Freezer meals saved my sanity and my budget. No joke! Feeding a large family on a small budget can be a challenge. In fact, it can be almost as challenging as finding delicious, nutritious cheap dinner ideas that your kids will actually eat! Since I don’t have a lot of time to cook, I’m always looking for cheap dinner ideas that are easy to make.
Freezer meals are a lifesaver for our family. These easy make ahead meals help me save money and feed my family better! I can spend a single afternoon in a kitchen and prepare thirty dinners for my family. It saves me time and money all month long!
I was recently told that a household our size (7 people) spends, on average, $900 per month on food. Who can afford $900 per month for food?! That’s insane!
I have tried dozens and dozens of freezer meals, so this list might grow over time. However, we’ll start out with five of my family’s absolute favorites.
How to Make Freezer Meals
You’ll notice that several of these recipes include the same ingredients, such as potatoes or ground beef. That’s because buying the same ingredient in bulk can make freezer meals even cheaper! I learned early on that it’s more economical to make five of the same meal that five different meals.
Using the same ingredients in multiple meals also makes it easier to prep. I blanch a lot of potatoes, cut up all the veggies and cook all the meat at once instead of doing it meal-by-meal. After everything is prepped, all you have to do is assemble the meals into their containers!
Only prepare crockpot meals if you’re good at remembering things ahead of time! I have completely switched to making oven-friendly meals because I often forgot to take the meal out until it was actually dinner time. In the trays, it’s easy to just shove it in the oven and reheat.
5 Easy Make Ahead Freezer Meals
These are the Thelin family favorites. I’d love to see your favorites in the comments!
My family loves this meal and will eat it any time of day! It’s also one of my favorite things to serve when we’re having a lot of people over. With delicious flavors like bacon and sausage, it may sound expensive. However, these ingredients stretch nicely because the dish is mostly potatoes and eggs!
The first step to making breakfast casserole is to blanch a ton of potatoes. You blanch them by cutting them into small chunks, boiling them for three minutes and then freezing them on a flat sheet until they are frozen solid. Don’t try to use potatoes in a freezer meal unless they are blanched!!! I did this once and the results were awful. The potatoes were all black and nasty. If you don’t want to blanch your own, buy a big bag of frozen potatoes.
While this is freezing, chop up some bell peppers and onions into small pieces. You’ll also need to cook up some ground sausage and bacon (I usually use about a half-pound per meal). I usually use at least 1/4 pound of each per meal. Sometimes, if I have a little extra, I’ll use more.
To freeze the meal, just fill a large Ziploc bag halfway with potatoes. Add the bell peppers, onions, bacon, sausage and shredded cheese. Freeze this together.
When you’re ready to cook it, dump it all out in your crock pot. Make a scrambled egg mixture and pour it over the top. Mix it all together. Cook it on low for about six hours. You’ll want to stir it two or three times to ensure that the eggs cook throughout.
Serve it with toast! I like to make sandwiches out of it because it helps the meal stretch a little farther.
Loaded Baked Potato and Chicken Casserole
This meal from Delicious As It Looks is one of my very favorites. Just layer potatoes and chicken in a casserole dish… top with salt, pepper, green onions, bacon and cheese! Add some butter and a milk drizzle… then pop it in a preheated oven (350 degrees) for about an hour and a half.
Like the breakfast casserole, you’ll used blanched potatoes, bacon, bell peppers, onions and shredded cheese in this dish. You’ll also need to pre-cook the chicken and cut it into little cubes. Once it’s assembled, it freezes beautifully and is easy to reheat!
Cafe Rio Chicken
If you’ve ever been to Cafe Rio, then you’ll understand why I’m obsessed with this delicious dish! All you need is chicken, zesty Italian dressing, minced garlic, ranch dressing, chili powder and ground cumin. It. is. divine. I make it exactly like Mandy recommends on Mandy’s Recipe Box. It makes a divine freezer meal!
This meal costs approximately $1 per person for our family – and we always have enough left over for lunch the next day! It tastes great in burritos, tacos, salads, soups or just by itself! This is one of my very favorite meals of all time.
All it requires is frozen chicken, salsa, and some taco seasoning. I usually use a three-pound bag of chicken for our family. I cover it with the salsa, sprinkle some taco seasoning on it and leave it on low all day (8 hours or so). By the time it’s done, it shreds beautifully and tastes oh-so-good.
To keep costs down, I sometimes add a can of corn, a can of refried beans and some Spanish Rice-a-Roni that I made on the stove. These cheaper ingredients can help extend the meal without requiring more meat.
Chicken Enchilada Soup
We absolutely love anything with taco seasoning in it. In fact, my two-year-old’s favorite word is “TACO!” But I digress.
This Chicken Enchilada Soup is the absolute cheapest of the cheap dinner ideas that I make for my family. It only costs about $0.40 per person per meal for our household… because it makes enough to feed our family for two meals!
I start with a bag of Cugino’s Chicken Enchilada Dry Soup Mix and add any leftover taco chicken I may have. I add slightly less water than the soup mix calls for… but I also add refried beans, corn, enchilada sauce, salsa, onions, peppers and whatever else I may have lying around that sounds good. The most expensive part of this meal is the $3 soup mix. It’s easy, it’s fast and it’s very, very good.
And, for the picky eaters who resent anything that looks like soup, I sometimes puree their portion, smother it in shredded cheese and wrap it in a tortilla. It also makes a tremendous chip dip!
This post was adapted from recipes and blogs that originally appeared on my personal website, NicoleThelin.com.