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Lunchbox Freezer Cooking: Mac N’ Cheese Cups (Day 3)

So, I was excited about this idea I had for making Mac N’ Cheese Cups, inspired by this recipe from Once a Month Mom. Only my idea pretty much flopped.

You see, I had some boxes of Annie’s Mac N’ Cheese on hand, so we used that instead of making the sauce from scratch. But then, since I never use muffin liners, I decided we’d skip using those and just put the mac and cheese directly into the muffin tins.

I was hoping that these would pop right out after baking. But they didn’t. In fact, it didn’t really stick together at all.

Oh well. I guess we saved you having to try it yourself — and it’s not like the Macaroni and cheese isn’t edible, it’s just not real lunchbox-friendly. 🙂

Live and learn, right?

Oh and I also wouldn’t recommend turning your back when your 3-year-old is in the kitchen helping you.

Because you might end up finding him painting the sliding glass door with mac and cheese! 🙂

Check out this recipe on Once A Month Mom for a more tried and true Mac N’ Cheese Cups recipe. You can also find a Dairy-Free/Wheat-Free Mac N’ Cheese Cups recipe over on Milk Allergy Mom.

Are you joining us for Lunchbox Freezer Cooking? If you’ve blogged about a lunchbox recipes you’ve made for your freezer, leave a link to your post and recipe below. I can’t wait to see your yummy recipes and ideas!

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  • heidi says:

    i love making these! just made them last night actually. you have to butter the muffin tins, add a little bit of bread crumbs to the mac and cheese and i top them with a pinch of bread crumbs and cheese. they should pop right out then!

  • Denise says:

    Hey crystal! Sorry it didn’t work for you! I made these from the recipe you linked to and the only thing I did different was leave out the parmesan cheese because my husband told me it sounded better without. I used my silicone baking muffin thing and sprayed it good with olive oil and mine popped right out! They tasted good served fresh (my husband wants ham in the next time) and I put the rest in the freezer. When he tries them leftover/frozen I’ll let you know what he thinks. I’m hoping they will rank right up there with the freezer burritos and ham/cheese hot pockets!

  • September says:

    I make these all the time! I don’t use boxed mac & cheese…my to-to “kids” recipe is Martha Stewart’s Mac & Cheese (google it…it’s amazing, AKA “crack & cheese”) but when making it for my kids I forego the adult version Martha uses and substitute 1/2 lb each of deli american cheese and mild cheddar–it gives you that really luscious creamy texture kids love. I also add about 1/2 cup extra milk to the cheese sauce to make it transition better to being frozen and reheated. I spray my muffin tins, fill & freeze. I often do have to run upside down under hot water and then use a butter knife to slide them out, but it’s not that difficult. They’re perfect because one “muffin” is perfect as a side dish and two as a main dish alongside some fruit.

  • Those 3 year olds! What a knack for getting into trouble when we turn our backs, but so adorable, how can we be mad?

    • Emma K says:

      My 3 year old today decided to paint her nails when I wasn’t in the room. She had one hand covered in glittery purple paint (because who doesn’t love lots of glitter and sparkles). She had one of her calves painted purple (and some of the hardwood floor). Gotta love them and laugh about it 🙂

      • Meredith says:

        My four year old did that the other day but she was in the bathroom luckily! She had pink sparkly nail polish and it got all over the porcelain sink. At least it was an easy clean up!

  • Sounds rough! The hilarious thing?! I ALSO tried to skip the liners, ha! When I realized they weren’t going to come out in nice shape and form, I started spooning them from the tin into the liners after they were baked. I had so many dirty dishes and utensils…it was everywhere. But I’m happy with the finished product…I do have have mac & cheese cups happily freezing in the freezer. 😉

    Silas is so adorable…no matter what.

    Here is my milk-free version:

    • Oh, and then all I had was foil liners so that’s what I used….like those would really go over well for reheating in the microwave! So now I will have to remove them from the liners before microwaving. Yep…it’s live and learn!

      Someone posted in one of your freezer lunches linkies a dairy-free mac and cheese using nutritional yeast…which I’ve always wanted to do. I cheated and used Daiya.

    • I’m so goofy, I didn’t see your link earlier. Thanks for linking to us.

  • Courtney says:

    These work great…if you make the mac and cheese from scratch. The boxed stuff has no sauce to puLl it together. I highly recommend trying it again with homemade. I make them for parties and they’re a win everytime!

  • Shelly says:

    I am sorry your mac and cheese cups did not turn out as well as you had hoped. Maybe adding a little grated cheese before baking would have helped them stick together better. Our mac and cheese cups stuck a little to the muffin liners. I think next time I will try to make them without the liners and see how it works out.

  • Kim says:

    I imagine spaghetti pie (eggs, spaghetti, & Parmasan cheese for the crust) would work in those, as long you shaped the crust on the bottom & sides of the cup, then cottage cheese & meat filling/sauce in the center. We liked cold spaghetti as kids, but they’d also microwave well.

    • MelissaZ says:

      Do you have a recipe for spaghetti pie? I don’t think I’ve ever had it & it sounds intriguing!

      • Kim says:

        Here’s my recipe. I actually looked at three recipes & came up with this one switching up things.

        Spaghetti Pie Preheat oven to 350°

        • ½ lb (8oz) whole grain spaghetti, cooked
        • 1/3 c Parmasan cheese, grated
        • 3 eggs

        1. Coat 9×13” pan with nonstick cooking spray. In large mixing bowl, mix above ingredients. Spread mixture on bottom & slightly up sides of prepared 9×13” pan.

        2. Spread 1 cup ricotta or cottage cheese over noodle crust.

        • ½ c onion, chopped (optional)
        • 1 large zucchini chopped in ½” or smaller pieces,
        or 10 oz pkg broccoli, chopped, or 10 oz pkg frozen spinach, thawed (optional)
        • 1 jar pasta sauce
        • 1 lb hamburger, ground chicken, or ground turkey cooked, & drained of grease
        • ½-1 tsp basil
        • ½-1 tsp oregano

        3. Cook zucchini or broccoli in boiling water til tender. Drain. Add remaining ingredients & mix together. Spread meat/vegetable mixture on top of cottage cheese. Top with 3/4 c grated Mozarella cheese. Bake 30-40 min.

  • Jillian K. says:

    Do you still have them? Whenever I make these I freeze them first, and then can pop out each “cup” with a butter knife. My kids love these!

    • Elly says:

      I make these for my mac-n-cheese loving daughter. She loves them! I love that they included veggies and whole wheat noodles! They freeze great and she has a microwave in the lunch room to warm them up with. It makes a LOT!!

      Mac’n’cheese Muffins

      2 sweet potatoes
      1 large carrot
      8 LG Eggs
      4 cups of cheese (shredded), I used Monterey Jack & Sharp Cheddar from blocks
      4 cups cooked whole wheat macaroni noodles
      Salt & Pepper to taste

      1. Cut carrots & peeled sweet potato into chunks, put in pot and cover with cold water. Boil for 20 min. until they are tender
      2. Drain water and put the carrots and potatoes in a mixing bowl, mash!
      3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
      4. Line standard muffins tin with papers. Lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray
      5. Whisk vegetable puree with eggs, macaroni and cheese (save some for the top)
      6. Divide evenly in muffin cups
      7. Top each muffin with cheese
      8. Bake 20 to 22 minutes or until the cheese lightly browned and bubbly on top

      (I have split this in half – also made them in mini muffin pans)

    • Lisa says:

      I was also going to suggest freezing them first! 🙂 They would still fall apart after being reheated though.

  • kayli says:

    I followed the recipe and mine flopped too…way too watery! 🙁

  • April says:

    If I want to include mac n’ cheese in my kids lunch I usually just make it in the morning and put it directly into their thermos – we use Annie’s as well, and it only takes 8 minutes (I usually do it while I’m cooking breakfast for the family). Alternatively, you can make it the night before, microwave the macaroni, and allow boiling water to stand in the thermos for 10 minutes before you put the macaroni and cheese inside. My kids eat lunch at 10:30 and 11:30 (they’re in different grades) and both say it stays hot until lunchtime. 🙂

  • Tabitha says:

    For some reason I commented but it didn’t show up. So if for some reason it shows up twice please feel free to delete one. 🙂

    I’m glad you share that this didn’t work. I was going to try the same thing later this week. I did try the recipe from Once a Month Mom but changed a few things in the recipe. Mainly less cheese and added some spices. I froze it last night and will try it today to see if the changes work for freezer cooking. 🙂

    I also made the pumpkin muffins over the weekend using white cake mix. I added pumpkin pie spice and vanilla to add a little more flavor to the white cake. They were a huge hit in our home. None will be hopping into the freezer! 🙂
    A friend tried it with spice cake mix and that worked too.

    • Sheila says:

      I tried it too with a devils food cake mix and white chocolate chips. They were so good. None made it into the freezer here either! YUM!

  • Tracey says:

    The solutions seems really simple. Make the mac and cheese, put it into the muffin pan, and freeze until firm. Once they have set pop them out and put them into freezer bags.

    • Crystal says:

      Unfortunately, because I used Annie’s Mac & Cheese, the sauce doesn’t work to make these stick together enough to freeze and pop out. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that in the first place — but sometimes I just have to learn through trial and error! 🙂

      Someone on Facebook recommended adding extra cheese as they thought that would help it stick together better when melted.

  • Samantha D says:

    I tried to do the same thing several weeks ago with the same results! When I ended up doing was scooping the mac and cheese into sandwich bags, tossing them all into one big freezer bag and throwing the whole thing in the freezer. When I need one for my sons lunch, I just toss it in the fridge the night before.


  • Samantha D says:

    P.S. I did also use Annie’s brand because it was on sale that week at Kroger!

  • Susan says:

    I may be missing something, but I’m not seeing how this would make an efficient frozen lunchbox meal. Not trying to be critical … I can see how it would be fun for kids — and let’s face it most kids love like mac-and-cheese — but wouldn’t it be a lot easier to simply put hot mac-and-cheese into a thermal container?

    Or if you want to freeze it so that is ready for a quick lunch on any given day, and there is a microwave available at work/school/daycare/etc for reheating … why not just freeze it in portion-size microwave-safe containers? Not as cute as cupcakes, but certainly more efficient, I would think.

    There are many comments regarding how to get them to retain their shape and pop out of the muffin tin — even if the recipe wasn’t a flop, it seems to me that it would be awfully messy to microwave it in a paper liner, or scrape defrosted mac-and-cheese off paper liners and put it in a dish for reheating. Or if you freeze without paper liners, you’d need to put the frozen chunks into another contain in order to pack it into a lunch box, so why not just package it so that it can go from freezer to mouth without repackaging?

    • Crystal says:

      Yes, those things would work, too.

      Not all of us have a bunch of microwave safe containers and I don’t really want to invest the storage space for them right now — or mess with trying to keep their lids with them (lids seems to walk off and hibernate with the missing socks and spoons at our house!) So that’s why I decided it would be fun to try this option. But, as is evident in the post, it wasn’t a big success. 🙂

      Oh well, you live and learn! 🙂

      • Susan says:

        Understood. I wouldn’t have a supply of microwave-safe containers either if we were home for lunch most days. But where we pack lunches to take to school/work on a daily basis, they get used regularly.

        I guess that’s why I thought this recipe would be fun for at home with kids, but I wasn’t seeing how it would be good for brown-bag lunches. Maybe I read too much into the series title, thinking it would focus on portable lunches when you really intended it to be about quick lunches for at home or away.

        Anyway, I’m still looking forward to seeing more ideas for brown bag lunches. As always, thanks for all your work here.

        • Crystal says:

          Not sure if you saw my first post where I shared what I’m planning to make this series:

          As I mentioned in the comments, I tried to choose a variety of lunch ideas — all that could be portable and made ahead and frozen. However, not all of the ideas will work for everyone since I know some people don’t have access to a microwave, etc. But I’m hoping everyone will glean at least a few new ideas from what I share, from the comments, and from the links that other people leave.

  • Oh bummer Crystal because I would have LOVED to make this for my 3 year old Grandson..he LOVES mac and cheese! 🙂

  • Amy f;) says:

    aw, this was my favorite recipe post so far:) You should call it “cooking in real life”.

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