25 Emergency Freezer Meals for the Holidays
The holiday season is here, and as you know, it’s about to get B-U-S-Y. With school activities, family visits, holiday work parties, and countless other events, your fall and winter schedule will fill up fast. But just because you’ve had something penciled in for months doesn’t mean that plans don’t change. These freezer recipes are here to save you when plans shift this holiday season. Surprise visit from the neighbors? Set out some appetizer meatballs you had stocked up in the freezer. Kids decide to have company spend the night after the football game? Grab some homemade enchiladas or sloppy Joes from the freezer. Dinner plans canceled? No worries—a homemade dinner is in the freezer. Whether you prep make-ahead freezer meals or freeze leftovers from a big dinner, these delicious dishes are here for you. Recipes that freeze well, like hamburger steak, baked ziti, or chicken pot pie, are great to have on-hand all holiday season. Of course, comforting fall soups are some of the best freezer recipes for cold nights, and it wouldn’t be winter without a cozy beef stew night. Casseroles are always an easy option to freeze, and with casseroles that freeze well like turkey-noodle-poppyseed casserole and creamy chicken Alfredo casserole, you can feed any crowd that comes through your door. Whether for dinner-party company or a normal weeknight meal, have these freezer recipes waiting for when your schedule gets turned around this holiday season (and believe us, it will).
Recipe: Italian Casserole
This casserole recipe, sent to us by Mrs. Harland J. Stone from Ocala, Florida, and published in the November, 1990, edition of Southern Living, is one of our forever-favorites. When you’re ready to eat, thaw in refrigerator 24 hours. Remove from refrigerator, and let sand at room temperature 30 minutes.
Southern Wedding Soup
Recipe: Southern Wedding Soup
We added fresh greens and pork meatballs to this comforting soup that’s ready in just 45 minutes. You can easily freeze the soup and meatballs for this Italian-American dish, just wait to prepare the noodles before serving.
Recipe: Sausage-and-Grits Quiche
Video: Sausage-and-Grits Quiche
Whether you have breakfast for dinner, Saturday breakfast for the family, or brunch for holiday company, a delicious quiche is a staple to have ready in the freezer, and it can stay there for up to a month. Thaw in refrigerator 24 hours. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes, and bake as directed.
Baked Ziti with Sausage
Recipe: Baked Ziti with Sausage
Even the pickiest eaters will love this baked pasta dish.
Smoked Chicken, Squash, and Rice Soup
This one-pot soup is filling but light in flavor. Our test kitchen recommends buying the chicken from a local barbecue joint (sans sauce) for the best smoky flavor, but rotisserie chicken from the grocery store or even leftover roast chicken would work for this recipe. This soup would freeze well, aside from the fresh avocado—don’t slice it up until you’re ready to serve.
Slow-Cooked Barbecued Chicken
Recipe: Slow-Cooked Barbecued Chicken
There’s no better time to use your slow cooker than the busy holiday season, and this barbecue chicken with homemade sauce will be a crowd favorite for a last-minute lunch or post-football game dinner. If you’re making ahead, cool the chicken completely once cooked and freeze in an airtight container up to three months.
Hamburger Steak With Sweet Onion-Mushroom Gravy
This hamburger steak recipe would be acceptable for company but easy for weeknights. To save, wrap each uncooked patty individually in plastic wrap, place in a large zip-top plastic freezer bag, and freeze up to 3 months. Thaw frozen patties in refrigerator 8 hours and proceed with Steps 2 and 3 of the recipe.
Creamy Chicken Alfredo Casserole
Recipe: Creamy Chicken Alfredo Casserole
One of your favorite pasta dishes got a comforting casserole redo that’s perfect for family dinner. Leave off the fresh basil until you serve.
Recipe: Sweet-and-Sour Meatballs
Video: Sweet-and-Sour Meatballs
People have the habit of stopping by for longer than you expect around the holidays. If your church friends say they’re going to stop by to exchange gifts, you’ll want to have something out. These sweet-and-sour meatballs are an ideal bite-sized appetizer to have on hand for times when you get surprise company. These meatballs can be cooked and frozen without the sauce, so thaw and reheat with sauce when you’re ready. This recipe has a high yield, so you don’t have to thaw them all at once.
Published in Southern Living in November, 1990, we’ll never tire of this casserole recipe that’s made with readily available (and possibly in-your-pantry) ingredients. Thaw assembled casserole in the refrigerator 24 hours and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before following baking instructions.
Chicken-and-Rice Soup with Mushrooms
Slow-cooker soups will always be there for us in the cold winter, and this one is filled with good-for-you ingredients. Cool completely post-slow cooker before freezing.
Recipe: Old-Fashioned Meatloaf
Video: Old-Fashioned Meatloaf
Southern comfort just like Mama made. Meatloaf will always be on our weeknight recipe rotation. Line loaf pan with enough foil to close over the top. Press meat loaf into pan; close foil, and place in freezer for several hours or overnight. Once frozen, remove from loaf pan. Seal tightly with foil, label, and freeze. On cooking day, remove the foil, and place frozen loaf in loaf pan to thaw and bake.
Green Chile-Turkey Soup with Hominy
This Tex-Mex soup will be a refreshing change from classic chicken noodle this fall and winter. Simply freeze in zip-top plastic freezer bags and reheat on low. Just before serving, stir in cilantro and lime juice for a dose of extra fresh flavor.
Greek Meatballs with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce and Rice
Meatballs are perfect for the freezer because you can take out the exact number you need and still leave more for later. These Greek meatballs are delicious served over rice with our cucumber-yogurt sauce, as shown, or stuffed into warm pita bread with lettuce, tomato, red onion, and cucumber-yogurt sauce for a yummy, fresh lunch that’s better than a plain turkey sandwich.
Chunky Vegetable Beef Soup
Recipe: Chunky Vegetable Beef Soup
We can’t make it through the winter months without craving a warm bowl of vegetable beef soup, and this 45-minute recipe is the easiest way to satisfy us. Freeze in meal-size portions in large zip-top plastic freezer bags. Fold top edge down, and place the bag in a large glass measuring cup to stabilize the bag while filling; freeze up to 1 month. To reheat, thaw soup in fridge overnight, and simmer over low, stirring occasionally.
Loaded Chicken-Bacon Pot Pie
Recipe: Loaded Chicken-Bacon Pot Pie
We don’t think anything has ever tasted worse after adding bacon, and this chicken pot pie recipe is no exception. You can freeze the filling in zip-top freezer bags and assemble the pot pies when you’re ready to bake, freeze the assembled, uncooked pot pies, or freeze the cooked pot pies after completely cooled.
Chicken-and-Green Chile Enchiladas
Sausage and Squash Lasagna
Recipe: Sausage and Squash Lasagna
You probably have tons of lasagna recipes, but have you ever made one in the slow cooker? Let us tell you—it’s so easy and just as delicious. Although you can freeze the entire lasagna dish together, one of the easiest ways to freeze and reheat lasagna is already cut into individual servings. Let the lasagna cool completely after cooking, and chill it in the refrigerator until set (overnight if you have time), so that it’s easier to cut without falling apart. Cut into individual serving pieces, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and place wrapped pieces in a zip-top freezer bag.
Skillet-Toasted Gnocchi with Peas
Gnocchi is a great pasta replacement, and this 30-minute recipe is so easy. Simply freeze in a zip-top bag and reheat in the skillet. This recipe would be delicious topped with grilled chicken or the pasta sauce of your choice.
Creamy Kale and Pasta Bake
Skillet Mac and Cheese with Crispy Breadcrumbs
We love to make anything in our cast-iron skillet, especially comfort classics like mac and cheese. This is a great dish to have in the freezer for the kids. Freeze in lidded bakeware for easy transport between oven, freezer, and fridge.
Quick and Easy Spaghetti Bolognese
We never thought we could make a delicious Bolognese in just 25 minutes, but with a doctored-up jarred sauce (don’t tell Mama), anything is possible. Spaghetti is a no-fail option for kids and adults alike. Store in airtight containers or zip-top freezer bags.
Peppered Beef Soup
Recipe: Peppered Beef Soup
This beef soup is rich, filling, and just what you need sitting in your freezer for a cold winter night. Freeze in an airtight container up to three months. Add a bit of canned broth when reheating to reach desired consistency.
Slow-Cooker Sloppy Joes
Recipe: Slow-Cooker Sloppy Joes
Video: Slow-Cooker Sloppy Joes
If the kids are having overnight company, this slow-cooker recipe is to the rescue. Budget-friendly with a high yield and guaranteed to be a hit, keep these stacked up for nights you didn’t make a dinner plan. To freeze, let meat cool completely. Place in zip-top plastic freezer bags; lay bags flat, and stack in freezer. Freeze up to one month. Thaw overnight in the fridge, or defrost in the microwave.
Easy Biscuit-Topped Chicken Pot Pie
Individual servings are perfect for nights when you don’t know how many family members will be attending dinner until the last minute. Freeze chicken mixture and biscuits in separate zip-top freezer bags, assemble, and bake when you’re ready.