Last Updated on May 21, 2023 by Michael Brockbank
A lot of diets center around the frozen food section. Lean Cuisine and other brands offer a low-calorie meal that can help you shed the pounds. However, creating your own freezer meals could offer more than just a healthier alternative.
They can also save you a lot of money down the road.
Consider that all of these “best frozen meals” from major brands use processed foods. In some cases, the chicken parmesan is more akin to a thick piece of chicken-flavored cardboard with some tomato sauce on top.
In reality, you could make far better meals to satisfy your lunch and dinner needs. All that really matters is the meal prep and what you plan to eat this week.
Creating Your Own Freezer Meals
Making your own tv dinners is relatively easy. For the most part, it all comes down to what you want to make and the proper portion sizes. And because you can literally create any dish you want, you have far more options than what Lean Cuisine or Atkins has available in the freezer aisle.
And to be perfectly honest, I prefer the meals I prepare compared to brand-name dishes. The quality of the food is superior and it’s cheaper, overall.
So, let’s dive into creating the best frozen meals you can make.
Buying Containers for Your Freezer Meals
First, you’ll need reusable containers that you can toss into the freezer. For this, I use Bentgo 2-compartment meal prep containers. This is mostly because I usually cook two-dish lunches and dinners.
I’ve used quite a few Bentgo products in the past, and so far, I haven’t had a single problem with them. In this particular case, I use the microwave, dishwasher, and freezer-safe trays.
I tried using Mainstays meal prep trays once, but they warped and twisted after one cleaning cycle in the dishwasher. So, I’d stay away from cheapy Walmart knock-offs.
Bentgo has a lot of sizes and compartment selections for a myriad of purposes. In fact, tonight I’m using the four-compartment tray to prep a keto-friendly Lunchable alternative.
In any case, never underestimate the value of a good container when prepping meals for the week.
Consider Foods that Keep Well When Frozen
Unfortunately, not every type of food is going to keep well after being frozen. For instance, honey walnut shrimp tends to get a bit soggy and chewy after freezing. And some vegetables don’t maintain their “crispness.”
Such is the case with virtually every frozen dinner, though. You won’t find too many caramelized onions in a Lean Cuisine.
Virtually every meat will keep well in a freezer container. So, that’s not going to be an issue. It’s mostly your sides that will have an odd texture after being frozen and microwaved.
Then again, if you already like frozen dinners, you won’t really notice a difference. In fact, you might be pleasantly surprised by how well many things keep in the freezer.
When creating your freezer meals, you don’t want to use bread and breaded products that are covered in a sauce. As I said, the honey walnut shrimp doesn’t fair well mostly because of the bread that covers the shrimp.
Some of the things I’ve used for meal-prepping frozen dinners include:
- Some veggies (although they are somewhat soft and squishy)
- Chicken, Beef, and Pork (obviously)
Essentially, anything you can safely toss into the freezer for later can be used as easy freezer meals.
Learn a Few Recipes for Yourself
Now comes the tricky part. Not everyone is Chef Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen. But that’s ok because there are a lot of recipes out there today that even a teenager can follow.
Personally, I will cook the meats to my liking and then use pre-prepared sides, such as roasted garlic potatoes or chicken fried rice from Trader Joe’s.
I like to look through the recipe book I bought for my air fryer and see what I can whip up that is easy to freeze. Then, I’ll add something extra.
Probably one of the cheapest meals you can prepare is a serving of chicken and a serving of instant potatoes. Overall, it comes out to less than a dollar and is actually quite a bit of food compared to brand-name frozen meals.
The bottom line is that learning how to cook for yourself is often cheaper, has a higher nutritional quality, and is to your exacting standards for taste.
Pre-Prepared Meals Work Great
If you’re really against learning recipes, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using pre-prepared meals. In fact, I use Trader Joe’s a lot for the Kung Pao Chicken and Chicken Fried Rice bags.
Another two of my favorites are Tagliatelle and the Chicken Marsala from Costco.
The downside to using pre-packaged meals is that the cost will go up when you calculate the price per dish. For instance, it roughly costs $1.35 or so for the kung pao and rice meal that I love. Yet, it costs about $0.75 for the chicken and instant potatoes dish I mentioned earlier.
No matter how you slice it, this is a hell of a lot healthier and cheaper than hanging out at McDonald’s. And personally, I’d rather have kung pao than damn near any fast food out there.
Of course, this will depend greatly on where you do your shopping.
Use Correct Portion Sizes
Perhaps the most important aspect of creating your own freezer meals is proper portion size. This is where a lot of people have a misconception about how much they need to eat.
For instance, did you know a decently-sized portion of chicken breast is only 4 ounces? In reality, many restaurants will give you enough food to break down into four or five meals.
Take this into perspective: when preparing the kung pao chicken and rice meal, I use 1/2 cup of kung pao chicken and 2/3 cup of chicken fried rice. As you can see, that’s comparable to what you’d get from brand-name frozen dinners.
Overall, this dish is about 235 calories and only 29.5 grams of carbs. And it’s perhaps my favorite dish of everything from Trader Joe’s.
Before you ask, no, I don’t feel hungry after having this for lunch or dinner.
My point is that you need to use logical portion sizes when creating your own freezer meals. Especially if you’re trying to lose weight or save money.
Thanks to properly portioning out my food, I’ve cut my grocery bill by several hundred dollars each year while losing more than 80 pounds.
Leftover Freezer Meals are Awesome
If you’re cooking for a family, why not use the leftovers to store away for a microwavable meal later on? This is quite a common practice in my house.
The best part is that they can be taken virtually anywhere and “nuked” when it’s lunchtime. This makes it ideal for those who are ultra-busy, such as myself.
I’ve frozen leftover spaghetti and sauce, homemade mashed potatoes, homemade turkey noodle soup, and just about anything else I remember to store away in the freezer.
Plus, it’ll keep a hell of a lot longer than forgetting about it in the fridge. This is yet another way in which making your own freezer meals can save you money.
Did you know that people in the United States throw away more than $400 billion in food each year? By making my own freezer meals with proper portion sizes, it’s extremely rare that I throw away any kind of foodstuffs.
If you’re looking to lose weight, remember to measure out the proper portion sizes of your leftovers to keep the caloric intake low.
Cooking for Yourself Saves Money
As I’ve mentioned several times, creating your own frozen dinners can save you an incredible amount of money on groceries. This is especially true if you use recipes from scratch and measure out your portion sizes.
Even when you come across a $20, 5-pound bag of chicken at Walmart, it can actually be very cheap to portion it out properly and cook up your own dinner.
That’s one of the biggest reasons why Americans are so overweight. Between being grossly overfed and being lethargic, it’s no wonder how many of us can get to be so large.
Yes, I’m including myself as I am currently working on losing the last 40 pounds. And yes, pigging out on high-carb foods while being lazy contributed to me ballooning beyond 300.
One of these days, I’ll calculate how much money I’ve melted away at Taco Bell alone compared to my grocery budget today.
Examples of My Favorite Freezer Meals
In the future, we’ll have a section on the site for prepping frozen meals. It’s quite easy and will demonstrate how you can eat healthily without breaking the bank.
But for now, let me break down a couple of my favorites. Perhaps this can give you an idea of what to make for yourself.
Kung Pao Chicken and Chicken Fried Rice
As I’ve said many times, the Kung Pao Chicken and Chicken Fried Rice bags from Trader Joe’s are my favorite ways to make freezer meals.
Essentially, I follow the directions on each bag and cook them simultaneously on medium. They will cook and finish at roughly the same time – at around 10 minutes.
Then, I’ll scoop the 1/2 cup of kung pao into the smaller side of the Bentgo container and then 2/3 cup of chicken fried rice in the larger side. This makes a meal comparable in size to any “healthy” frozen meals you’ll find in the freezer aisle of your favorite grocery store.
This usually makes five meals’ worth of lunches.
Tagliatelle From Costco
Another one of my favorite dishes is tagliatelle from Costco. Once prepared, you can scoop up one cup for your freezer container. Although you might think one cup isn’t enough food, it’s actually quite a bit more than you might think.
The only downside I’ve come across with the tagliatelle is that sometimes the edges of the noodles will be a bit on the harder side after microwaving. Yet, it’s not enough for me to stop as it’s one of my favorite freezer meals to prepare.
The best part is that meals like this from Costco are incredibly easy to put together. Just follow the instructions and voila, you’ll get a pretty decent pasta.
It usually makes around five or so meals.
Chicken Marsala from Costco
Like the tagliatelle, chicken marsala from Fra’Mani at Costco is pretty easy to prepare. Though, I often like freezing it with something simple, like instant potatoes.
That’s because I am a huge fan of fake spuds. I don’t know what it is, but I could bathe in the potatoes at KFC.
The serving size on the package says about five ounces. That’s why I often mix it with something, as it’s only 130 calories per serving.
So, if I add a serving of instant potatoes, the chicken marsala freezer meal comes up to about 240 calories in total. And it’s exceptionally filling for me.
What Freezer Meals Are You Planning to Make?
It’s not overly difficult or expensive to make the best frozen meals you’ll ever have. It really comes down to your ability to cook, measure, or basically prepare any food type you want to eat later on.
Just remember that not all foods keep very well in the freezer. Some things just don’t have the longevity of others. That’s why I stopped freezing honey walnut shrimp.
So, what kind of meals are you planning to freeze?