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.