9 Shift Work Meal Ideas (Easy and Freezable)

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We know too many shift workers who would love to be a master chef! The complexity is making a scrumptious meal takes time and effort, both areas which we are traditionally lacking. So we’ve put together 9 meals for shift workers that are quick and easy, that will really get your taste buds jumping!

Now, before we give you the recipes, we do need to flag something. As we are traditionally working against our body clocks and have way too many outstanding errands to run, these meals are designed specifically for those working a rotating roster or night shift. If you’re new to this world, what does that actually mean?

You will find meals here that meet the following criteria;

  • those that you can cook in bulk or on mass
  • food that will freeze well and still taste amazing when heated up
  • meals that will provide you with plenty of energy and sustain you for long periods of time

Unlike our 9-5 working friends, shift workers must think about both what and when we eat. This plays a vital role in helping us live a happy and healthy lifestyle and avoid any potential medical issues down the road. If you’d like some help with understanding when to eat as a night shift worker, check out this great post here. 

Anyhow, enough of the preamble and lets get into what you came for…. Enjoy the mouthwatering meals we’ve put together below and please share your own suggestions to our community in the comments. We always love hearing what other people make to get them through a long shift!

1. Slow-Cooked Chicken

Slow-cooked chicken is a staple in our house before a run of shifts. It allows you to cook plenty of it in bulk, it can be super flavoursome and it can be eaten in a number of ways; add vegetables as a side, roll up the chicken into a healthy burrito, add a salad or even mix it with some starchy carbs (think quinoa). You’re all set for 3-4 days!

But what we LOVE the most about this meal, is the crockpot / slow cooker. Here is why:

  • Limited chance of burning your food
  • Leave and forget – minimal fuss
  • No need to add ingredients later as flavours develop over the cooking time
  • No fancy technique required to cut your food
  • No need to lift the lid and stir (you’ll actually loose heat and the cooking will take more time!)
  • Cheaper cuts of meat can be used and are recommended (when slow cooking beef)

Here are four different flavors you can try when slow cooking chicken:

  • Slow Cooker Buffalo Shredded Chicken
  • Slow Cooker BBQ Shredded Chicken
  • Slow Cooker Mexican Shredded Chicken
  • Garlic & Olive Oil Shredded Chicken

3 big tips for slow cooking chicken:

  • Try to look for chicken options that are 93% – 99% lean.
  • Make sure frozen chicken is thawed out before cooking.
  • Use chicken thighs or chicken breasts to stop the chicken drying out. 

This video explains how to make the four different types of slow chicken as explained above. 

What If I Don’t Like Chicken?

Here are some options:

  • Lean protein: Try meats like turkey, pork, sausages and steak. Seafood such as Cod, Haddock, shrimp and tuna work well. But the best and recommended option from us are those plant-based solutions; black beans, lentils, tofu and tempeh.

For more information on plant-based alternatives, check out our complete guide for shift workers here.

Note 1. If you want protein and you’re adding in hard boiled eggs to any meal, they don’t freeze well. The whites will become tough and rubbery. So it’s best to cook enough to last the week and leave that meal in the fridge instead.  

Note 2. We always get asked if you need to brown off the meat before slow cooking. It comes down to personal preference. Some say it caramelizes the surface of the meat leading to a richer flavor, while others disagree. What is agreed though, coating the meat in flour prior to browning it will add body to the sauce.

How long can slow-cooked chicken be stored for?
It will freeze for 4 months. Fridge typically 3-4 days. If you did cook fish instead, it can be stored a little longer. 4-5 days in the fridge and 4-6 months in the freezer.

2. Healthy Meat-Free Burgers 

As you’ve just heard us mention plant based options for shift workers, we thought we’d continue with the super healthy theme. Here’s why:

  • Makes 6-9 burgers in one batch
  • Super tasty when reheated after being frozen
  • Delicious on it’s own, in a burger bun or with a side
  • Packed with gut loving vegetables to maintain a healthy digestive system
  • Good opportunity to enjoy a meat-free meal

There are all sorts of burgers I love to make fresh then freeze individually. The majority are vegetarian or plant based, as I like to eat a few meat-free meals per week. 

Being able to simply make a salad or steam some vegetables and heat up the burger separately ensures a feeling of freshness. This makes it the perfect meal during any shift (if you have the facilities to heat your meals of course). 

Our number 1 burger recipe can be found here:

Red kidney bean burgers

  • 2 cans of red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 1 teaspoon of chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • Finely diced mushrooms
  • 3/4 cup of dried breadcrumbs
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Optional: hot sauce (just watch out for the reflux on night shift), bell peppers thinly diced, half a red onion thinly diced. 


  1. Mash the beans in a bowl then add all the other ingredients and mix well.
  2. Divide into even balls, pushing down to create a disc shape.
  3. Cook 3 at a time on the stove with oil.
  4. Allow to cool then wrap individually in foil on a glass container.

Can I use canola oil?
You can, but there are better choices out here like olive oil, coconut oil, ghee, grass fed butter, avocado oil, etc. Canola oil is usually genetically modified, containing lower amounts of essential nutrients we need.You can make a delicious burger like this or just enjoy it with a salad or some vegetables!

How long can these burgers be stored for?
3-5 days in the fridge. Frozen 2-3 months.

Healthy Burgers | The Other Shift

3. Chili Con Carne 

  • Makes 6+ meals in one batch
  • Still super tasty when reheated after being frozen
  • Delicious on its own or with rice
  • Loaded with vegetables to maintain shift worker health
  • One-pot – minimal cleanup!

What you will need:

(Don’t be overwhelmed by the number of ingredients)

  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 2 red peppers
  • Olive oil
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of chili powder
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1 x 400g tin of chickpeas
  • 1 x 400g tin of red kidney beans
  • 2 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 500g of quality minced beef
  • ½ a bunch of fresh coriander (15g)
  • 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
  • Optional: baking cocoa


  1.  Finely peel and chop the onions, garlic, carrots and celery. Nobody cares about your technique here. The same goes for the peppers – halve and chop away. 
  2. Grab the biggest casserole dish you’ve got and heat 2 tablespoons of oil on high heat. Throw in the chopped veggies, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon and a good pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Stir these ingredients regularly until they are softened.  
  3. Drain and add the chickpeas, kidney beans and tip in the tomatoes. Then pour in 1 tin’s worth of water. Add the raw minced beef, breaking any larger chunks with a spoon.
  4. Add in some balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Also, add in some coriander stalks to the pan if you enjoy the flavor.  
  5. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat, then simmer with a lid slightly ajar for 1 hour. Stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick.
    • Fluffy rice (either pre-made in the rice cooker or in individual bags available at the grocer. Couscous could work here too). 
    • Yogurt (your choice)
    • Guacamole
    • Wedges of lime 
    • Fresh chili or coriander

This “good old chili con carne” recipe was adapted from Jamie Oliver’s book, JAMIE’S MINISTRY OF FOODOpens in a new tab., which you can see via Amazon here. It’s packed with other meals we make VERY often as shift workers, reasonably priced and let’s be honest – it has Jamie in it!

How long can Chili Con Carne be stored for?
The same timeframe as soup. Fridge 3-5 days. Frozen 2-3 months. However, if you do add cooked meats, the frozen storing time is reduced down to 1-2 months.

4. Slow Cooked Beef Stew

  • Makes multiple meals in one batch
  • Easily reheated once frozen
  • Delicious on its own, with rice or noodles
  • Hearty, filling and hot (perfect for pre night shift!)
  • One-pot

What you need:

  • 2 pounds of chuck beef cut in 1-inch pieces 
  • x1 large brown onion
  • x2 carrots
  • x3 stalks of celery 
  • x3 rinds of bacon (optional but we like the flavour)
  • x1 tin of diced tomatoes (we often buy the jalapeno variety for extra flavor)
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • x1 tin of tomato paste
  • Sprinkle of mixed herbs
  • Sweet potato (or red potatoes)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • Optional: Ground coriander, broccoli, sweet potato, beef broth depending on the consistency you want. 


  1. Dice the beef into chunks and brown it off in a hot pan with olive oil. Remove from the pan once brown and place in a crockpot / slow cooker
  2. In the same pan cook the diced onion and garlic for a few minutes until brown. Then place in the crock pot / slow cooker
  3. Throw in the diced carrots, celery, tin of tomatoes, tomato paste, herbs, salt and pepper and stir.
  4. Place on low for 8 hours or high for 4 depending on how much time you have. Low is better as the flavours develop over time, but the high temperature setting is fine if you’re in a hurry.

How long can slow cooked beef stew be stored for?
In the fridge it’s 3-4 days. Frozen 2-3 months. However, if you add bacon this must be eaten quicker – 7 days in the fridge but only one month frozen.

Slow Cooked Beef

5. Chicken and Corn Noodle Soup

  • Makes 5+ meals in one batch
  • Easily frozen and reheated (don’t forget a cover in the microwave for this one!)
  • Delicious on its own or with whole-grain crusty toast
  • Great for hydration. A key for those working night shift.
  • We see this as a magic potion for overcoming the common cold or feeling under the weather.

I know this recipe may seem SUPER basic but we love it. Why? Because it’s our “go-to” in helping overcome the shift work sniffles and feeling a little down. We try and include this in our diet at least once per week.

What you need:

  • 1 liter (33 oz) of chicken broth (choose one with low sodium)
  • 1-2 pounds of skinless chicken breast thinly sliced
  • 1 tin of cream of corn
  • 1 tin of corn kernels  
  • 2 packets of instant noodles (the flavor doesn’t matter because we don’t add the packet of flavoring)
  • 4 eggs whisked 
  • A handful of spring onion chopped


  1. Boil the chicken broth and 8 cups of water together in a BIG pan
  2. Once boiled, add creamed corn, corn kernels and bring that to the boil
  3. Add eggs, spring onion, chicken breast (raw), 2-minute noodles crushed 
  4. Simmer for 30 minutes. We often cook this in the slow cooker too which works well for someone who might be sleeping during the day.
  5. Allow cooling before putting in the fridge or freezing.

Hand scooping soup into bowel | shift work meal ideas | 6 Healthy, Freezable Shift Work Meal Ideas for Beginners  ​

An extra note about soups and shift work…
If you’re bringing a frozen soup to work make sure there is somewhere safe it can thaw out and not be thrown away or eaten. Also, make sure you have containers that won’t spill or leak into your bag – a mistake I’ve made on too many occasions.

These are the ones we love when transporting soup.

How long can chicken soup be stored for?
In the fridge 3-4 days. Frozen 2-3 months.

6. Crock Pot Turkey Bolognese Sauce

  • A healthier alternative to mine, especially when using the lean cuts of meat
  • Can be used in a number of different ways; with some starchy carbs (quinoa or over sweet potatoes), as a sauce with some vegetables or over the top of a salad mix. Dan substitutes his traditional spaghetti for a salad based and tells everyone not to knock it until you try it.
  • Throw it in the crockpot and flavors will come to life over 6 hours.
  • Will make 4-6 different servings – depending on if you go back for a second round!

What you need:

  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
  • 1 large onion pureed
  • 1-1/2 tsp (7 mL) minced garlic
  • 2 lbs. (1 kg) ground turkey
  • 1 cup (250) mL water
  • 1/2 cup (250 mL) red wine vinegar
  • 12 oz (375 g) frozen diced carrots
  • 15 oz (480 mL) can diced tomatoes, with juices
  • 12 oz (350 mL) can tomato paste
  • 15 oz (480 mL) can tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) oregano
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) fennel seed, crushed


  1. Peel and quarter onion. Puree the onion until smooth.
  2. Sauté onions and garlic in a large skillet on medium-high until the onions are translucent.
  3. Add ground turkey and cook until the meat has a browned texture. Add meat, onion-mixture, water, red wine vinegar, carrots, tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, oregano and fennel to slow cooker.
  4. Cook on LOW for 5-6 hours or on High for 3-4 hours. The sauce should have a sharp red color to it.

How long can Crock Pot Turkey Bolognese Sauce be stored for?

It will freeze for 4 months. Fridge typically 3-4 days.

This recipe has been adapted from this website

7. Mini Quiches

  • Can be consumed as a main meal or healthy snack
  • Simple to make and rich with flavour.
  • Flexible enough that you can add anything you wish into the middle as flavouring.
  • This recipe will make 48 little masterpieces, enough to last you multiple working weeks.

What you need:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup milk (try soy or almond milk as healthier alternatives)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • Cheese (look for non dairy options here)
  • Any ingredients you would like to add as filling! As we are shift workers, try to limit the fresh meats and protein, as this will be provided with the eggs.


  1. Cut store-bought pastry crust into circles and press into a muffin tin
  2. Add your favorite toppings
  3. Whisk the 4 eggs, milk and salt together.
  4. Add in a small amount of cheese to the whisked egg.
  5. Bake up in 25 to 30 minutes at 375 degrees fahrenheit until golden brown. Enjoy!

How long can the Mini Quiches be stored for?

It will freeze for 2-3 months. Fridge typically 3-4 days.

This recipe has been adapted from this website. Check out their video below.

8. Fried Rice

  • Quick to make, long lasting flavour.
  • Can be made with meat, or just plant based alternatives
  • Extremely filling, though must not be eaten on night shift. A suggested first meal for those working afternoons or through the night.
  • You should get 4-6 good sized servings from this.

What you need:

  • 3 cups of cooked jasmine rice
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • ¼ white onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 cup frozen peas and carrots
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoon soy sauce
  • green onions

For those who want some added protein, chopped bacon fits nicely.


  1. Cook rice as per instructions on the bag
  2. In a large skillet or wok, preheat oil over medium heat and add onion and garlic. Cook until onions are soft, about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add peas and carrots and cook until partially thawed, 1-2 minutes.
  4. Turn the heat up to medium high and add cooked rice.
  5. Cook for another 2-3 minutes until rice is nice and hot and starts to brown.
  6. Reduce heat and push rice to the sides of the pan, making a hole for the eggs.
  7. Crack the eggs into the middle of the pan and scramble in the center of the pan. 
  8. Once eggs are cooked, stir them into the rice.
  9. Mix soy sauce and sesame oil together and pour over rice.
  10. To serve this fried rice, top with chopped green onions

How long can fried rice be stored for?

This is long lasting frozen; 3-5 months. Fridge would only be 5-7 days.

This recipe has been adapted from this website

9. Fruit Smoothie

  • A good way to consume healthy fruits to kick-start your metabolism
  • Essential for keeping our gut healthy and preventing constipation
  • Great to drink when you’re on the run, in a hurry or commuting to work

What you need:

  • 4-6 containers holding around 2 cups (the number of containers depends on how many smoothies you’ll drink in a week). 
  • 1 cup of frozen (or fresh) berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries)
  • 1 cup of frozen mango
  • 1/2 an orange cut into segments per container 
  • Fresh ginger cut into chunks. Unpeeled is fine, as it gets blended anyway and is safe to eat.
  • Optional: Pineapple pieces
  • A blender. We love this one.


  1. Evenly divide all the fruit into each airtight container and place in the freezer.
  2. Then when the time comes to make the smoothie, you don’t need to get each ingredient out, you simply just pull out a container and juice what’s in the box. Try to avoid storing the fruit in bags as containers are a much more sustainable choice.

Add in spinach at the time of blending if you crave some greens or feel like you need some leafy alternatives in your diet.

A word on juicing…
By drinking instead of chewing, different messages are being sent to the brain about how full we are. This means your smoothie or juice may not have the same “I’m full” effect as what eating a piece of whole fruit might have. However, it might assist with breaking down your food as the body doesn’t have to work as hard.

Alternative non-fruit based smoothie recipe I make a few times a week.

What you need:

  • 1 cup of almond or soy milk (this is a healthier option)
  • 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt (No-fat works well too)
  • 1/4 cup of traditional oats
  • 1/2 of blueberries 
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1/4 cup of almonds 
  • x1 mashed banana
  • Ice blocks
  • Optional: x1 scoop of protein powder (chocolate or vanilla works well)

Stick it all the blender and you’re good to go!

How long can berries be stored for?
This is a controversial one. It has been suggested most will stay fresh for 6-9 months and sometimes up to a year. The freshly cut will stay fresh for approx. 1-2 months (depending on freshness to begin with). Fruits and veggies freeze best at 0-degrees F or colder.

How to Freeze Your Food Properly

Shift workers, or those working longer hours than most, do need to spend more time freezing meals to avoid driving for takeout or running to the vending machine.

If you are new to this type of roster and have never really spent time freezing meals regularly in the past, here’s a great short video with a number of tips on the best ways to freeze your meal.

Summary: 9 Shift Work Meal Ideas (Easy and Freezable)

Shift workers don’t need to eat a bland diet.

Nor does creating a delicious, healthy meal need to be something that causes you stress.

Finding meal ideas that can be doubled, tippled and stored away for extended periods means you’re never left wondering how you’re going to fill your belly even at 4am. You might need to purchase a second freezer at home though!

Bon Appetit, thanks for stopping by and please share your shift work meal ideas with our community in the comments below.


Emma signature | theothershift.com

Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning we receive a commission if you decide to make a purchase through our links, but this is at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure and privacy statement for more info.

Emma @ The Other Shift

Hey there! I'm Emma Smith a passionate, Registered Nurse from Australia. Together with my husband Daniel, we run The Other Shift. Our sole aim is to help shift workers and those on unusual schedules find balance between work and life. I understand the challenges of fitting in exercise, maintaining relationships and getting enough quality sleep, but I'm excited to show you that it’s possible to do shift work and still thrive. Read more about us and our story here.

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