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Stock Your Freezer With These Easy Meal-Starters

Created March 31, 2020
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Need a dinner plan? We’ll do you one better. Pick one of the big-batch recipes below for a start on tonight’s dinner, plus a jump on next week’s too.
Figuring out what to make for dinner every night becomes a lot less stressful when there are tasty already-cooked components waiting for you in the freezer. With a basic meal-starter, like tomato sauce, you can mix and match with the other ingredients you’ve got on hand. Turn that sauce into a pasta dish one night, a pizza sauce on another and a soup on yet another. So, whether you’re looking for a make-ahead chicken recipe that’ll save you from stopping to pick up a rotisserie bird on a hectic weeknight or a pulled pork recipe that’ll keep your meat-loving family eating sandwiches and so much more—we’ve got 9 ways for you to stock your freezer with starters that keep dinner on track!
make ahead oven roasted pulled pork

Get a jump on your favorite pork recipes by slow-roasting a pork shoulder ahead of time and freezing in 2-cup portions. Then you’ll be set to make everything from sandwiches to this indulgent Barbecued Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese. If you want something extra special, we recommend Creamy Pulled Pork Pasta with Caramelized Onions, Mushrooms and Arugula and when you want to switch up your routine, try Jamaican Loaded Baked Sweet Potatoes with Pulled Pork and Mango Rum Salsa.

slow cooker make ahead chicken

Cooked chicken is a way out of any number of dinner jams as anyone who’s ever stopped at the grocery for a rotisserie chicken knows. This recipe will let you skip that stop and simply open the freezer instead. Thighs cook up tender, shred easily and keep well. Make this recipe and you’re only a quick thaw away from Grandma’s Chicken Casserole or Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas, not to mention any number of sandwiches, pasta salads, tacos and so on!

Slow Cooker Make Ahead Beef

Beef chuck roast turns tender after a long, slow cook. We love this recipe because it’s mildly flavored enough to work in any number of dishes. Use it in place of ground beef, mix it with barbecue sauce and serve on buns or toss with pasta. We absolutely love mixing it together with Tex-Mex spices—grab your packet of Old El Paso™ taco seasoning—making a little queso and serving it on nachos, give this a try with this recipe for Slow-Cooker Beef Barbacoa Nachos with Queso.

freezer friendly turkey meatballs

These tender turkey meatballs can go straight from your freezer to the pan, no thawing required, making 30-minute meals easy and enticing. Ground turkey is one of our favorite meats to use when we’re counting calories, because it’s easy to cook with and tastes great in any number of dishes, including: Homestyle Turkey Meatball Subs and Turkey Meatball Tacos. You could even swap these into our Swedish Meatball Noodle Bake recipe for a lighter take.

make ahead roasted roma tomato sauce

Enjoy rich, summery tomato flavor year-round with a stash of this velvety, versatile roasted Roma tomato sauce in your freezer. This recipe will yield about 8 cups, which means you’ll have enough sauce to enjoy all of these favorite recipes: Spaghetti Pizza, Chicken Parmesan Skillet Casserole and Pulled-Pork Tomato Mole Enchiladas.

easy sheet pan meatballs

Mess-free meatballs? These are as close as you’re going to get. Just pat the meat mixture in a pan, bake, and they're ready in 35 minutes. Once your meatballs are cooked through, they’re ready to be combined with your spaghetti and pasta sauce but that’s not all. We love folding them into Dump-and-Go Meatball Lasagna and Italian Meatball Hoagie Braids or making them into an extra-impressive appetizer with this Game Day Crescent Meatball Sliders recipe.

make ahead ground beef

Enjoy an easy shortcut to your favorite ground beef recipes with a back-up stash of this pre-cooked meat mixture in your freezer. Two cups equals one pound of cooked ground beef, so substitutions are super simple. Use your beef to make French-Onion Shepherd’s Pie Skillet, Stuffed Peppers (or even easier, Stuffed Pepper Casserole) or One-Pot Cheesy Chili-Mac.

make ahead seasoned ground beef and sausage

Hearty ground beef, rich ground pork and aromatic onions are the bedrock of many tasty sauces, casseroles and meatball recipes. So why not cook up this trio and guarantee yourself any number of delicious future dinners. Use it in any recipe that calls for Italian sausage. We love it the absolutely unbeatable Tomato-Alfredo Baked Ziti, as well as in Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup and Sausage Mushroom and Spinach Pizza Braids.

make ahead mexican ground beef

Taco night is guaranteed when you’ve got a couple containers of rich and zesty Mexican-seasoned ground beef tucked away in your freezer! Pull off this get-ahead-of-the-game recipe with 30 minutes and two ingredients, and you’ll be set up to make all sorts of winner dinners. A few of our favorite ways to use this, include Easy Oven-Baked Beef Tacos, Chili and Make-Ahead Beef and Bean Burritos (this recipe makes 8 burritos, so eat some tonight and freeze the rest for later).

With a stash of make-ahead meal-starters in your freezer, you'll never be stuck wondering "What should I make for dinner?" again.