I don’t know about you, but I have a bit of a post-Valentine’s sugar overload. I’m ready to get back to some real food.
Lately, I have had several readers ask if I cook a meal from scratch every night. When I was a newlywed living in an apartment with a 10-minute commute from work, yes I did.
Almost six years later, the apartment has turned into a house and the commute has gone from 10 minutes to 45. What started out as The Husband, the cat, and myself now includes a dog and a toddler. Priority #1 when I get home is getting Little Tot fed, bathed, and in bed. I don’t tell you this to complain. I’m sharing because I’m sure like most of you, cooking a meal from scratch every night is just not practical.
However, that doesn’t condemn you to a life of take out and frozen microwave dinners. In addition to not being very healthy, it can get expensive.
The best money I think The Husband and I ever spent was $25 on a used deep freezer from Craigslist. It’s old, has none of the bells and whistles that new freezers come with (like automatic defrost), and inevitably one day something will go out and we will have to replace it with a new one. But it has run like a dream for two years, so I would say we’ve gotten our money’s worth.
I do the bulk of my cooking on the weekends. In fact, most of the recipes you see on this blog are cooked and/or photographed on the weekends. I have a file of about 10-12 recipes that are family favorites and I know without a doubt are freezer-friendly. When I prepare them I make a HUGE batch. Some of our faves include lasagna, turkey tetrazzini, chili, chicken noodle soup, and black-eyed pea soup.
Here are a few tips for preparing freezer-friendly meals:
- Instead of storing soups and stocks in plastic storage containers – that can take up a ton of room – put them in freezer bags. I really like Ziploc vacuum seal bags and prefer the gallon to the quart size. You can’t use the pump for liquids, but once the bag is full, fold the bag over to get as much air out as possible. Make sure you write the contents and the date (if you think it will be in the freezer for more than six months). Freeze each flat on a cookie sheet or other flat surface for about 24 hours, and then stack them on top of each other. I actually prefer to “file” mine like you see below.
Storing liquids in a freezer bag saves space.
- Only put as much as you think you will eat in one sitting in each bag. I usually fill a one gallon bag halfway and that will serve The Husband and myself and possibly have a little leftover for lunch the next day.
- This little contraption is one of the best inventions ever. My Dad put it in my Christmas stocking two years ago and at first I thought it was just going to be something else I would have to move around in a drawer. I was wrong! It’s like having an extra pair of hands to hold your bags open while you pour in the contents.
- If making a soup that contains rice or noodles, omit that ingredient until you are actually heating up the dish to eat. Freezing the noodles or rice can deteriorate their texture in addition to absorbing all your liquid.
I’ll add the noodles to the chicken noodle soup once I’m ready to eat. Otherwise they will absorb all that yummy broth.
- For items like casseroles, prepare them in disposable aluminum cake pans so you aren’t tying up all your glass dishes. Follow the instructions up until the point where you cook it. Cover with heavy duty aluminum foil, but before you do write the cooking instructions in permanent marker on the top of the foil so you aren’t digging for the recipe later on.
Storing meals in disposable aluminum pans frees up your glass dishes and makes for easy cleanup afterwards.
Write the cooking instructions across the front of the dish to avoid having to look for the recipe later.
- Freezing isn’t just for soups and casseroles. You can also prepare and freeze fajita and taco meat or other fillings for easy meal prep later on. You can also freeze uncooked meat in your favorite marinade.
You will notice at the bottom of this post I have created a tag for Freezer Favorites. There is also a section at the bottom of the Recipes page. I have also updated these recipes where I thought I needed to with instructions in the Notes section on how to freeze them.
Stay tuned tomorrow, I will be sharing my favorite recipe for Freezer-Friendly Spinach Manicotti.
Disclaimer time – I was in no way approached by Ziploc or Jokari to endorse their products in this post. If you search my cabinets, you will actually find these items in my kitchen. However, if you click on the links above and do end up purchasing these items, I do get a small compensation from Amazon.