If you're cooking for a big family, there is plenty of advice out there for making dinner in bulk and freezing it — but what if you are just cooking for one or two people? Our readers recently tackled this very question and had some smart advice for small-family freezer meals, so you don't end up eating the same batch of frozen lasagna for three weeks straight.
1. Double a recipe and freeze it in smaller portions.
Soups, stews, pasta sauces, curries, beans and cooked grains freeze well and are easy to make in big batches. (But not too big, or you'll be eating the same thing for weeks!)
When I make a big batch of something, I will freeze it into 2 or 3 smaller containers so that I only defrost 1-2 servings at a time. That way I don't get tired of something too soon. — CS12345
I always cook large batches of almost everything like stew, spaghetti sauce, chile, lasagna and other dishes, portion them out for 5 servings and freeze. I also make ready to fry breaded chicken fingers, meatballs, wontons, croquettes which I also freeze and are ready to fry when I need them. — natzsm
2. Use the right containers.
Invest in a good set of glass containers or widemouth canning jars if you are leery about storing food in plastic, or use smaller plastic containers or zip-top bags.
I cook for just me and freezing works great. Just portion about 2 servings out into Ziplocks and you have a quick and easy meal for those nights that you don't want to cook. — heather_anne
I portion everything into different size mason jars for freezing (single or double serving depending on what size and what I made) and use plastic mason jar lids to close. The nice thing about the plastic lids is you can put them in the microwave if you forget to put the jar in the fridge before leaving for work, and they are also a lot less difficult to remove than metal ones. — nadine_wpg
Not owning a fancy vacuum bagger, I've learned to squeeze most of the air out, then lay the bags on a cookie sheet in the freezer. The bags lay flat, are of common size, freeze quickly and take up little room. A quick soak in a pot of hot water makes it easier to remove the contents. — Mike_in_Hawaii
3. Freeze meal components rather than whole meals.
Instead of freezing a fully prepared dish, freeze cooked meat, veggies or sauces in portions and use them for quick meal preparation.
When I lived alone, I had a tough time finishing fresh produce, so if there was anything that was left unused, I'd chop it and put it in the freezer and use it in things like fritattas. — PhilaKris
I'll take hamburger meat, cook up a couple pounds crumbled with salt, pepper, onions, and garlic, and then portion it out into single serving snack-sized bags, and freeze the cooked meat. Then when I get home at night, all I have to do is pull out a serving and heat for a minute in the microwave. Boil some pasta, bust out some sauce and Italian spices, and voila! Ten minute spaghetti. — mlle.erica
4. Organize a freezer meal swap with friends.
If you have friends who love to cook, get together and make a big batch of dumplings, gnocchi, calzones, or other labor-intensive recipes together and share, or simply arrange a trade of portioned-out freezer meals that you have each prepared.
Other than freezing individual portions for the future, if you have other friends that enjoy cooking, you can combine your efforts. For instance, host a soup making party — everyone picks a type of soup, makes it, and then you trade portions. Everyone goes home with a couple of jars or single sized portions of a variety of soups. Then you're not eating the same thing in a row for 4 meals. — haparobot
5. Consider investing in some specialty equipment.
One of the challenges of freezing meals for small families is that it takes longer to finish off all the frozen portions of a large recipe, which means your freezer can only hold a few different meals at a time. Investing in a small chest freezer can help, especially with a vacuum sealer, which keeps food fresh and frost-free for months.
I also use a Food Saver vacuum sealer, both for frozen items and pantry items bought in bulk. There is no freezer burn and food lasts much longer — it is my most valued small appliance. Just don't forget to label...your food packets will last much longer than your memory for what you so carefully sealed. — carol.nolte
I have been freezing portions of meals for about 10 years now, ever since I purchased a chest freezer. I simply make a big batch when I feel like cooking and in no time, fill my chest freezer with a wide selection of food choices. When I am not in the mood to cook, I simply choose something I want. Like being in the grocery store! — natzsm
6. When in doubt, make burritos!
A tasty, quick, make-ahead, single person meal is to make burritos (breakfast ones with eggs, and lunch/dinner ones with meat/beans/etc). I have those in my freezer for nights when I don't want to even bother with chopping lettuce for a salad. They're easy, cheap, and reheat beautifully in the microwave, or in a pan with a little oil for a crisp outside. — mlle.erica
Do you have any other advice for freezing dinners for one or two people?
(Image credits: Emma Christensen)