DIY Freezer Meal Kits Will Save Your Unplanned Dinner Night (starting with these Chicken Enchiladas!)
Busy parents need all the help they can get in the evenings, which is why having a few DIY Freezer Meal Kits packed away will make your freezer your new BFF.
Having a freezer filled with ready-to-go freezer meal kits as a backup on busy nights means you can rest easy no matter what the week throws at you!
What’s a DIY Freezer Meal Kit, exactly? Think of it as though a freezer meal and a delivery meal kit had a baby. In your kitchen.
It’s way more awesome than it even sounds, trust me.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of delivery meal kits, like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh, here’s how they work:
Once a week, a box arrives on your front step containing a recipe and all the ingredients you need to cook a few simple meals. Many of the ingredients are already broken down or at least have been packaged in a way that preparing them for cooking is a snap.
Cooking dinner from a meal kit may not look like less work from the outside – after all, you still have to cook, right?- but the energy it saves is huge!
This is energy saved not only in the physical labor of grocery shopping and much of the ingredient prep, but mental energy as well; deciding what to make, finding a recipe, seeking out the ingredients, figuring out what to do with leftover ingredients and leftovers from the meal, etc.
It’s a formula that works, and that’s why meal delivery kits are all the rage with busy parents.
But they’re expensive. You don’t get to choose the individual recipes. And sometimes, you dont get a chance to make the recipe, meaning you’ve got to figure out what to do with those leftover ingredients!
That’s where DIY Freezer Meal Kits come in. You choose the price point that works for you. You choose the individual recipes. And you choose when to make the dish, so you’re not on anyone’s time clock but your own.
Guess what!? We’re making make a big batch of DIY Freezer Meal Kits JUST LIKE THIS in my new membership site, Uncomplicated Kitchen! Click the banner below to learn more and save your seat!
How exactly do you create a DIY Freezer Meal Kit, though? Can you just throw the ingredients of any dish in the freezer and call it good?
Well, kind of. While it’s true that not every dish is amenable to being made into a freezer meal kit, the fact is that yes- you can freeze just about any ingredient.
Here are a few unexpected ingredients you can totally freeze:
- Eggs? Sure, if they’re out of the shell and raw.
- Sour cream? Yep!
- Milk? Yep!
- Breadcrumbs? Of course!
- Cheese? Yes- especially if it’s been shredded and cubed to cut down on moisture.
- Vegetables? You bet!
And while most of these items won’t thaw and revert back to their original state prior to freezing, they will cook up perfectly fine- which is why DIY Freezer Meal Kits lend a ton of flexibility.
Let’s take the example of Chicken Enchiladas, one of my favorite meals to make into a freezer meal kit.
Step One: Look at the recipe and see what happens right before it gets put in the oven. You’re looking for what components, if any, are prepared in a separate way before everything gets combined and cooked. So, with Chicken Enchiladas, you’ve got shredded chicken, cooked and seasoned black beans, and salsa verde, all made (or purchased!) and then it’s all rolled up in tortillas and topped with cheese before baking.
Shredded chicken, salsa verde, seasoned black beans, tortillas and shredded cheese are the components of Chicken Enchiladas, so that’s what gets frozen in separate bags or containers.
Step Two: Divide those components into separate, freezer-safe containers or ziplock bags. No matter whether you’re purchasing ready-made salsa verde or making it from scratch, put it in a freezer-safe container or ziplock bag and label it with the date. Do the same with each component. Then, place each wrapped component in the final baking dish (a casserole dish, either reusable or disposable) and wrap tightly. You can also pack everything together in a big gallon ziplock bag, if it’s big enough to hold everything. Clearly write the name of the recipe and the date on top with a Sharpie, and place it in the freezer
Step Three: When you’re ready to cook, pull the whole dish out, thaw the items (here’s a primer for thawing) and then assemble and cook as directed.
A’s to common Q’s on Freezer Meal Kits:
- Why wouldn’t you just throw everything in the freezer and find it later? The organization helps your brain on busy nights. You’re not looking in the freezer and trying to think, “ok, I see ricotta, what can I do with that?” Nope. You’re expending less mental energy on the long days by seeing that bag of prepped, frozen items all grouped together and thinking, “oh, lasagna! I can make that tonight!”
- Won’t this take the same amount of time as just, like, cooking? Individually frozen items thaw faster than when they’ve already been assembled with everything else. “Faster” as in 20 minutes under cold running water, instead of overnight in the fridge (though that always works, too). If you wanted to cook the dish from fresh, it would take you longer in the kitchen to prepare those individual components and then assemble and cook than it would to just thaw, assemble, and cook. Those first few steps of prep work are already done for you, and you can thaw without needing to be in the kitchen!
- What kind of difference does freezing this way make? Wholly cooked, frozen meals usually taste…. not as good as they were when they were freshly made. But if you freeze these items separately, then assemble, it takes just about the same amount of time as reheating from frozen, and it tastes way better. Cooked-from-fresh better. With the same amount of work!
- Why would I bother having these kits instead of just cooking dinner from scratch? You’re in charge of what you’ve got on hand. It’s like having Blue Apron at the ready for whenever you want, not when they tell you their delivery times are. Plus, freezer meal kits make great options for the nights when you haven’t gotten to the grocery store and you have a hungry family waiting, or you’ve got a friend who just had a baby and you want to drop off some food but you don’t have time to cook much. It’s a great backup plan to keep for times when you need it.
So what do you think? Are DIY Freezer Meal Kits a great backup option for your family? Try the Chicken Enchilada recipe below as a DIY Freezer Meal Kit, and let me know how it turns out for you!
This simple weeknight dish of chicken enchiladas, packed with shredded chicken and black beans and smothered in salsa verde and melty cheese, also makes a perfect DIY Freezer Meal Kit. Siply freeze each component of the dish in separate containers and store together in the freezer. The ingredients thaw faster this way, and the dish tastes like it's made from fresh- with less of the work on the night of!
I usually cook big batches of chicken breasts all at once in the crockpot, then shred and store for recipes like these. If you're starting from scratch, poach the chicken in water until cooked thoroughly, then shred using two forks or a hand mixer on low.
I really recommend using flour tortillas in this recipe as opposed to corn; they're more durable and hold up to cooking much better, meaning there's fewer enchiladas falling apart while you're trying to serve.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 8-10 large tomatillos papery shells discarded and rinsed
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro optional if you're a cilantro hater
- 2 cups shredded chicken about 16 ounces cooked chicken breast
- 13.5 ounces black beans cooked and drained
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 8-10 large flour tortillas
- 12 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
Make the salsa verde: Halve the tomatillos. Heat the olive oil over medium heat until shimmering, then add the tomatillos and cook, stirring occasionally, until they have started to brown and soften. Add the lime juice and cilantro and stir to combine. Transfer to a food processor or blender and process until smooth, then set aside.
Preheat the oven to 400*F.
Roll the enchiladas: In a large bowl, combine the shredded chicken, black beans, salt, and cumin. Stir to mix.
Place 1/2 cup of chicken and black bean mixture in the center of a flour tortilla and roll the tortilla around the mixture in a long cylinder. Transfer the tortilla cylinders to a 9"x13" baking dish, nestling them next to each other in one long row.
Once all the tortillas have been rolled and placed in the dish, pour the salsa verde over the tortillas, using a spoon to smooth the salsa verde into any cracks and crevices.
Sprinkle the enchiladas evenly with cheese and place the dish in the oven.
Bake until the cheese has melted and is bubbly, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let col slightly before serving.