Growing up, I begged my mother to let me eat frozen dinners. All the kids I knew at school devoured their tuna noodle casserole, meatloaf, or fried chicken with the neat-o blueberry cake on a folding tray in front of the TV. Me? I had to sit at our kitchen snack bar that my dad built, staring down at a plate of octopus stew.

The concept of frozen food was foreign to my mom. She cooked every day, and we ate what she made. Period. And if it was too much food, tubs of Tupperware were shuttled to aunts, uncles, cousins, or grandparents.

Even today, I can’t recall one meal she made and froze for later.

On the other hand, the One and I use our chest freezer so much we have to place dumbells from the never-used weight set on the cover to keep it closed.

Made extra chicken in red wine? Freeze it. Saved a bundle on pork shoulder? Braise it with beans and sausage and Freeze it. Making a white chocolate cake? Make three and freeze two.

These 11 easy meals are large enough and hearty enough to freeze so that you and yours can have a lip-smackin’ dinner in the time it takes to for you to mix a cocktail or three, watch an episode of “The White Lotus,” or pick the kids up from soccer practice.

(No octopus included.)


The word "David" written in script.
Many prepared potato gnocchi on a floured kitchen towel, with a mound of gnocchi dough in the background.
Edward Park
1 of 11

Homemade Potato Gnocchi

These homemade potato gnocchi are the best version of this Italian classic we've ever had. They're made with russet potatoes, flour, egg, and salt and are like little pillows of potato heaven. Four ingredients. Ridiculously easy. Wonderfully inexpensive.
A metal baking dish filled with the Pioneer Woman's favorite lasagna on a wooden table.
2 of 11

The Pioneer Woman’s Lasagna

The Pioneer Woman's lasagna recipe highlights how easy it can be to make a crowd- (and kid-) pleasing lasagna. No unusual ingredients, just meat, cheese, noodles, and more cheese. It's doggone delicious.

This is the lasagna I’ve been making for about 10 years. It is, hands-down, my favorite lasagna! It’s always a hit at family gatherings and potlucks.

jennifer v.
Three resealable plastic bags filled with freezer tomato sauce.
Deirdre Rooney
3 of 11

Freezer Tomato Sauce

This freezer tomato sauce is a simple homemade spaghetti sauce made with that glut of garden tomatoes. Stash it in the freezer now, and thank yourself later.
A white bowl filled with chili, with shredded cheese on top, and a spoon and two pieces of cornbread on the side.
4 of 11

Easy Chili

This easy chili recipe is quick and makes a big batch you can stash in the freezer and thaw whenever you have a mad-crazy craving.

Five stars for this versatile chili recipe! I made a half batch and had three packages to freeze after serving it for dinner with sweet potato cornbread. I kept it thick and used the masa because I can always add liquid to thin out leftovers. Looking forward to future chili dogs and nachos.

deb l.
A rectangular dish of easy chicken enchiladas with a spatula resting in the dish and a couple enchiladas on a grey plate beside it.
America’s Test Kitchen
5 of 11

Easy Chicken Enchiladas

These easy chicken enchiladas from America's Test Kitchen are made right in your toaster oven. Rotisserie chicken, cheese, spices, and tomato sauce come together as quickly and irresistibly as possible.
Butternut squash soup in a blue pottery bowl with a slice of rustic bread being dipped into it.
6 of 11

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

This butternut squash soup, made easy by blending roasted winter squash with sage and drizzled with heavy cream or crème fraîche, is quick, easy, and healthy. Not to mention delicious. Consider yourself warned.

This butternut squash soup is so simple to make that it feels like “cheating” because it’s so elegant. The roasting of the squash adds a mildly nutty flavor that gently offsets the sweetness of the flesh inside. An excellent starter for fall menus.

karis v.
A best burger tucked inside a burger bun, topped with mushrooms, cheese, and caramelized onion.
Alanna Hale
7 of 11

Best Burger

This best burger got its name for very good reasons. It's made with a mix of short ribs, brisket, and chuck for an incredibly juicy burger experience that's rich and lovely enough to serve naked. Although, you can dress it with your favorite condiments if you must.
A tray of unbaked bbq meatballs with a set of measuring spoons beside it and a bowl of barbecue sauce in the background.
Jerrelle Guy
8 of 11

BBQ Meatballs

These BBQ meatballs are tossed in the crockpot or oven (translation: no stovetop spattering to clean up) and slathered in a homemade molasses barbecue sauce. Here's how to make them.

I made these last night. They were juicy and not dry! I’m so bad at meatballs, but this turned out perfect, and I’m not a very good cook. They were so easy and tasty that everyone liked them, which is hard in this house! I will definitely make them again.

kathryn t.
A bowl of pork tinga--pork stewed with tomatoes and chipotle peppers, along with bowls of lemon, sour cream, cilantro, cheese on a table.
Laura Edwards
9 of 11

Pork Tinga

Pork tinga, an authentic Mexican dish, is a slowly simmered pork stew made with roasted tomatoes, chipotle chiles, chorizo, and onions. When topped with avocado, sour cream, cilantro, queso fresco, and lime, it's comfort food at its finest.
Five hand pies on a parchment-lined baking sheet with a spatula lifting one off.
Andrew Scrivani
10 of 11

Hand Pies

These hand pies are easy to make and satisfy your cravings by swapping in whatever you want for the filling. Apple. Peach. Cherry. Chocolate. Nutella. Surprise us. Surprise yourself.

Easy-peasy! I do cheat a little with the filling, though . . . I use frozen peaches, cherries, etc., instead of fresh ones because it is soooo much easier to throw together. I make mine small (3-inch pies) so we don’t feel so guilty. I also use the drained peach (or cherry) juice to make the thin icing to top them, along with a 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract. They are sooo good and freeze exceptionally well.

Balls of frozen chocolate chip cookie dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Lindsay Landis
11 of 11
This frozen chocolate-chip cookie dough ensures you can have one or a dozen warm cookies whenever you like. The freezing only adds a few minutes to the original bake time, so it's almost instant gratification.


What’s the best way to freeze food for long-term storage?

To avoid freezer burn, we recommend storing your food in airtight containers. If this isn’t an option, wrap the food in freezer wrap and then again in foil, making sure none of the food is exposed to air. Resealable bags are also an excellent option for homemade soups.

How should I thaw my frozen foods?

Many freezer meals need to be thawed before cooking. For best results, thaw your meal in the refrigerator overnight. Avoid thawing foods on the counter as it can result in spoilage or bacteria growth.

How long do frozen meals last in the freezer?

Most food can be safely frozen without developing freezer burn for 3 to 6 months if stored in an airtight container or bag.

What are your favorite meals to keep stashed in the freezer for those busy weeknights or lazy weekends? Let us know in a comment below.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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  1. If the article hasn’t been done already, there definitely should be one about getting over the stigma of frozen food. It is not an easy one, and it has taken the past two or so years for me really get over it (three guesses why….). That was aside from keeping the meat cold until I needed it, or some frozen peas to pad out a meal – possibly the one time I would shun the fresh version.

    It took me realising how much I could save with a few different tweaks to purchasing habits. Those berries can get furry too quickly, and I saw several fitness YouTubers utilise frozen fruits in their protein smoothies. I long missed the creaminess of ice cream in smoothies, and this was a good half-way compromise.

    Mixed frozen vegetables also work, where it is one time that convenience doesn’t come with a price tag. Those also help at a short notice, not needing to wash, peel, and dice whatever you have in the fridge ….. that haven’t turned into a hairy mess. That is especially with anything leafy and green. So many one-pot meals, and slow cooker meals, have had that benefit of a bit of this getting thrown in to plump it up.

    Most of the pasta that I use is the dried variety. What I can envision is freezing all those tortellini and ravioli for later with a pasta sauce. Heck, I’ve utilised countless dumplings to plump up the many instant noodle meals I’ve had in the past five years. Those, and Thai fish cakes. The frozen section can actually be a passport for weird and wonderful morsels from around the world; I got some Brazilian cheese breads at the local fruit barn, those were pretty good. Plus seeing paneer cheese in the same section convinced me to try cooking a paneer curry at home – that turned out nice.

    And, yes, we can’t fully ignore it either. Why there is the stigma to the frozen aisle – all those junk foods that adorn it. We are talking the fish fingers, the hot pockets, the chicken nuggets (you’re never too old, damnit! I’ll get the dino-shape next time), the TV dinners, pizzas et al. While none of these are the best for your health, my focus has more been about making the weekly plan cheaper bit by bit along with getting in some efficiency. The straw breaking the camel’s back doesn’t have to always mean a fatal blow; there is that one little push you need for encouragement.

    I’ve touted Beryl Sherehewsky on here beforehand, and I point again to her episode on Midwestern cooking. All those “cream of [x] soups” (you still can’t convince me to use them, though), pickled vegetables, jellies, packet mixtures (e.g. Ranch, taco seasoning), canned foods (not just beans, coconut cream, and tomatoes, but also corn and mushrooms, and green beans among others), and (well, it is the topic here) frozen items are needed for when the weather is suboptimal to grow anything. That also applies to Scandanavia, and many island nations – even if the latter have wonderful sunshine year round. I did a couple of recipes that used potato gems as a topping as a result of her videos.

    Overall, frozen food is something that requires coming around to in one way or another. Between trying to be independent, working volatile shifts at work, keeping the bulking at the gym in mind, and trying to stay somewhat healthy, the frozen section is possibly a step up from too much UberEats. And boy, I have gone through some stages with them (more MenuLog Down Under). With many possibly thinking I am a confirmed bachelor, using all these tips and tricks to surprise them is a good weapon for the arsenal – though my family already knows I can cook well.

    Let’s also not forget freezing all those scraps to make cheaper vegetable stocks. One of these days I will stop being an Underpants Gnome and get beyond the collection process. But, hey! A decade ago I wouldn’t imagine my cooking repetiore would be where it is at today.