Q & A: Healthy freezer meals requested!
Any chance I could talk you into doing a post on healthy freezer meals? Do you freeze many meals? I’m getting ready to have my third baby and would rather do this than rely on prepackaged frozen meals. My oldest is barely over three, so I know time will be at a premium.
Such a great request! I think we all have seasons of life when spending any significant amount of time preparing home cooked meals is just not truly possible. Personally, I’ve used this technique during the week when I found out I was pregnant with #2, before the morning sickness hit hard, and in the months and weeks leading up to the birth of both of my babies, as well as trying Once a Month Cooking several times. I also use it occasionally just to have an easy meal or two in the freezer, should I ever have "just one of those days" (and believe, I definitely have them!).
Here is a list of freezer meals that work well for me:
- Chili (vegetarian or with meat)
- Almost any kind of soup or stew (creamy soups and pasta soups don’t work as well- more on this below)
- Spaghetti sauce
- Homemade hamburger patties
- Pre-cooked (and seasoned) taco or fajita meat
- Marinated steaks or chicken breast (I just add the marinade to a bag with frozen meat, and when I’m ready to use it, I thaw the bag in the fridge for a little longer than usually, and it’s ready to cook!)
- Baked beans
- Chopped veggies for stir-fry, with a bag of stir-fry sauce/marinade in a little baggie (which goes inside the big one, with the veggies)
Some tips for doing this:
- Make sure that you have enough large Ziploc bags, or sturdy Tupperware or Pyrex storage dishes before you start. I prefer glass storage, but I don’t have enough containers, so I usually use Ziploc bags for my soups, sauces, etc. as I can lay these flat and save space.
- Leave a couple of inches of headroom at the top of your containers when you are freezing anything liquid, as the liquid will expand when frozen.
- Each time you are cooking something that could be frozen, double or triple your recipe, eat it for dinner that night and freeze the rest into meal sized portions
- Or, try to make one recipe for freezing each day, or if that is too ambitious, one or two recipes a week. Add freezable recipes into your meal planning.
- If you are making a creamy soup, just prepare it as usual but leave out the cream (or whatever dairy it calls for). When reheating it, add the dairy just before you serve, and don’t bring it to a boil.
- With pasta soups, try cooking the pasta slightly less before adding it to the soup. I find that the pasta tends to absorb the extra moisture and become too soggy. Or you could prepare the rest of the soup, and only add the pasta at the time of reheating (though this is a bit more work). This may be partly because I use rice pasta- any thoughts?
- Some vegetables don’t freeze really well. I don’t personally enjoy peppers that have been frozen, so I tend to stick to freezing broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, etc. and add my peppers fresh.
- It is difficult to freeze meals that incorporate enough fresh veggies. I freeze recipes that will form the basis of my meals, knowing that at the time I will need to prepare a salad or side veggies, etc. To make this more time-saving, try buying pre-washed organic bagged salads and lettuce, and taking small chunks of time to chop up a bunch of fresh veggies all at once for the week (rather than every night).
For more great suggestions on freezing meals, and many recipes specifically for freezing, try looking at some Once a Month Cooking (OAMC) sites, and some tips for freezer meals. Also, the image in this post wasn’t mine- it came from Frozen Assets, a freezer meal blog I just discovered.
Also very useful is Tammy’s excellent post on preparing for a new baby. This was where I first got the idea for making dry mixes (muffins, cornbread, pancakes, etc.) in bags or jars, with the ingredients included (on a card or sticker or written right on the bag). This makes home made baking a snap when you are pressed for time!
Does anyone else have any great freezer recipes or tips on freezer food storage or preparing for baby? Please, share your wealth of knowledge with us! 🙂
Thanks Stephanie! These are some great tips and exactly what I was looking for. I’ll be checking out the links soon. For now, I’m off to make a few simple things to freeze.
Thanks for the help.
Stacy, good tip about cooking and freezing the meat. I’ve tried that before, and you’re right. It’s very convenient!
You’re welcome, fullheartandhandsmama. Hope you get that freezer well stocked before baby arrives!
Those are very good ideas.
I am still working on freezer meals so don’t have a recipe to share.
One thing I have been doing is to cook all of the ground beef and separate it into bags before freezing. This has cut down on a lot of preparation time. I can thaw in in the fridge for spaghetti, throw it in the crock pot frozen and make soup, etc.
I have also made Pierogis in bulk and they freeze very well.
Hey Steph Woman 🙂
what a fantastic post…i’ll be sure to link back to ya….so, how cold is it? blessings…
Have you seen Sue Gregg’s Meals in Minutes?
The recipes in there are said to freeze well. I looked at it on her website but have not seen anymore than that.
Super post! I have found that any kind of pasta in soups gets mushy when frozen–and the broth disappears. Sometimes it is okay–the soup is more like a stew then.
Great links–I’m especially excited about the preparing for baby one with the mixes. I’m done having babies but there are lots of moms I know that could use them in a care package or gift basket.
Stacy, I have just been hearing so much about Sue Gregg in the last couple of weeks, so I checked out her site last night. Her stuff looks great- I may just have to try one of her books.
Pieces, I totally agree about the soup becomming stew thing. Sometimes I don’t mind, but I’d rather it stay like a nice soup.
And good idea about using the mixes to give to moms! I’ll have to do that with the next baby at church (no shortage of new babies at our church!). I’ve also used the mix for a family that had serious dairy allergies, and then they could just add their dairy substitute of choice.
If you are planning to freeze cooked meat or poultry, try to freeze it in some sort of sauce or liquid. It will greatly extend how long it will keep in the freezer without tasting old. Come visit me!
Very good ideas and tips – thank you for taking time to share such thorough thoughts!
My freezer tip has to do with how to freeze casseroles, enchiladas, lasagne, or anything that has to hold its shape. I don’t have enough Pyrex dishes to store extra meals in the freezer, and I don’t like using the disposable aluminum trays, so what I learned to do (from the book “Don’t Panic, Dinner’s In The Freezer”)is to line your baking dish with foil first, and then put down a layer of plastic wrap (I think wax paper would work too if you don’t like to use plastic wrap). Make sure there is enough of both the wraps to cover your entire dish. Assemble your meal in the baking dish and let it cool. Then, cover with the plastic wrap, trying not to trap air in. Cover with foil. Then “flash freeze” the entire thing for 1-2 hours. Then, simply pop the meal out of the dish, put it in a freezer bag with cooking instructions, and store in your freezer. It saves space and you can still keep a min. number of baking dishes.
I have many baby food recipes which you can freeze. One of them is:
When you get on to the weaning stage, you can introduce different kinds of fruits first. They are the safest. The first thing that i chose to introduce was apple. Its the best as everyone knows. So in the initial days, you can just slice up apples, make them slightly tender by warming it up in boiling water and then blending it to a smooth paste. You can also make it taste better by adding a dash of nutmeg or cardamom powder. Finally you can freeze it in those ice trays with lids on each container. once it is frozen, empty the tray in a ziplock pouch and keep it in the freezer itself. And whenever you need it, take out 3-4 cubes and microwave it till its eatable for the baby. Its a very handy tip when you have a baby. You can similarly freeze other fruit blends like banana, apricots etc. that can even be mixed with milk. Frozen baby foods like these stay healthy for pretty long, but its better if you finish those off within 4-5 days. Why take chances with your cute lil thing?