This article may contain links from our affiliate partners. Please read how we make money!
Have you been thinking about meal prep yet aren’t sure how to do that without a freezer to store the food? I had the same concerns when I lived in a studio apartment for a few years. But it is possible to meal prep without a freezer, and I will tell you how.
How to Meal Prep Without a Freezer
You can easily meal prep without a freezer. I did it for over two years living in a tiny apartment with a hoover fridge that could barely fit a popsicle in the freezer section. These days I still sometimes do meal prep that doesn’t require a freezer.
There are a few tricks you can use to meal prep without putting any of your food in the freezer. Your fridge has enough real estate to hold everything you need. I will share those tricks and techniques with you.
9 Ways to Meal Prep Without a Freezer
Whether you want to meal prep to eat healthier, to save time during weekdays, or simply because you hate cooking every day but don’t have a freezer to store the food, there is no need for concern. Meal prepping without a freezer is possible and super fun because you can get creative and make things work to suit your requirements.
Here are some ideas you can incorporate to help you achieve meal-prepping without a freezer:
Planning is beneficial and essential if you don’t have freezer space. Here are some ways you can plan efficiently:
- Make a meal plan, or you can use meal prep apps. Figure out precisely what dishes you want for the week, how much you need, and whether you want leftovers.
- Only buy the ingredients you need. Based on your meals, shop your pantry and then buy only the fill-in ingredients for those meals. Only purchase the amounts you need per recipe, especially if components need to be in the refrigerator.
- Make a list of what you can cook and prep and how to incorporate them into your meals. Knowing which ingredients or components of certain dishes can be precooked and stored in the fridge, what you can leave for last, and how you will cook them helps prevent overcooking and waste.
Cook Small Batches
You can store meal prep for long periods when you don’t have a freezer. Most precooked food can stay up to a week in the fridge. Don’t make too much. Stick to meal prepping for a few days to a week to ensure that all the food will be used within that time.
Living in a studio apartment was my biggest challenge. I like to cook in large batches and freeze portions for later in the month. But without any freezer space, I had to learn to narrow it down and cook smaller quantities of only two to three dishes that would get eaten within a week.
Ensure Protein Is Cooked Well
If you batch-cook animal proteins like meat or chicken for meal prep and store them in the fridge for a few days, you must ensure they are cooked through properly. You don’t want the growth of bacteria from storing raw meat, nor do you want food poisoning from eating that.
Use Airtight Containers
Whether you have a freezer or not, storing meal-prepped food in airtight containers is absolutely necessary. It helps to keep the food fresher for longer and prevents the build-up of bacteria and mold.
One of my tricks is to get a bunch of same-size containers for meal prep. I like doing that because they stack up in the fridge and fit better. When you have no freezer to pack the food into, it is super helpful to maximize space in the refrigerator.
Canning is a fantastic method to use for meal prepping. You don’t need a fridge or freezer for canned foods. They also last much longer. However, canning does take a special technique and a little extra time.
Use a Dehydrator
Using a dehydrator is a fantastic way to build up a food supply. It might not be the closest thing to meal prepping for the week or month ahead, yet it is valuable. If you need a freezer or just have one that’s too small, yet you want to ensure you always have food on hand, get a dehydrator.
That way, you can always have a supply of dry goods, so if you ever run out of food or are in a crisis, you know you will be okay. This is a great idea if you live somewhere with electricity issues or natural disasters prone to occur. Dehydrating means food will be the least of your worries.
Set Your Fridge to a Lower Temperature
Most of your food will go in the fridge when you meal prep without a freezer. That means your refrigerator will be packed for a few days. When a fridge is full, it needs to be at a lower temperature to remain cold enough and keep food as fresh as possible for longer.
Organize Your Fridge Well
One of my favorite things is organizing; my home, cabinets, closets, and refrigerator. That works to my benefit when I meal prep without using a freezer. Knowing how to pack and organize items in the fridge efficiently allows me more space for the food I prep.
Placing like items together, getting rid of things that don’t belong in the fridge, and getting fridge organization containers are some examples of how you can maximize your refrigerator real estate.
Prep Individual Ingredients
This tip should go down in the history books because people will use this for generations to come. I quickly learned this while living in a studio with a small fridge and no freezer space to spare. Meal prepping was essential for me, so I had to learn to make it work.
Prepping specific ingredients and storing them without making a complete meal is helpful because it saves space, prevents the food from going bad without a freezer, and allows you to switch your meals up throughout the week.
Here is how you can prep individual ingredients and components of a dish:
- Wash and chop your veggies into the required shapes and sizes. Place them in containers and store them in the fridge.
- Cook all your meat for the week. Store as is and use as needed throughout the week.
- Grate cheese for the week and store it in an airtight container or Ziploc bag for the week.
- Sauté onions and store in a container. Use as needed.
- Cook a batch of pasta or pizza sauce. Use as needed for pasta, pizza, spaghetti, lasagna, etc.
- Cook a few cups of rice and place it in an airtight container. Store the rice in the fridge.
- Fry some bacon, sausages, burger patties, etc., for the week. Use as needed.
Once your ingredients are prepped and ready in the fridge, you can throw together a meal in less than 15 minutes. It also means you aren’t stuck with a dish you don’t feel for and can get creative in throwing things together to make it work per your cravings.
When I do this, sometimes the ground beef for lasagna becomes taco filling, or shredded chicken for pasta becomes chicken soup. And it’s like getting fresh food every time!
Meal prepping without a freezer is possible, and it can be fun. You can get creative and use my ideas to get the most out of refrigerator storage, ensuring you keep your food as fresh as possible and building food stock in your home.
Nathaniel Lee is an avid cook, drawing on his decades of home cooking and fine dining experience. He is a contributing chef at Mashed, and his recipes and contributions have been featured in Tasting Table, Edible Arrangements, Insanely Good Recipes, and The Daily Meal.