Freezable family meals are mums’ greatest lifesavers for busy days and nights. But which dishes can you batch cook in advance and still be delicious once thawed and reheated?
The keys to frozen meal success are the choice of ingredients and cooking methods. So, I’ve listed some freezer-friendly dish categories that you can use as guides for your next meal plan.
Then check out my helpful tips, too, for safe and efficient freezer meal making.
Food and Dishes that Freeze Well
There are a lot of freezable recipes out there that you can prep and cook. But since we’re focusing on freezable family meals, I’m listing dishes that are quick to make in volume.
I’ll also cite convenient meal ideas that are easy to pair or mix with other items. That way, you don’t have to cook several things at one time.
Ready to cook? Here are my best freezer-friendly recommendations.
Frozen pasta sauces are the perfect alternative to jarred or canned ones. You can season them as you like or prep them in big batches for sudden get-togethers or cravings.
Whether it’s tomato or pesto, most pasta sauces stay good in the freezer for up to a month. And while you can toss them with cooked spaghetti, penne or ziti, these can double as your pizza sauce, too.
Depending on the type and ingredients, pasta sauces also work well in soups or casseroles and as dips.
if you’re making a lot of pasta sauce, portion it in small resealable bags or ice cube trays. That way, you only need to defrost and warm the sauce you need.
Vegetable and Pasta Bake
If you’re looking for family freezer meals fit for a big household, then add this meal idea to your list. It’s easy to batch cook, and you can prep it in one pot.
Vegetable and pasta bakes are your go-to freezer meals, too, when you haven’t stocked up your pantry yet. Lasagne or mac and cheese is, of course, a staple.
But if you bought lots of vegetables, go and make cheesy spinach or zucchini bake to avoid food waste.
With baked dishes in your freezer, all you need is to make a quick salad or roast for a satisfyingly balanced meal.
When freezing the pasta with the sauce, undercook the noodles a little to avoid overcooking when you warm them up later.
Also, when using the baking dish as your container, line it with parchment paper, cover with foil, double wrap with plastic, then freeze.
Soups, Stews and Curries
These freezable family meals are probably my all-time favourite. That’s because food flavours continue to develop and mature even in the freezer.
Soups, stews and curries also have liquids or rich sauces that cover the meat or vegetables, keeping them moist. And like baked meals, one-pot stews or braises suit batch cooking and quick clean-ups.
Make sure to leave enough headspace in your airtight freezable container when freezing saucy dishes to allow expansion.
Also, include enough cooking liquid when adding rice or potatoes later. It’s best not to freeze starchy ingredients in this case as they absorb liquids then turn to mush when reheated.
Homemade broth or stock also falls in this freezer-friendly category. Here, I also use ice cube trays for portioning and storage.
Anything crispy is tasty. And so, I always see to it that I stock up my freezer with instant crowd-pleasers like chicken fingers or nuggets, fish or mozzarella sticks, and meatballs.
I prefer to freeze them raw before baking, deep frying or air frying. That way, I do not overcook the meat, and the food won’t absorb too much oil.
After coating your proteins in flour, egg and breadcrumbs, I line them up in a baking sheet, then freeze for an hour or until solid.
I then transfer the frozen meats into containers or bags. If you wish to store them in the freezer for longer, I suggest vacuum sealing them to avoid freezer burn.
Snacks and Baked Goods
There are two ways to prep this broad food category. You can bake and freeze, or assemble then freeze. Bread, muffins, scones, pies or tarts, and small cakes, for example, fall on the first method.
Make sure to double wrap them in plastic first before putting them in labelled bags or airtight containers.
On the other hand, pie or cookie dough is best frozen raw. Here, I assemble my pizzas, hand pies and dumplings with the topping or filling, then freeze.
I prefer portioning my cookie dough first into balls, so I won’t have to defrost it later. It’s also a good technique if you enjoy freshly baked cookies in small batches.
I usually roll pie doughs or tortilla wraps into discs, put parchment paper between each, wrap in plastic, then freeze.
If your freezer is spacious enough, you can roll the pie dough out into the pie pan and wrap it for freezing, too.
Also, freeze cake layers without the frosting. When you’re ready to serve, thaw the cake out in the fridge overnight, then decorate.
Food and Dishes that Do not Freeze Well
While there are a lot of freezable family meals to choose from, not all dishes are ideal for freezing. It’s because low temperatures can affect the flavour or texture of some ingredients.
And so, remember to prep and cook the following fresh:
- Creamy dishes like alfredo sauce or white stew can turn grainy or curdled when frozen then reheated. Unwhipped cream and soft cheeses do not freeze well, either.
- Dishes with mayo like deviled eggs or chicken salad should not be in the freezer as the emulsion can split and become unpalatable.
- Salads with high-water content vegetables like lettuce and cucumber will turn limp and mushy when defrosted. Do not freeze high-moisture content fruits like watermelon and oranges, either, if you intend to eat them as is.
More Tips for Making Freezable Family Meals
Here are a few more pointers to make your freezer meal cooking adventure a success:
- Freeze meals with fresh ingredients. Near-expiry food items will not get better when frozen. So, make your family freezer meals with good ingredients for the best results.
- Label your dishes properly. Before freezing, write the dish name and the date. You can write directly on the bag or use a sticky label.
- Use airtight containers. Protect your food from moisture and air as much as possible to avoid freezer burn and flavour alteration. Rectangular and stackable containers are excellent to maximise freezer space.
- Cool-down freshly cooked dishes first before freezing. Putting hot food in the freezer can increase the temperature and defrost other items. Place the cookpot in a bowl of cold water or stir the dish frequently to cool your food down quickly. Make sure to put your cooked food in the fridge or freezer within the 2-hour mark.
- Observe proper freezing temperature. Keep your food frozen at -18C to ensure food safety. When using the fridge for thawing, make sure it is at no more than 5C.
Aside from freezing dishes, there are other ways to make home cooking and meal prep easy. Check out my busy weeknight meal tips to learn more!