We’ve said it before, and we will say it again... having your home under construction is not pleasant. There’s dust. There’s noise. And if you’re doing your kitchen, there is the tiny inconvenience of not being able to use a stove or oven for the majority of construction, which can be roughly 2-3 months. Is it worth it at the end of the construction? According to our previous clients’ reviews, it is. We simply want to ensure that everyone knows just how chaotic and inconvenient it might be. After all, transparency is one of our family values. That being said, we’ve been doing this for quite some time, and have learned a few tricks to make the construction phase more bearable, especially in the kitchen. Preparedness is key, which is why we’ve created a list of 21 of our favorite freezer meals, plus a few desserts. But before you start drooling over our satisfying selections, first, we need to setup your makeshift kitchen and go over a few rules and how-tos for freezer meal prep!
Where to Begin?
Before construction can begin on your kitchen, everything must be removed. We mean everything. This means no stove or oven and the temporary relocation of your refrigerator. Some people will move it into their garage, while others simply shift it to their dining room. The key is to keep it accessible, but not where it will be in the way of your everyday living. As for the stove, you may feel like it means you have to say good-bye to warm home-cooked meals for the next three months.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Instead, you have three options. Option one: you can grill. A perfect choice for summer, and occasionally doable in winter (our President John is known to continue cooking on his grill even in the dead of winter). However, some people may not have a grill, or may not have mastered the skill of grilling. No judgement. Instead, you should consider option two: the crockpot and instant pot. A solution to give you hearty home-cooked meals, with little effort. The third option, a fan favorite: a microwave. This is great for reheating food, but also for making a quick side of steamed vegetables or pre-packaged meals. It’s perfect for those on the go or with little interest in meal prep.
Your best friend, above all else, will be the freezer. The freezer is your key to quick, homemade meals during construction. If you do it right, you can meal prep a few family favorites, such as the breakfast burritos and chicken nuggets listed below, before your oven and stove are out of commission. This way, you’ll have some family favorites readily at hand for a quick and easily reheatable meal. Another reason to love your freezer? You can meal prep the majority of the recipes listed below, freeze them, and then dump them in the crockpot when you’re ready to eat them. This will save you time in the long run, and hopefully make dinner and lunch a simple task. The freezer is also a great way to store leftovers! Some of our recipes below require being cooked in the crockpot first, before stowing it away in the freezer.
Before you can become a freezer meal prep master, you’ll need to ensure your make-shift kitchen is stockpiled with a few tools. Obviously, you’ll need your fridge, a microwave, and a crockpot (or Instant Pot). You will also need a prep space, such as your dining room or even just a coffee table.
As far as actual kitchenware goes, here’s our list of items to invest in or to remove from the boxes of your packed up kitchen:
- Paper plates and bowls: it will help save on cleanup, but if you would like to be environmentally conscious, save a few items of dishware that can be hand washed.
- Sharp knives for cutting
- Cutting board
- A few sets of utensils for your family
- A few mixing bowls
- Mixing spoon
- Gallon sized baggies (if you’re looking for a green alternative, check these out!)
- Cookie sheet
- Tupperware containers
- A few coffee mugs
- A Sharpie
- Blender and/or food processor
- Dish towels
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
There are a few other considerations for when you’re meal prepping. First, consider the amount of space in your freezer. Ensure there is enough room for the meals you stockpile. Second, make a meal plan. Write out what you think you will eat for each meal. Be sure to create a rotation of meals, and incorporate past favorites. This will help prevent your family from getting sick of the same three meals each week. Also, be sure to note occasional meals that you plan to go out to eat instead. This will also dispel the food boredom you could experience during these three months. As you write out your meal plan, create a grocery list to make shopping easier, as well as to help you keep an eye on your budget.
A Few Tips and Rules
If you’ve never meal prepped freezer meals, there are a few tips you need to know before you dive in. First, label every baggie you use with the contents or recipe title, as well as the date you prepared it. This is important because most freezer meals are only good for 2-3 months after the date of prep. It will also help you decipher which meal you’re cooking, especially if you have multiple prepared meals stocked in your freezer. As for shelf life, fruit has a shorter shelf-life than other ingredients. Often, for the best flavor, you should use it before one month, but can still eat it up to two months after prep date.
Many of the crockpot recipes require a liquid. Often, when that is the case, you won’t freeze the liquid, but will instead save it for the day you cook your meal in the crockpot. It is helpful to note this on that specific meal’s storage baggie. Each recipe should note if this is the case.
When you decide to cook a prepared frozen meal, be sure to remove it from the freezer and thaw it in the fridge for 24 hours, before placing it in the crockpot. If after you cook soup or chili, there are leftovers, it is safe to refreeze these meals. They make excellent grab and go lunches, and only require a microwave to reheat them.
Some recipes included are stoveless and ovenless, but require being cooked in a crockpot, before being frozen. When this is the case, often, it’s best practice to let it cool completely, before sectioning it into smaller servings. Freeze the smaller servings on a lined cookie sheet for an hour. After that hour, you can remove the frozen servings and place them in a baggy together. This process is to ensure that goodies, such as sticky buns or energy balls, won’t stick together. If it is a soup or chili, it still needs to be completely cool before you can put it in individual serving size Tupperware for freezing. Many of the recipes we included require no stove, there are, however, a few exceptions, and those will be noted.
- Breakfast Burritos (Requires oven)
- Crockpot Caramel Sticky Buns (Freeze after cooking in crockpot… if there are any left!)
- Mango, Berry & Banana Smoothie (Accompanying guide on how to make smoothie freezer packs)
- Crockpot Steel Cut Oats (Freezing instructions)
- No-Bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Oat Bars
- Banana Oat Muffins (Requires oven)
- Slow Cooker Mix and Match Breakfast Casserole
- Crockpot White Chicken Chili (Can freeze the leftovers!)
- Zuppa Toscana (Can freeze the leftovers!)
- Stuffed Peppers
- Roasted Tomato Bisque (Can freeze the leftovers!)
- Pizza Bomb (Cook first in oven, but may stock up on extras)
- Vegan BBQ Lentil Chili (Freezing Instructions can be found at option 4 in the article)
- Cool Ranch Shredded Chicken Tacos
- Slow Cooker Lemon Garlic Chicken Thighs (Freezing instructions are near the bottom of recipe page)
- Slow Cooker Curried Pork Chops
- Homemade Chicken Nuggets (Cook first in oven, then freeze and reheat in microwave for 90 seconds)
- Beef and Broccoli
- Pulled Pork
- Chicken Enchilada Casserole
- Pierogi and Sausage Casserole
- No-Bake Oreo Lasagna
- S’mores Ice Cream Bars (short shelf life of 1 week)
- No-Bake Frozen Cheesecake
- Raspberry Ice-Box Cake
- Pomegranate Yogurt Pops
- Frozen Yogurt Trail Mix Bars
- Chocolate Coconut Energy Balls
While we love these recipes, don’t be discouraged if there are some you don’t like, or if you feel like you need a better variety. The internet is full of great crockpot recipes just waiting for you to try. Not all of them are freezable, but many are. We hope that this helps alleviate even the smallest part of stress during your kitchen’s construction. Bon Appétit!