15 Phenomenally Frugal, Single-Serving Freezer Meals
I think most of us can agree that saving money with a freezer is a good idea. And while tackling assembly cooking like it’s an Olympic sport seems to be the launching point for most work-at-home cooks, the truth is that embracing the concept can be a bit overwhelming for some, especially singles. Who wants to eat casserole for a week or sit down to soup every night for a month? These single-serving freezer meals can help point you in the proper direction. (See also: 20 Great Once-a-Month-Cooking Recipes)
1. Lentil Curry
If you love ethnic food as much as we do at our house, then incorporating curry-flavored lentil recipes is an affordable and tasty way to explore single-serving freezer meals. Personally, I think the soupy types of curries freeze well, and they can be served on their own or over leftover rice.
There’s no need to make an enormous batch in order to take advantage of this idea. Simply make a larger-than-normal sized pot on any given night, and then divvy up the rest into individual containers such as pint-sized canning jars for a thaw-and-heat meal you can enjoy with soda crackers or toasted dinner rolls. Simply toss some of your favorite soup garnishes on top (love those sliced scallions) and pour yourself an iced tea or sparkling water. One easy soup to consider is a catch-all veggie bean prepared with frozen mixed vegetables, tomato broth, and your favorite seasonings.
3. Lasagna Rolls
If you’re setting aside time to make a batch of lasagna anyway and have a bit of extra time to fancy things up, give these Florentine lasagna roll-ups a try. They use one of my favorite budget ingredients, frozen spinach, to amp up the nutrition factor, and they look elegant on a plate paired with a salad and a decent table wine.
4. Breaded Chicken Fingers
This might seem like a single-item cop out, but bear with me. Personally, I’m of the opinion that single-serving prepared food doesn’t have to mean an elaborate dish you’ve labored for hours over. It’s perfectly acceptable to mix and match with healthier prepared foods and microwaved vegetables. That’s where the breaded chicken fingers come into play. Simply pull out a serving’s worth along with a handful of sweet potato fries and a scoop of frozen peas or carrots. The chicken fingers and baked fries can go in the oven for a similar amount of time, while the veggies can get heated through in the microwave on the same plate you’re planning on eating from. Gotta love that.
5. Fried Rice
It’s one of my favorite dishes to prepare with leftover chicken leg quarters and super cheap to boot. Throw in some scrambled eggs and a few veggies, and you’ve got yourself a balanced meal for pennies per serving. Make up a big batch the first time around, and then freeze in single servings for an easy meal you can reheat in seconds.
6. Muffin Tin Meatloaves
This is another one of those plug and play single-serving freezing meals. Make your muffin meatloaves in a batch and freeze separately to serve later with tater tots and your frozen vegetable of choice. Having a smaller beef item on your menu is a great way to manage your meat money, and it will help with your transition towards using meat as a side dish or accent as opposed to the main event. It’s less expensive that way and healthier all the way around.
7. Broccoli-Cheese Sauce
As much as I love to try out new potato ideas at meal time, I’m still a fan of old-school recipes like baked potato topping night. One of the easiest ways to prepare it is to purchase canned cheese sauce from the warehouse store and freeze it in small containers. When it’s time for dinner, simply place one baking potato in the oven and take out some frozen broccoli spears and cheese sauce to thaw while the potato's cooking. When the potato is ready, cut open the top side and spoon on the thawed sauce and broccoli before popping the whole deal in the microwave for a minute or two. Easy peasy.
8. Pork Medallions With Mashed Squash
When it comes to cheap healthy meals, many families prefer lean meats and whole vegetables. For my money, squash is a great way to go because you can prepare a bunch at a time and easily freeze it into small serving sizes. Slice up a pork loin into individual steaks, and you’re good to go with nothing more than a side salad. As I said, single-serving freezer meals don’t have to all come from the same package. Mixing and matching your protein and veggie items will give you many possibilities with very little additional prep time.
9. Burrito Bowls
These are turning into one of my favorite frugal meals of all time. It’s an easy beans and rice recipe, and it gives me a chance to use black beans on a regular basis. They are loaded with antioxidants, cook quickly compared to other types of beans, and are incredibly inexpensive. Basically, you combine cooked or canned black beans, prepared rice, and frozen mixed peppers for reheating later with a bit of hot sauce and a dash of guacamole.
10. Eggplant Cutlets
To be honest, I use the prepared cutlets as an easy cheat when we feel like hot vegetarian sandwiches at home. They’re quite affordable to purchase by the restaurant-sized box at Sam’s and can be heated up along with jarred marinara sauce to stuff inside oven-toasted hoagie rolls with some shredded mozzarella for a simple dinner that requires far less than 30 minutes to prepare. Start the ball rolling with the toasted rolls and hop in the shower. You’ll only have a couple of microwave minutes left at that point before you can sit down to dinner.
11. Individual English-Muffin Pizzas
This is yet another mix-and-match menu, because when you purchase packages of English muffins and freeze them, you can pull out a muffin at a time to split in half for an easy single-serving freezer meal that you can top with any type of pizza sauce you choose. From homemade sauce you can freeze in ice cube trays to jarred, you’ve got a whole range of options. Shredded cheese can also be frozen in individual packages as can packages of sliced turkey pepperoni or packets of pre-cooked bargain beef.
12. Custom Omelets
Of the many ways to use eggs for meals, customized omelets are one of the most flexible. And since raw eggs can be frozen if they are whisked up first, preparing individual omelets in advance using your favorite sale produce items such as asparagus, mushrooms, or even sun-dried tomatoes is a penny pincher’s dream. Simply put each omelet into its own container and stack neatly in a reachable corner of the freezer. Take one out in the morning before you go to work to thaw in the fridge, and it will be ready to toss in the frying pan by the time you get home. Simple as can be.
13. Frozen Smoothie Fixings
As I mentioned in my article on frozen broccoli recipes, using the chopped bits in our breakfast smoothies is how I get green veggies into our morning drinks in a way we find palatable. Take it one step further and mix the broccoli and berries together along with some flax seeds, and all you’ll need to do is put the whole thing in the blender with a bit of water. This is especially good in the summer after a steamy morning run.
14. Waffles by the Batch
If you’re a fan of having breakfast for dinner like I am, then consider whipping up a large batch of waffles to freeze ahead. When you want a simple meal that will take you minutes to prepare, pop one of them in the toaster oven for a bit and serve with fresh fruit and syrup.
When you prepare large-sized vegetarian crock pot recipes, you don’t necessarily have to serve them all at once. Recipes like chili can be frozen for some time, making it an affordable single-serving freezer meal to enjoy after cold day outside.
Finding ways to implement freezer dining when you’re single shouldn’t feel overwhelming. With a few easy-to-freeze recipes and some plug and play prepared options, dinner time can stop being a drag. Just decide upon some recipes you can enjoy on a regular basis and make those the backbone of your grocery shopping expeditions.