Build a Stash of Freezer Meals (Easily)

24 Sep

Lately, with this pregnancy and our busier lives in general, I’ve noticed that we are having more and more of those 6 p.m. panics where my husband walks in the door and I have no idea what we’re going to eat. All the ingredients in your cupboards won’t do you any good if you don’t have a plan for them.

I’ve been reminiscing about my self-titled “Freezer Meals Era” – a time when we cut our dining-out expenses in half and in general, ate much more satisfying (and stress-free) dinners. If we got home too late from running errands or playing at the park, there was always something in the freezer that could be heated in time for dinner – and it didn’t come from an overpriced cardboard box.

Benefits of Freezer Meals
Building a stash of ready-to-reheat freezer meals can:
Reduce your “dining out” spending.
Reduce your grocery budget, because you are buying more items in bulk and buying less convenience foods.
Reduce the amount of time you spend in the kitchen, both cooking and cleaning up, which gives you more time with your family.
Reduce the amount of preservatives and unhealthy ingredients your family eats, because you are making things from scratch.
Reduce the amount of packaging and waste that goes into the landfill, again because you are buying less convenience foods and buying in bulk.

How I Freeze
You may have heard about once-a-month cooking, where you prepare, cook and freeze enough meals for an entire month in one day (or weekend). I was never ambitious enough to try this, and I imagine the burnout rate could get pretty high. Instead, I found it easiest to choose one or two recipes from my weekly menu plan and just double or triple the recipe that night, freezing the leftovers. (This also helps with portion control, so my family of three doesn’t polish off a giant pan of lasagna meant for a party of eight.) Within a couple of weeks I had a nice selection of frozen meals to choose from.

What Should You Freeze?
Some of my favorite meals to double (or triple) and freeze include:
Lasagna (or Lasagna Roll-ups)
Cottage Cheese Chicken Enchiladas
Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas
Macaroni and Cheese
Whole Wheat Pancakes
Whole Wheat Breakfast Muffins
Spaghetti Sauce
Chicken Pot Pie
Meatballs – cooked or uncooked
Cookies freeze well, too!

How to Store Your Freezer Meals
I generally store things like sauces, soups, chili and breads (like pancakes, muffins or cornbread) in gallon-sized Ziploc freezer bags. Be sure to label the bag with the contents, date and reheating instructions, if any, and make sure the food has cooled off before you put it in the bag. For casseroles, enchiladas, lasagna, etc. any freezer- and oven-safe baking dish will do. If it doesn’t have a lid, use a two-step method of cling wrap plus a layer of tin foil to prevent freezer burn. My personal favorite for freezing is Pyrex, and it’s easy to stack (and see inside).

How to Thaw
It’s helpful to pull out your frozen meal the night before and thaw it in the refrigerator, but most meals can also be cooked from frozen. I’ve been known to “force thaw” a bagged meal like chili or soup in a bowl of cold water in the sink, much like you would with frozen meat.

Helpful Resources
It’s always helpful to look at once-a-month cooking websites or books to get some fresh ideas. But most of our favorite freezer recipes are things we were already eating, that just happen to freeze well. So don’t pressure yourself to prepare a ton of meals in one day just because a book recommends it!
Once a Month Cooking


One Response to “Build a Stash of Freezer Meals (Easily)”


  1. Build a Stash of Freezer Meals (Easily) » - September 25, 2010

    […] Original post: Build a Stash of Freezer Meals (Easily) » […]

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