One of my fool-proof tricks to creating easy, tasty, and healthy meals with little effort is to have a stash of pre-made condiments, sauces, and sides in my freezer. I like to think of it as my holy grail. These are my favorite easy-to-make-and-freeze-for-later mealtime freezer staples.
By creating meal components beforehand and freezing them, you can take any protein dish and make it into a five-star meal with the simple technique of cooking and dumping, topping, or smothering. Chef talk. It’s fancy….
Here are some scenarios to make easy dinners, with easy pre-made mealtime freezer staples!
Scenario #1: You just got home from soccer practice, dance rehearsal, piano lessons, and picking the dog up from the groomer. You’re tired, your kids are hungry and gremlin-like, and you only have ground beef in the fridge and a single head of lettuce.
Solution: Make burger wraps! Throw a few patties made from the ground beef on the skillet or grill. Thaw your previously frozen caramelized onions and bacon bits and top the burgers with these savory elements. Or brown the beef, add the caramelized onions, pour in a little coconut aminos, rice vinegar, and ground ginger, then throw in any vegetables you have, or the frozen cauliflower rice. Top with the bacon bits.
- 4-6 medium to large yellow onions
- olive oil
- balsamic vinegar
Slice the onions and place them all into a large saucepan. Add one tablespoon of olive oil per onion to the pan. Then add 3-4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar. Cook the onions on medium/high, evenly coating with the olive oil/balsamic mixture. Once the onions start to get translucent, turn the heat to medium/low and cook until they start to caramelize, mixing frequently. This will take roughly 30 minutes. Let the onions cool then store in an airtight container or mason jars in the freezer.
Cook an entire package of bacon in a large skillet. Once bacon is cooked, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Let the bacon cool, then cut into small square bits. Store in an airtight container or sealed plastic bag in the freezer.
Place a head of cauliflower into a food processor. Pulse until the cauliflower has transformed into small, rice-like pieces. Empty the rice into a large airtight container or a sealable plastic bag. Freeze. Add to any ground meat dishes with adequate sauces and seasoning, so the cauliflower rice can pick up the flavors. Or try this cauliflower fried rice!
Scenario #2: You just came back from a week-long work trip. You have nothing fresh in the fridge and only a few frozen chicken breasts in the freezer.
Solution: Low-Carb Taco bowls! Cook the thawed chicken either on the stovetop or pop them in the oven. Grab your pre-made salsa from the freezer and the cauliflower rice and thaw. Shred the chicken once it is cooked throughout. Pour the cauliflower rice in the skillet and add any spices like cumin and chili powder, and lime juice. Heat the cauliflower rice and add the previously frozen sliced peppers. Add the shredded chicken and homemade salsa in a bowl and devour.
Cup the tops off of the peppers and gut out the seeds. Cut into large slices and place in a sealable plastic bag. Upon serving, thaw the peppers and add to any dish as it’s heating, sautéing the peppers until soft.
Homemade salsa is such an easy homemade staple to have on hand. Totally customizable but typically includes tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers, cilantro and cumin. Here is one of my favorite salsa recipes from Kim’s Cravings.
- 6 tomatoes of varying sizes, chopped
- 4 small jalapeño peppers (leave the seeds in for an extra kick)
- ½ onion
- ¼ – 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1½ to 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice (about ½ lemon, juiced)
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and pulse until you reach the consistency preferred (chunky or smooth).
Scenario #3: You spent the day running around like a chicken with your head cut off – running errands (everything but getting groceries). You walk in the door at dinnertime and having a variety of random vegetables in your fridge but no fresh ideas.
Solution: 10-minute vegetable soup. Sauté any vegetables you have on hand with a little coconut oil or olive oil over medium/high heat. In the meantime, thaw your pre-made bone broth in the microwave, just enough for the liquid to run out of the jar. Pour the bone broth in a small pot. Once the vegetables are soft, add to the bone broth mixture. Add any meat leftovers if you have any.
Scenario #4: Your hubby went grocery shopping. He bought 2 steaks. That’s it.
Solution: Summon him to cook the steaks on the grill and thaw your pre-made pesto. Top the steaks with pesto and serve with your thawed mashed sweet potatoes.
I LOVE this pesto Danielle created from Against All Grain. It packs a punch a flavor, without the traditional parmesan cheese found in most pesto recipes. Pesto is also easily customizable. You can sub the pine nuts for almonds or cashews, and try using beets, kale, or avocado – whatever floats your boat!
- ¾ cup packed basil leaves
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts
- 1 garlic clove
- ¾ teaspoon lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Lightly toast the nuts in a skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes. Place all ingredients except for oil in a small food processor. Slowly incorporate the oil while the machine is running, until a smooth paste has formed. Continue blending for 15 seconds to thin the sauce out. Alternatively, crush all of the ingredients in a mortar and pestle and blend until smooth.
Mashed Sweet Potatoes:
- 2-4 large sweet potatoes
- at least 1/4 cup coconut milk (or almond milk)
- dash of salt
Poke small holes into each sweet potato and place on a microwaveable plate. Microwave on high for 4-7 minutes or until soft, depending on the size of the sweet potato. Let the potatoes cool, then cut into the potatoes and scrape out the insides, discarding the skin. Add coconut milk (at least 1/4 cup, depending on the amount of sweet potatoes you’ve made), and a little salt to taste. Mix well by hand or with a mixer, until light and creamy. Place mashed sweet potatoes in an airtight container and freeze.
Moral of this super long post? Pre-making some pretty easy sauces, condiments, and side dishes can be clutch during the frenzy of dinnertime. So next time your tomatoes are getting soft, make salsa. Onions sitting in our pantry for weeks? Make caramelized onions. Freeze and slice up veggies like peppers or throw that head of cauliflower in your food processor to freeze cauliflower rice. Basil plant blowing up? Make pesto and save it for later. Try making batches of you favorite marinara, or “mom’s secret recipe” sauce.
Dinner in a flash, with the help of a little creativity, prep work, and our friend, the freezer.
Want to take meal planning to the next level and save yourself some dough? Check out how you can avoid waste and save money on fresh produce and the seven healthy meal planning secrets.
Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine says
I always have tons of goodies in my freezer 😉 Bites, tons of baked goods, sauces, veggie burgers! It’s just so easy to heat up as needed!
I’m sure you have the motherland of all amazingness – no doubt! You’d make my freezer look like child’s play!
Nicole @ The Professional Mom Project says
These are fantastic ideas! I’m always looking for ways to make mealtimes easier, healthier and faster. I never thought about freezing chopped peppers, mashed sweet potatoes or cauliflower rice.
Sometimes the easiest ideas can be HUGE! Especially for busy mommas! Thanks Nicole – glad this is useful for you.
Ali @ Home & Plate says
These are great ideas for freezer staples. I may have to get busy in the kitchen. Always nice to have what you need handy.
So nice! And on those days when you’re like, “ugh what do I make?!” it just gives a sense of relief to know there are options to make a meal amazzzzzzing. Thanks Ali!
Kelly @theinspiredparent says
Great list of things to keep in the freezer to have on hand! Great post! 🙂
Thank you Kelly! Us mommas gotta plan ahead right?!
These are such great ideas! I’m all about having meals on hand for when you’re running late and don’t want to cook. Never thought of freezing salsa, but that’s a great one! And broth. Love it!
Thanks Cassie! Simplicity is the style to my life! Glad you were inspired by a few of these ideas!
Interesting concept with the condiments. I make most of my own condiments and do some freezer meals. Will be checking this out in more detail.
That’s so great! I love making my own condiments and sauces – I know EXACTLY what’s in them and it’s usually cheaper too!
I wish I had a larger refrigerator! I would freeze more things. I like to freeze curly parsley because I don’t use it that much, but like to have it around for a garnish in my photos. Ginger root is always in there too.
We lived with the little refrigerator freezer for so many years until finally getting a chest freezer. I never knew I could be so obsessed with having one! I love the parsley idea! I also keep ginger root in my freezer – great minds think alike!
Kate - Griggs and Woodward says
What a great idea to freeze ingredients you frequently use! I am always looking for mealtime shortcuts and htis is so much better than always using store bought in a pinch.
Yes so much better (healthier) and usually so much cheaper (YAY!). Thanks Kate!
Lara @MommyKazam says
This is an awesome idea! I love pre-making and freezing meals for busy days and this is a perfect compliment to that for when you don’t really need to break into your meal stash, but need a little heal <3
That meal stash can be precious cargo!!! Glad you found this post useful Lara!
Such a great resource! What would I do without my chest freezer?! That thing is STUFFED! 🙂
Quick question: when you make your own cauliflower rice, do you process the stems too? Or just the heads of the cauliflower? Thanks, and have a great weekend!!
OURS TOO! Now that I have one, I’m not sure what I’d do without it! To answer your question – yes I do process the stems. Just because I’m cheap and I want to get as much as I can from that cauliflower head!
Matt @ Plating Pixels says
Love these ideas. I try to keep frozen veggies stocked at all times since they store so well. Cooked bacon is one I’ll keep as well!
Glad this is helpful for you Matt! The frozen veggies ‘trick’ is so clutch – an totally avoids food waste too!
I never would have thought about doing this! There are so many times when I have no desire to cook after work,etc so this is great to remember!
Marlynn @ UrbanBlissLife says
Such a great list of freezer staples! We always have our freezer stocked with homemade sauces, stews, sides, etc. since our whole family is always on the go – it makes such a difference! – but there are a couple of items on your list that I didn’t even think about but are GREAT additions! Thank you!
You are soooo on top of your game Marlynn!! Having all those staples make such a difference – dinnertime that much easier. Glad this is helpful for you!
I love making a big batch of soup and freezing.
I do that ALL THE TIME too! It’s so nice to grab portioned containers for easy lunches to thaw and eat.
Denay DeGuzman says
Yay to the concept of having mealtime freezer staples all prepped and ready to go! In my fridge I usually have pesto and some type of seasonal salsa. But you just got me thinking about prepping onions and other veggies. That would make my life so much easier when it comes time to prepare yummy omelets in the morning and delicious homemade pizza at night. I really enjoy visiting your lovely blog and finding so many great ideas that inspire me. 🙂
You’re the best Denay! Great minds think alike – love that you have stocked pesto in your freezer too. Mmmmmm I love homemade pizza. What night do you typically do that, so I know when I can come crash… 😉
Christia Colquitt says
These are such great ideas. I am always trying to get ahead and make something extra for us to eat when I am already in the kitchen making a mess. Thank you for the inspiration. And for sharing with us at Faith Filled Parenting. Blessings!
Thanks Christia! Making a mess – SO a statement I can relate to! And thanks for hosting a great link-up!
Holly @ While I'm Waiting... says
Thank you for sharing at Faith Filled Parenting!
Thank you for hosting Holly!
Jess @hellotofit says
I never think about using my freezer this way…it’s usually just a hub for frozen fruits and meats from Costco!! Laughing to myself about your sample adventures in Costco…heheheh
Hey that works too! Gotta love Costco right?!
Such fantastic ideas! I never thought to freeze any of these items. It would seriously save so much time, especially for when things get busy. Thanks for making the little ight bulb go off in my head hehe
YES definite time savers!! Glad I could help Angela!