all in all very comforting. And it is so handy on lazy weeknights to have a ready-made pan in the freezer waiting to be baked and devoured. This classic recipe, appropriately named “Grandma’s Lasagna,” will scoop you up in the warmest, most delicious hug.
Like lasagna, stuffed shells have a similar cheese-sauce-pasta profile and hold up really well in the freezer. To take this dish to new levels, use three or four kinds of cheeses in addition to ricotta for a luscious filling, like in this classic stuffed shells recipe.
Enchiladas are fun to assemble and perfect for storing in the freezer. You can make enchiladas filled with chicken or go meatless using only peppers, black beans and corn, or any mix of vegetables you like. This easy take is a winner — you can double the recipe and make two small pans, one for that night and a second one to freeze for another cheesy and comforting weeknight meal. We recommend pulling your enchiladas out to defrost an hour or two prior to baking (if you have the time).
Broth-based soups freeze extremely well compared to soups with noodles and cream. Try this roasted kabocha squash soup for a fresh twist on a familiar flavor. You can also swap kabocha with butternut squash, which is packed with vitamin E and great for healthy skin. Let the soup cool completely before freezing and leave some room in the container for it to expand. When it’s mealtime, garnish the soup with creme fraiche, sour cream or yogurt, a drizzle of flavored olive oil and some crunchy croutons.
Any kind of stew gets better and better the longer it sits, so it’s a no-brainer as a freezer-friendly food. Making stew is a therapeutic exercise and you should totally allow yourself to be immersed in the chopping and stirring. It takes hours to make, which is why you should prepare an enormous pot of it and freeze the leftovers for a weeknight. Try this slow-cooker Thai beef stew for a simple fusion of flavors.
This creamy broccoli cauliflower casserole can be made ahead, frozen and then baked just before dinner. It’s a quick and satisfying vegetarian meal.
Pizza crust holds up beautifully in the freezer and you can easily carve out some time in your meal-prep day to make some. Cauliflower pizza crust is a wonderful option if you are looking to get more vegetables in or are trying a new plant-based diet. Make the crust and carefully prep and pop it into the freezer. When you’re ready for it, add your favorite toppings and have dinner on the table faster than a pizza delivery. Check out the cauliflower pizza crust recipe.
Bursting with chicken, potatoes, peas and corn, chicken pot pie is always welcome to join the weekday dinner rotation. You can save some time during prep by using rotisserie chicken and simply tossing the shredded pieces into the creamy filling. And instead of rolling out a pastry crust, use store-bought puff pastry sheets, which have to be kept in the freezer anyway, and cut out rounds or squares for a flaky, buttery top crust. Prepare, cover, freeze and bake whenever you want.
Frozen meatballs can be tossed right into a simmering pot without previously thawing, so they make for a super speedy dinner option. You can use the meatballs for these Italian meatball burgers, spaghetti or throw them on top of a salad — the options are endless.
Any kind of baked pasta makes an ideal freezer meal. And penne is no different, especially one with a little kick of south-of-the-border flavor with spicy peppers and cumin. Make sure to wrap the unbaked pasta tightly before putting it in the freezer, and when you’re ready to eat it, thaw it in the fridge overnight. Try this spicy fusion pasta bake with Latino-inspired flavors.
Twice-baked potatoes are stuffed with creamy mashed potatoes, sour cream, lots of cheese and any topping you like. They’re ideal for an easy main dish served alongside some vegetables and soup. Twice-baked potatoes can also be made ahead of time and frozen — just cover the stuffed potatoes with plastic wrap on a baking sheet and freeze for several hours. Then remove the potatoes from the freezer, wrap each individual potato in a tight resealable sandwich bag and pop all of them into one giant bag and freeze. Or, try these baked sweet potatoes with rainbow swiss chard and chickpeas.
Stuffed peppers are easy to put together and delicious as a stand-alone meal. The peppers should have a bite to them to complement the tender rice, beans and protein they’re filled with. If you’re making extra for later, freeze them in resealable bags. Try a different spin on this easy weeknight meal with these orzo- and chorizo-stuffed peppers.
This one is perfect for a random Wednesday night burger craving. Ree Drummond, blogger and host of Food Network’s Pioneer Woman, wrote about making homemade hamburger patties and freezing them for later. “Flash freeze them on a sheet pan for 30 minutes or so, then freeze in zipper bags two, four or six at a time,” she wrote. “I love just forming a slew of patties all at once, then not having to worry about it.” For a flavorful patty, use this recipe for the best burgers ever.
Shepherd’s pie originates from Britain and is the perfect freezer-friendly comfort food. It has simple layers of sautéed ground meat and vegetables topped with creamy mashed potatoes. You can use ground lamb or beef (or even a plant-based protein) and a mix of chopped onion and carrots, peas, corn and some fresh garlic and herbs. Or, if you’re up for a twist, try this Asian-inspired shepherd's pie that works extremely well with leftovers. You can assemble, bake and freeze for later.
Eggplant parmesan is a winner for meatless Mondays — if you do that sort of thing. The classic dish is layered with baked or fried eggplant, spicy tomato sauce and loads of cheese. To make it ahead for a busy weeknight, assemble the dish but don’t bake it — wrap the pan tightly with foil and freeze for up to three months. Thaw completely before baking.
A traditional French cassoulet has meat, pork skin and white beans, all cooked slowly in a rich flavorful sauce. Our vegan version is just as tempting and super easy to freeze for a chilly weeknight.
There is nothing better than warm, melty chocolate chip cookies on a weeknight, or any night. Except maybe homemade cookie dough that you made ahead and stashed in the freezer. Whip up this classic batch of chocolate chip cookies, bake some and spoon the rest into a large resealable zip-lock bag. Pop it in the freezer for quick cookies any time a craving hits — and when it does, simply thaw the dough in the fridge for 20 minutes or until you can work with it, and spoon rounds of dough onto a lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Store-bought cookies have nothing on gooey, chewy homemade ones — but if you must, at least consult our top store-bought chocolate chip cookies ranking.
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