Dinner in the Freezer: Make-Ahead Meals!

Parents frequently say, “Our family is stuck in a rut! I do not know what to make for dinner anymore! Can you provide me with some additional dinner suggestions?” Fear not! FEED’s make-ahead meal suggestions area easy to prepare, and provide a healthy alternative to any convenience boxed item you might find in the freezer section of your grocery store.

Quick make-ahead meal tips:

  • Plan a cooking day! Make a few meals in one afternoon. Most recipes for casseroles, soups, and stews can be stored in the freezer for up to three months. Never say there’s no food in the house again!
  • Divide cooked foods into single-serve portions so they are ready-to-go at mealtime. This makes it easy to serve part of the family, when not everyone is coming home for dinner.
  • Be sure to label (and date) each meal prior to storing in the freezer. Prevent the investigative work later, by preparing ahead of time.
  • Prepare one-pot recipes that can be easily reheated and served alongside cut up vegetables, salad, or a whole grain side dish.
  • Never throw out fruit again! As fruit ripens, and looks not-so-interesting to eat, cut it up, place in a zip-tight freezer bag, and store in your freezer.  Use the frozen fruit in a smoothie or shake, as a nutrient-packed alternative to ice. Bananas, berries, even pineapple or mango, all mix well with Greek yogurt or almond milk for a delicious and calcium-rich treat!

Make-Ahead Meal Ideas:

1) Whole-grain French toast – Use your favorite high-fiber bread (greater than 3g/slice) and prepare a batch of French toast. Add a dash of cinnamon and/or vanilla to the egg mixture for variety. Good for the picky eater that is not-so-into eggs. Great way to increase fiber into kid’s diets as well.

2) Oatmeal – Old-fashioned oats are a fantastic make-ahead meal. As compared to instant oats’ mushy texture, old-fashioned oats are a more hearty choice. Prepare oats with milk or dairy alternative instead of water, and your breakfast also contains a serving of calcium and vitamin D for strong bones and teeth. Cook ahead of time, and keep in the refrigerator for the next morning.  Serve with small bowls of toppings such as dried cherries, chopped apples, or even sliced almonds.

3) Meatballs – One of the most versatile make-ahead meals. Meatballs can be added to whole-grain pasta, used in a sandwich, or even eaten on their own. Great for toddlers learning new tastes and textures, and soft enough to eat without too many teeth! Check out this recipe for allergen-free meatballs!

4) Pasta casserole – Want a way to incorporate vegetables without too much difficulty? Toss it in a pasta bake. Use whole-grain pasta with at least 3 g fiber/serving, add in your favorite tomato sauce, toss in a veggie puree, such as spinach, broccoli, or kale, and top with cheese. Voila! A serving of vegetables without the whining. Make the veggie puree from fresh or frozen vegetables.

5) Vegetable/bean stew –  Sauté onions, add chopped mushrooms, zucchini, toss in one can of garbanzo beans, and a can of chopped tomatoes. Combine with a dash of salt and pepper, a handful of cilantro, and green onions. Presto! A hearty stew that can be eaten alone, or with your favorite whole grain bread/pasta.

Lara Field MS, RD, LDN is a Registered Dietitian and Specialist in Pediatrics with over a decade of clinical and client experience. When she’s not actively working to keep her clients healthy, she’s a busy mother of two active boys and loves testing new recipes in her kitchen. Follow her on Instagram to see her recipe ideas, product suggestions, and see how she manages a healthy lifestyle @larafield.