One of my readers (who is also a dear friend of mine) is expecting a baby in January, and asked me if I could give some ideas for freezer meals she could make now to help get her through the busy season ahead. I thought if I was going to compile a list, I’d share it with all of you while I’m at it.
Once a Month Cooking
I started implementing some Once a Month Cooking strategies earlier this year. It has made a huge difference in combating those awful “I don’t feel like cooking!” moments. The first time I tried OAMC, I attempted to make about 10 meals. It was a long day of cooking, I didn’t like half the recipes I tried, and I was handicapped in my kitchen for the rest of the month, since every available casserole or baking dish was shoved in the freezer!
As much as I loved the convenience of a freezer meal, I knew I’d have to adjust the system to make it work for me.
How it works best for me…
My new strategy is to simply prepare dinner in bulk whenever I can. I just double my family favorites, sticking one in the freezer and one in the oven. It’s almost no extra effort, and yet I maintain a stock of freezer meals at all times, with a selection I know whole family will enjoy.
- If I cook a chicken, I cook two, roasting them for dinner one night, then doing all sorts of yummy things with the leftover meat, including putting some back in the freezer for a pot of soup or fajitas later in the month.(check out this great post from Lindsay at Passionate Homemaking for how how many meals you can get from one chicken!)
- When I prepare taco meat, I do several more pounds than what we will eat in taco salad, turning the extra into a mexican lasagna or enchiladas, which I turn around and pop into the freezer for the next time we want mexican dinner.
- When I buy ground beef, I get the big packages. Some I divide up and freeze in smaller portions, and with some of it I quickly mix in a few ingredients to transform it into a meatloaf, ice it with ketchup, and freeze it in a loaf pan. This way, if I forget the thaw the meat for dinner- oops! – it’s already oven-ready and I can pop it in while it’s a bit frozen and *hopefully* still serve dinner on time.
This is a great way to approach preparing meals in advance, especially if you don’t have the time or energy for an all-day cooking marathon. You may still want to keep an eye out for extra casserole dishes at the thrift store, or invest in some nice ones with the matching lids.
Also, remember that freezer meals don’t always have to be casseroles – even just parts of a meal done in advance, like seasoned meat, muffins or a side of homemade mac-and-cheese can make meals easier on busy days.
My Favorite Freezer Meals
So, here’s my list of freezable meals. All you have to do to make these into freezer meals is have enough ingredients on hand to assemble two at a time – one for tonight, and one for later in the month!
- Chicken Divan my all-time favorite casserole
- Chicken Pot Pie – use this soup recipe and add less liquid so it’s like thick gravy. Top with pastry before you freeze, or with dollops biscuit dough right before you put it in the oven.
- Sweet Potato Shepard’s Pie
- Lasagna – make several when you find cheese on sale
- Mexican Lasagna – what I make with stale tortillas
- Meat loaf – then all I have to do is make some sides
- Salsbury Steaks – mix, shape and freeze them, make the gravy the day you plan to serve them.
- Beef and Spinache Quiche – one of my new favorites, I make it several times a month.
- King Ranch Chicken Casserole
- Garlic White Lasagna
Give Freezer Meals a try this week and tell me how it goes!
Hi, Jen! For the salsbury steaks I make what amounts to a white sauce – Start with the pan drippings from browning the steaks, add another 1/4 c. butter, stir in 1/4 flour and add milk till it is a nice, thick gravy.
For flavor, I use chicken bullion. Tried the gravy with beef bullion once and didn't like it. I am still on a quest for a more natural bullion, as every thing I have found has sugar and/or soy. So I don't use it often, only in recipes like this where you want that concentrated flavor.
This is my method of cooking as well. I never really adjusted to cooking for just two. lol! When I do this for my lasagna at least, I line the pan with foil and after it is frozen pop it out of the pan so I still have that pan to work with. I then finish wrapping it with foil or freezer paper and back it goes into the freezer. The quiches pop out on their own and then go into a freezer bag, but that saves me from having too many dishes on hand or not enough when they are full in the freezer. When I pull them out, I pull the foil off and let them thaw in the pan they were frozen in. I also make large batches of soup, stew or chili and they get frozen either in quart or gallon freezer bags. What do you use to make the gravy for the Salsbury steaks? I always have chicken or turkey stock on hand to make gravy out of, but rarely any beef. Thanks for the recipe ideas!
Yep, this is the best way. It's also good for any mercy ministry cooking you might want to do. Making a double batch of pasta sauce takes maybe 15 more minutes. Boil a little pasta, toss some cheese on top, and with very little effort you have a meal to keep and a meal to share with new moms or overwhelmed college students.