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*~ Create Your Own Frozen Dinners ~*

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Create Your Own Frozen Dinners

Healthier Meals that Save Time & Money

-- By Leanne Beattie, Health & Fitness Writer

You're busy. Whether you work full-time, attend college, care for a loved one, run a household—or all of the above—you don’t always have time to make yourself nutritious meals. Like many people who want to eat healthy on a budget, you probably rely on those handy frozen entrees to fill the gap. After all, they seem like a bargain compared to going out for lunch every day. 

But if you do the math, you're probably spending at least $60 per month for frozen meals that don’t taste that great and are processed, packaged, and preserved. Why not make your own frozen dinners and save the extra money? By using better quality ingredients and controlling the cooking method, you’ll always have a supply of quick and tasty meals on hand—foods you actually like to eat! 

Compared to store-bought, homemade frozen meals are:

  • Healthier. Many commercially-prepared foods are full of salt, artificial ingredients, preservatives and unhealthy fats. By making your own meals, you can control what goes into them and use quality ingredients like brown rice instead of white rice, organic vegetables instead of conventional, and olive oil instead of palm oil. 
  • Inexpensive. While a frozen meal may be cheaper than a restaurant bill, it's still more expensive than cooking from scratch. If you prepare your own meals with whole ingredients, you can save $100 a month or more. 
  • Time Savers. Making your own meals doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Set aside one day a month to cook a few recipes and you will have enough meals to last for weeks on end. You can even make cooking a social event by inviting some friends and sharing recipes—you’ll get to try something new while you chitchat with your buddies. 
  • Eco-Friendly. Frozen entrees are packed in plastic and cardboard that usually ends up in landfills. When you make and package your own foods, you can decrease your impact on the planet by using glass or plastic containers over and over again with little to no waste. 
  • Full of Variety. Prepackaged frozen meals don’t offer any flexibility—what you buy is what you get. While you might like some of the ingredients in the meal, not everything is going to appeal to you. But by creating your own, everything will be up to your taste level and standards—and you can change the menu, ingredients, and combinations any time!

The choice is yours. Preparing freezer-ready meals isn't a difficult task. To get started, use these meal-preparation and storage tips.

  • The containers you use to store your meals in should be both microwave- and freezer-safe. Both glass and plastic may work well, if they meet these standards (all glass and plastic containers are different). Another option is large freezer bags. Certain foods will freeze well in a bag, and can then be defrosted in the refrigerator, placed in a microwave-safe container, and then reheated.
  • Before portioning out cooked food into containers, allow it to cool completely first and always leave extra room at the top of to allow for expansion of the food during freezing.
  • Make sure food is wrapped well and/or covered with air-tight lids to prevent air from getting in.
  • Foods with high moisture content (such as soups) tend to freeze better than drier foods.
  • Don’t turn your food into a mystery science project. Use a permanent marker to label each dish with a name and a date. For maximum quality and flavor, use each meal within a couple of weeks. Just like in a store, rotate your stock so that the newest meals are in the back and the oldest are in the front for easy access.
  • Vegetables should be slightly undercooked to prevent them from becoming mushy when you reheat them.
  • Be careful about bacterial contamination. Completely cool hot food before freezing it to prevent the growth of bacteria. Bacteria can grow when the outside of food freezes while the inside remains warm.
  • If you’re not sure a meal will freeze well, cook and freeze only a small portion the first time. If the quality is okay, then go ahead and freeze more in the future.
  • Read your owner's manual to find the fill level that will keep your freezer running at peak energy efficiency. Certain freezers run best when completely full, while others shouldn't be filled more than half-way.
  • Consider posting a freezer inventory list nearby to track the meals (and dates) of everything in the freezer. Check off each item as you remove it and you will know exactly what foods are available at all times. This also prevents forgotten foods from going to waste.
  • Freezing your meals is a great way to keep foods longer, but frozen doesn’t mean forever. As a general rule, fruit and vegetables will stay freezer-fresh for around eight months, fish and shellfish for up to six months, and meat and poultry for three. Trust your instincts and throw out anything from the freezer that smells or tastes "off."
  • Don’t re-freeze defrosted foods because the taste and texture will decline and you could be risking bacterial contamination.

As a general rule, the following dishes tend to freeze well: baked goods, burgers (sometimes uncooked will freeze better), burritos, calzones, casseroles, cooked beans, cooked grains, egg rolls, enchiladas, French toast, quiche, lasagna, manicotti, mashed potatoes, meatballs and meatloaf, pancakes, pot pies, poultry, roasted meats, sauces, sloppy Joes, soup, stuffed shells, taco fillings, tofu, TVP, and waffles. Foods that do NOT freeze well include: egg- and cream-based sauces, instant rice, salad, stuffed poultry, hard-cooked eggs and fried foods. 

If you’re ready to start making your own frozen dinners, here are a few healthy SparkPeople recipes to get you started with flair! 

by on Apr. 11, 2011 at 8:30 PM
Replies (21-28):
by on Apr. 11, 2011 at 8:52 PM

Eggplant Taco Filling

Nutritional Info
  • Fat: 7.1g
  • Carbohydrates: 16.2g
  • Calories: 140.8
  • Protein: 4.5g


2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup eggplant, cut into cubes (1 med eggplant)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp shallots or onions, chopped
1 can cut tomatoes with green chilies, drained
1 cup black beans,drained
2 tsp low sodium taco seasoning mix


Heat oil on medium heat, saute' shallots and garlic for about 5 minutes. 
Add eggplant, cook for 5-8 minutes until fork tender. 
Slowly add tomatoes, beans and taco mix. 
Serve warm. 
Can use it as filling or for a taco salad. 

Number of Servings: 4
by on Apr. 11, 2011 at 8:53 PM

Whole Wheat Chicken Enchiladas

Nutritional Info
  • Fat: 10.8g
  • Carbohydrates: 25.2g
  • Calories: 324.0
  • Protein: 21.4g


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 can cream of chicken soup, reduced sodium and 98% fat free
1 can enchilada sauce
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
8 whole wheat tortillas, 96% fat free


Cut chicken into small bite size pieces. 
Cook chicken, onion, and garlic in pan until chicken is cooked through. 
Heat tortillas in microwave for 10-15 seconds. 
Fill each tortilla with chicken mixture, add some cheese and roll up. 
Place in a 9x13 pan. 
Combine soup and enchilada sauce mix until well blended. Pour this over enchiladas and cover with foil. 
Bake for 15 minutes in 375 degree oven. 
Remove foil; top with remaining cheese and continue baking for an addtional 5-10 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Number of Servings: 8
by on Apr. 11, 2011 at 9:10 PM

I never have the motivation to do this.

by on Apr. 11, 2011 at 9:16 PM

 What a clever idea, thanks for sharing

by on Sep. 15, 2011 at 12:08 AM

 Make Ahead Freezer Meals

by sherryincal Sep. 11, 2011 at 12:29 PM

by Luci on Sep. 15, 2011 at 8:07 AM

 I find it easy to just cook double meals, eat half and freeze half for later. A big time saver.

Quoting Kimberly954:

I never have the motivation to do this.


by Luci on Apr. 11, 2013 at 4:40 PM


BBQ Chicken Mini Pizzas

6 English muffins
1 cup BBQ Sauce (see following recipe)
3 cups cooked chopped chicken
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
3 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese

Split and toast English muffins. Spoon about 2 tablespoons BBQ Sauce onto each half. Top with chopped chicken. Sprinkle with chopped onion. Add sliced mushrooms and top with shredded cheese. Press down firmly. Place each mini pizza in a sandwich bag. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place in freezer just until frozen. Transfer wrapped pizzas to a gallon freezer bag. Label and freeze. 12 servings.

To Serve: Broil pizzas 4 inches from heat until lightly browned or heat in toaster oven.

by on Apr. 11, 2013 at 9:57 PM

I make a LOT of freezer meals now and am in a freezer meal swap. I love having dinner ready for me and just thaw and pop in the oven!

Favorites are chicken noodle casserole, chicken spaghetti, stuffed shells, stuffed peppers, meatballs, and crockpot ready meals!

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