10 Easy Make-Ahead Meals to Fill up Your Fridge (and Freezer)

Posted by

Become a meal prep pro with any of these easy and delicious make-ahead meals.

When life gets busy, it helps to have a make-ahead meal (or two!) in the fridge or freezer that you can quickly heat and eat without much trouble. Other requirements? It should be tasty, not take too long to prepare, and fill you up when you need it most! That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the best meals to make and save for later — including sheet pan dinners, slow cooker recipes, and easy breakfasts.

Whether you’re looking to make a big batch of chili to freeze for your family or a soul-warming casserole recipe that’ll keep you full for a week, our list is sure to have something that suits your needs. We’ve included dishes that will feed meat eaters, vegetarians, and vegans (some can be adapted as well), so you’re prepared to feed just about everyone.

1. Baked Butternut-Squash Rigatoni

Sweet squash adds color and seasonal flavor to this creamy, cheesy pasta dish.

Ingredients
1 large butternut squash
3 clove garlic
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. rigatoni
1/2 c. heavy cream
3 c. shredded fontina
2 tbsp. chopped fresh sage
1 tbsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 c. panko breadcrumbs

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss squash, garlic, and olive oil to coat. Place on a large, rimmed baking sheet and roast until tender, about 1 hour. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Reduce oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook rigatoni according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  3. Using a blender or food processor, purée reserved squash with heavy cream until smooth.
  4. In a large bowl, toss squash puree with reserved rigatoni, 2 cups fontina, sage, salt, and pepper. Brush bottom and sides of a 9- by 13-inch baking dish with olive oil. Transfer rigatoni-squash mixture to dish.
  5. In a small bowl, combine remaining fontina and panko. Sprinkle over pasta and bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

Tips & Techniques

Lighten Up! Replace the heavy cream with 2-percent milk and use a reduced-fat provolone instead of full-fat fontina to save 114 calories and 13 grams of fat per serving.

2. Smoky Maple Turkey Chili

Everything, especially this sweet and smoky chili, is more delicious when you can eat the bowl.

Ingredients
8 (6-inch) corn tortillas
Cooking spray
1 1/2 lb. ground turkey (mix of white and dark meat)
1 1/2 c. light Mexican beer
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. Unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. ground chipotle chile
1 tsp. ground coriander
Kosher salt
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can small white beans, rinsed
1/4 c. pure maple syrup
Shredded Cheddar, sour cream, and sliced jalapeños, for topping

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Working with 4 tortillas at a time, wrap tortillas in damp paper towels and microwave until pliable, 45 to 60 seconds. Coat each side with cooking spray. Turn 12-cup muffin tin upside down. Nestle 1 tortilla in space between 4 cups to form a “bowl.” Repeat with 3 more tortillas to make 4 bowls. Bake until crisp, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining 4 tortillas.
  2. Meanwhile, in large bowl, mix turkey with 1/2 cup beer until absorbed. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large pot or Dutch oven on medium. Add turkey and cook, breaking up, until cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer turkey and liquid to bowl.
  3. Return pot to medium and add remaining tablespoon oil, then onion and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender, 4 minutes. Add cumin, cocoa powder, chipotle chile, coriander, and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Stir in tomato paste and cook 1 minute.
  4. Add remaining cup beer and bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pot. Add tomatoes, beans, maple syrup and turkey and gently simmer 15 minutes. Serve chili in tortilla bowls and top with Cheddar, sour cream and jalapeños, if desired.

Nutritional information (per serving): About 380 calories, 11.5 g fat (2.5 g saturated), 27 g protein, 640 mg sodium, 46 g carb, 9 g fiber.

3. Supercarb Loaded Sweet Potatoes

Pile spuds with veggies, cheese and herbs for a filling SuperCarb Diet dinner.

Ingredients
4 medium sweet potatoes
1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 c. crumbled feta
1/4 c. roasted red peppers
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
1/4 tsp. salt

Directions

  1. With a small knife, poke sweet potatoes all over; arrange in a large microwave-safe baking dish. Microwave on High 10 to 12 minutes or until easily pierced with knife. 
  2. Combine black beans, feta, roasted peppers, olive oil, parsley, and salt. Cut lengthwise slits in tops of sweet potatoes. With fork, scrape sweet potato flesh to fluff; add black bean mixture to each potato half, packing to fit. Bake at 400 degrees F on foil-lined baking sheet 10 minutes or until beans are hot.

Nutritional Information (per serving):Calories 345; Protein 10g; Carbohydrate 50g; Total Fat 13g; Saturated Fat 3g; Dietary Fiber 13g; Sodium 525mg.

4. Pea Pesto Pappardelle

This five-ingredient pasta is basically spring on a plate.

Ingredients
12 oz. pappardelle
1 1/2 c. fresh or frozen peas
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 c. ricotta
Salt
Pepper
Chopped chives, for serving

Directions

  1. Cook pappardelle. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water; drain and return pasta to pot. 
  2. While pasta is cooking, pulse 1 cup peas in food processor to roughly chop. Add ricotta and lemon zest and pulse a few times to combine (there should still be some chopped peas). Season with salt and pepper. 
  3. Add ricotta mixture, remaining 1/2 cup peas, and pasta water; toss to combine. Sprinkle with chopped chives, if desired.

Nutritional information (per serving): About 430 calories, 6.5 g fat (2.5 g saturated), 19 g protein, 100 mg sodium, 70 g carb, 5 g fiber

5.Pork Ragu Rigatoni

Top your homemade pasta with hearty meat sauce and gobs of cheese.

Ingredients
1 batch Classic Pasta Dough
Kosher salt
pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 lb. ground pork
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 c. dry white wine
1/2 c. flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Shaved ricotta salata, for serving

Directions

  1. Prepare pasta dough and tubular shapes using rigatoni dial as directed.
  2. Bring large pot of water to a boil; add 1 tablespoon salt.
  3. Meanwhile, in large skillet, heat oil and garlic on medium 30 seconds. Add pork, season with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook, breaking up into pieces, until no longer pink, 5 to 6 minutes.
  4. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add wine and simmer until it no longer smells like wine, about 5 minutes. Fold in parsley.
  5. While pork is cooking, cook pasta to al dente, 4 to 6 minutes. Drain pasta and toss with ragu. Serve with ricotta salata if desired.

Nutritional info (per serving): About 615 calories, 26.5 g fat (7.5 g saturated), 33 g protein, 550 mg sodium, 59 g carb, 3 g fiber

6. Butternut Mole Enchiladas

These squash and bean enchiladas are just as sweet as they are nutty. Before you dive in, learn how to properly peel and cut butternut squash. It’s a lifesaver — take our word for it.

Ingredients
2 lb. butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. chili powder
Kosher salt
pepper
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, plus 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tbsp. lime juice
1/4 c. smooth peanut butter
3 oz. semisweet chocolate
12 soft corn tortillas
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed
4 oz. queso fresco, crumbled, plus more for serving
1 avocado, cut into chunks
Toasted pepitas and cilantro, for topping

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 400°F. On rimmed baking sheet, toss squash with oil, chili powder and pinch each salt and pepper. Roast until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside. Lower oven temp. to 350°F.
  2. Meanwhile, make sauce: In blender, puree tomato sauce, garlic, onion, chipotle chile and adobo, cinnamon, lime juice and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper until smooth. Transfer to sm. saucepan and simmer on medium 4 minutes. Add peanut butter and chocolate, stirring until melted and smooth. Remove from heat.
  3. Coat 13″ by 9″ baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, then spread 1/3 of mole sauce on bottom. Fill each tortilla with scant 1/4 cup squash and 1 tablespoon each black beans and queso fresco. Roll and place seam side down in prepared dish.
  4. Spoon another 1/3 of mole over top, cover and bake 20 minutes. Uncover, spread with remaining mole and bake 5 minutes more. Remove from oven and top with avocado and queso fresco, pepitas and cilantro, if desired.

Nutritional information (per serving): About 490 calories, 25 g fat (8 g saturated), 15 g protein, 865 mg sodium, 60 g carb, 13 g fiber.

7. Five-Spice Beef Stew

This not-so-basic stew packs a punch.

Ingredients
2 lb. boneless beef bottom round, trimmed and cut into 2-inch chunks
Kosher salt
pepper
2 tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
4 c. low-sodium beef broth
4 medium shallots, quartered
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 2-inch piece ginger, finely chopped
1 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder
3 star anise pods
1 small cinnamon stick
2 tbsp. tomato paste
12 oz. medium carrots (about 3), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
12 oz. medium parsnips (about 3), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 small purple-topped turnips, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 large bunch spinach, thick stems discarded
2 tbsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. lime juice
Cilantro and thinly sliced red chile, for topping

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 325°F. Season beef with ½ tsp each salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large Dutch oven on medium-high. Working in batches, cook beef, turning occasionally, until browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to bowl; repeat with remaining beef.
  2. Add 1/2 cup broth to pot and cook, scraping up any browned bits, 1 minute; transfer juices to bowl with beef.
  3. Lower heat to medium and add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pot along with shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, five-spice powder, star anise and cinnamon and cook, stirring, 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in tomato paste and cook 1 minute. Return beef and juices to pot along with carrots, parsnips, turnips, tomatoes and remaining 3 1/2 cups broth. Bring to a boil, then cover and bake until beef is very tender, 11/2 to 2 hrs.
  5. Remove from oven and discard star anise and cinnamon. Stir in spinach, fish sauce and lime juice. Serve topped with cilantro and chile.

Nutritional information (per serving): About 365 calories, 12 g fat (2.5 g saturated), 41 g protein, 950 mg sodium, 28 g carb, 7 g fiber.

8. Citrusy Shredded Pork

Upgrade your favorite taco recipe with fresh orange and grapefruit juice. The best part? This meal can be made right in your slow cooker — cook on high for 4 hours and 45 minutes, or on low for 7 hours and 45 minutes.

Ingredients
3/4 c. fresh orange juice (from 2 oranges)
3/4 c. fresh grapefruit juice (from 1 grapefruit)
1/2 c. fresh lime juice (from about 3 limes)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 habanero chile, seeded and finely chopped
1 bay leaf
2 lb. pork butt or shoulder, well- trimmed and cut into 2-inch chunks
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
Kosher salt
Pepper
Tortillas, Spicy Taco Pickle, and cilantro, for serving

Directions

  1. In 6-quart slow cooker, combine citrus juices, onion, habanero and bay leaf.
  2. Rub pork with garlic, spices, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and place in slow cooker. Cover and cook until pork is tender and shreds easily, 4 to 6 hours on High or 7 to 8 hours on Low.
  3. Transfer pork to bowl and use 2 forks to shred, then toss with 1/2 cup cooking liquid, adding more if pork seems dry. Serve with tortillas, Spicy Taco Pickles, and cilantro.

Nutritional information (per serving): About 220 calories, 11 g fat (4 g saturated), 22 g protein, 370 mg sodium, 8 g carb, 1 g fiber

9. Vegetable Ramen With Mushrooms and Bok Choy

If Meatless Monday isn’t your thing, add shredded chicken or sliced sirloin steak for extra protein.

Ingredients
3 scallions
1 3-oz piece ginger, peeled and very thinly sliced
5 tbsp. low-sodium tamari or soy sauce
6 oz. ramen noodles
6 oz. shiitake mushroom caps, thinly sliced
2 heads baby bok choy, stems thinly sliced and leaves halved lengthwise
4 oz. snow peas, thinly sliced lengthwise

snow peas, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 soft-medium boiled eggs, peeled and halved
1/2 c. cilantro sprigs
Thinly sliced red chile, to taste

Directions

  1.  Slice white parts of scallions and place in large pot with ginger and 8 cups water; bring to a boil. 
  2. Stir in tamari, then add noodles and cook per package directions, adding mushrooms and bok choy 3 minutes after adding noodles. Remove from heat and stir in snow peas and vinegar.
  3. Divide soup among 4 bowls and place 1 egg half on top of each. Slice remaining scallion greens and serve over soup along with cilantro and red chile.

Nutritional Information (per serving): About 300 calories, 10 g fat (4.5 g saturated), 13 g protein, 1,075 mg sodium, 38 g carb, 4 g fiber

10. Summer Minestrone

This veggie-packed soup is low in calories but high in flavor.

Ingredients
1 tbsp. oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
Salt
Pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 oz. red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 c. low-sodium vegetable broth
1 small zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 yellow squash, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 small carrot, thinly sliced
1/2 c. frozen peas
1/4 c. grated Parmesan
1 c. fresh basil, roughly chopped
Crusty bread, for serving

Directions

  1. Heat oil in large saucepan on medium. Add onion, season with salt and pepper and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes.
  2. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute. Add red potatoes and low-sodium vegetable broth and simmer 5 minutes. Add zucchini, yellow squash, and carrot; simmer 3 minutes.
  3. Add frozen peas and simmer until vegetables are just tender, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and fresh basil. Serve with crusty bread if desired.

Nutritional information (per serving): About 185 calories, 6 g fat (1.5 g saturated), 7 g protein, 490 mg sodium, 29 g carb, 5 g fibre