Healthy Dinners for Busy Nights: 12 Meals to Make Ahead and Freeze
The freezer has been doing heavy lifting to save us both food and money for a while now.
Is your grocery store running a huge sale on ground beef? With your freezer, buy it in bulk and freeze it. Have some leftovers that you don’t want to toss? Cut down on food waste and freeze those, too!
Not only can you buy fresh vegetables when they’re in season and freeze them for later, but the freezer can also help you prepare for the busy dinner nights ahead.
When it comes to the most delicious freezer meal recipes, we always ask ourselves the following: Is it easy to meal prep ahead? Is it healthy? Filling?
Healthy food can be great in theory, but sometimes a salad or veggie soup isn’t satisfying enough to fill us up, causing snack cravings and unnecessary spending later.
We’ve put together a list of 12 easy, affordable freezer meal recipes. And they aren’t just healthy; they’re also are hearty enough to keep you satisfied and full of energy all day long.
12 Freezer Meal Recipes For Busy Nights
1. Healthy Freezer Breakfast Burritos
The most important meal of the day just got easier. Not only do these breakfast burritos utilize inexpensive, nutrient rich ingredients like sweet potatoes and black beans, but they are also easily customizable with any of your favorite ingredients. For instance, top off your burrito with hot sauce! Make a bunch for the week to freeze and eat this delicious meal for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Main Ingredients: Sweet potatoes ($1/pound on average), eggs ($4.25/carton on average), black beans ($0.99/can on average)
2. Cilantro Lime Chicken and Lentil Rice Bowls
Packed with vitamins and protein, lentils are one of the cheapest and healthiest foods you can buy. This healthy freezer meal combines flavor with ease—just throw lentils, chicken thighs or chicken breasts, salsa, chicken broth, and aromatics into the crock pot or instant pot and voila! Dinner is served. Freeze the leftovers in freezer safe bags or containers, or freeze all the ingredients together ahead of time for easy cooking another day.
Main Ingredients: lentils ($2/pound on average), chicken thighs ($2/pound on average)
3. Healing Chicken and Rice Soup
When it comes to easy freezer meals, soups like this one from Pinch of Yum recipe reign supreme. Not only does this soup freeze beautifully and use ever-so-affordable boneless skinless chicken thighs, but it is also bursting with immune boosting and anti-inflammatory ingredients like ginger, turmeric, and spinach. Freezer meal prep meets your crock pot for a truly hearty meal.
Main Ingredients: Chicken thighs ($2/pound on average), jasmine rice ($1.30/pound on average)
4. Split Pea Soup
Split pea soup has gotten a bad rap over the years, but this is not your grandparents’ split pea soup. Bursting with flavor, heartiness, and depth, this soup is both crave-worthy and gets even better as it sits in your freezer. Not only are split peas inexpensive, but they are full of protein, fiber, and B vitamins. Make a batch for today and freeze half of it (sans toppings) for later—your future self will thank you!
Main Ingredients: Dry split peas ($1.59/pound on average), potato or rutabaga ($1.19/pound on average)
5. Butternut Squash Lasagna
What’s more comforting than having a lasagna in the freezer for a weeknight dinner? This recipe calls for just 10-ingredients to create a creamy casserole that is packed with veggies, vitamin C from butternut squash, and is dairy-free to boot. Between the creaminess of the squash and the meatiness of the mushrooms, we promise you won’t miss the ground beef and melted cheese. Assemble, cover well, and freeze. When you need a delicious meal, pull it out, cover with foil, and bake for an hour in a 350 degree oven. A healthy dinner even nonna would approve of.
Main Ingredients: Butternut squash ($1.99/pound on average), mushrooms ($4.40/pound on average), lasagna noodles ($1.89/package on average)
6. Zucchini Lasagna Rolls
Looking for traditional red sauce lasagna flavors without the pasta? Look no further. Thinly sliced zucchini replaces lasagna noodles and is stuffed with a ricotta, parmesan cheese, and frozen spinach mixture in this lighter version of a classic. Make it in the summer when bulk zucchini is extremely cheap and freeze for the cooler weather. Want extra protein? Add some shredded chicken.
Main Ingredients: Zucchini ($1.99/pound on average), ricotta cheese ($4/container on average)
7. Cauliflower and Tomato Masala with Peas
Indian food can be some of the more delicious freezer meals there are. This take on Gobi Matar is easy, inexpensive, and vegan. Plus it’s packed with health boosters like cauliflower, frozen peas, ginger and turmeric. Lots of spices and tomato sauce make this freezer meal hearty and warming. Grab it out of the freezer along with some flatbread for dipping or boil a quick pot of quinoa to make the entire dinner gluten free.
Main Ingredients: Cauliflower ($3.59/head on average), tomato puree ($1.49/can on average), frozen peas ($0.99/bag on average)
8. 5-Ingredient Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili
When it comes to tasting better with time, chili is king. This nutritious vegetarian version is the perfect hearty meal to keep on hand in your freezer. A spicy kick from the chili powder and hot sauce will warm you up on a cold winter’s night. Antioxidants? Check. Filling protein? Check. Cheap and easy? Check and check. For an extra dollop of healthy fats, garnish with avocado or add ground turkey!
Main Ingredients: Sweet potatoes ($1/pound on average), black beans ($0.99/can on average), red salsa ($2.49/jar on average.
Did you know that you can buy avocados in bulk and freeze them them to save money? Grab a bunch for this recipe and save them for other delicious freezer meals like the casserole below.
9. Roasted Veggie Enchiladas Casserole
Although enchiladas and casseroles aren’t meals that usually scream “health”, this roasted veggie version may change your mind. Filled to the brim with cauliflower, sweet potatoes, red peppers, spinach, and black beans, this recipe is filling, satisfying, economical and packed with nutrients. Top with sour cream, lime juice, and use 100% corn tortillas for a vegetarian, gluten free dinner that you’ll be thrilled to have in your freezer not only as a weekday option, but also as a showstopping main dish to serve company!
Main Ingredients: Sweet potatoes ($1/pound on average), black beans ($0.99/can on average), cauliflower ($3.59/head on average), red bell peppers ($3.49/pound on average)
10. Best Veggie Burger Recipe
Store-bought veggie burgers have been a freezer staple for years, but have you ever tried to make your own? Often cheaper and much healthier, homemade veggie burgers replace filler with real vegetables. This version combines mushrooms, brown rice, and walnuts in the food processor for a protein packed meal that even the most discerning meat eaters will love. Make a whole batch and freeze them on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Once frozen, pop into a freezer bag for easy storage and pull one out to grill, saute or bake when you need a quick, healthy dinner! Add on a slice of cheddar cheese or keep this recipe dairy free.
Main Ingredients: Mushrooms ($4.40/pound on average), brown rice ($0.95/pound on average), raw walnuts ($4.99/bag on average)
11. Mushroom Bourguignon
Portobello mushrooms are the perfect, cheaper, more nutritious alternative to beef. Elevate them even more in this classic mushroom bourguignon that tastes slow cooked, but comes together much more quickly than its original namesake. French freezer food? Healthy indulgence at its finest.
Main Ingredient: Mushrooms ($4.40/pound on average)
12. Spiced Chickpea Stew With Coconut and Tumeric
This Alison Roman original recipe went internet viral in 2020 for good reason. Not only is it rich with flavorful, anti-inflammatory ingredients (hi again, turmeric and ginger), but it calls for inexpensive pantry ingredients like chickpeas and coconut milk, making it easy to make at any time. Freeze leftovers or the whole batch and indulge in this hearty stew when the craving hits.
Main Ingredients: Chickpeas ($0.99/can on average), coconut milk ($2.29/can on average), kale ($2.79/bunch on average)
Tips for Freezer Meals
Decide which of these healthy freezer meals you want to make? Check out these tips to stretch your freezer meals ever more.
1. Label your frozen food.
Ever put something in the freezer only to question what it was? Always label your meals with the date that you made it and its contents. Not only will this help you get dinner on the table faster, but it will also prevent you from throwing unknown contents out. Not sure how long you can freeze something for? Check this out to learn more!
2. Portion out your freezer meals.
Whether you’re cooking for a family of 5 or just for yourself, pre-portioning your freezer meals as needed beforehand can be a lifesaver. Rather than defrost the entire dish, pull out the number of serving you need!
3. Use proper storage materials.
Always utilize official freezer bags, plastic wrap and freezer-safe storage containers when freezing food to preserve quality and freshness. Nothing is worse than going through all the work of creating a meal only to have it succumb to freezer burn!
4. Cool down your food before you freeze it.
Never put hot food into the freezer. Be sure to allow your food to cool down first before packaging it up.
Contributor Michele Becker is a Boston based writer who specializes in food, as well as Italian travel and history.