We like to plan ahead whenever possible, and part of that is making our meals, food, and snacks ahead of time. Make-ahead meals help us not to have such a crazy time putting together a weeknight dinner so we can focus on other important things! Make Ahead Meals are also great for Sunday when we’d like a day off from the cooking.
An easy way to start having freezer meals is to double whatever you are making and freeze the leftovers for another week. I talk about this in my article Large Batch Cooking.
But don’t think that to make meals ahead, you have to freeze them. There are ways to make meals ahead for your fridge, freezer, pantry shelves, slow cooker, oven, or instant pot. The possibilities for making meals ahead of time is endless!
Making Meals Ahead
There are some easy, single-ingredient meals or basic meals that you can make in advance and freeze. Having these basics or parts of meals on hand can greatly reduce the stress on those busy weeknights. Some that we like to do are:
- Ground Beef
- Shredded Chicken
- Chili or Soups
- Cut Veggies (that can be put on a tray and roasted like carrots, sweet potatoes, potatoes, beets, or other root vegetables)
- Sauces (make your favorite stir fry sauce or other sauces in advance and freeze until later!)
Regular Meal Prep
We do meal prep each time we get groceries and don’t put away food we must prepare later. When you set aside a little time for this each time you bring home food, your supper plans on a busy night can go much smoother.
This doesn’t mean that we cook and freeze things; it just means that we wash, chop, or otherwise prep the fruits, veggies, or ingredients we bring home. Here are some things that I like to do:
- Chop lettuce for salads or tacos
- Cut broccoli or cauliflower heads into florets
- Slice mushrooms
- Slice bell peppers into sticks
- Cut up whole carrots
- Wash berries, grapes, and other fruit
- Slice oranges and apples
- Cut up chunks of zucchini or squash
All of these items get stored in see-through containers in the refrigerator until I put them into a meal.
Things I Don’t Make Ahead or Freeze
Here is a short list of a few of things that I don’t like to prep in advance or freeze.
- Pasta or Noodles (gluten-free pasta isn’t very good leftover or pre-made)
- Quinoa, or other grains (although occasionally I’ll freeze rice)
- Anything with cream, sour cream, or other heavy dairy components to the meal (these just don’t come out right, it’s better to add it in later)
- Anything with tortillas (like enchiladas…we don’t like soggy tortillas!)
What Are Some Make Ahead Meals?
Many foods don’t need a specific recipe but you can prep ingredients of or the entire thing in advance. Those are often the easiest ones to do. However, if you need some inspiration for meals specifically, here are some of our favorites.
Make Ahead Appetizer Recipes
Make Ahead Breakfast Recipes
Freezer Breakfast Sandwiches
Homemade Beef Sausage Patties
Instant Oatmeal Packets
Make Ahead Casserole (French Toast)
Simple Scone Mix Recipe
Homemade Pancake and Waffle Mix
Make Ahead Breakfasts for a Busy Season
Make Ahead Side Dish Recipes
Make Ahead Freezer Meal Recipes
Beef N Bean Burritos
Freezer Pizza Dough
Ranch Chicken Calzones
Freezer Cooking in a Hour
Make Ahead Casserole Recipes (5 Chicken Recipes)
Cheesy Chicken Crescents
Sausage and Peppers Meal in a Bag
Broccoli Cheese Soup Freezer Meal
BBQ Chicken Freezer Meal
Roast Beef and Green Beans Meal in a Bag
Make Ahead Dessert Recipes
Other Make Ahead Foods
Find more make ahead foods under my Homemade Mixes page.
Plan on freezer a lot? Use this handy chart to learn How Long Does Food Last in the Freezer?