Earlier this week I posted on Instagram that I had been making up a bunch of freezer meals to have after baby #2 comes, and I was surprised that many of you wanted to get the full run-down on it all. I don’t really blog much about food because I don’t find it particularly interesting (I would write the most boring food blog ever), but this post is a prime example of supply and demand. Y’all (nicely) demanded, so I’m supplying!
One thing you need to know about me: I hate cooking. HATE. It. You might have picked up on that when I mentioned that I don’t find food particularly interesting. Just necessary. Freezing meals is something I wish I had the discipline to do on a regular basis, because it is SO convenient to have quick and healthy meals to eat where I do virtually nothing. But remember that part where I said I hate cooking? Yeah. So it usually takes some sort of extreme motivating factor (oh, like having a baby) to get me going. Then my love or organization and planning take over.
PLANNING & TIPS
Before I had Winston, the amount of freezer meals I made multiplied by the number of steps needed to finish certain recipes was a little insane. Don’t get me wrong, the food was for the most part delish, and lasted us a LONG time, but the whole process was incredibly exhausting to accomplish in spite of a lot of help from friends. My feet started swelling that day (I was 34 weeks pregnant? Just like this time.), and never went down for the rest of pregnancy. But I learned a few things that made freezing meals work better for me this time.
1. Don’t choose meals that have individual portions that need to be individually wrapped or stuffed or whatever, unless you specifically need individual portions. Way too much work for me (although it was tasty)! You burn a lot of extra time and energy individually stuffing those burritos and wrapping them air tight for the freezer. Instead choose bigger recipes that can be broken down into smaller pans for individual portions to be easily taken out of vs. making all of the individual portions ahead of time. Having a smaller pan to thaw from the freezer is also helpful to just prevent the food from going bad before you can eat it.
2. You don’t have to make it all at once. I did and typically do the bulk of my cooking/freezing in one day. However I also started incorporating 3-4 meals into our monthly menu that I can easily double or triple to then freeze to use ourselves or give to someone in need. Freezing ahead this way is slower, but incredibly easy compared to planning and cooking for an entire day straight.
3. Carefully choose your recipes. See point 1! I’m all about practicality and minimal effort. A small pan egg casserole is a lot faster to make, wrap, and freeze, then 15 individually stuffed and wrapped breakfast burritos with 4 precooked ingredients (not that those wouldn’t be yummy. . .because they are!). It all depends on your goal and what you enjoy doing that will determine which recipes will work for you. For me, I just want some protein for breakfast as well as something I can easily feed my toddler, so an egg casserole easily makes the cut. All I have to do is spoon a big portion on a plate and throw it in the microwave.
4. When you write the shopping list, remember to purchase disposable freezing supplies (freezer bags, foil pans, plastic wrap, etc.)! This just makes life easier. You can throw it out later when you’re done with the meal, and you don’t have your own dishes tied up in the freezer for who knows how long.
5. Buy in bulk from a place like Costco or Sams. When you’re cooking in large quantities it’s easy to save money buying the ingredients at these types of places!
6. While your recipes don’t have to say that they are specifically for the freezer, it is crucial to be sure you package all of your freezer meals well in order to prevent freezer burn. For breads, I usually wrap them in plastic wrap, and then foil to keep the air out. Muffins, soups, and pre-cooked meat go in freezer bags. Dishes in foil pans get covered and sealed well with heavy duty foil. You get the picture! Keep the air out!
7. Get help! This can be more fun if you split tasks/costs with a friend.
Here are some ideas to get you going as you choose your own recipes. You can look up more ideas/recipes on www.pinterest.com and www.allrecipes.com. It’s not so much about particular freezer recipes as much as just finding something you like to eat, and maybe using a favorite recipe you already know!
- Egg Casseroles (there are so many variations for yummy casseroles!)
- Baked Oatmeal
- Breakfast breads (there are some recipes that even have protein mixed in)
- Pot Roast
- Crock pot meals
- Other one dish meals
- Grilled and sliced chicken for salads
- Ground beef for easily adding to spaghetti or other dishes for added protein
Note: I tend to make more sides than main dishes because we eat a lot of protein based meals like bratwurst, stew meat, and chicken breasts. Typically those are just as easy for me to thaw and cook the first time as it would be to pre-cook the meats, so having sides and frozen veggies on hand are super helpful to complete those meals. We typically try not to eat a lot of grain or sugar, but during postpartum/pregnancy I let this slide because it’s a lot easier for my husband to cook up some potatoes or biscuits to help complete his meals versus venturing into the realm of unknown ingredients.
- Bags of various frozen veggies (I usually get these at Costco)
- Cheesy potato casserole
- Biscuit mixes (just add milk!)
- Mashed potatoes
- Pre-cooked rice
- Desserts or breads
- Vegetable dishes
- Frozen fruit for smoothies
I don’t have a ton of favorite recipes I use. They change every time, and I honestly just search pinterest.com or allrecipes.com until I find something that suits the need for the type of dish I’m thinking of. Usually the recipes don’t say anything about freezing. Here are a few of my favorite recipes though, per request! The only one that is partially cooked ahead of time are the enchiladas.
CHEESE BISCUIT MIX
Makes 8 batches, 8 servings each.
2 lbs. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
16 cups all-purpose or whole wheat flour
2/3 cup baking powder
1/4 cup sugar or fructose
1 Tbsp. salt
2 cups butter, cut into 1 inch cubes
8 one-gallon freezer bags
Combine all dry ingredients. Add butter; rub into flour until the butter is in tiny pieces. Divide the mixture evenly among the freezer bags. Seal and freeze!
To Bake: Thaw (or mostly thaw) one batch, and preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put mixture in bowl and add 3/4 cup milk and stir to form dough. Pat into circles or drop into 8 biscuits on an un-greased baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown.
1 lb. uncooked chicken breast
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese
1 can chopped green chiles
1 package whole wheat tortillas
2 cans Old El Paso green chile enchilada sauce
Shredded cheddar cheese
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 9×13 pan with spray (I used half this size for smaller portions to pull out of the freezer). 2. Cook chicken in a skillet (or bake a ton in the oven for a bulk recipe!). Cut chicken and stir in cream cheese and chiles until cream cheese is melted. 3. Spoon chicken filling into tortillas and roll up, placing the seam sides down in the baking dish. Pour enchilada sauce over top, then cover with shredded cheese. Bake 20 minutes or until cheese is crisp and brown.
Note: I like for this recipe to be a little creamier than described, so I usually add a bit more cream cheese, and don’t add all of the green chiles or green chile sauce.
CHEESY POTATO CASSEROLE
2 lb. (thawed) frozen and diced hash brown potatoes
1/2 cup melted butter
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. dried onion
1 can Cream of Chicken soup
16 oz. sour cream
Pour in buttered 9×13 baking dish. Cover with 2 cups grated cheese and 2 cups crushed cornflakes. Pour 1/4 cup of melted butter on top. Freeze or bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until brown. Serves 8-12.