Freezer Exchange

Make dinner easy with these freezer-ready dishes
and make-ahead meals.

Beef-Stuffed Shells Recipe

Beef-Stuffed Shells Recipe

Start with one thing, like Ground Beef Mix or Basic Beef Starter, and prepare future meals in less time. Or try some freezer-ready dishes that you can make ahead and have ready the next time you're wondering, "What's for dinner?" You'll also find some fabulous freezer tips below from other readers.

Ground Beef Mix

From Newark, Ohio, Candace Robinson seasons a batch of ground beef, divides it into meal-size portions and keeps Ground Beef Mix in the freezer. With a few additional ingredients, she can quickly whip up:

Bacon Meat Loaf
For this meat loaf, Candace thaws a portion of Ground Beef Mix, shapes it into a loaf and covers it with tomato sauce and bacon. Since there's little preparation before popping it in the oven, this main dish is ideal for busy weeknights.

Beef-Stuffed Shells
To assemble this recipe, Candace fills jumbo pasta shells with her beef mixture, then tops them off with spaghetti sauce and mozzarella cheese. Add a green salad and breadsticks for a made-in-moments meal.

Meatballs with Gravy
Preparing comfort food is a cinch when you have a batch of Ground Beef Mix in the freezer. For this dish, Candace tops hot cooked noodles with mouth-watering meatballs smothered in a savory sauce.

Basic Beef Starter

Amie Wollgast prepares Basic Beef Starter, a savory combination of ground beef, onions and garlic. Then she stores it in her freezer. "This mixture has saved me many hours in the kitchen," says the Florissant, Missouri cook. It gives a head start on:

Beef-Stuffed Peppers
Use a container of Amie's beef mix and your microwave oven to make these stuffed peppers in minutes. Green peppers are stuffed with the ground beef blend, tomato sauce, rice and seasonings.

Start-Ahead Stroganoff
It only takes a few moments to stir up this hearty dish when you have a portion of Amie's basic beef mix on hand. Simply combine it with canned mushrooms and a few other items, and simmer gently. Then ladle servings over cooked noodles for a sensational supper in no time.

Freezer-Ready Dishes

Jalapeno Chicken Enchiladas
These are likely to be as popular at your house as they are at mine. I have many requests for this recipe. For weddings, I place the recipe in a nice casserole dish to give as a gift.
—Kaylin DeVries, Magna, Utah

Mini Sausage Pizzas
I dress up English muffins with sausage and cheese to make these mini pizzas. My husband and son really enjoy these handheld breakfast pizzas in the morning.
—Janice Garvert, Plainville, Kansas

Freezer Tips

  • I shred carrots and freeze them in plastic bags in 1-cup portions. When a recipe calls for shredded carrots, I just pull a bag out of the freezer.
    —Candace Z., Eagar, Arizona
  • When chicken pieces are on sale, I buy several packages and bake all the chicken, skin side up, on foil-lined pans. When cool, I remove the skin and bones, cube the meat and freeze in measured portions to use in casseroles and other quick suppers.
    —Marilyn W., Des Moines, Iowa
  • I like to make a big batch of soup, then freeze individual servings. I line bowls with plastic wrap, pour in soup and freeze. Once frozen, the soup can be stored in large freezer bags. The frozen soup makes a nice gift for an ill friend or someone living alone.
    —Shirley P., Redmond, Washington
  • On Saturday mornings, I mix up a big batch of pancakes or waffles. What our family doesn't eat, I freeze to use throughout the week. It's a snap to heat up individual servings in the toaster for quick breakfasts.
    —Jennifer P., Havelock, North Carolina
  • I make a big batch of homemade mashed potatoes and freeze individual servings in muffin cups. Once they're frozen, I pop them out and store in resealable plastic freezer bags. During the week, I pull out as many servings as I need and heat them in the microwave.
    —Gretchen B., Surprise, Arizona
  • Bake your favorite meat loaf in muffin tins rather than in a loaf pan. Freeze them in small quantities so you can reheat one or two servings at a time. They are also great to have on hand when unexpected company comes over—just reheat as many servings as needed to make a meal.
    —Doreen K., Roslyn, Pennsylvania
  • It hardly seems worth the time to start the charcoal when barbecuing for just two people. So instead of grilling only a few hamburgers or sausages, I fill the grill with something for another meal. It's easy to refrigerate for the next day or freeze for a later date. That way, we can enjoy great barbecue flavor even in the middle of winter.
    —Shary G., Clear Lake, Iowa
  • Diced green, sweet red and yellow peppers can be frozen without blanching, so there's no need to put them in boiling water for a short time. Simply wash and dry the peppers, remove the stems and seeds and chop as desired. Pack into freezer bags, containers or canning jars. Be sure to label and date each package. The peppers will keep in your freezer for 3 to 6 months. When a cooked dish calls for diced peppers, you can use them directly from the freezer.
    —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
  • When I make chocolate chip cookies, I prepare a double batch of dough. I bake half of the dough for treats for my family and shape the other half into a roll. I double-wrap it in clear plastic wrap and foil, attach baking instructions to the foil for convenience and store in the freezer for up to 6 months. When I have drop-in company, I just slice and bake the frozen dough for warm-from-the-oven cookies.
    —Ann L., Welland, Ontario
  • I stock my freezer with two easy main dishes. I buy two links of kielbasa or smoked sausage, cut them into 1/4-inch slices and fry them in a skillet. I find two large microwave-safe freezer containers and pour a large jar of sauerkraut into one and a large can of baked beans into the other. I divide the sausage slices between the two dishes, put the lids on and place them in the freezer. Each dish can be thawed in the fridge for a day before warming in the microwave.
    —Katie W., Topeka, Kansas
  • Anytime we have leftover mashed potatoes, I assemble some of these savory treats to enjoy later. I mix some grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley into the mashed potatoes, then form them around a 2-inch-long strip of mozzarella cheese. Then I coat them in dry bread crumbs and freeze. When I have a good supply, I take them out of the freezer and fry them in butter until golden. My whole family looks forward to these cheesy potato treats.
    —Ginny P., Waretown, New Jersey