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Frozen meal ideas/ recipe swap

post #1 of 55
Thread Starter 

Hi Ladies,

I've been thinking that I should start prepping extra meals so we have a well stocked freezer by the time the baby comes.  We just moved to a new city and can't count on a meal train or anything like that because we don't really know many people here. 

 

We have a chest freezer and I would love to have 30 suppers frozen before baby comes. 

 

 

The meals we've frozen easily have been pretty simple things like chili, curries and soups.  I'm going to try and get a few pots pie like this in there:

http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,1739,151187-255199,00.html  (but I make my own whole wheat crusts). 

 

Has anyone done this? Do you have some tips or favorite recipes?  Any suggestions about what not to do?

 

post #2 of 55

I've done pot pies before!  They're great.  Most recipes will work fine, you just want to put them in the freezer before you bake them usually.

 

Last time around I did:

 

- two big pans of lasagna.  That lasagna saved my life...

 

- fresh tomato soup.  This reheated well but for some reason, I never felt like eating it and ended up having to throw almost all of it out after 6 months or so. 

 

- little strawberry turnovers/mini pies.  I liked having a moderately healthy but still decadent seeming treat on hand.  Wish I'd made more of these.

 

- single serving size portions of cooked brown rice and cooked lentils.  Cook, spread on a cookie sheet to cool, then pack your serving size into a sandwich bag and smooth it into a flat layer so it'll stack nicely in the freezer.  Just reheat & eat with whatever topping or condiments you like.  I couldn't necessarily find the time and attention span to make rice without burning in terribly in the first few months.

 

This time I'll be doing the freezer cooking in fall/winter so have a different set of ingredients to work with... like you, I'm thinking pot pies, maybe a potato or other root vegetable soup, something desserty (maybe mini apple pies or crisps?  mmmm), healthy burritos, and probably rice/lentils again.

post #3 of 55

Great idea! I'm in a very similar situation, not a lot of people I feel I can ask for meals... I will dig up some recipes... but in the meantime if anyone who contributes could let us know how to best store the dish in the freezer (eg. bag? casserole dish? other?) and approximately how long it tends to last when frozen, that would be super!

post #4 of 55
Thread Starter 

I'm glad others are in the same boat.  I like the idea of rice that's ready.  How did you thaw/cook it once you wanted it? I'm apprehensive to heat plastic. 

 

I am so new to this that I need help with the hows as well.  In the past we've just used our pyrex containers, but I've never stocked the freezer like I will be here.  Tips and sales about reusable containers would be great if anyone has them.

post #5 of 55

I don't have a microwave, so I usually just reheat the frozen rice or lentils by taking it out of the plastic bag, whacking it on the side of the pan I'm reheating in to break it into pieces (not essential, but  makes it a little faster), then putting a lid over the pan and leaving it on medium low heat for 5-10 minutes.  Sometimes I mix things in while reheating like garlic or peppers but i don't remember doing anything as fancy as that in the postpartum period, heh.

 

For casseroles etc, I just usually put thick foil over the top of whatever dish they were baked in and put that in the freezer.  That way they're ready to pop in the oven for reheating.  I suspect things might last a little longer if you have them in a legitimately air tight container but even with just foil, our frozen stuff was good maybe 6 months out from when we froze it.  I have about a billion casserole dishes-- people just seem to give them to me all the time-- so we didn't miss the couple that were in the freezer.

post #6 of 55

I was living in Germany when I had DS, and had a typical teeny fridge/freezer combo, so I wasn't able to freeze much. But...it was just me and DS and I made a bunch of different kinds of burritos and froze them and I also canned extensively that season. I made little pint jars of all sorts of soups/stews and that's what got me through. I also did little baggies of rice and barley in the freezer to dump in my soup. This time around I will need to feed myself, DS, and DH. I've canned some soups in quart jars, and hope to do a couple of casserole-ish things later on for our big ol' American freezer. Frozen burritos worked out really well and have become our "TV" dinner. 

post #7 of 55

I'm interested in following this.  When is everyone starting?  I've started to think about freezer meals, but don't want to do it too soon and have stuff go off.  Also, do you cook everything before freezing...I've found several freezer books at the library, but they are all freeze ahead and then cook after.  I'm more attracted to meals that can just quickly be reheated and eaten rather than having to cook something for 45 minutes.  Any thoughts on that?

 

Right now my big plan is soups and stews in Mason Jars.  I always do my own chicken stock after we have a whole chicken and freeze in Mason Jars, so I will just now add a bit more to have soup ready to go!  I also want to do a lot of muffins for DS, and bread (we're gluten free, so running to the local store for bread isn't going to happen...I'll have to plan ahead).  

post #8 of 55

All these ideas are so great.... I will definitely be checking this again!  This is the one thing that I seriously neglected before my son was born and then regretted it.  I kept thinking... I really need to get on that and it just worked it's way to the bottom of the list.  Ugh.  I'll look to you mamas for inspiration!

post #9 of 55

I'll probably make a couple lasagnas. They were awesome with ds3. We had one for supper the night he was born. Much more filling than the canned chili we had after ds2 because we needed to eat something & had nothing decent. I might do a couple of shepherd's pies as well. Dh is having blood sugar issues, so everything is up in the air right now. I think we're going to end up having to go low grain, at the very least. Sucky, most of our food involves rice, pasta or bread.

 

I found this great site http://onceamonthmom.com/ that has meal plans & a one day cooking plan to make a whole bunch of freezer meals for a month. It' s really extensively detailed. Most months I only like a couple of the things listed, but there's also a page for designing your own plan. If I ever get any energy, I might put all the ones I like together & start doing that...after it cools off. lol We love being able to just throw stuff in the oven, but we'd really like to move away from so much processed crap, so having loads of our own homemade freezer meals would be ideal. Doing all that cooking in one day would probably kill me, though. Might spread it out to a couple days.

post #10 of 55
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by milomama View Post

I'm interested in following this.  When is everyone starting?  I've started to think about freezer meals, but don't want to do it too soon and have stuff go off.  Also, do you cook everything before freezing...I've found several freezer books at the library, but they are all freeze ahead and then cook after.  I'm more attracted to meals that can just quickly be reheated and eaten rather than having to cook something for 45 minutes.  Any thoughts on that?

 

Right now my big plan is soups and stews in Mason Jars.  I always do my own chicken stock after we have a whole chicken and freeze in Mason Jars, so I will just now add a bit more to have soup ready to go!  I also want to do a lot of muffins for DS, and bread (we're gluten free, so running to the local store for bread isn't going to happen...I'll have to plan ahead).  

I've always just cooked stuff and then put it in the freezer.  It has worked fine. 

 

I like the idea of using big Mason jars.  I have several 1/2 gallon ones so, I'll do that for the soups and chili.
 

 

post #11 of 55

I've been thinking about the same topic!  I ran across this yesterday and plan to use it as a starting point, and of course a lasagna!

 

http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/food/make-ahead-meals-cook-20-weeknight-dinners-in-one-day-2544413/;_ylt=AttnBnawr_yLbd8FZ44LgqtabqU5

 

I am completely new to this, I've never frozen anything!  I figured I would start getting my mind around it now and start cooking in December...

post #12 of 55

I'm going to make a big batch of breakfast burritos, as well as pancakes, waffles, muffins, and I might make something like McGriddle sandwiches (sausage, egg, and cheese between two little pancakes) that we can pop into the toaster oven for fast breakfasts. We eat gluten-free so it would be nice to have these ready to go. For the breakfast burritos I'm thinking a dozen eggs, pound of sausage, some potatoes, cheese, salsa, in tortillas and wrap them up in foil to freeze. I might also make mini frittatas in muffin pans to freeze individually.

 

I've started making big batches of soups for our dinners and having enough leftover to freeze for another dinner, staying on top of my chicken bones and making sure they're turned into broth and frozen instead of thrown out, and I bought a ham that I diced up and sectioned out for different meals. I'll use the bone for a broth and I'll get a few casseroles and soups out of the meat. 

 

I plan on making a couple of lasagnas, a few pans of enchiladas, and lots more soups and chilis.

 

I put the soups in gallon size ziploc bags, freeze them on the bottom of the freezer so they're flat, and they stack nicely. I read a nice tip for freezing lasagnas and casseroles but haven't tried it yet. You can line your baking dish with foil, add the ingredients, freeze it in the pan like that, then remove it from the pan and wrap it up. When you're ready to use it, unwrap it and stick it back in the pan to defrost and cook.

post #13 of 55

Please keep us updated if you try this!  I'm worried that the foil would stick to the frozen lasagna...?  But I've never tried it, so I have no idea!  I guess you could just put the whole thing back in the pan, foil and all, then cook it and just scoop it out of the foil-lined pan.  Hmm...interesting stuff! innocent.gif
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jessica_lizette View Post

You can line your baking dish with foil, add the ingredients, freeze it in the pan like that, then remove it from the pan and wrap it up. When you're ready to use it, unwrap it and stick it back in the pan to defrost and cook.


 

post #14 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by jessica_lizette View Post

We eat gluten-free so it would be nice to have these ready to go. For the breakfast burritos I'm thinking a dozen eggs, pound of sausage, some potatoes, cheese, salsa, in tortillas and wrap them up in foil to freeze.

 


What type of tortillas do you use? We are also gluten free and I haven't found any non-corn tortillas that I like. The breakfast burritos sound awesome smile.gif
post #15 of 55

Oh, if anyone is interested, that site I linked to has different menus, including a gluten free/dairy free one, as well as a whole foods one & a vegetarian one. And it does a new menu every month.

post #16 of 55

WOW. That onceamonthmom site is great! There's a tradtional food menu, a whole foods menu, a gluten/dairy free menu, diet menu, vegetarian menu and a baby food menu. Very cool! I saw a couple of recipes I'd like to try, including a cream cheese stuffed pumpkin muffin recipe that looks TO DIE FOR. Yum. http://onceamonthmom.com/pumpkin-cream-cheese-muffins/ And some pistachio chai muffins too... I might have to add some of those to the freezer stash!
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Devaskyla View Post

I'll probably make a couple lasagnas. They were awesome with ds3. We had one for supper the night he was born. Much more filling than the canned chili we had after ds2 because we needed to eat something & had nothing decent. I might do a couple of shepherd's pies as well. Dh is having blood sugar issues, so everything is up in the air right now. I think we're going to end up having to go low grain, at the very least. Sucky, most of our food involves rice, pasta or bread.

 

I found this great site http://onceamonthmom.com/ that has meal plans & a one day cooking plan to make a whole bunch of freezer meals for a month. It' s really extensively detailed. Most months I only like a couple of the things listed, but there's also a page for designing your own plan. If I ever get any energy, I might put all the ones I like together & start doing that...after it cools off. lol We love being able to just throw stuff in the oven, but we'd really like to move away from so much processed crap, so having loads of our own homemade freezer meals would be ideal. Doing all that cooking in one day would probably kill me, though. Might spread it out to a couple days.



 

post #17 of 55

I've got a huge list of recipes from there I want to try. And that's just from the traditional menu. i haven't even been through the other ones yet. I just went back about a year picking out ones I liked & adding them (& their links) to a spread sheet.

 

Actually, I should pick a few out & get ingredients when I get groceries tomorrow.

post #18 of 55

I'm starting to really want to cook, and I CAN'T!! We have no kitchen right now! I can not wait until our construction is finished. Can. Not. Wait.

post #19 of 55

So, last time I was afraid of freezing things too long, and I started cooking ahead about 3 weeks before DSs EDD. I made a HUGE batch of crepes that I froze. I planned to make several other recipes to freeze as well. THEN, DS came early! 37w+2d! Ack! Well, we were so sick of that crepe recipe I haven't made it since! LOL!

 

I think I'll start earlier this time! In fact, I have a pretty well stocked freezer right now and maybe I can maintain that and have us eat the older stuff. I've been pretty good for some time now about making things ahead of time, and I've definitely had good luck with keeping things in the freezer longer than a month or so. Soups seem to last especially well for longer periods of times.

 

I use a combination of pyrex containers, Ball (Mason) jars, and ziplocks:

- for dinners, mostly 6 cup rectangular pyrex containers that come with plastic lids - I have a whole bunch of them, maybe 12 - I got them in 3 packs a while ago and use them a LOT because they are a great size for dinners for 2 adults. I have a variety of other sizes that I use for different sizes of meals or other items like sauces or parts of a meal (such as guacamole - freezes great as long as there is some lemon juice in the recipe, I put plastic wrap over the top and get rid of air bubbles, though I prefer not to use plastic wrap right next to food, but guac goes bad FAST when exposed to air).

- For soups and chili, I like to use pint sized wide mouth Ball jars, I get the plastic lids that fit them instead of using the canning lids that come with them. Make sure that they say "freezer safe" and there will be a line showing you how high to fill them. A pint of soup is usually enough for us, especially when we have soup and sandwiches or something like that. Sometimes, I'll leave out some of the water from the soup/chili recipe and add it when we reheat it, then we can get "more" soup into the container. The quart containers can be good for other things, but I don't tend to use them for freezing because it is riskier - they could break where the mouth gets narrower if liquid expands, and they are harder to thaw. The widemouth pints are easy to that - just soak them in hot water for a few minutes and the food will just slide right out into a pan.

- For baked goods, I tend to use ziplocks (let them cool to room temp first) - quart or gallon depending on the item and quantity. You can also get bigger sizes, which I have found useful for pizza dough. Sometimes I just use the pyrex containers for baked goods like cookies, if there are lots to spare and if they work for the amount of food.

- When I learned about making baby foods, I learned to use ice cube trays for freezing small amounts of food and putting them in a ziplock after they are frozen - I do this for lots of little things that I will want to use in small portions or want to thaw quickly, like leftover canned green chiles, dairy products I don't use often like buttermilk and heavy cream, grated ginger root, etc. This is nice because you only need the container for a day or two until the item is frozen. You can do this with other containers, too - my mom gave me some silicone muffin pans and while I don't like them for muffins, they work great for freezing 1/4 to 1/2 cup worth of liquid.

 

This time, I'll probably make several kinds of soup, chili, taco fillings (guacamole, pre-cooked and seasoned beef, then it is easy to make canned refried beans with salsa, cheese and green chiles mixed in the evening of the meal), veggie burgers, quiche, desserts/cookies/muffins, stuffed mushrooms, twice baked potatoes, pulled pork, waffles, bread, red beans & rice, runzas, calzones, pizza dough, etc. Phew! As I said, I'll definitely start MUCH earlier this time! It helps that I have a big freezer in the garage now, also.

 

I almost ALWAYS bake things ahead of time and just reheat when we're going to eat something. I haven't had a problem with this, and I like that it takes less time than having to thaw and THEN fully cook something! If I think about it, I'll take things out to thaw in the fridge a day or two ahead of time (or on the counter for baked goods - the fridge dries them out and makes them stale faster!)

 

Oh, yeah - I'm gluten free, too! Sounds like there are a few of us! I've been lucky to find some good GF baked goods locally, but I still prefer to make things myself, since it can be so expensive to buy them and the quality is so variable. After a few years of being GF, I've figured out some good brands that I tend to like and some recipes that I'm very happy with.

 

I have a group of friends who does meal trains when people have babies (or injuries, etc.) but I'm a little hesitant to have them do this for me because of the gluten issue - I don't want them to be confused or to seem fussy, but I also don't want to get sick with a newborn! So, I figure if I have lots of food on hand and people want to drop something off, then my husband and son can at least eat the things that I can't eat. Plus, I like to cook and bake and I know I won't be able to for a while after the baby comes.

post #20 of 55
Thread Starter 

So far I have one half gallon mason jar full of chilli in the freezer.  29 more suppers to go!  If I get more I'll be delighted.  If I get less, I'll just go have fun in the freezer section of Costco to make sure we have some things ready. 

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