23 answers

Freezing Pre-prepared Meals

Hi ladies! In preparation for baby #2 who will arrive just after Christmas, I've been checking out recipes for meals which can be frozen. Unfortunately, they don't say how to freeze them or reheat them...

What do you freeze these things in? Something like meatballs, I would just put in a freezer bag, but casseroles & the like? I've only got one big & one small casserole dish with a lid- I don't make them very often.

Also, how to you go about reheating them? Just defrost in the fridge the day before & pop it in the oven? This is all new to me- I usually cook just as much as we'll eat that night b/c we don't really do leftovers.

Any advice or additional recipes your family loves would be greatly appreciated!

Just a note: My hubby can cook, but doesn't like to unless I'm there helping. When I shattered my leg a couple of years ago we ate tons of fast food or canned junk like chili & the like because he didn't want to cook. Our then-2 yr lived off hot dogs, chicken nuggets, and cereal! I'd much rather eat healthier this time when I'll be off my feet for a few days b/c I am going to try to nurse our new little guy.

4 moms found this helpful

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So What Happened?™

**Updating my update** I can't believe how many responses I've received for such a simple question!! Thanks so much to all of you mamas! I really appreciate it!

You ladies are awesome! I love this site! Thanks for all the great ideas! I think I'll try the disposable foil pans. We actually just gave away a bunch of casserole dishes I had because they were just taking up space in my already small kitchen since I don't ever use them. We do have a foodsaver, so I'll try that too.
My hubby is already overwhelmed by the idea of having a 2nd child (although they'll be 5 yrs apart!), so anything to make it easier those first few weeks will be great!
Thanks again!

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I did this over the summer when I visited family for 2 wks and my hubby was left to fend for himself! I froze casseroles in foil pans and covered them tightly with foil then wrote what kind of casserole it was on the foil with permanent marker and the cooking instructions. I put the casseroles together like normal except cooked the meat first. Then the night before you are going to make it, put it in the fridge to defrost and then most casseroles only need to be cooked about 20 or 30 min until heated through.
Try looking on kraft foods website for ideas. You could also cook and freeze chicken for salads, meat for tacos, sauce for pasta, or soups. Also look through the frozen foods section at the store for meals that all you have to do is heat up on the stove or in the crockpot. They come with the meat, sauce, veges, etc already cooked. And they arent too expensive
Good luck and congrats on the new baby!

1 mom found this helpful

Freezer meals are really easy, and there are lots out there to Google. One thing I do, when making casseroles to freeze, is line the dish with several layers of foil. After it's frozen, just pop it out of the dish and put it back in the freezer. That way, you can make several in the same dish. You can cook them from frozen or defrosted usually, and the foil makes cleanup easy, too! Good luck, and congrats on #2!
J.

1 mom found this helpful

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I just finished a big day of freezer cooking yesterday! I now have 28 meals in my freezer ready to go on busy nights! I did the same thing before I had my second baby so you are on the right track to be thinking ahead-especially as it will be during the holidays too when baby is born and you will be wanting to do fun things with your 4-year-old. My blog, www.mealplanningmagic.blogspot.com has several freezer cooking links and cookbook reviews of freezer cookbooks. I've also written about what you can and cannot freeze--you can freeze so many things very well and many times you are just prepping and freezing then cooking the day you want to serve. I LOVE it and have come to rely on this method to save my sanity at dinner time. I will be adding a post soon about this week's cooking session because I told several friends and they want to know how I did it. One of my favorite sites is www.30daygourmet.com--there is a lot of good info. there to get you started. Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful

Freezer meals are really easy, and there are lots out there to Google. One thing I do, when making casseroles to freeze, is line the dish with several layers of foil. After it's frozen, just pop it out of the dish and put it back in the freezer. That way, you can make several in the same dish. You can cook them from frozen or defrosted usually, and the foil makes cleanup easy, too! Good luck, and congrats on #2!
J.

1 mom found this helpful

I did this over the summer when I visited family for 2 wks and my hubby was left to fend for himself! I froze casseroles in foil pans and covered them tightly with foil then wrote what kind of casserole it was on the foil with permanent marker and the cooking instructions. I put the casseroles together like normal except cooked the meat first. Then the night before you are going to make it, put it in the fridge to defrost and then most casseroles only need to be cooked about 20 or 30 min until heated through.
Try looking on kraft foods website for ideas. You could also cook and freeze chicken for salads, meat for tacos, sauce for pasta, or soups. Also look through the frozen foods section at the store for meals that all you have to do is heat up on the stove or in the crockpot. They come with the meat, sauce, veges, etc already cooked. And they arent too expensive
Good luck and congrats on the new baby!

1 mom found this helpful

Buy some foil pans. They come in all sizes so you can make what you are going to make, fill up the pans and freeze. Then you can either cook them first and then freeze or freeze before cooking. If you cook first, then they need to be completely cooled down before you put hen in the freezer. Wrap them really well in foil. When you go to re-heat, it should take about an hour in a 350 oven. If you do not cook them, then it will take 2-3 hours since they would have to thaw before the cooking time starts.

Good Luck and Congrats!

I have not tried this myself, but I saw on TV that you can put parchment paper down in the pan BEFORE you put your casserole in and freeze. When it is frozen just pull on the sides and freeze however you like, but you still have your pan free.

King Ranch
cooked and boned chicken
1 can chicken soup (do not delute)
1 can chicken soup (do not delute)
1 small pkg. corn tortillas
1 med. onion chopped
1 can rotel tomato's
1 can chopped tomato's
small amount of garlic if you like pepper to taste
If you like small amount of jalapeno's chopped and added to soups
cheddar cheese shredded

Layer corn tortillas
chicken
mix soups,onion,garlic, pepper
put these on top of chicken
tomato's mixed on top of soups
top off with cheese
bake 350 for about 45 min.
THIS WILL FREEZE AND CAN BE COOKED RIGHT OUT OF FREEZER ADD ABOUT 20 MORE MINUTES.

ANY THING THAT YOU PUT IN FREEZER CAN ALSO BE IN THOSE TOSS ALUMINUM PANS AND COVERED WITH FOIL; JUST ADD ABOUT
20 MINUTES WHEN FROZEN.

Another fast and good meal

Potato soup

Use the boxed or canned chicken broth for your liquid
cook several and peeled and diced potato's in the broth with celery and pepper.
When potato's are just about done thicken with instant potato's.
If you want you can add some chopped ham and carrots.
Very fast meal and easy to cook

Take care of your self and be good to yourself.

D.,

I made a bunch of crock pot meals (mainly stews and things like that) right before I had baby #2 and it was a huge time saver! I doubled the recipes, then portioned them out into the disposable Glad tupperware containers. I labeled each item with the date I made it and the name of the item to make things easier. When it came to re-heating, I didn't always plan ahead and defrost in the refrigerator. So, I would set it out for about an hour or so on the counter to defrost it just enough to get it out of the container, then would transfer it to either a pot and cook it on the stove or simply defrost it in the microwave. Soooo easy!

www.campbellssoup.com has lots of easy recipes that you can double as you cook them and will freeze beautifully.

Best of luck to you and congrats!

Hello - I know you already have received LOTS of great info on freezer cooking, but just in case you have not heard of Homemade Gourmet, I thought I would mention it. I am a Meal Planning Consultant with Homemade Gourmet and the concept behind the company is to make delicious meals fast and easy and in many cases, SEVERAL at a time to keep in the freezer. Here is a link to give you ONE of the HG's concepts - it's called Homemade in a Hurry - these are entrees that you can prepare via the MICROWAVE! They are quick, easy and DELICIOUS and 100% Guaranteed! For as little as $1.90 a serving, which includes all your fresh grocery ingredients TOO, you can't beat it!

http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/business/Make-an-Honest-Living...

The 4 Meals in 4 Minutes shows how you can use HG's seasonings and many of the Meal Mixes to make FREEZER Meals in advance to save you TONS of Time for future Dinners. Check out the Easy Recipes Tab on my website for lots of Meal Planning Ideas. www.homemadegourmet.com/TerryHoskins

This month's HG Meal Bundle is Casserole Creations - makes 9 Entrees! And next Month's Meal Bundle will be Savory Soups - 8 of HG's Wonderful Soup Entrees. All 100% Guaranteed!
I hope I can help you in the future. Best wishes to you and your family AND your New SWEET Addition!
Take care,
T.

Hi D.,

Well done for planning ahead :) And congratulations on your pregnancy.

I too am expecting # 2 and I have a 3 year old, Jayson will be born around 12/21/09. I recently had to go back to work fulltime and I am high risk for this pregnancy so I have to lie down on my left side for an hour after work each night.. this makes conventional cooking virtually impossible.

I spent a bit of money and invested in some pyrex casserole dishes. I buy the ones that are about $5 each at walmart.

I do things a bit differently to others, instead of preping food for a whole month. I pick one meal a week and on a sunday I cook 4 weeks worth of that meal. Right now I have about 30 meals in my freezer.

I prefer the pyrex because I can put them in the oven when I get home, turn the oven on and let them thaw/reheat for 30 minutes. They are reuseable. When I have 4 empties i cook a new batch of food. I usually leave them in the refrigerator overnight. I sometimes end up with 2 days food in a container so we eat the same meal twice in one week. Thank goodness my husband is not a picky eater and I can do this. It has been a huge help. Because I can tell him to pull X out of the freezer and he just has to put it in the oven for x minutes. Make sure you only turn on the oven once the pyrex is in it. Then it will warm up the glass slowly.

Meal ideas: chicken a la king, spaghetti and meat sauce, beef stew, chicken alfredo, shepherds pie, lasagne, curry 'n rice, soups, etc. I sneak veggies into all my meals by cooking them and pureeing them into the sauce... even my chicken alfredo has veggies. Almost everything is freezable, I have yet to find something that wasn't but be sure to check online as said below for what works and what doesn't. I cook my rice and pasta and add them,I just make sure they are barely cooked before adding them they continue o cook a little as you defrost.

I hope this helps.

D.,

You can freeze most things in freezer ziplocs. If you need your casserole dishes. You can freeze the casserole in the dish and when it is frozen, slip it out of the dish into a bag. To reheat, pop it back into your dish. You can also prepare your hubby kits. You can put a roast, carrots, celery, and onion in a freezer bag. You can add seasoning to the package and write directions on the bag for the crock pot. You can find a ton of freezer ready recipes online. You can also freeze chili and soups (broth soups). Usually, you just defrost and heat. Some instructions will be to freeze uncooked and then cook when ready. Happy cooking!

I would recommend a Food Saver for your frozen meals and its VERY EASY!

Make your meal
Place meal in appropriate bag size
Seal
Mark the bag of contents / date / you can even attach how to cook instructions
To heat back up - you can place the bag in a pot of boiling water or microwave for a few. Then depending on your taste - heat fully in microwave or in the oven.

Congrats on the baby and good luck.

Tupperware! I am a TW Director, and we have a perfect product for your needs. It is Vent'n Serve. You can refrig, freeze and microwave in it. It doesn't stain, the handles stay cool in microwave, no potholders needed, etc. We do classes on on how to pre-prepare mass meals to freeze for later. I would be happy to share more with you and/or your friends! Or you can go to my authorized site www.PlasticKitchen.com to find out more. T. Moon ###-###-#### or ____@____.com

Another time saver is to cook 5-10 pounds of ground beef. Add some chopped onions and garlic. Drain well and place 1 lb portions in freezer bags. These can be used to make tacos, spaghetti or other quick dishes.

And, congrats on your upcoming bundle of joy!!!

I like to use the aluminum pans when I bring a meal to others, and you can use them for freezing. If you use plastic/nylon or wooden serveware when dishing out the food, you can reuse them, too. I hate waste, but I don't have enough Pyrex to freeze a months' worth of food!

I've always put frozen meals in the oven and increase the bake time. For example, a lasagna that i would bake for 45 minutes freshly made, I would bake for 1.5 hours frozen. I don't know about the safety in thawing. Good thing to google.

I had #3 four days after Christmas, and we utilized leftovers that my mom sent home. It was especially nice to have good and healthy, yet easy, breakfasts (eggs with Christmas ham - yum). I would also revise my stance on leftovers...when you've got a tiny one to take care of in addition to a busy pre schooler, it will be nice to make your meals go further.

For my friend's second pregnancy, we gave her a "casserole" shower. We asked that people bring something for her freezer instead of a typical gift (she was having another boy and thought meals would be more helpful!). We filled the top HALF of her deep freeze. Her hubby only had to pop things into the oven for a month!

Good luck and congrats!

I used to do "once a month" cooking and froze stuff in either zipper bags or those tin foil pans you can buy. Just cover tightly with foil and you're good to go. I also thaw in the fridge overnight and pop in the oven in the same pan. And as long as you wash them well, they can be used over and over.

Go to the library and check out some books on "once a month" cooking, it saves you a lot of time and trouble.

I buy Corningware and Pyrex with plastic lids for the freezer.
You will have better luck with your corningware and pyrex not breaking by putting it in the fridge a day in advance and letting it thaw somewhat so the temp difference isn't so great when you pop it in the oven.

The plastic bag idea is great too. Sometimes I can't get my frozen stuff out of the casserole dish, though!

Congratz on your baby-to-be!

--update--I just read your response. Those foil pans are an even better idea!!

I was on a committee at church with several girls (one of which had a deep freeze) where we prepared frozen meals in the event that there was a family in need of food. If they had a new baby, surgery, death whatever- at a moments notice we could get a meal to them with fresh salad and bread and they were good to go. First of all everything had to be made and placed in one of those disposable casserole containers. (you know the aluminum ones at the store) Then we would use a three by five card and label what it was and how long to cook or heat if need be (instructions if you will). Then that card would be taped to the outside of the aluminum foil that it was covered with. To be sure to block out freezer burn we would then place said casserole into a large freezer safe plastic bag (ziploc or whatever). We did two different kinds of casseroles. If it was a lasagne or something like that- we would put it together and then the instructions would say place out in sink in the morning to thaw and then bake at yada yada yada blah blah blah. Or in my case (I always made like chicken pasta with cheese or something) I would bake it and let it cool and then package and freeze - that way when it thawed all they had to do was cut out individual servings whenever they were ready to eat and heat in microwave! Good luck!

Hi D.,
Kudos on preparedness for baby's arrival. Bake a casserole in either of your dishes, lined with foil. After it cools, wrap in foil, and I would place in freezer bag as well. Label. When time to eat, unwrap foil, defrost in fridge night before if possible, then drop into original pan. A good rule of thumb is 45mins at 350degrees. Check it so it is heated thru, not dried out. An easy method to test is to stick a table knife in the center of the casserole for about 10secs. When you pull it out, if the end of the knife you stuck in the casserole is hot, then the food is hot enough. HTH

It looks like you got a lot of great recipes - also remember that you can do healthy take away if you want something "fresh" - places like Diet Gourmet deliver food to your door and don't let the name "diet" fool you... the food is healthy and you can order different sized meals by calorie count. They also have Mom to Be meals that come with snacks.

Good luck with #2 and the everything else.
blessings,
Stacy

Buy some of the disposable metal pans for baking. Make up the casseroles, cover them really well with foil, and store them in the freezer. When you are ready to cook, yes, pull them out a day or two before to thaw. Pop them in the oven and warm just like you would cook.

Try making ahead sauces too. These you can store either in ziplock freezer bags or plastic storage containers. You can do this with stews and chili too. Hint, though, don't spice up/pepper things as much as you normally do. The pepper/spice gets stronger with freezing.

One of the best cookbooks for this is Once a Month Cookbook by Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg.

They have it down to a science and give instructions for the types of containers you need. You mark heating instructions on the meal container before you freeze and so its easy to reheat/cook.

My 2 weeks worth of meals actually lasted for a month.

Remember to keep plenty of fresh veggies on hand so that you are adding nutrition and fiber to your diet...especially for just after baby is first born (you can wash and ziplock these for the refrigerator as well.

Prepare your casseroles one-at-a-time, put each one in the casserole you have and freeze until solid. Pop out of the casserole and slip into a freezer bag. Then, when you are ready to cook, simply place back in the casserole and cook. You don't need to thaw out unless you have cookware that cannot go from freezer to oven. Corning and Pyrex should be OK, but if you have NEW Pyrex, DON'T DO THIS. I've received warnings about the new Pyrex that is now made in China, and it's made from a substandard material that will EXPLODE when reheated from frozen to a hot oven.

Hope this helps you--and congratulations on being such an organized second-time Mom!!

Hi D.
What a thoughtful idea .........what I have done in the past are the standards pretty much like spagetti with meat or meat balls, baked chicken or chicken breast that can be heated up- add a salad and you have dinner- you can use your crockpot and cook up a large pot roast with carrots,potatoes and onions etc and split it into 3 or 4 meals. You can cook up a pot of veg soup or chicken noodle soup incase it is just really cold during this time...... meatloaf is always easy to freeze- just add canned veggies they can open-
you can get the freezer containers at the dollar store for different size portions- cook the meals, let them come to room temp then seal well and pop in freezer- they can either defrost in am or use defrost cycle on microwave if yours has that cycle- heat and eat- all the above make really good hot meals in a flash...... but don;t forget to have some "junk food" around just for fun.
good luck and blessings

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