Freezer Meals: Everything You Need to Know
If deciding what to make for dinner is one decision too many, or you want to avoid food waste, streamline cooking, and save some cash, then listen up — freezer meals are the answers to many of your problems. By prepping freezer meals in advance, you can avoid having a fridge full of wilted produce at the end of the week and sidestep the dreaded “what should we make for dinner?” conversation. We all know how that ends (ahem, takeout).
Speaking of produce, freezer meals are a killer way to take advantage of the glorious, seasonal produce that’s available at your local farmer’s market (hello, seasonal fruits!).
If you want to dive into the world of freezer meals (trust me, there are a million ways to do this and they're hard to mess up), we recommend doing a big meal prep for a few hours on the weekend (even once or twice a month could go a long way!) to stock up your freezer for the days you just don’t want to think about it, or don’t have time to cook something from scratch.
Let’s go over common questions about freezer meals as well as inspiration for freezer-friendly recipes!
What dishes freeze well?
There are lots of meals you can freeze, and seemingly thousands of recipes across the internet all designed to be frozen! Some of the best options to throw in the freezer are soups of all kinds, one-pan dishes like lasagna, pot pies, meatloaf, or chili, and meat dishes like brisket, baked chicken, and more. Anything stored in a Stasher bag or bowl can go straight into the freezer and then straight back into the oven (up to 425 degrees Fahrenheit) or microwave to be reheated.
Breakfast dishes can also freeze well. Try freezing smoothie packs then just tossing the ingredients into the blender for a quick, nutritious breakfast. You can also freeze baked french toast, frittatas, muffins, or banana bread, and thaw in a Stasher bag on the way to work. Bonus: you can safely put a Stasher bag in the microwave to reheat your frozen food (it's food-grade silicone, not plastic!), which actually helps lock in juices and keeps things like french toast super moist. Just keep your Stasher bag vented open to allow proper cooking.
If you don’t want to cook a whole meal and freeze it, you can also freeze components — beans freeze very well, for example, as do chicken breasts, sauces such as pestos or tomato sauce, meatballs, tortillas and bread, veggie and chicken stock, and veggie burgers. That way you can defrost what you’d like and construct your own plate, combining with some fresh greens or produce you have on hand.
Another way to approach freezer meals is to freeze individual servings. For example, burritos generally freeze very well — wrap up all your favorite ingredients in a burrito shell and freeze each one separately so you can bring it to work or heat it up after a long day.
What foods do not freeze well?
While many dishes freeze beautifully, others don’t fare as well. Fried foods will turn soggy if you freeze and thaw them. Mayo-based and dairy-based dishes can often get a little funky in their consistency. If you freeze fruits and vegetables that are high in water content, like cucumbers, tomatoes, or watermelon, they will not thaw well on their own but will work perfectly in soup or a smoothie.
How do you freeze and reheat meals?
Freezing the meals themselves is pretty easy (as you may imagine). Pro tip: always let your cooked foods cool down before you put them in the freezer.
How you decide to freeze your meals will be based on how you think you'll be eating them — if you want to heat up a big batch of something in your Instant Pot for a family dinner, freezing it all together in one container will be easiest.
If you're generally eating for one, parse out your meal in individual servings for easy reheating. A Stasher Sandwich Bag or 2-Cup Bowl is great for this because, let's face it, it’s pretty hard to cut a serving of an already-frozen lasagna. (Trust us, we've done the legwork.)
As for reheating, that really depends on the dish. If it’s a baked dish, you can most likely throw it directly back in the oven. Others you may want to heat in the microwave, or thaw in the fridge overnight before cooking the next day, which is ideal for cooked meat. A broth or soup should be thawed and reheated in a pot on the stove. We know what you're wondering and the answer is yes — you can throw a Stasher bag into a pot of boiling water straight from the freezer.
Raw meat should be carefully thawed in cold water before cooking. And as a rule of thumb, never thaw something and refreeze it. That can lead to health concerns.
What are the best ways to store freezer meals?
You can freeze dishes like lasagna whole in a glass container, or portion them out into single servings and put them in Stasher bowls and bags. Frozen components can also be frozen in a Stasher — the Half-Gallon Stasher and Stand-Up Stasher will be your freezer’s BFF, or the Sandwich Stasher for something smaller like an individual serving of soup or frozen beans.
It’s important to label the dish with what it is and the date so you have a sense of what’s your in freezer and how long it’s good for. Fun fact: you can write on Stasher bags with a chalk marker to label them!
How long do freezer meals last?
This answer has a lot to do with what you're freezing. But don’t worry, most frozen foods won't spoil but you do risk freezer burn if left in the ice box for too long. As a rule of thumb, most food remains in tip top shape in the freezer for 3 - 6 months. Many can last longer, like fruits and veggies. This chart helps break down storage times for different food items. Happy freezing!
Want to join the #StasherSquad? Follow @stasherbag on Instagram and show us how you're using your Stasher bags to help reduce single-plastic use!
This post was written by Sara Weinreb, host of the Medium Well podcast, sustainability and design thinking consultant, and contributor at Forbes.