175 Make Ahead Freezer Meals!

In Appetizers, Breakfast, Dessert, Dinner, Lunch, Recipes, Uncategorized by Jamie Vos1 Comment

 

Unless you’ve got a nanny, a housekeeper, a chauffeur, and a chef, it’s hard to manage a home and family–and still keep a smile on your face. But, it’s worth trying. Because nobody wants a crabby mom. To make it a little easier on you I’ve compiled a list of fabulous freezer meals that you can throw together in a second for those night when cooking a three course meal just isn’t going to happen.

What can be frozen and what cannot?

There are a few items that don’t freeze well. Lettuce, cucumbers, bean sprouts, and raw potatoes will turn mushy when thawed. Hard boiled eggs will go rubbery so I avoid freezing those as well. Egg based sauces like mayonnaise will separate and curdle when thawed. And many dairy products such as cream, yogurt, cream cheese, sour cream and cottage cheese will sometimes go watery when thawed. However if I am using sour cream or cottage cheese in a dish that will be baked I usually have no issues.
Other than those main items you should be able to freeze most items and have your meal turn out.

What containers are good to use for easy freezer meals?

Gallon or quart sized plastic or re-usable freezer safe bags. Just make sure and get out as much air as possible by squishing the food around and flattening the bag as much as possible. Seal it tightly to avoid any spills or freezer burn as well. I have heard of people using re-usable gallon sized bags as well to save even more money. Ziploc freezer meal recipes are my most used freezer meals for a month.

Aluminum foil pans or your own baking dishes. Look for these at the dollar stores where you can often get a 3 pack for a dollar. For my big family of 6 I use the 9×13 sized containers for our meals. However if you are freezer meal cooking for two you can buy the smaller sized ones. Also check your local restaurant supply stores for multiple containers as well. You could also use your own glass or metal pans, but you want to make sure you have enough of them before you get started.

Plastic Tupperware or other plastic containers with sealed lids. I mainly use these for soups. They can take up a lot of room in the freezer so consider space when using them.

First, the tips (in no particular order):

1) Make sure your kitchen is clean to start. You don’t want to have to clean then cook, because you’re going to be washing dishes while cooking at a rapid fire pace. At least I was. I only have a few pots and pans, a few mixing bowls, a couple of whisks, etc. I don’t have a fully outfitted kitchen big enough for an army. On a regular basis I feed four people – so my kitchen reflects our needs.

2) Think about what you want to stock up on. I know we eat a lot of chicken meals, some with hamburger, and a lot of casserole type meals. You can start with what’s in your pantry and build from there. It’s a great way to make the most of what you have/

3) Clean your freezer. I only have the freezer on my side by side refrigerator. I have had a couple of different deep freezers in the past, but they never got used properly, so I got rid of them. I thoroughly cleaned out my freezer and found that once it was all cleaned up, not only did I have enough room for all those meals, I even had a leftover shelf to fill with my favorite ice cream (which I totally did.)

freezer meals - how to do it all in one day4) Stock up on freezer bags and aluminum pans. Those 3/$1 pans come in all shapes and sizes. I bought ones that hold about 2 pounds of food, because 4 people divided by 2 pounds is 8 ounces each. That’s plenty for the main dish for us. Buy good plastic baggies (I recommend Ziploc) in both gallon and quart size.

5) Wear comfortable shoes. I did it barefoot and my feet were killing me at the end of four hours.

6) Have help, if you can. I wish I had done it on a Sunday when my girls were home to help wash dishes, open cans, etc. I did the bulk of the work when they were at school, but by the last hour I had help and it made my life much easier.

7) Remember this isn’t a fairy tale. Half way through you’re going to start thinking “Why in the crap did I think this was a good idea?!?” Well, at least I did. When you’re up to your elbows in marinara and casseroles, putting stuff into pans over and over again, you’re going to question the whole mess. It’s worth it. Well, it was for me anyways.

8) Sharpies are your friend. You can mark every meal with the name and date, so if you have  a straggler hanging around in your freezer 2 years later (which may or may not happen here), then you don’t have to wonder when it was made or what in the Sam Hill is in that dish. Plus, with the lids on, they’re all going to look the same. Sharpie it up, baby.

9) Prep in batches. Need onion for 4 recipes? Chop it all at once to make your life easier. Poach all your chicken in one pot (which will also give you some decent broth). Brown all of your hamburger together then divide it out for the different meals. If you’ve got to do a lot of it, do it all together.

NEXT: Recipes

1. Favorite Chicken Pot Pie

Chock-full of chicken, potatoes, peas and corn, this autumn favorite makes two golden pies, so you can serve one at supper and save the other for a busy night.

Favorite Chicken Pot Pie

2. Ham & Cheese Potato Casserole

This recipe makes two cheesy, delicious casseroles. Have one tonight and put the other on ice for a future busy weeknight. It’s like having money in the bank when things get hectic!
Ham & Cheese Potato Casserole Recipe

3. Curried Chicken Chowder

To preserve the textures of meat and vegetables in soup, it’s important to cool hot soups completely before freezing.

4. Pork and Herbed White Beans

Although this dish takes a while to cook, the majority is hands off. You can easily prepare it over the weekend and reheat during the week. Plus at only $2.37 per serving, it’s easy on your budget.
 

5. Sausage-Stuffed Manicotti

This recipe for Sausage-Stuffed Manicotti was one of our top picks in the Family Dinners category.
 

6. Five-Cheese Jumbo Shells

Using five cheeses in one dish doesn’t usually translate to a dish that’s considered light, but this meatless meal is proof that it can be done with great success

Five-Cheese Jumbo Shells Recipe

7. Fontina Chicken & Pasta Bake

Eat it tonight, or freeze it for later. This cheesy casserole is still awesome months after you make it.

Fontina Chicken & Pasta Bake Recipe

8. Slow Cooker Pepper Steak

Pepper steak is one of my favorite dishes but I was always disappointed with beef that was too tough. This recipe solves that problem! The slow cooker keeps things simple and makes the meat very tender. I’ve stored leftovers in one big resealable bag and also in individual portions for quick lunches.

Slow Cooker Pepper Steak Recipe

9. Barbecue Glazed Meatballs

Stock your freezer with these meatballs and you’ll always have an appetizer on hand for unexpected guests.

Barbecue Glazed Meatballs Recipe

10. Italian Chicken Roll-Ups

Because I have a busy schedule, I like to keep a batch of these tender chicken rolls in the freezer. Coated with golden crumbs, they seem fancy enough for company. I’ve substituted mozzarella cheese for the provolone and pastrami for the ham with equally delicious results

Italian Chicken Roll-Ups Recipe

11. Pesto-Chicken Penne Casseroles

Creamy, flavorful and so easy to fix, this meal-in-one will wow family and friends. Get ready for recipe requests for this easy chicken casserole!

Pesto-Chicken Penne Casseroles Recipe

12. Turkey Enchilada Lasagna

The whole family will love the familiar Southwestern flavors in this tasty dish

Turkey Enchilada Lasagna Recipe

13. Zesty Hamburger Soup

This recipe is great for those very cold winter days or just when you feel like eating soup. I usually serve this with hot garlic bread or hot crusty French bread.

Zesty Hamburger Soup Recipe

Dinners

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Dinners

 

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