Autumn’s shorter and shorter days make it hard to get home and cook dinner before it’s pitch black and all you really feel like doing is crawling into bed. Here are some make-ahead fall freezer meal favorites that you can cook on a cozy Sunday afternoon and enjoy in the weeks to come. All of these recipes keep well, and you can scale the portions appropriately.
Most are at least a little indulgent, because this is the season of comfort food—and speaking of comfort (and indulgence), since the bulk of the work is already done beforehand, you’ll have time to relax with a warm drink while they reheat.
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Beef stew is easy and comforting and freezes like a dream. Our version is full of vegetables and reheats well with pasta, egg noodles, rice, or any starch you feel like whipping up. Or grab a crusty baguette and use it for sopping up any leftover stew in your bowl. Get our Slow Cooker Beef Stew recipe.
Spaghetti sauce, with or without meat, is a great thing to keep in the freezer, and you’ll never regret making a double batch. This recipe has a ton of flavor plus ground beef for extra protein—and since it’s made in the Crock-Pot, it’s super easy. Dump it from the freezer into a pot and heat it up while you make pasta, then combine with some parmesan cheese on top for a perfect weeknight meal. Get our Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce recipe.
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For another familiar favorite that features an autumnal twist, try these chicken and black bean enchiladas on for size. Smothered in a pumpkin sour cream sauce, they can be frozen and reheated at your leisure, whether you want to make them far in advance or just have a ton of leftovers you want to save for later. Get the Spicy Black Bean Chicken Enchiladas with Pumpkin Sour Cream Sauce recipe.
Mac and cheese may be the ultimate comfort food, and it can be convenient too—even when the infamous blue box is not involved. The trick to avoiding mushiness is to undercook the pasta before mixing it with the cheese and sauce and freezing. Get the Make Ahead Freezer Mac and Cheese recipe.
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Our slow cooker split pea soup recipe is a great one to have in your repertoire. You can easily alter this to make it vegetarian by leaving out the ham bone and replacing chicken broth with veggie broth; plus, you can freeze individual portions for an easy-to-grab lunch option that doubles as an ice pack. Get our Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup recipe.
This spinach lasagna recipe is easy to make ahead in steps and lasts for up to three months in the freezer, so you’ll have dinner ready to go whenever you choose to defrost. It even works as a great vegetarian main to keep on hand for an impromptu dinner party. We also have a Vegan Lasagna recipe, but this vegetarian version has mozzarella, parmesan, and ricotta—the cheesy goodness will not go unnoticed. Get our Lasagna recipe.
Let’s not forget about dessert. Apples, the ultimate fall fruit, are tumbled with cinnamon and sugar and a bit of flour in a buttery crust, then topped with a generously thick cinnamon crumb layer before being frozen—and the best part? You don’t even need to thaw this before you bake it. Get the Crumb-Topped Apple Pie recipe.
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Prefer not to mess with crimping crust? These easy apple dumplings are equally delicious and will last for two weeks in the freezer. Perfect to make ahead for a fall dinner party, or just to keep on hand and bake one at a time when you feel like a cozy autumn dessert. Get the Easy Apple Dumplings recipe.
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‘Tis the season for all things pumpkin too, and this easy pumpkin snacking cake is a great make-ahead dessert. You can bake it, slather it with rich chocolate frosting, freeze it on a baking sheet, then wrap it up and stash it in the freezer for up to a whole month before you’re ready to defrost it and devour! It’s a great Thanksgiving dessert if you want a change of pace from pie. Get the Pumpkin Snacking Cake recipe.
Breakfast is in the bag too! If you start the day off with these single-serve frozen oatmeal portions, there’s no way it won’t be a great day. Take one or two and microwave them with some milk or water and you’ll have a hot breakfast in only a minute or two. Add whatever fresh or dried fruit and/or nuts you want before freezing to make breakfast even quicker. Get the Make Ahead Breakfast Oatmeal Cups recipe. (You can prep these in an Instant Pot as well.)
Caitlin M. O’Shaughnessy is a New York City–based food writer and editor at Penguin who has worked on and recipe-tested several cookbooks. She is currently in search of NYC’s best ramen, and is one of the few people who admit to disliking brunch.
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