The Art and Craft of Frozen Dinner Kits

published Jan 6, 2014
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Folks’ thoughts turn to casseroles when they think of frozen meals. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good casserole, but you do your freezer and yourself a disservice if you limit your options to lasagnas, enchiladas, and noodle bakes, as good as they may be.

With six children ranging in age, personality, and culinary maturity, I’ve found that I need to think outside the 9×13-inch baking dish if I’m going to put a meal on the table that we’ll all enjoy. Several years ago I hit on the idea of freezing meal components, like cooked taco meat, as well as complete dinner kits to help me save time in the kitchen as well as benefit from bulk purchases of proteins I found on sale.

(Image credit: Jessica Fisher)

Homemade, frozen dinner kits can be the perfect solution to those nights when you don’t have time for extensive prep work but want to avoid the drive-thru lane. Think of some of your favorites, like tacos, fajitas, chicken stir-fry, even homemade pizza. Yes, you can make dinner kits for all these great suppers (and more!) if you think about your favorite recipes in a new way.

Analyze Your Dinner Repertoire: 3 Tips

Ask yourself these questions as you consider your family’s favorite meals.

  • What items can be cooked in advance? Taco meat; shredded chicken, pork, or beef; sautéed or grilled meats; cooked rice; and roasted vegetables can all be prepared ahead of time and used later.
  • What items can be prepped, sliced, diced, chopped, or shredded to use later? Think about sliced peppers, mushrooms, and onions; shredded cheese; pizza dough; marinated meats; spice rubs; and sauces.
  • What commercial items are good to keep on hand and at the ready? You can easily slip a bag of tortillas or a package of pitas into the freezer next to the other components of the meal. In fact, when you combine all the items into one larger, zip-top freezer bag, you’ll have everything all ready to go with one quick reach into the freezer.

6 Favorite Dinner Kits to Freeze

I’ve made frozen meal kits with our family’s favorite meals. Consider stocking these kits in your freezer:

  1. Homemade pizza – Package balls of dough (such as this dough), shredded cheese, and sauce along with other favorite toppings individually. Place all individual packages into larger zip-top freezer bags in the freezer.
  2. Fajitas – Package marinated chicken or beef strips, sliced fajita vegetables, and small flour tortillas in individual bags. Place all bags into a larger zip-top freezer bag and stash in the freezer.
  3. Tacos – Individually package cooked taco meat, shredded cheese, and tortillas. Combine in a larger zip-top freezer bag in the freezer.
  4. Stir-fry – Prepare smaller bags of sliced meat, chopped vegetables, cooked rice, and stir-fry sauce. Store them all in a larger zip-top freezer bag in the freezer. (See The Kitchn’s guide to making freezer stir-fry meals.)
  5. Chicken and rice bake – Assemble individual packages of marinated chicken, rice, spice mix, and chopped vegetables. Store together in a larger zip-top freezer bag in the freezer. (Get a recipe for Chicken and Wild Rice Bake.)
  6. Meatballs and mashed potatoes – Prepare a bulk batch of meatballs, gravy, and mashed potatoes. Store the three components separately in meal-sized portions and freeze. (Get a recipe for Turkey Meatballs or Classic Veal Meatballs.)

There’s really no end to the possibilities of meal kits you can prepare for freezing. Just think about what you can do in advance and do that. If you’ve got time to make several batches of hamburger patties, you can save time later when it’s time to eat. Make a big batch of homemade BBQ sauce and precook the bacon. Store the frozen patties in their own bag, next to a container of sauce, a packet of bacon, a small bag of cheese, and a package of burger buns. Southwest bacon cheeseburgers will come together in a jiffy.

And no one will know it was a freezer meal.