Easy Healthy Freezer Meals with Chicken to prepare ahead and reduce stress throughout the week. Use two whole chickens to reduce cost by more than 50% for your meat.
Cooking not only one but two whole chickens can be intimidating. I promise you though and swear by the moon and my mother that it is easy! VERY easy! And last time I checked here at my local Costco, a whole chicken was 60% cheaper per pound than chicken breasts. Mind you, there is bones in there that weigh but you’ll still get a lot more meat for your buck. I got 4 chicken breasts plus 6 cups of shredded meat out of my 3.25 pound chickens.
But for exacter calculations on chicken meat cost check out Kitchen Stewardship’s post about debunking 6 objections of buying a whole chicken. It’s an extraordinary post going into cost and quality detail like nobody else.
For more info on what to look out for when cooking two chickens you can check out my Two Whole Chickens Recipe post.
10 Chicken Freezer Meals
So now that we’re happy to use two whole chickens for our 10 healthy freezer meals prep, let’s get right into it! Prepping two chickens for roasting takes maybe 3 minutes. Since they’ll be in the oven a while you want to take advantage of the energy consumption a.k.a. heat in the oven to roast a bunch of root vegetables. For my recipe I chose onion, celery (not technically a root but aaahh), rutabaga, sweet potato and potato. The possibilities are endless though. Add or exchange for whole garlic cloves, turnip, parsnip, beets, yums, kohlrabi, jerusalem artichokes, radishes….I’m sure I’m forgetting a bunch. Oooh right, carrots!!
While the chickens and root veggies are slowly roasting you have plenty of time to prepare two sides to complement the roasted root veggies and to mix up your meals. Here again, the possibilities are endless. I chose a Peruvian-style wild rice blend and black quinoa “risotto” a.k.a. quinotto. Use regular white quinoa if you can’t find black. No biggie ;)
10 Healthy Freezer Meals
The healthiness of your meals will always depend on the balance of nutrients (protein, complex carbs etc.) as well as adding a lot of veggies. We’ve added a lot of root vegetables to the roaster, including starches as carbs and now it’s time to prepare other sides. Use wild rice or brown rice mixed with delicious vegetables and use quinoa and add baby spinach once finished cooking. The heat of the quinoa makes the spinach wilt and “cooks” it to perfection.
How long can chicken freezer meals last
This depends a lot on what kind of freezer you have but assuming it’s the on top of fridge freezer, 2-3 months. According to foodsafety.gov any soup or stew including meat is good for 2-3 months at an under 0℉ (-18℃)
If you plan on not freezing these meals but rather put them in the fridge, they last for up to 4 days. Cooked chicken lasts for up to 4 days in the fridge so you should aim to finish eating all meals by the 4th day.
What to store healthy freezer meals in
The big question! Plastic? No plastic? There is no doubt that the healthiest and environmentally most friendly materials are glass and stainless steel. There are some pretty cool glass containers * suitable for freezing and also cool stainless steel containers * suitable for freezing. If you have the space in the freezer, by all means use those. If you freeze in glass, mind you, you have to remember to put the frozen food in the fridge about 12 hours before planning to reheat. Both, to ensure glass doesn’t shatter with difference in temperature and to be able to remove the block of frozen food that stuck to the container. With stainless steel you have the advantage that you can put the container in hot water for a couple minutes and the frozen food will lift itself off the container and you can dump it into a saucepan for defrosting and reheating.
WARNING: No stainless steel in the microwave though!! Your microwave may start a fire!
Freezer Meals in Freezer Bags?
My favorite way of storing freezer meals is unfortunately not the most environmentally friendly. I haven’t found any other way to deal with the lack of space in my freezer. In order to buy animal protein the most environmentally friendly way possible I buy from farmers outside my city and I buy in bulk. That bulk obviously needs to be frozen. Hence, my freezer is almost completely full year round. So I’m left with having to use freezer bags * for my healthy freezer meals. I make sure to let the food cool down completely before adding so nothing leeks into my food from the plastic and I also never reheat in the bags. I squeeze out the frozen block into a saucepan, wash the bag and reuse it as often as possible.
* the links above are affiliate links and I earn a couple cents commission if you buy the products through the link. All earnings go towards buying coffee and keep my brain running to create more blog posts for you :P
Are freezer meals worth it?
Are freezer meals worth the effort? I mean, making a bunch of freezer meals obviously doesn’t take 10 minutes. It takes time and dedication and a little bit of planning. Is it worth all that? I guess it depends. If you don’t care about money, no. If you don’t care about nutrition, no. Maybe you prefer to spend double the time in a week cooking, then again no. If you DO care about money, time and nutrition it’s totally worth it!
I always try to meal plan. Because I always fall in the same pitfall when I don’t. “Ahhh, I won’t meal plan this week, I’ll just wing it and cook quick and easy dinners”. And 5 out of 7 times I will probably stick to it but the remaining two times? “Ugh, it’s 7:30, kids need to be in bed in 30 minutes, fridge is empty because I didn’t have time to go last minute grocery shopping. Let’s just have cashews and bananas for dinner, shall we?” (<- true story :S )
Having freezer meals in the freezer saves you on days like this!!! If you are someone to order in food, it even saves you a LOT OF MONEY!
Now let’s get cooking ;)
Healthy Freezer Meals Video
10 Healthy Freezer Meals with Chicken
- 2 3 lbs chickens
- 3 small onions
- 2 1/2 cups chopped celery
- 2 1/2 cups cubed rutabaga
- 2 1/2 cups cubed sweet potato
- 2 1/2 cups cubed potato
- high smoke point oil (such as avocado oil, safflower oil, ghee, semirefined sunflower oil....)
- sea salt
- 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
- 1 cup chopped carrot
- 1/2 cup frozen fresh peas
- 1 cup wild rice blend or brown rice
- 1/2 bunch cilantro
- 1 3/4 cups water
- sea salt
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 cup sliced leek just the white part! Discard dry green leaves.
- 1 cup black or white quinoa
- sea salt
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 2 Tbsp creme fraiche
- 3 cups baby spinach
- Preheat oven to 450F (230C).
- In the meantime peel and slice onions, wash and chop celery, peel and cube sweet potato, rutabaga, and potatoes. Add veggies to a large roasting pan with rack. Add a splash of oil, sea salt and pepper and mix well with your hands.
- Add rack to roasting pan and place two chickens on top. Oil, salt and pepper generously.
- Place in preheated oven but IMMEDIATELY REDUCE HEAT TO 400F (200C)! (<- IMPORTANT!!!). Roast for 20 minutes plus 20 minutes per pound of ONE chicken. Don't add up the total amount of pounds of the 2 chickens for this math. Do the math with your bigger chicken. If it's a 3 lbs chicken it's 20 minutes + 3x20 minutes = 80 minutes (1:20 hours). 2 chickens take as long as 1 single chicken in the oven when placed one next to the other as shown in the video.
- While chicken is roasting prepare rice and quinoa.
- Wash and chop bell pepper and peel and chop carrots.Wash and shake dry cilantro and add to a blender. Add a bit of sea salt and 1 3/4 cups water and blend until no more cilantro bits are left and you have "cilantro water"
- Add rice to a small pot, add cilantro water, chopped bell pepper and carrots and peas. Cover, bring to a boil and once boiling immediately reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 30-45 minutes or as instructed on package of rice of your choice.
- Wash and slice leek.
- Heat a small pot over medium heat and once hot add butter and sliced leek. Stir until brown and caramelized (about 10-15 minutes). Add quinoa, sea salt and 1 1/4 cups water to pot. Cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for approximately 15 minutes or as instructed on packaging of quinoa of your choice.
- Once quinoa is cooked, turn off the heat, add crème fraîche and give it a quick stir. Then add baby spinach and mix well. Place lid on pot and let spinach wilt with the remaining heat.
- Once chicken and root veggies are cooked through (use a meat thermometer to make sure internal temperature reached 165F (74C)) remove from oven and let cool down for about 30 minutes.
- Cut off 4 chicken breasts, store in freezer safe containers and divide roasted root veggies in 4 to add to chicken breasts.
- Shred the meat of the rest of the chicken. I got a total of 6 cups shredded chicken meat out of my 2x3lbs chickens.
- Add 1 cup of shredded chicken per container and divide rice and quinoa between your containers.
- Freeze :)
- To defrost, either move from freezer to fridge 12 hours before consumption and reheat when about to eat or put frozen food into a sauce pan and defrost/reheat at the same time.