Freezer Meals for Busy Days Back »

Author Kellie Elmore once said, “I love how summer just wraps its arms around you like a warm blanket.” For many of us, summer means happy, productive, on the go days. South Dakota summer activities may include time gardening, farming, ranching, attending baseball/softball games, lawn care, and participating in physical activities, just to name a few. We’re often reluctant to go indoors until the last hint of the sun has set. Time spent on food prep may take a back seat due to busy schedules.

Save Time: Plan Ahead!

Making meals ahead and freezing them will make dinnertime less stressful for you and your family. We’re also less likely to eat out if we have food ready to go into the oven. The USDA’s MyPlate is a great place to find information on meal planning. Try to include your family’s favorite recipes.

Once your meals are planned, set aside a lump of time (possibly during a weekend day) to do advance meal preparation. You may want to encourage family members to join in the fun by setting up an “assembly line” to speed up food prep. For quick lunches, freeze meals in individual portions. Freeze larger portions for family meals.

Benefits of making meals ahead include:

  • Save time by using shortcuts. When chopping vegetables, such as onion or celery, consider chopping enough for multiple casseroles and/or soup. Use zip-top bags or air-tight containers to store the vegetables in the refrigerator.
  • By cooking more than one dish at a time, your oven is used more efficiently.
  • We increase our ability to prepare nutritious meals that appeal to our family and fit the family budget.

By planning to make freezer meals ahead, you can look forward to productive, busy days, increased quality time with family and friends and make the most of long, summer days.

More Ideas & Information

  • Check out The University of Georgia Extension’s Preserving Food: Freezing Prepared Foods for an in depth chart showing recommended packaging for specific foods and suggested length of freezer storage.
  • View Freezer Meal Planning by Utah State University Cooperative Extension Service for additional meal planning and preparation instructions.
  • The following recipes may also help you put a meal on the table in a hurry.

Roast Chicken With Garlic - Master Mix

  • 2 whole chickens (about 3.5 pounds each)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 large heads garlic

Recipe Card


  1. Season both the inside and outside of the chicken with pepper. Place breast side down on racks in two roasting pans. Toss garlic heads in oil and place in roasting pans.
  2. Roast the chicken and garlic in a 400°F oven for one hour and ten minutes or until a thermometer reaches 160°F. Cool.
  3. Separate garlic into cloves and squeeze pulp out of each clove into a small bowl. Mash with fork and set aside. May be frozen for use with other recipes.
  4. Remove meat from chicken and dice. Discard skin and bones.
  5. Cover and refrigerate for up to three days or freeze in a freezer safe container up to 3 months.
  6. Use roast chicken meat in your favorite recipes.

Yield: 7 cups chicken meat and 1/2 cup garlic puree.

Tex-Mex Enchiladas

  • 1 can (15 ounce) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 teaspoons dried cilantro or parsley (or 2 tablespoons fresh, chopped)
  • 1 jar (10.5 ounce) salsa
  • 3 cups roast chicken master mix
  • 2 cups low-fat Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
  • 8 large whole wheat tortillas
  • 1 jar (10.5 ounce) salsa (optional topping when reheated)

Recipe Card


  1. Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with foil, leaving enough overhang to cover food and seal foil. Spray foil with cooking spray.
  2. In mixing bowl, combine black beans, chicken master mix, cilantro, 1 cup cheese and 1 jar of salsa.
  3. Fill each tortilla with 1/2 cup of chicken mixture. Roll and place seam side down in baking pan. Sprinkle remaining cheese over enchiladas.
  4. Seal, label and freeze. Once enchiladas are frozen, remove from pan and return to freezer, or wrap individually.

To Cook:

  1. Peel foil from enchiladas and return to baking pan. Thaw for 24 hours in the refrigerator. Cover pan loosely with foil and bake at 350°F for 1 hour.
  2. Remove foil and bake 15 minutes longer to 165°F. Individual servings can also be reheated in the microwave. Optional: For a moister enchilada, spoon additional jar of salsa over top.

Nutrition Facts: per enchilada - Calories: 350, Fat: 11g, Protein: 28g, Carbohydrates: 35g, Fiber: 5g, Cholesterol: 64mg, Sodium: 830mg. Serves 8.


  • Cook Simply. Eat Smart. Adapted for use by SDSU Extension from “Make-Ahead Meals”, written by Sandra Bastin, State Food and Nutrition Specialist, University of Kentucky Extension and also from Utah State University Extension.
  • NDSU Extension Service. Make-ahead Meals Save Dinnertime Tonight. February 2011.
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