Back to School Freezer Prep Tips
Freezer meals plus best practices for freezer prep and ideas for stocking your own freezer
What is Freezer Prep?
Freezer prep is basically just a longer term meal prep. It’s freezer-friendly meal prep where you stock your freezer with breakfast options or snacks, maybe some meal components like cooked meat or pasta sauce or even full ready-to-eat meals like burritos.
Why Make Freezer Meals?
Why do we meal prep (or why are we told we should meal prep)? To take care of our future selves. Why do we freezer prep (or why should we)? To take care of our months-out future self.
Imagine this: It’s a Wednesday night, you studied super late, or you ran out of groceries, or you hit the gym after work, or your kid had soccer practice, or all of the above. Whatever the afternoon looked like, it’s now 7pm, Wednesday night and you have no plan for dinner. You could a) order out (expensive and unhealthy), b) make boxed mac n cheese or canned soup (usually not that yummy or good for you), or c) eat ice cream for dinner (sometimes acceptable, but not usually). None of those options are great, but when you freezer prep you open up another option for a cheap, delicious and nourishing home cooked meal that comes together in a flash. You can grab a frozen burrito and sit down to eat in under 20 minutes. Grab pasta sauce and frozen meatballs out of the freezer and just add pasta for an entirely home cooked Italian meal in about 15 minutes. Get the idea?
Let me take you through another scenario: It’s Thursday night and you want cookies. You want a warm, gooey, delicious homemade cookie. You could order one from Insomnia Cookies or you could make an entire batch. Or you can reach into your freezer stash, grab two balls of premade cookie dough and be eating that warm cookie in under 10 minutes.
And yet another situation: It’s Friday morning and you woke up late. No time for breakfast at home. You could stop at Starbucks and spend $$$ for breakfast on the go or you could try out intermittent fasting for the day (not recommended). OR, you can snag a muffin or a breakfast sandwich from the freezer you so thoughtfully prepped at the beginning of the month. By the time you get to work, you’ll have a homemade breakfast ready to be eaten!
Life is unexpected, so be prepared! Yeah, that’s the official motto of meal prep and freezer prep. So take a weekend and stock your freezer for your future self.
Pro Tips for Successful Freezer Prep Meals
1. Let food cool completely before freezing
For most of the ideas below, you can just cook the food as normal, then let it cool completely then freeze. Letting food cool preserves freshness and texture along with reducing the chance of bacteria growth. The basic strategy is to make a meal, let it cool completely, wrap individually in saran wrap or tin foil and then store the individually wrapped items in a Ziploc bag.
2. Label and date everything
This will come in handy when looking for something to eat and when purging your fridge. Labels are very necessary to keep an organized and useful freezer stock.
3. Don't prep too much
Don’t go overboard on your first freezer prep, especially if you’re just trying out the habit. Start with just one or two dishes or servings to pop into the freezer. Then, at the end of the month, take stock of what you ate or how many times you dipped into the freezer for food and adjust for your next prep session. Try not to prep more than you can eat in 1-3 months though because the food can get weird in terms of texture and freshness!
4. Take inventory and purge when necessary
On that note, make sure to take inventory of your freezer stash and cleanse the freezer before your next prepping session. If you have one or two burritos or balls of cookie dough left, go ahead with your prep session. However, if you have a ton of ready-to-eat food in the freezer, maybe hold off on prepping more freezer food until you finish up with your current stash.
If there was a meal that didn’t turn out great and you have more in the freezer, don’t fret; either bite the bullet and eat it asap or throw it out. I’m never an advocate for throwing out food but, shit happens. Get rid of it sooner, rather than later like in a year from now when doing a deep clean of the freezer.
5. Reheat freezer meals with care
The ideal situation for reheating is to take the item from the freezer to the fridge for a few hours (or up to a day before) and then reheat it in the oven or on the stove. A good rule of thumb is to reheat it where it was cooked; for instance, pasta dishes should be reheated on the stove, while roasted veggies should be reheated in the oven. If you know you’re gonna be home late, you can think ahead to pull whatever out of the freezer in the AM or if you work the freezer meal into your weekly meal plan and can pull whatever out the night before.
However, the main problem freezer prep solves is the unexpectedness of life. So that much preparation isn’t always feasible. No worries! You can easily heat food from frozen in the oven or on the stove, it’ll just take a little bit longer (but it’ll still be ready before doordash would get there). You can even throw it in the microwave/toaster oven/air fryer if you’re really in a pinch!
Another Method to Stock Your Freezer
When you do cook dinner or do a weekly meal prep, make an extra serving or two of the meal and freeze it. The only thing to think about is if these meals are freezer-friendly. Check out the freezer-friendly ideas below for inspiration!
Note that you could also shop your freezer aisle for these items and keep them on hand to prep for your future self, however I’ve found them to be usually more expensive, less healthy and less delicious.
Meals You'll Find In My Freezer
I prefer to set aside a weekend at the beginning of the month and prep 1 freezer breakfast, 1 freezer snack and 2-3 meals/meal components. But do whatever works for you!
Each of the ideas below includes instructions on how to make, how to freeze and store, and how to reheat and enjoy!
Freezer Breakfast Options
Breakfast often gets left behind when it comes to meal prepping. Take care of it ahead of time by prepping some breakfast items! Take them out the night before for a fresh breakfast in the AM or grab one in the morning, let it thaw on the way to work/school and reheat there!
My preferred method is to prep the ingredients by filling a small Ziploc bag with half a banana, a handful of strawberries and some blueberries. You can add any fruits or veggies you like, too. Then add the contents of the bag to a blender with some milk or juice (or water in a pinch) and voila!
Layer a toasted bagel or english muffin with cooked scrambled eggs, cheese and your choice of cooked breakfast meat. Wrap individually in tin foil and store in a Ziploc bag. Reheat the tin foil wrapped sandwich in the oven or a toaster oven at 400*, 10 minutes for a thawed sandwich and 20-30 minutes for a frozen sandwich.
Make your favorite muffins (these are my go-to) and freeze individually for a homemade muffin on the go! This can also work with scones and biscuits. To reheat, leave at room temp for a few hours, microwave for 1 minute or bake in the oven at 400* for 10 minutes.
Waffles or Pancakes
Prep your favorite waffle or pancake recipe, let cool and freeze in a Ziploc bag. I like to freeze in little packs of 3 so I can easily grab just one serving at a time!
Fill a tortilla with eggs, potatoes, bacon, cheese and salsa, roll it up into a burrito, individually wrap each in tin foil and freeze in a Ziploc bag. Reheat a thawed tin foil wrapped burrito in the oven at 400* for 10 minutes, while a frozen burrito will take 20-30 minutes.
Put together these full meals for a grab and go lunch or prep some meal components to whip up dinner in a flash!
One important note: Don’t double freeze your meat!! Meat can only be frozen once so any meat that’s going to be cooked and frozen must be fresh!
Prepare your favorite chicken finger recipe, bake, let cool completely and freeze in a Ziploc bag. Reheat in the oven for 10-15 minutes.
Cook your favorite pasta sauce recipe, let cool completely and freeze. I like to freeze sauces in these Souper Cubes, or you can freeze in a Ziploc bag or a tall plastic soup container. To reheat, simmer on the stove for 10-20 minutes with a few splashes of water.
Make your favorite meatballs, bake, let cool and freeze in a Ziploc bag. You can freeze individual portions, like 2-4 meatballs in a bag, to feed one person at a time or you can freeze them altogether based on preference. Reheat in the oven for 10-20 minutes or simmer in your favorite tomato sauce for 20 minutes.
Similar to the pasta sauce, cook your favorite soup, stew or chili, let cool completely and freeze. I like to freeze these meals in these Souper Cubes for ease, or you can freeze them in a Ziploc bag or a tall plastic soup container. To reheat, simmer on the stove for 10-20 minutes with a few splashes of water.
Pulled Pork or Taco Meat
Make your favorite meat component like this pulled pork or my own taco meat recipe! Let cool completely and freeze in these Souper Cubes for ease or in a Ziploc bag. Reheat on the stove with a few splashes of water for 10 minutes.
Burritos/Baked Tacos or Stuffed Pitas
Prep some burritos by filling a tortilla with chicken, meat or beans, rice, cheese and salsa. Use this recipe for the best crispy baked tacos or stuff a half pita with black beans, kale, cilantro and roasted sweet potatoes. Wrap individually in tin foil and freeze in a Ziploc bag. To reheat, toss in the oven at 400* for 10-20 minutes.
Freezer Snack Ideas
Make your favorite muffins (these are my go-to) and freeze individually for a homemade muffin on the go!
Energy Balls/Granola Bars
Mix together oats, nut butter, chocolate chips, and nuts, form into balls or bars, freeze, wrap individually and store in a Ziploc bag in the freezer!
Make a double batch of your favorite cookie dough recipe. Bake half and then freeze half (in preformed balls) to enjoy both now and later! Store in a Ziploc bag in the freezer and bake from frozen as the recipe directs, adding a few extra minutes on the baking time as needed.