Next Week's Meal Plan

A Week of Cheap and Easy Dinners That Starts with the Freezer Aisle

updated Apr 26, 2022
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Credit: From Left to Right, Top to Bottom: Lauren Volo, Joe Lingeman

We all go through phases when we just don’t feel like cooking. Those weeks when I’m feeling least able to adult, I lean on dinners that start with smart finds from the freezer aisle (after first checking what can be used up from my own freezer, of course). Base your meal plan around the freezer aisle, and you can enjoy dinners with limited prep, plenty of veggies, and take out-inspired meals that are faster and less expensive than delivery.

These five dinners starting with some of our favorite frozen food staples are gentle on your wallet and easy enough to pull together when you totally don’t feel like cooking.

Credit: Lauren Volo

Monday: BBQ Meatball Sub with Greens

Frozen meatballs are one of the best freezer staples. For a low-lift Monday meal, I’ll toss them with a generous slick of my favorite BBQ sauce, sauté some greens (the recipe calls for kale, but collards, chard, or any hearty leafy green will do), and pile it all on a sub roll for a quick and easy dinner.

Get the recipe: BBQ Meatball Sub with Greens

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Tuesday: Trader Joe’s Orange Chicken Fried Rice

While you’re at TJ’s picking up your Mandarin orange chicken, grab a bag of frozen stir-fry veggies and a box of pre-cooked brown rice, and you’ve got a whole meal. Three freezer aisle staples and 10 minutes on the clock is all it takes to pull together this at-home take on chicken fried rice.

Get the recipe: Trader Joe’s Orange Chicken Fried Rice

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Wednesday: Breakfast Burrito Egg Casserole

Breakfast for dinner in the middle of the week? This is always a good idea. This meatless egg bake starts with a bag of frozen hash browns and gets some extra heft from canned black beans. Serve as-is or for the full-burrito effect, cut the casserole into pieces and wrap it up in a tortilla with your favorite toppings. I like sour cream and salsa.

Get the recipe: Breakfast Burrito Egg Casserole

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Thursday: Tomato Tortellini Soup

A bag of frozen cheese tortellini not only makes this weeknight-friendly tomato soup even more comforting, but it helps to stretch the pot a little further. Round out dinner with a simple green salad.

Get the recipe: Tomato Tortellini Soup

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Friday: 5-Ingredient Wild Mushroom Tart

You know that box of puff pastry you have stashed in the back of the freezer? Move it to the fridge on Thursday, so it has time to thaw, and use it for your Friday dinner. Frozen mushrooms can also be swapped for fresh, just be sure to sauté them first, to cook off any excess liquid. There’s a blanket of shredded Gruyère under the mushrooms, but you could easily swap in something else you have on hand: goat cheese, Gouda, Fontina, or even Parm. While the tart bakes, toss together a simple salad with any leftover veggies in the crisper.

Get the recipe: 5-Ingredient Wild Mushroom Tart

Meal planning isn’t always easy — especially if you’re just getting started. But we’re firm believers that it’s the secret to stress-free weeknight dinners. We want to help you find inspiration and ease some of the pain points that come with getting dinner on the table night after night, whether you’re cooking one or a family of four or five. Every week we share a new meal plan solution specifically customized for you from reader requests or from a guest contributor, for Next Week’s Meal Plan!

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