How I Prep a Week of Freezer-Friendly Meals
One of the smartest strategies for serving homemade meals all week long is already in your kitchen: It’s using your freezer. The trick is to stock your freezer with make-ahead meals that taste just as good upon reheating as they did the day they were made.
The meals included in this week’s Power Hour all freeze wonderfully, so take your pick between eating them all this week or popping one (or all of them) into the freezer for future dinners. Since these meals can be cooked now or later, this meal plan works for you exactly how you need it, and wasting time and groceries is a thing of the past. Here’s how to do it.
Get more freezer-friendly meal plans: Here Are 9 Weeks’ Worth of Freezer Meal Plans
Meal Prep Goals
- Breakfast: Filling breakfasts that are easy to serve each morning (five days).
- Lunch: Veggie-heavy lunches with a kick (five days).
- Dinner: Freezer-friendly dinners to eat now or later (five days).
- Nutritional Goals: All meals are well-balanced, but this plan has no specific nutritional parameters. The focus, instead, is on prepping freezer-friendly meals the whole family will enjoy.
Meal Prep Snapshot
- Feeds: Four people for breakfast and dinner and two for lunch.
- Prep Time: About 2 hours
- Meals Covered: 80% (no weekend meals)
- Weeknight Cooking Required? Yes, but all of the measuring and mixing is already done.
- Freezer-Friendly Breakfast Frittata Sandwiches
- Yogurt, granola, and berries
These are the ingredients I bought or used for this meal plan. Before you leave home, shop your pantry, fridge, and freezer to identify ingredients you already have on hand. Staple ingredients like vegetable and olive oils, kosher salt, and black pepper are not included on this list, so make sure to take stock of any staples that might be running low. I like to organize my list by grocery department to make shopping more efficient.
Ingredients in bold are fresh accompaniments, so if you’re not planning to eat these freezer meals this week, hold off on purchasing these items.
- Deli/Bakery: 6 English muffins, 4 hamburger buns, 1 loaf sourdough bread
- Produce: 1 bunch cilantro, 2 limes, 2 avocados, 1 (5- to 6-ounce) bag baby spinach, 4 ounces leafy greens (spinach, kale, baby kale, or mustard greens), 4 bell peppers (including 1 green), berries, 8 ounces frozen or 1/2 fresh pineapple, 1 head garlic, 4 medium yellow onions, 4 medium sweet potatoes, burger toppings (lettuce, red onion, tomato)
- Meat: 2 pounds pork tenderloin, 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, 1 pound lean ground beef, 8 ounces chicken or turkey Italian sausage
- Dairy: 6 slices cheese (cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Swiss), 8 ounces semi-hard cheese (Swiss, havarti, Munster, or Provolone), 12 ounces low-moisture mozzarella cheese, 3/4 ounce Parmesan cheese, 10 large eggs, 1 cup whole milk, 1 medium container yogurt
- Dry Goods: 3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, granola, 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup whole-grain mustard, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 1/2 cup Dijon mustard, 1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce, 1/4 teaspoon chili powder, 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 2 teaspoons harissa paste (or 1 teaspoon tomato paste plus 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes), 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1 pound dried rigatoni pasta, 2 (24-ounce) jars marinara sauce, tortillas, 2 cans chickpeas, 2 cans black beans, 1 can chipotle chiles in adobo (optional), 2 (14-ounce) cans crushed, diced, or whole tomatoes
- Freezer: 1 (12- to 14-ounce) bag frozen meatballs, frozen rice
Power Hour: How to Get the Prep Done
- Heat oven to 350°F. Heat the oven and bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- Bake the beans and frittata: Drain, rinse, and spread the black beans into an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the beans are dry and begin to split, 10 to 12 minutes. Meanwhile, prep the onion, sausage, and spinach for the frittata (use a Dutch oven instead of a skillet here to minimize dishes). Once the beans come out of the oven, increase the oven temperature to 375°F. Assemble the frittata mixture and pour into a baking dish; don’t wash the Dutch oven. Bake until the eggs are puffed and set, 25 to 30 minutes.
- Prep the rigatoni: Add the dried rigatoni pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, 10 to 12 minutes. Meanwhile, follow the rigatoni recipe instructions to cook onion, garlic, and beef with seasonings in the same Dutch oven used for the sausage. Drain the rigatoni, then add to the beef mixture, with the tomato sauce, and cheese. Transfer to a single 9×13-inch pan or divide between two (8-inch) disposable foil trays, and top with the remaining Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. Cover with aluminum foil and either refrigerate or freeze.
- Make the chickpea mixture: Drain and rinse 1 can of chickpeas. Cook garlic and harissa in the Dutch oven, and then add the chickpeas, canned tomatoes, water, and seasonings. Simmer the chickpea and tomato mixture until the liquid is reduced, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a container, cool to room temperature, then refrigerate or freeze.
- Marinate pork: Trim the silver skin from the pork tenderloin. For the pork marinade, combine Dijon mustard, whole-grain mustard, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, and kosher salt in a gallon-size zip-top bag. Seal the bag and massage until the ingredients are combined. Add the pork, remove as much air as possible fro the bag, and seal. Refrigerate or freeze.
- Prep black bean burgers: Combine the baked black beans, oats, adobo, salt, and pepper in a food processor, and process just until the mixture comes together, 15 to 20 seconds. Mash 1/2 avocado in a large bowl, then stir in cilantro and the bean mixture. Divide and shape the mixture into 4 (2/3 cup) or 6 ( 1/2 cup) patties. Arrange in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze. Once solid, transfer the patties to a zip-top freezer bag and freeze. (Note: Here’s how to store the remaining avocado half.)
- Assemble fajita packets: Make the marinade, add sliced boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and toss to coat. Divide sliced peppers and onion among 8 (6-inch-long) sheets of aluminum foil and top with the chicken. Fold the foil to seal, stack the packets, and place in a gallon-sized zip-top freezer bag. Refrigerate or freeze.
- Prep meatballs: Fit a gallon-sized zip-top bag inside the insert of an Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker. Add the diced green bell pepper, pineapple chunks, frozen meatballs, and barbecue sauce to the bag. Place the bag (and the Instant Pot insert) in the freezer and freeze until solid. Remove the bag from the insert and keep frozen.
- Assemble breakfast sandwiches: Use a large biscuit cutter to cut 6 rounds of frittata, then layer the eggs and cheese on the bottom half of 6 English muffins. Add the muffin tops, then wrap in aluminum foil, and refrigerate or freeze.
- Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, Freezer-Friendly Breakfast Frittata Sandwiches: If refrigerated, unwrap the sandwich and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Microwave the sandwich until the frittata is warm and the cheese melts, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. If frozen, bake in a 325°F oven for 30 to 40 minutes.
- Tuesday and Thursday, Yogurt Parfaits: Top cool and creamy yogurt with store-bought (or homemade) granola and fresh berries.
Cheesy Chickpea Melts: Thaw chickpea mixture, if frozen, and then heat on the stovetop or microwave until warm. Rub thick slices of sourdough bread with garlic, brush with olive oil, and broil until golden. Top with the warm chickpeas, add a few slices of cheese, and then broil until the cheese is melted.
- Monday, Maple Mustard Pork Tenderloin: If frozen, place the bag on a rimmed baking sheet and thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Once thawed, grill or roast pork tenderloin until the internal temperature reaches 140°F to 145°F. Rest the tenderloin for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare sweet potatoes in the microwave. (If you have more time, you can also bake the sweet potatoes.)
- Tuesday, Black Bean Veggie Burgers: If frozen, thaw black bean veggie burger patties in the refrigerator overnight. Cook in a skillet over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until a dark crust forms. Serve on buns with desired toppings.
- Wednesday, Chicken Fajita Freezer Packets: Arrange frozen fajita packets seam-side up on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake in a 400°F oven, until the chicken is cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve on soft flour tortillas with your favorite toppings.
- Thursday, Sweet and Tangy Meatballs: Place 1/2 cup water in the Instant Pot insert. Remove the frozen ingredients from the bag and place into the Instant Pot. Lock the lid, make sure the pressure valve is closed then cook under HIGH pressure for 10 minutes. Let the pressure naturally release for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, warm the frozen rice. Serve the meatballs over cooked rice.
- Friday, Cheesy Beef Rigatoni: Bake the casserole in a 350°F oven until an instant-read thermometer registers 165°F in the center. If the rigatoni bake is frozen this will take 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours; if thawed it will take about 1 hour. Whether baking from frozen or a thawed casserole, uncover during the last 15 minutes so that the cheese can brown.
Power Hour Meal Prep is the series where we help you put it all together. We show you how to eat well during the week with an hour or two of Power Hour prep over the weekend. Every plan is different; mix and match to find your own personal sweet spot.