As much as some of us might like to cook, as much as we all want to put a home cooked dinner on the table as often as we can, the reality says that there will be nights when we need dinner to magically appear. The holiday season is precisely such a time – we are planning for those big family meals, but there are a lot of other nights in the week where dinner just needs to get on that table.
Luckily for all of us, the freezer aisle of the supermarket is ever evolving and ever improving, and there are so many great options out there. You can find all kinds of healthy, delicious, family-pleasing meals to stock up on, and then when you run in the door at 6:17 P.M., you know you’ve set yourself up for a quick solution to dinner.
01 of 11
My kids absolutely love it when “Mexican food” is the answer to what’s for dinner. El Monterey makes some of their favorites, from super flaky Empanadas with White Meat Chicken or Beef (made by hand! That’s amazing), Cheddar and Mozzarella Cheese, Quesadillas with Charbroiled Chicken and Monterey Jack Cheese, and Beef Tamales. I think it’s also very cool that the company has been family owned since 1964 – that’s pretty rare these days!
02 of 11
Further along the Mexican theme, Jose Ole makes great individually wrapped burritos and chimichangas that you can pull out, pop into the microwave or oven, and have hot and ready in less than 2 minutes (the microwave cooking option obviously). Steak and Cheese, Steak and Jalapeno, and Chicken Monterey Burritos, and Chicken and Cheese, Steak and Cheese, and Chipotle Chicken Chimichangas were all met with immediate thumbs up. The chimichangas’ flaky outer texture is best in the oven, if you’re not in a rush.
03 of 11
These come in 4 varieties, Homestyle, Italian Style, Swedish and Turkey, and my family loved them all. I always try to keep a bag or two of frozen meatballs in the freezer. Those plus a jar of sauce and a box of spaghetti means that there is ALWAYS a good dinner in the house. My kids are never disappointed to hear it's spaghetti and meatballs for dinner.
04 of 11
This family owned company serves up the classics right to your freezer. The lasagna with meat sauce was completely devoured, and there was sadness that there wasn’t a back up lasagna waiting to go. Eggplant Parmesan, Three Cheese Baked Ziti, Seafood Primavera, Shrimp Scampi, Chicken Alfredo, Manicotti with Sauce….the list of offerings reads like an Italian restaurant you wish was right in your neighborhood. No preservatives, fillers or chemicals.Continue to 5 of 11 below.
05 of 11
Luvo makes a really stellar assortment of heat and no-heat meals, some vegetarian, some not, some super kid-friendly, some more sophisticated. Having an array of these in the fridge means that anyone who needs a last minute meal will not feel shortchanged in the dinner departments Kale Ricotta Ravioli, Orange Mango Chicken, Red Wine Braised Beef and Polenta, Thai Style Green Curry Chicken, all made with recognizable ingredients….definitely proof that the freezer aisle is a happening place.
06 of 11
I was pretty sure these family sized frozen dinners of Shepherd’s Pie and Chicken Pot Pie were going to be happy-making for my husband and teenage boys, and I wasn’t disappointed. They thought the flavors of both were excellent. Organic, all natural, with short, clean ingredient lists – these feel somewhat like you froze your own homemade pot pies.
07 of 11
Again, all vegetarian all of the time. The meals serve 4 (though if you have older kids or are serving all adults, you might find the portions on the smaller size. But for 2 adults and 2 little kids, they are perfect. Our favorites were the Broccoli and Cheddar Bake, the Mac and Cheese (just a perennial kid pleaser) and the Vegetable Lasagna, and again all with very mild seasonings that err on the side of caution. Some of these choices are gluten free, such as the Rice Pasta Mac and Cheese, so check out the packaging if that is of interest.
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This is a line of very straightforward dishes, with nothing artificial added, and some varieties of which are pretty low in carbs (not that you are thinking about this for your kids, but you might be for yourself). Low carb varieties included Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo and the Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry, which was a favorite. Chicken Fried Rice will appeal to those who like a bit of sweetness in their Asian food, and the kids were very into the Meatball Marinara. All have a very controlled amount of calories and fat and a nice amount of protein.Continue to 9 of 11 below.
09 of 11
Two servings in each bag, created by Chef Mai Pham, these Southeast Asian dishes let you shake up dinner without a take-out menu. A broad array of choices includes Lemongrass Chicken Stir-Fry, Chicken Pad Thai, Chicken and Broccoli Noodles and a spicy Korean-Style Grilled Chicken. A fun night would be an assortment of several put out buffet style.
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Boy, were these good. We did a taste test with some older kids, and I did not share what was inside, because I didn’t want the kids to just gravitate to the cheese version, but all four were gobbled up. These included Cheese, Spinach and Ricotta, Mushroom and Fontina, and Chickpea and Kale. All super delicate in terms of the semi-sheer dough wrappers, but very satisfying.
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This isn’t exactly a new discovery in the freezer aisle – Stouffer’s has been one of the biggest players in the frozen food aisle for decades, and lasagna is one of their classic dishes. However, Stouffer’s is starting with their lasagna as they embark upon their new Kitchen Cupboard campaign, which aims to make the ingredient lists of their products shorter and more recognizable to the consumer. We can look forward to seeing other items in their collection reflecting a cleaner, simpler ingredient list.