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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 cooking instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education and frequent contributor to Rachael Ray Every Day magazine. Her newest book is the second edition of "The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook." Instagram/Twitter: @jackienewgent

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10 Make-Ahead Freezer Meals to Save You Time
10 Make-Ahead Freezer Meals to Save You Time

When you need a meal fast but don’t have time to cook, there are healthy options. Simply pick one day a week that you have time to spare — perhaps Sunday evening — and whip up a meal (or two or three!) that can be frozen for later.

If you're cooking for 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. All you need to do is put the frozen meal into the oven or microwave, set a timer and go about your business until it’s ready. And then enjoy!

1. Tropical Black Bean, Cheese and Papaya Burrito
Tropical Black Bean, Cheese and Papaya Burrito

1 TROPICAL BLACK BEAN, CHEESE AND PAPAYA BURRITO

This isn't your run-of-the-mill burrito. It has a taste of the tropics with some 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, don’t leave out the Monterey Jack cheese! From the freezer, each burrito takes only 3.5 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

Recipe & Nutritional Info**:** Tropical Black Bean, Cheese and Papaya Burrito

2. Kale and Wild Mushroom Flatbread Pizza
Kale and Wild Mushroom Flatbread Pizza

2 KALE AND WILD MUSHROOM FLATBREAD PIZZA

Pizza comes in many shapes, sizes and styles — all of which can be crave-worthy! This flatbread pizza is no exception. It’s remarkably hearty because of its toppings, which include kale, wild mushrooms, ricotta, mozzarella, onions, garlic and rosemary. All are loaded onto whole-grain naan or your flatbread of choice and frozen until meal time. When you’re ready to eat, just slide the frozen slice into a preheated oven until it's crisp and brown. It sure beats any frozen pizza you find in a box. There are no strange preservatives in this one either!

CALORIES: 440

Recipe & Nutritional Info**:** Kale and Wild Mushroom Flatbread Pizza

3. Power Pasta Bowl With Turkey-Kale Meatballs
Power Pasta Bowl With Turkey-Kale Meatballs

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 (and healthier) place. The meatballs are made of turkey, kale and hemp seeds, and 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 tomatoes). 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

Recipe & Nutritional Info**:** Power Pasta Bowl With Turkey-Kale Meatballs

4. Curry Coconut Chicken, Red Lentils and Bok Choy
Curry Coconut Chicken, Red Lentils and Bok Choy

4 CURRY COCONUT CHICKEN, RED LENTILS AND BOK CHOY

Comfort food doesn’t have to be greasy or cheesy as long as it’s 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 a nutty and herbal flair from almonds and cilantro, while red lentils create stew-like appeal. This meal is designed to be served 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 to bake.

CALORIES: 485

Recipe & Nutritional Info**:** Curry Coconut Chicken, Red Lentils and Bok Choy

5. Cincinnati-Style Veggie Chili Bake
Cincinnati-Style Veggie Chili Bake

5 CINCINNATI-STYLE VEGGIE CHILI BAKE

Every region in the U.S. has its own preferred chili. In Ohio, Cincinnati chili is popular. It’s 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.

CALORIES: 471

Recipe & Nutritional Info**:** Cincinnati-Style Veggie Chili Bake

6. Egg, Spinach and Portobello Breakfast Sandwich
Egg, Spinach and Portobello Breakfast Sandwich

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 to your freezer, take out one of these savory goodies and pop it into the microwave for two minutes. That might just be 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

Recipe & Nutritional Info**:** Egg, Spinach and Portobello Breakfast Sandwich

7. Vegetarian Stir-Fry Rice Bowl
Vegetarian Stir-Fry Rice Bowl

7 VEGETARIAN STIR-FRY RICE BOWL

You could pick up the phone and order Chinese takeout, or you could 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 brings everything together. Each bowl takes less than five minutes total from freezer to microwave to table!

CALORIES: 528

Recipe & Nutritional Info**:** Vegetarian Stir-Fry Rice Bowl

8. Fiesta Mexican Bean and Organic Corn Casserole
Fiesta Mexican Bean and Organic Corn Casserole

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 has even more protein from red kidney beans and Monterey Jack cheese. The addition of organic corn and corn tortilla chips boost the fiber. The combo of protein and fiber make it super-satisfying. As for fixing it: If you have 3.5 minutes, you have a flavorful meal!

CALORIES: 355

Recipe & Nutritional Info**:** Fiesta Mexican Bean and Organic Corn Casserole

9. Rotisserie Chicken Lasagna
Rotisserie Chicken Lasagna

9 ROTISSERIE CHICKEN LASAGNA

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

CALORIES: 317

Recipe & Nutritional Info**:** Rotisserie Chicken Lasagna

10. Savory Herb and Bell Pepper Hot Cereal
Savory Herb and Bell Pepper Hot Cereal

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. 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. And it can be made to resemble risotto 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

Recipe & Nutritional Info**:** Savory Herb and Bell Pepper Hot Cereal

What Do YOU Think?
Mexican enchilada in a baking dish horizontal top view

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? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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