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! :)