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10 Make-Ahead Freezer Meals to Save You Time

by
author image Jackie Newgent, RDN, CDN
Jackie Newgent, RDN, CDN, is a chef, nutritionist, recipe developer, media personality and award-winning cookbook author. She’s a culinary instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education and frequent contributor to Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine. Her newest book is the second edition of "The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook."

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10 Make-Ahead Freezer Meals to Save You Time
Jackie Newgent/Livestrong.com

When you need a meal but don’t have time to cook, what do you grab? It can be a delicious dish filled with good nutrition. Simply pick one day a week that you have 20 minutes or so to spare -- perhaps Sunday evening -- and whip up a meal (or more!) that can be frozen for later. It’s ideal if you need to cook for just one or two; you’ll be able to take the exact serving of what you need out of the freezer. If you’re cooking for four, you’ll also find family-style recipes here, including lasagna, curry chicken and a chili bake. The best part is that all you need to do is put the frozen meal into the oven or microwave, set the timer and go about your business until it’s ready. Then, of course, enjoy!

1. Tropical Black Bean, Cheese and Papaya Burrito
Jackie Newgent/Livestrong.com

1 TROPICAL BLACK BEAN, CHEESE AND PAPAYA BURRITO

This is not your run-of-the-mill burrito. It has a taste of the tropics by way of vitamin C-rich papaya. Each sprouted whole-grain tortilla is also stuffed with baby spinach, black beans, spicy salsa, scallions and fresh cilantro. To bring it all together in a mouthwatering way, don’t leave out the Monterey Jack cheese! From the freezer, each burrito takes only three-and-a-half minutes to heat in the microwave. That’s downright fast! But then it’s time to slow down and savor every bite with a fork and knife. CALORIES: 296

Related: See Complete Recipe and Nutritional Info in LIVESTRONG.COM’s Calorie Tracker

2. Kale and Wild Mushroom Flatbread Pizza
Jackie Newgent/Livestrong.com

2 KALE AND WILD MUSHROOM FLATBREAD PIZZA

Pizza comes in many shapes, sizes and styles these days. All can be crave-worthy! This flatbread pizza is no exception. It’s remarkably hearty because of its top-heavy toppings, featuring kale, wild mushrooms, ricotta, mozzarella, onions, garlic and rosemary. All are loaded onto whole-grain naan or other flatbread of choice and frozen until ready to eat. When you’re ready, just slide the frozen slice into a preheated oven until crisped and browned. It sure beats any frozen pizza you find in a box. There are no strange preservatives in this one either! CALORIES: 440

Related: See Complete Recipe and Nutritional Info in LIVESTRONG.COM’s Calorie Tracker

3. Power Pasta Bowl With Turkey-Kale Meatballs
Jackie Newgent/Livestrong.com

3 POWER PASTA BOWL WITH TURKEY-KALE MEATBALLS

Spaghetti with meatballs is a classic. This pasta bowl takes that classic and kicks it into a trendier place. The meatballs are based on turkey, kale and hemp seeds. The pasta is whole grain. It all goes together to make one great-tasting, nutrient-rich bowl of goodness -- and a fun way to get lutein (from kale) and lycopene (from marinara). To prepare, you’ll bake the meatballs while you cook the pasta, toss it all together with a quality marinara sauce, transfer to bowls and freeze. Each bowl will be ready to eat after four minutes in the microwave! CALORIES: 563

Related: See Complete Recipe and Nutritional Info in LIVESTRONG.COM’s Calorie Tracker

4. Curry Coconut Chicken, Red Lentils and Bok Choy (Family-Style)
Jackie Newgent/Livestrong.com

4 CURRY COCONUT CHICKEN, RED LENTILS AND BOK CHOY (FAMILY-STYLE)

Comfort food doesn’t have to be greasy or cheesy as long as it’s lusciously full-flavored. You’ll get that in this divine dish; it’s rich in flavor and satisfaction from coconut milk, curry powder and chicken thighs. In fact, chicken thighs are richer in iron than chicken breasts. You’ll also get nutty and herbal flair from almonds and cilantro, while red lentils create stew-like appeal. This meal is designed family-style, so you’ll place all ingredients into a baking dish and freeze it. To enjoy, simply place the entire frozen dish into the oven and step away from the oven! CALORIES: 485

Related: See Complete Recipe and Nutritional Info in LIVESTRONG.COM’s Calorie Tracker

5. Cincinnati-Style Veggie Chili Bake (Family-Style)
Jackie Newgent/Livestrong.com

5 CINCINNATI-STYLE VEGGIE CHILI BAKE (FAMILY-STYLE)

Every region in the United Sates has its own preferred chili. In Ohio, Cincinnati chili is popular. It’s basically a uniquely spiced, meaty chili served over spaghetti, then topped as you like with Cheddar cheese, beans and onions. This recipe is a better-for-you version. It’s baked with layers of whole-grain penne, Cheddar cheese, red onion and vegetarian chili that’s “spiked” with red wine vinegar, cinnamon, cocoa powder and allspice. It’s an antioxidant winner! And it’s a winner for dinner on any given day because all you need to do is take the dish out of the freezer and bake it. That’s it! CALORIES: 471

Related: See Complete Recipe and Nutritional Info in LIVESTRONG.COM’s Calorie Tracker

6. Egg, Spinach and Portobello Breakfast Sandwich
Jackie Newgent/Livestrong.com

6 EGG, SPINACH AND PORTOBELLO BREAKFAST SANDWICH

You don’t need to go to a fast-food drive-through window to get a speedy breakfast sandwich. You can head over to your freezer, take out one of these savory goodies and pop it into the microwave for two minutes. Wow, that’s faster than going the fast-food route! Better yet, it’s packed with great taste, balanced nutrition and natural ingredients. Each whole-grain English muffin is spread with goat cheese and stuffed with a scrambled mixture of eggs, portobello mushrooms and baby spinach. It’s an easy way to get veggies in the morning -- or any time! CALORIES: 272

Related: See Complete Recipe and Nutritional Info in LIVESTRONG.COM’s Calorie Tracker

7. Vegetarian Stir-Fry Rice Bowl
Jackie Newgent/Livestrong.com

7 VEGETARIAN STIR-FRY RICE BOWL

You can pick up the phone and order Chinese takeout, or you can pull this rice bowl out of the freezer and have a delicious mealtime fix -- fast. Instead of greasiness, this colorful vegan bowl is loaded with plant-based delightfulness. Brown rice is combined with orange zest and fresh cilantro. Organic tofu is stir-fried with baby bella mushrooms, red bell peppers and scallions. A savory sauce of tamari and toasted sesame oil scrumptiously brings everything together. Each bowl takes less than five minutes total from freezer to microwave to table! CALORIES: 528

Related: See Complete Recipe and Nutritional Info in LIVESTRONG.COM’s Calorie Tracker

8. Fiesta Mexican Bean and Organic Corn Casserole
Jackie Newgent/Livestrong.com

8 FIESTA MEXICAN BEAN AND ORGANIC CORN CASSEROLE

Here’s a bowl of Mexican comfort for you. Dig into it at breakfast, lunch or dinner. It has eggs to provide a casserole-like texture and pump up the high-quality protein. And it’s got still more protein from red kidney beans and Monterey Jack cheese. The addition of organic corn and corn tortilla chips boost the fiber. The duo of protein and fiber make it super-satisfying. As for fixing it: If you’ve got three-and-a-half minutes, you’ve got a flavorsome meal! CALORIES: 355

Related: See Complete Recipe and Nutritional Info in LIVESTRONG.COM’s Calorie Tracker

9. Rotisserie Chicken Lasagna (Family-Style)
Jackie Newgent/Livestrong.com

9 ROTISSERIE CHICKEN LASAGNA (FAMILY-STYLE)

If you’ve got 15 minutes, that’s all the prep time you need to fix this Italian staple that’s light on the noodles and loaded with everything else! Using rotisserie chicken and high-quality bottled marinara sauce saves you time without skimping on flavor or good nutrition. The lasagna is made simply by layering uncooked whole-grain lasagna noodles (for bonus fiber) with a tasty mixture of chicken, marinara sauce, balsamic vinegar and a cheesy blend of ricotta, mozzarella and chicken broth. Then into the freezer it goes. Just count back three hours from dinnertime and place the entire frozen dish into the oven. It’s a perfect entree when you’re having company! CALORIES: 317

Related: See Complete Recipe and Nutritional Info in LIVESTRONG.COM’s Calorie Tracker

10. Savory Herb and Bell Pepper Hot Cereal
Jackie Newgent/Livestrong.com

10 SAVORY HERB AND BELL PEPPER HOT CEREAL

Move over, sweet oatmeal! Your savory cousin has come to take over everyone’s taste buds. Rather than fruit and sugar, vegetables and sea salt are keys to this trendier take on hot cereal. What you’ll do is bring water, bell peppers, lemon juice and seasonings to a boil, stir in oats, cook for five minutes and sprinkle with dill and olive oil. It’s ideal for an all-day breakfast bowl. It’s absolutely risotto-like when sprinkled with goat cheese or vegan cashew cheese. Either way, you’ll place a frozen bowl of it in the microwave and have it ready for your palate in five minutes. CALORIES: 317

Related: See Complete Recipe and Nutritional Info in LIVESTRONG.COM’s Calorie Tracker

What Do YOU Think?
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WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Do you believe that making meals ahead of time and freezing them is a beneficial approach for you? Why or why not? Do you ever make your own frozen dinners? What’s your favorite frozen entree -- homemade or store-bought? Please leave a comment below and let us know.

Related: 22 Delicious Protein Powder Recipes (That Are NOT Shakes)

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