20 Make-Ahead Family Recipes

Chicken Noodle Soup
Photo: JENNIFER CAUSEY

Feeling the dinner crunch? Turn to these make-ahead meals for a crowd (or a small group) that are totally freezer-friendly. Many of these dishes, such as sweet potato and bean burritos and crispy chicken cutlets, can be safely frozen for months at a time and defrosted (and eaten!) in a matter of hours. Click through for a bevy of recipes that are perfect for those nights when you need to get a delicious meal on the table in no time.

01 of 20

Oven-Baked Fish Sticks

Oven-Baked Fish Sticks
Marcus Nilsson

Coat the fish in seasoned bread crumbs, then freeze. To cook, bake until crisp and opaque throughout, about 20 minutes.

02 of 20

Decadent Mac and Cheese

Decadent Mac and Cheese
Jen Causey

Believe it or not, this decadent dish is a great candidate for the freezer, if you freeze it correctly. The best way to freeze this rich meal is to cook it according to the recipe, let it cool completely, then wrap the dish tightly in plastic wrap and foil and pop it in the freezer. It will stay fresh for about three months.

When you're ready to eat the mac and cheese, be sure to let it defrost first. Once it's defrosted, remove the plastic wrap and re-cover the dish with the foil. Then, bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until it's warmed through, and you're good to go!

03 of 20

Chicken Noodle Soup

chicken-noodle-soup-0219big tout
Jennifer Causey

This classic soup, which is a must during cold and flu season, freezes surprisingly well and will keep for about four to six months in the freezer if it's stored in airtight food storage containers. For the best results, freeze it without noodles and just add in some freshly cooked pasta once you defrost the rest of the soup. While the previously frozen noodles won't go bad, they may be a bit mushier than you like if you freeze them with the broth.

04 of 20

Sweet Potato and Bean Burritos With Corn Salsa

Sweet Potato and Bean Burritos With Corn Salsa
Jennifer Causey

Instead of purchasing any of those frozen burritos, make your own and freeze it! These burritos are stuffed with crisp-tender shoestring sweet potatoes, fresh tomato-corn salsa, beans, and, of course, plenty of cheese. Pro tip: Make sure all of the ingredients are thoroughly cooled before you roll them up to prevent the burritos from getting soggy in the freezer.

05 of 20

Baked Spaghetti and Meatballs

Baked Spaghetti and Meatballs
Marcus Nilsson

Since tomato sauce freezes well, it's no surprise that this dish, which is filled with the classic Italian topper, freezes well too. Freeze it as you would mac and cheese, and defrost and reheat it the same way as well. If frozen properly, this dish will stay fresh for about six months, just garnish it with fresh basil when you're ready to eat.

06 of 20

Sweet Potato and Gruyère Turnovers

sweet potato and Gruyère turnovers
Hans Gissinger

These stuffed pastry pockets make a great handheld snack. Make a batch and freeze for a quick anytime nosh.

07 of 20

Cottage Pie

Cottage Pie
Jonny Valiant

Filled with potatoes, beef, and butternut squash, this stick-to-your-ribs casserole can be assembled and frozen up to three months in advance.

08 of 20

Winter Lentil Soup

Winter Lentil Soup
Kana Okada

This hearty winter soup freezes and thaws splendidly. The best way to freeze any leftover soup is to transfer it to resealable plastic bags and stack them flat in the freezer to save space. When you're ready to eat more soup, simply thaw in the refrigerator overnight and reheat it on the stove until it's warmed through.

09 of 20

Turkey-and-Rice Meatballs

Turkey-and-Rice Meatballs Recipe
Caitlin Bensel

These meatballs, which are made of turkey, rice, olive oil, and seasoning, are easy to freeze and work well in a variety of dishes. Make them with the salad that's included as part of this recipe, or serve them stirred into a brothy soup, twirled into pasta, or beneath a blanket of melted cheese atop a garlic-rubbed roll. You can't go wrong!

10 of 20

Slow-Cooker Black Bean and Zucchini Chili

Slow-Cooker Black Bean and Zucchini Chili
Anna Williams

As any chili fan knows, this game day favorite is a great meal to freeze. It'll stay fresh in the freezer for up to six months, and can be defrosted and reheated in a slow cooker on low in the microwave. Once your chili is thoroughly reheated, go ahead and garnish it with sour cream, shredded cheese, sliced avocado, and any other fixings you like.

11 of 20

Crispy Chicken Cutlets

crispy chicken cutlets recipes plate blue
Jennifer Causey

These cutlets take just 40 minutes to make, and if you happen to have any leftovers, feel free to freeze 'em. The best way to freeze these tasty, crispy cutlets is to place them on a baking sheet and pop them in the freezer for about an hour. Once they're frozen, transfer them to an airtight food storage container with parchment paper between each cutlet. They'll stay fresh in the freezer for about three months, and go great with a fresh salad, a side of pasta, or grilled vegetables.

12 of 20

Green Chile Enchiladas

Green Chile Enchiladas Recipe
Caitlin Bensel

These vegetarian enchiladas are filled with a cumin-spiced vegetable and bean mixture, which becomes deeply caramelized and savory after a long sauté. They are then baked in spicy green sauce and a blanket of melty cheese. The easiest way to freeze this delicious meal is to do so before you pop it in the oven. Just be sure to cover the enchiladas with aluminum foil in an oven-proof dish so you can cook them straight from frozen once you're ready to chow down. They'll keep in the freezer for about three months.

13 of 20

Sausage and White Bean Casserole

Sausage and White Bean Casserole
Jose Picayo

You can make this simple version of a classic French cassoulet—with carrots, Swiss chard, and a bread crumb topping—up to two days in advance.

14 of 20

Fajita Burgers

Fajita Burgers Recipe
Caitlin Bensel

These flavorful burgers combine typical beef patties with Tex-Mex spices, creating a meal that's both delicious and easy to prepare. To freeze the uncooked patties, place them on a baking sheet and pop them in the freezer until they are firm. Then, wrap each burger in plastic and put all of them in a resealable freezer bag, where they will last for about two months. Allow them to thaw in the refrigerator overnight before you cook them, and while they cook you can whip up the sautéed bell pepper and onion mixture, as well as the avocado spread.

15 of 20

Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna

Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna
Jonny Valiant

This lasagna, which is filled with tender mushrooms and silky wilted spinach in a cream sauce, can be frozen and stored in the freezer for up to three months. For the best results, freeze the lasagna after it's assembled but before it has been baked. That way, the cheese and noodles will be able to better maintain their texture.

16 of 20

Lasagna

Easy pasta recipes - Classic Lasagna
Natasia Hanratty

In the mood for a more traditional take on lasagna? Try this recipe and freeze it as you would the above mushroom and spinach version.

17 of 20

Shawarma-Spiced Chicken Thighs

Shawarma-Spiced Chicken Thighs
Greg DuPree

Any cut of cooked chicken can be safely kept in the freezer for three to four months, which means these flavorful chicken thighs will freeze well. If you can, freeze individual portions so they can be defrosted and eaten easily. With this particular recipe, make the creamy garlic-yogurt sauce and browned onions once you're ready to eat.

18 of 20

Sausage, Cauliflower, and Kale Potpie

Sausage, Cauliflower, and Kale Potpie
Jonny Valiant

Delicious and easy, the casserole may be assembled (except for the puff pastry) and refrigerated up to one day in advance.

19 of 20

Chicken Posole

Chicken Posole
Dana Gallagher

This fresh, spicy Mexican chicken soup is a meal in itself when served with tortilla chips, chopped avocado, and sliced radishes. For extra-easy re-serving, freeze leftovers in individual portions and let thaw in the refrigerator the night before you serve them.

20 of 20

Spinach-and-Lamb Meatballs

top view of six Spinach and Lamb Meatballs, one cut in half on white plate with a metal fork
Jennifer Causey

Freeze these flavorful meatballs raw or after they have been baked and pop them into sandwiches, soups, pasta dishes, or use them to make kebabs. They'll stay fresh in the freezer for approximately three to four months.

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