Freezer meals: Money-saving recipes to make in bulk

Save time and money with these family-friendly freezer meals - just perfect for bulk cooking...

A selection of freezer meals to make in bulk
(Image credit: Future/Getty)

We've rounded up the best freezer meals that are not only perfect for cooking in bulk but will save you money too. 

Now that we’re in the grip of a cost-of-living crisis, your freezer is most definitely your friend. According to research by YouGov, over a third of us have unused food worth over £75 sitting in our freezers, and only 18% of us cook freezer meals up to three times a week. Plus, nearly half of us admit to forgetting to use the food stored in our freezers. Alas, we’re all missing a trick, because making the most of your freezer after batch cooking your favourite cheap family meals will save you precious money and time. And for those wondering are frozen food healthy, freezer meals can be equally as nutritious as those cooked fresh, when done right.

“If you find you're too busy or tired to cook in the evenings, batch cooking is a fantastic way to enjoy a home-cooked meal with minimal fuss, and save yourself some money too,” says Kate Hall from The Full Freezer, who works with individuals, groups, corporations, and brands to cut food waste in homes and workplaces. 

“It doesn't require you to spend all day in the kitchen either; simply double up your ingredients when you're cooking, so that you can eat half and freeze half. By doing this, you can get better value for money by buying your ingredients in bulk, and you can ensure that none of them go to waste. If you do have random ingredients leftover these can usually be frozen too.”

Freezer meals to batch cook

A bowl of chilli con carne topped with sour cream

Chilli is the ultimate recipe for batch cooking and freezing

(Image credit: Jon Whitaker)

1. Chilli con carne

Serves: 4 | Total time: 1 hr 40 mins | Freeze for: 6 months 

Possibly the most popular of all freezer meals to batch cook, you can't beat a large bowl of spicy, warming chilli con carne. Packed with kidney beans, a chilli-based sauce, and flavour galore, chilli is a great dish to bulk prep. 

It’s also pleasingly versatile and can be served with homemade potato wedges, rice, jacket potatoes, stuffed in tacos or tortillas, or with a hunk of French bread or pitta to dip in (and a big blob of guac and sour cream on the top because it would be rude not to).

How to freeze: Just cook the chilli as normal, allow it to cool, then pop it into a large Tupperware box or smaller portion sizes and freeze.

How to defrost: When you're planning on having it for dinner, take it out of the freezer the night before or early in the morning and defrost in the fridge. Reheat in the microwave or in the oven on low heat. Serve with ready-made wraps or tortilla chips for a Mexican-style feast.

Get the recipe: Chilli con carne

a pot of chicken casserole

A comforting chicken casserole that can be kept in the freezer for another day

(Image credit: Will Heap/Essentials)

2. Chicken casserole

Serves: 6 | Total time: 1 hr 15 mins (or 4-6 hrs in a slow cooker) | Freeze for: 6 months 

Using joints from a whole chicken, this is a meal that keeps on giving, so perfect for seconds from the freezer. The dream comfort food, the sauce has double cream in it, tons of fresh herbs, as well as bacon and mushrooms, carrots, and celery for your veggie quota. Serve with roast or mashed pots or rice, and a side of greens. 

How to freeze: Store in a large Tupperware box or in portion sizes – you can measure this out by using a bowl you would usually eat dinner out of.

How to defrost: Some of the larger portions of chicken will take a good while to thaw, so make sure you take it out of the freezer the day before and put it in the fridge.

Get the recipe: Chicken casserole

Hairy Bikers' Mama's beef curry

This old school curry will taste even better after the flavours develop, so save some for another day

(Image credit: Alamy Stock Photo)

3. Hairy Biker's beef curry

Serves: 4 | Total time: 1 hr 40 mins | Freeze for: 6 months 

This is a proper nostalgic curry that puts us in mind of the old-school curries we had when we were kids. Our favourite hirsute chaps take a good bit of braising steak and cook it slowly in a spice mix until it’s super tender. 

Serve with rice, and it’s also great accompanied by another curry, like tasty dahl or a cauliflower curry. It’s simple too, and taking it out of the freezer will save you from reaching for the Friday night takeout menu when you can’t be faffed to cook after a long week. 

How to freeze: Once you've made your curry, pop it into a Tupperware box or separate it into portions and leave it to cool at room temperature before storing it in the freezer.

How to defrost: To defrost, leave in the fridge overnight and then reheat in the microwave, stirring every minute or so to make sure your meat is heating up the whole way through. Serve when it's piping hot. Note, for other curries, such as those with a cream-based sauce, it may separate a little, but a quick stir should bring it back together.

Get the recipe: Hairy Biker’s beef curry

Tray of shepherd's pie

A classic, comforting Shepherd's pie is a great dish for the freezer

(Image credit: Chris Alack)

4. Shepherd's pie

Serves: 4 | Total time: 1 hr 10 mins | Freeze for: 6 months 

A comforting classic for good reason, a Shepherd’s Pie is pretty unbeatable as food hugs go. The mince is kept nice and moist by the sauce and the mash retains its texture once reheated, so it’s an ideal one for a batch cook. 

Serve with a big pile of spinach (always a good friend of lamb dishes) or some steamed green beans. Add roots like sweet potato, parsnips, or carrots to the mash if you want an extra hit of veggies, or just make a completely vegetable Shepherd's pie.

How to freeze: You can freeze a shepherd's pie (or a cottage pie recipe) whole by allowing it to cool and covering it with tin foil before putting it in the freezer. If making specifically for the freezer, you can store the sections individually – that way you can use parts of the mince and mash for other dishes and it takes up less space.

How to defrost: If frozen whole or in portions, allow to defrost in the fridge throughout the day and reheat in the microwave or oven until piping hot. If you stored it in individual sections, warm the mash and mince separately in the microwave, add a little extra butter to the mash, and assemble your pie. Grate some cheese on top and pop under the grill for 5 mins for a crisp finish.

Get the recipe:  Shepherd’s Pie

bowl of creamy carrot and parsnip soup

Soup is perfect for freezing for an easy lunch on a rainy day

(Image credit: Getty)

5. Creamy carrot and parsnip soup

Serves: 4 | Total time: 40 mins | Freeze for: 6 months 

Soup is the perfect thing to make in bulk and freeze for a rainy day lunch (plus it isn’t just for winter – there are summer soups galore out there to try). This soup is just the ticket to using up the leftover veggies from your Sunday roast, and we do rather love the addition of ginger and orange zest to pep this dish up a treat. Serve with a large chunk of crusty bread. 

How to freeze: It's important to store your soup in separate portions as, once you've defrosted it, it cannot be frozen again. Store your portioned soup in individual airtight freezer bags or in small Tupperware boxes. Make sure you label each portion with the type of soup and the date it was made.

How to defrost: Leave your soup in the fridge overnight and stir every now and then to make sure it's defrosting thoroughly, then reheat in the microwave or on the hob. 

Cream-based soups tend to separate once frozen so it's best not to use the microwave to heat them up. If you’re short on time, non-cream-based soups can be defrosted in the microwave.

Get the recipe: Creamy carrot and parsnip soup

Mary Berry's butternut squash lasagne

The Queen of the kitchen's riff on a traditional lasagne is packed with veggies

(Image credit: Mary Berry)

6. Mary Berry’s butternut squash lasagne

Serves: 6 | Total time: 1 hr 15 mins | Freeze for: 6 months 

You may be a classic lasagne person, but regardless, you’ll love this veggie twist, especially as it’s all the work of cooking’s grand dame. Lasagne can be a time-consuming affair to put together so all the more reason to have a big kitchen session and freeze the rest for another day when it will feel like a special treat of a dinner with none of the graft. 

This dish helps on your five-a-day mission too, as it also includes red peppers, mushrooms, and spinach. Serving with a light salad of watercress or rocket will work as a treat.

How to freeze: Cook the lasagne before freezing and leave to cool for about an hour on the kitchen side – preferably covered in a kitchen towel. Once completely cooled, pop into the freezer. 

If you're going to freeze your lasagne in the dish that you cook it in, make sure the dish is freezer and oven safe. Otherwise, portion your lasagne and freeze it in individual freezer bags or Tupperware boxes.

How to defrost: Defrost overnight in the fridge and reheat in the oven on low heat until piping hot. Cover in tin foil to keep the lasagne moist. If reheating in portions, the microwave is the best option, though you might want to stick it under the grill briefly to crisp up the top.

Get the recipe: Mary Berry’s butternut squash lasagne

7. Spaghetti Bolognese

Spaghetti Bolognese recipe

Just defrost your bolognese sauce, boil some pasta, grate some cheese and you have an easy dinner

(Image credit: Getty)

Serves: 4 | Total time: 50 mins | Freeze for: 6 months 

An icon of the British dinner table, it always pays to have a stash of this classic pasta sauce tucked away in the freezer, then all you have to do is boil some spaghetti and grate the Parmesan and there’s dinner done. 

It's simple, full of flavour, and super versatile –  you can add spices and kidney beans to turn it into a chilli, serve with a warm jacket potato and salad for lunch, or top with mash and cheese for a family-sized pie. There’s always the option of a veggie Bolognese too.

How to freeze: Once cooked, leave to cool in a Tupperware box or portioned in ziplock freezer bags.

How to defrost: Leave in the fridge to defrost during the day so when it's dinner time all you have to do is cook some spaghetti and reheat the Bolognese mix in the microwave - simple!

Get the recipe: Spaghetti Bolognese

Tuna pasta bake

This family favourite is easily frozen for a future midweek supper

(Image credit: Nigel Hudson)

8. Tuna pasta bake

Serves: 4 | Total time: 30 mins | Freeze for: 6 months 

A midweek dinner staple, a tuna pasta bake is a good, thrifty store cupboard recipe, which is even more wallet-friendly if you batch cook and freeze it. This one has sweetcorn, mushrooms, and chopped tomatoes for your veggie content, and includes ready-salted crisps in the topping. 

You can always posh it up by swapping the tinned tuna for fresh and adding some black olives. A chopped red chilli for kicks is a good addition too.

How to freeze: Once you've cooked your pasta bake, leave to cool, and then freeze whole or slice into portions in separate Tupperware boxes or ziplock bags.

How to defrost: The day you want to eat it, take the slices out of the freezer early in the morning and leave them in the fridge or on the kitchen side (away from heat or sunlight) and let it defrost thoroughly before reheating. 

Microwave your portions until piping hot. Top with some more cheese if you wish and finish under the grill for a crisp topping.

Get the recipe: Tuna pasta bake

Melting middle lamb burger

These oozy burgers can be on hand from the freezer whenever BBQ weather calls

(Image credit: Future)

9. Melting middle lamb burgers

Serves: 2 | Total time: 20 mins | Freeze for: 6 months 

Bringing us summer holiday vibes, these lamb burgers (you can easily swap for beef if you prefer) with an oozy, cheesy center, are a Godsend in the freezer when it comes to prepping for a BBQ or just for an easy dinner, perfect served with a side of watercress and a tzatziki potato salad

How to freeze: Burgers are one of the best things to freeze because you only have to use what you need. Separate the patties in sandwich bags or in cling-film and place into the freezer.

How to defrost: When you want to cook one of your burgers, simply take it out of the freezer and let it defrost in the fridge.

Get the recipe: Melting middle lamb burgers 

Chicken and mushroom pot pies

Individual chicken pot pies are easy to freeze and make a comforting dinner dish

(Image credit: Future)

10. Chicken pot pie

Serves: 4 | Total time: 40 mins | Freeze for: 6 months 

All kinds of pies are perfect for making and freezing for dinner during the mid-week rush– and this classic chicken pot pie is a great choice, with it being individually portioned and thus a dream to freeze. 

The canny ingredient is a tin of condensed mushroom soup which makes for an easy sauce, and the tarragon and mustard add a punch of flavour. Serve with kale, broccoli, or green beans – and a spot of mash if you’re feeling particularly ravenous. 

How to freeze: Pies come in all shapes and sizes but they can be frozen in the same way. Make sure you cook your pie in an oven/freezer-safe dish before you begin so you don't have to remove the pie from its dish when storing it in the freezer. Allow the pie to cool before freezing and cover with tin foil. T

hese pies are already portions but, if you were to make one big pie, we'd recommend freezing it whole so it keeps its flavour and texture when you defrost and reheat it.

How to defrost: Leave the frozen pie in the fridge overnight to defrost and reheat in the oven. It's best to avoid using the microwave to re-heat or defrost your pie as it may affect the quality of the pastry – no one wants a soggy bottom, or a soggy top, come to that.

Get the recipe: Chicken pot pie

stuffed peppers in a baking tray

Stuffed peppers are great as a main dish or accompanying side dish, and are easy to freeze

(Image credit: Getty)

11. Mediterranean stuffed peppers

Serves: 4 | Total time: 1 hr | Freeze for: 6 months 

A great one to have up your sleeve for a midweek freezer meal is stuffed peppers – and, you might not think it, but they can be batch cooked and frozen. Packed with rice, courgettes, and pine nuts, they’re the perfect sides for BBQs or make a pleasingly healthy lunch, and are so simple to make in bulk. 

How to freeze: If you're stuffing your pepper with rice (a classic filling choice) make sure your rice is completely cooled before stuffing and freezing. Stuff your peppers with your filling of choice and freeze in a ziplock bag or all together on a large baking tray covered in clingfilm.

How to defrost: Leave your peppers in the fridge overnight or on the kitchen side covered in a kitchen roll. If you've stuffed your peppers with rice, it is best to defrost them in the fridge. Cook the peppers in the oven until soft.

Get the recipe: Mediterranean stuffed peppers

pizza with mushrooms and spinach

Making homemade pizza and freezing it is much more satisfying than buying it from the supermarket

(Image credit: Getty)

12. Healthy pizza

Serves: 2 | Total time: 25 mins | Freeze for: 6 months 

You probably wouldn't think about bulk cooking pizza but it's actually a rather marvelous idea. Instead of buying ready-made pizzas and freezing them, make your own healthier versions and freeze those instead. 

Prepping your own tomato sauce cuts the sugar content drastically, and using wholemeal pizza bases adds fiber. You can also make your own pizza dough from scratch and freeze that.

How to freeze: You can buy ready-made bases from most supermarkets. Just add your chosen toppings and assemble your pizza. Bake in the oven like normal and, once cooled, wrap in clingfilm and freeze stacked neatly on your freezer shelves. 

We'd recommend cutting your pizza into slices before freezing – this will mean your pizza will be quicker to reheat and will take up less room in the freezer.

How to defrost: Leave in the fridge overnight or during the day to defrost. Re-heat in the oven. You can also sprinkle with some more cheese if you would like to freshen it up (because who wouldn’t?).

Get the recipe: Healthy pizza 

A dish of bread and butter pudding

Portion up your pudding and freeze so you have another dessert for another day

(Image credit: Getty)

13. Bread and butter pudding

Serves: 6 | Total time: 45 mins | Freeze for: 6 months 

If you've got a stale loaf sitting in the bread bin, rustle up a tasty bread and butter pudding to avoid food waste and, if you don’t want to use it straight away, no bother – freeze it, and then it’ll save you a job on dessert prep the next time you have a big Sunday lunch. Win-win all round. 

Traditionally winter fayre, it can be summer-fied with some ice cream in place of custard, and you can also make a chocolate bread and butter pudding, should the fancy take you.

How to freeze: Make your bread and butter pudding according to the recipe and freeze. It can be frozen baked or unbaked, this is entirely up to you. 

If you want to freeze the whole thing, make sure the dish you cook it in is oven and freezer safe. Buy large ziplock or vacuum pack bags when freezing in bulk – this will save you from having to portion your bulk foods.

How to defrost: If it's frozen from being baked, it won't take as long to cook after it's been defrosted. Place your bread and butter pudding into the fridge to defrost – this could take somewhere between 8-12 hrs if you've frozen your pudding in a large dish. Warm up (if already baked) or cook (if unbaked) in the oven until piping hot.

Get the recipe: Bread and butter pudding

Gooseberry crumble

Crumble freezes perfectly, and can be the pudding to follow a future Sunday roast

(Image credit: Alamy)

14. Gooseberry crumble

Serves: 4 | Total time: 45 mins | Freeze for: 6 months 

A stalwart of British dessert recipes, a crumble is a most excellent choice for baking in bulk and popping in the freezer, so that you have a speedy pudding on hand for another day. 

Gooseberries are a brilliant summer choice for your crumble fruit when they are in season (and they are much underused and under-rated). This recipe from TV chef Phil Vickery puts them to perfect use, served with a lovely dollop of clotted cream. 

How to freeze: We’d freeze the whole thing or make it in individual baking dishes (that are oven and freezer safe). Cook it first and cool beforehand.

How to defrost: Defrost it in the fridge all day first and then warm up in the oven. Avoid the microwave because no one wants a soggy crumble topping.

Get the recipe: Gooseberry crumble

Top tips for batch cooking freezer meals

What's the best way to freeze bulk meals?

When it comes to freezer storage, Kate Hall from The Full Freeze, has plenty of tips. “If you're concerned about how you're going to fit all of this food in, try freezing any soft foods flat in a freezer bag. This is a great space-saving hack, and your food will defrost much faster. 

For solid items like pastry parcels, it's a good idea to freeze them open on a lined tray for a few hours, then wrap them individually with cling film or foil before moving to a freezer bag or air-tight tub. 

And, if you are freezing finished dishes such as cottage pie, invest in freezer-to-oven safe dishes with plastic lids. Just remember to freeze in portions you can eat in one sitting, as your meal shouldn't be reheated more than once.”

She also suggests using what she terms ‘dump bags’. “You can batch prep dump bag recipes, where you place all the chopped-up ingredients into a resealable freezer bag. When you want to cook your meal, just defrost it in the fridge overnight or in a dish of cold water.”

How long can you freeze bulk meals for?

Kate recommends eating your frozen meals within six months. “Technically food will last indefinitely in the freezer as long as it's -18C or colder, but batch-cooked meals are best eaten within 3-6 months to enjoy them at their best quality,” she says. 

“It’s important though to store ingredients correctly, to not use foods after the Use By Date (after best before is fine as long as it's not mouldy), and to cool foods within two hours (or within 1 hour for rice dishes, or if it's a hot day. 

To speed up cooling, I recommend stirring, splitting into small portions, spreading out in a large dish, or placing (carefully!) in a cold-water bath. Food should always be fully cooled before putting it into freezer bags too.”

“Typical meals that work well with batch cooking are those such as chilli and curry, but there are stacks more options out there. Pasta sauces, pulled meats, pies, fajita mix, pastry parcels, even risotto and sides like roast potatoes,” says Kate. 

Video of the week

You might also like...

How to freeze food

How to save money on food

The ultimate guide on how to reduce food waste

Lara Kilner
Food Writer

Lara Kilner is a writer and editor with two decades of experience in national newspapers, magazines, and websites. She writes about food, lifestyle, travel, health and wellness, and entertainment, and regularly interviews celebrities and people with interesting life stories and experiences. Her foodie content has included interviews with Jamie Oliver, Rick Stein, Queer Eye’s food expert Antoni Porowski, the Hairy Bikers, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, Raymond Blanc, Andi Oliver, Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith, and Nadiya Hussain.