This Is The Easiest, Cheapest Way To Cook A Month's Worth Of Dinners

Being a meal prep pro is one of our top cooking #goals. But, making time on a Sunday to get ready for the week ahead isn't always manageable. And sometimes we inevitably find ourselves in a meal prep pickle, which is when we turn right back to our usual food-ordering ways.
That's where the most underrated cooking gadget of all time comes in. Yes, we're talking about the freezer. Instead of cooking meals just for the week, what if we could plan further in advance for two weeks from now or even a whole month ahead of time?! It might sound overwhelming, but it's actually easy to pull off when you make your very own freezer meals. All you have to do is cook some big-batch freezer-friendly dishes, let them cool, and freeze them in individual containers. Then when you're ready to eat, just put one of the containers in the fridge the night before (to give it time to defrost) or zap it in a microwaveable dish.
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Ahead, find four large format recipes that are all perfect for the freezer. If you make them all at once, you'll have enough food to feed yourself at least a month's worth of lunches and dinners. Or, make them separately as backup for when you're having a particularly busy week. Either way, you might just end up swearing off store-bought frozen meals for the foreseeable future.
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Photographed by Ted Cavanaugh; Food styling by Victoria Granof; Prop styling by Megumi Emoto.
Stock up on meatballs and sauce for a comforting meal any day of the week.

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Photographed by Ted Cavanaugh; Food styling by Victoria Granof; Prop styling by Megumi Emoto.
Cheesy Turkey Meatballs & Sauce
Makes 24 large meatballs
Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes, plus freezing


Ingredients
1 cup dry breadcrumbs
1 cup whole milk
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan, Pecorino, and Asiago blend, plus more for serving
2 1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, finely chopped
1 tsp ground black pepper
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 pounds ground turkey
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
Cooking spray
10 cups favorite prepared tomato sauce

Instructions
1. In a large bowl, combine breadcrumbs and milk. Let sit 2 minutes. Fold in ricotta, cheese blend, salt, garlic powder, fennel seed, pepper, and eggs until completely incorporated. Add turkey and parsley and mix just until evenly combined.

2. Preheat oven to 500°F. Using two spoons or a spring-loaded scoop, drop mixture by the 1/4 cupful onto parchment-lined greased baking sheet. Portions can be rolled with greased hands for a more perfectly round shape, if desired. Spray meatballs with cooking spray and bake until lightly browned and cooked through, 8-10 minutes. Let cool completely then transfer baking sheet to freezer. Freeze meatballs until solid, about 3 hours. Transfer meatballs to a freezer proof zip top bag or container.
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Photographed by Ted Cavanaugh; Food styling by Victoria Granof; Prop styling by Megumi Emoto.
We may have outgrown dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets, but not this slightly more adult take on the dish!

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Photographed by Ted Cavanaugh; Food styling by Victoria Granof; Prop styling by Megumi Emoto.
Crispy Chicken Cutlets with Roasted Squash and Pesto
Makes 8 servings
Active time: 25 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes, plus freezing


Ingredients
3 cups panko breadcrumbs
6 tbsp olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper
4 acorn squash, halved, seeded, cut into 1-inch wedges
2/3 cup flour
3 large eggs, beaten
8 chicken cutlets (about 2 3/4 pound total)
1 cup prepared pesto

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 400° F. On a rimmed baking sheet, combine panko, 3 tablespoons olive oil, and 1 teaspoon salt. Spread mixture in an even layer and bake, stirring every 4 minutes, until evenly golden brown, 12 minutes. Let cool completely then crush slightly.

2. Place flour and eggs in two separate wide dishes. Dredge each cutlet first through flour, then egg, then panko. Arrange cutlets in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Transfer sheet to freezer and freeze cutlets until hard, at least 2 hours. Transfer to a gallon zip top plastic bag with parchment between each cutlet.

3. Meanwhile, arrange squash in single layer on rimmed baking sheets and toss with remaining oil. Season with salt and pepper and bake, flipping halfway through, until tender and browned, about 20 minutes.

4. Let cool completely then transfer to a freezer zip top gallon bag. Add pesto and turn to coat. Seal bag, pressing out as much air as possible and pushing squash into an even layer. Place flat in freezer and freeze at least 2 hours.
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Photographed by Ted Cavanaugh; Food styling by Victoria Granof; Prop styling by Megumi Emoto.
Sure chili takes a time commitment so it can simmer away on the stove, but if you make a big batch and freeze the rest, it's 100% worth it.

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Photographed by Ted Cavanaugh; Food styling by Victoria Granof; Prop styling by Megumi Emoto.
Pork Chili Verde
Serves 8-10
Active time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes, plus freezing


Ingredients
2 lbs. tomatillos, husked and halved
1 bunch cilantro, long stems removed
2 jalapeños, stems removed, halved
4 cups chicken broth, divided
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 lbs. boneless pork stew meat, 1-inch pieces
Salt and pepper
1 large yellow onion, diced medium
6 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

Instructions
1. In a blender, combine tomatillos, cilantro, jalapeño, and 2 cups chicken broth. Blend until mostly smooth.

2. In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high. Working in two batches, season pork liberally with salt and pepper and brown on all sides. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Add tomatillo purée and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until pork is tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

3. Add potatoes and remaining 2 cups broth and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes longer. Adjust seasoning and divide among freezer proof containers. Place lids askew on top of containers and let cool completely. Seal containers and transfer to freezer.
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Photographed by Ted Cavanaugh; Food styling by Victoria Granof; Prop styling by Megumi Emoto.
This hearty stew will feed a crowd or if you freeze it in indiviudal containers, it makes a whole lot of weekday lunches and dinners.

Get the recipe, ahead.
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Photographed by Ted Cavanaugh; Food styling by Victoria Granof; Prop styling by Megumi Emoto.
Easy Kale Stew With Chorizo & Black Beans
Serves 8-10
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 5 minutes, plus freezing


Instructions
8 oz. Spanish chorizo, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, diced medium
5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 large red bell peppers, stems and seeds removed, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 lb. (2 containers 8 oz. each) chopped kale
8 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper
3 cans (15.5 ounces each) black beans, drained and rinsed

Instructions
1. In a large pot, combine chorizo and oil over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until chorizo releases some of its oils and begins to crisp, about 3 minutes.

2. Add onion, garlic, and bell pepper and cook until vegetables have softened, about 4 minutes. Add kale and cook, stirring frequently, until wilted, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, add broth and bring to a boil.

3. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until kale is mostly tender, about 40 minutes. Add beans and cook an additional 10 minutes.

4. Divide among freezer containers and set lids askew on top. Let cool completely. Seal containers and place in freezer.