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Keeping a well-stocked freezer pantry is a fantastic way to save money and be well-prepared to eat healthy meals without breaking the bank. Here are the top 10 freezer essentials I like to have on hand to make quick dinners after a long day!

Organized freezer.

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Focusing on budget-friendly pantry essentials and making the most of your freezer space will help you reduce food waste, avoid last-minute takeout, and make cooking at home more convenient. Then pair it with shopping at the Cheapest Grocery Stores and Buying Staples at Costco, and you'll be lowering your grocery budget in no time! 

Now disclaimer: You do not need a separate freezer to make a freezer pantry work for you. I started stocking homemade freezer meals when I had a tiny top freezer in my 375 sq. foot studio. It is very possible to keep an array of freezer essentials on hand and have at least 4 freezer meals in rotation in a small freezer. Trust me, if I can do it, you can do it.

Frozen fruits.

Frozen Fruit

Most people keep frozen fruit on hand for making homemade smoothies and smoothie bowls, but frozen fruit can be used for much more than frozen drinks. For example, I use Frozen Cherries to make cherry pie bars, homemade jam, muffins, baked oatmeal, and more (browse all of my favorite Frozen Cherry Recipes!).

Frozen fruit is almost always cheaper than fresh fruit, especially during the off season. And despite what you may think, frozen fruit is typically more nutritious than fresh fruit because it is picked at peak ripeness (fresh fruit is picked early to prevent spoilage during transit). 

Stock up on berries, mango, pineapple, bananas, and more. You can also freeze fruit yourself when it’s on sale, saving even more money. Use my How to Freeze Raspberries and How to Freeze Blackberries articles as a guide! 

Frozen Vegetables

Like frozen fruit, frozen vegetables are harvested and frozen at peak ripeness, making them the perfect cheap, nutritious addition to cheap vegan meals. I like to keep a variety of vegetables like frozen broccoli, spinach, peas, green beans, corn, mixed vegetable blends, edamame, and cauliflower rice on hand. 

These can be added to almost anything for a boost of nutrition. Try them in Vegan Stir Fry Recipes like this Peanut Noodle Stir Fry, casseroles like Vegan Tater Tot CasseroleVegan Pesto Pasta Bake, and Lentil Shepherd's Pie. Or serve as a simple dinner side dish (I do this a lot with frozen edamame and frozen broccoli florets!). 

Frozen breads.

Bread

Bread freezes exceptionally well, so when it goes on super sale at the grocery store, stock up and throw it in the freezer. I personally have a dedicated bin in my freezer for bread and regularly have burger buns, pita bread, ciabatta rolls, sliced sourdough, english muffins, focaccia, and tortillas on hand. 

If you are freezing homemade bread, I recommend slicing it in advance. This helps it defrost more quickly, and allows you to defrost a slice at a time, as desired. This can help reduce food waste, especially if you live alone or cook for 2 and don't need a full loaf of bread. 

Frozen shepherd's pie.

Freezer Meals

Having homemade freezer meals ready to go will save you so much time, money, and dinner time stress! I can't tell you how many times my freezer meals have saved me from resorting to expensive takeout.

If you've taken my 30-day grocery challenge or follow my meal planning method, you'll know I recommend having at least 4 freezer meals on hand at all times and teach you how to double and freeze your favorite soups, stews, casseroles, and breakfast recipes. Or, check out these healthy meals that freeze well: 

Frozen vegan cheese.

Dairy

Many dairy (and non-dairy) products surprisingly do well in the freezer, so stock up on your favorites when they go on sale! For example, you can freeze blocks of cheese whole or shredded and frozen in portions for easy use in cooking. 

Milk and cream can be frozen in ice cube trays to use in recipes like my Banana Smoothie Bowl (I use frozen coconut milk here!). 

Lastly, butter and cream cheese are very freezer friendly and can be frozen directly in it's packaging!

Frozen proteins.

Protein

Stock your freezer with budget-friendly proteins like tofu, tempeh, various types of beans and lentils, and mock meats like veggie sausages and veggie burgers. I currently have all of the above in my freezer! 

Dry beans are one of my favorite pantry staples to cook in bulk using the Instant Pot (try my Instant Pot Black Beans and Instant Pot Refried Beans) and freeze in individual portions using Souper Cubes (see photo below). Chickpeas, for example, are great to have on hand for making hummus, adding to salads, stews, soups, easy sandwiches and casseroles. 

Frozen beans.

For those who eat meat, stock up on budget-friendly cuts like chicken thighs, ground beef, chuck roast, and other cuts of meat that can be portioned and frozen.

I don't share a lot of resources for cooking with meat because I cannot justify the cost, but Sweet Peas and Saffron and Meal Plan Addict have tons of resources for meat eaters! For example, check out these 7 Chicken Marinade Recipes You Can Freeze!

Vegetable and Bone Broth

Homemade vegetable broth is a fantastic (FREE) way to use up vegetable scraps, creating a rich, flavorful base for soups, stews, and sauces. Make large batches of veggie broth or Bone Broth in your Instant Pot and freeze it in glass mason jars or smaller individual portions using Souper Cubes. This will not only save you money but also reduces food waste. 

Souper cube trays in freezer.

Whole Grains

Cooking rice and other whole grains from scratch and freezing it in individual portions is a great way to save time and money on busy weeknights. Use your Instant Pot to cook large batches of rice, cool to room temperature, then freeze in 2-cup Souper Cubes. This allows you to defrost just what you need, reducing waste and ensuring you always have a side or base for your meals. Brown rice, white rice, quinoa and even specialty rices like jasmine or basmati can all be cooked and frozen for later use.

In my microwave, I can defrost 2-cup portions of rice in just 5-7 minutes! Use it to make my favorite meals with white rice or healthy grain bowls!

Frozen dips, sauces, and spreads in mason jars.

Sauces, Salsas, Dips

Homemade tomato sauce, pasta sauces, gravy, tomato paste, pesto, salsa, hummus, ketchup, Alfredo sauce, apple sauce, and more can be made in large batches and frozen in small amounts for quick and easy meal starters in the future. Experiment with different recipes and freeze your favorites for easy meal enhancements. I do this regularly to reduce food waste as well! 

Frozen salsa in freezer door.

Leftovers 

​While leftovers aren't freezer essentials per se, getting in the habit of freezing leftovers before they go bad is a great way to save a lot of money in the long run. After all, reducing food waste is one of the easiest ways to lower your monthly grocery bill. 

I recommend scheduling time to clean out the fridge once per week to prevent food waste. Or, pre-portion your recipe into the amount of meals you need and freeze the rest right away. For example, we are a family of 2 and only like to eat recipes twice (once for dinner and once for lunch). If I am making a recipe that has 6 or 8 servings, I will portion the dinner into 4 servings and freeze the rest immediately in Souper Cubes

Here's a list of random foods that freeze well:

  • Fresh herbs – chop them up, divide in an ice cube tray, then cover the leftover herbs with olive oil or water. 
  • Cookie dough – ​freeze half of your cookie dough recipe and bake a single cookie when a craving strikes! 
  • Fresh fish – cut into individual filets and vacuum seal it for ultimate freshness. I do this with wild salmon when I can find it on sale.
  • Leftover wine – ​great for cooking! 
  • Nuts and seeds – ​I keep extra nuts and seeds in the freezer to prevent them from going rancid. 
12 Dirt Cheap Weeknight Dinners ebook page.
12 Dirt Cheap Weeknight Dinners ebook cover.

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