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amylevan
06-04-2009, 10:21 AM
I'm reaching the end of my pregnancy (Yay!) and I want to start putting some meals in the freezer so that we don't take the easy way out and order out during those first few weeks of new baby and little sleep. However, I've never done any meal freezing before (it's just been DH and me...no need). So I have no idea what I'm doing.

My questions:

Do you assemble, bake and then freeze or assemble, freeze and bake later?

How long is stuff usually good in the freezer?

What do you use to freeze the food in? Tupperware containers?

I figured homemade mac n cheese and lasagna should both freeze well. Can anyone share some other good recipes?

mom2cookies
06-04-2009, 10:29 AM
First of all, CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!!!!


Well for lasagna ( which freezes very well) you would not cook it first ( except the noodles of course). To freeze it cover the pan first with plastic wrap then use heavy duty or freezer aluminum foil to tightly cover. It should be good for a week or 2. The day you cook it, take it out of the freezer the day before and put in the fridge to thaw or take out in the morning for counter thaw. remove plastic before cooking

Soup is good to freeze and of course that would be cooked ahead of time. If you happen to have a roast chicken soon, then save whatever you and DH don't eat and boil the whole thing as a starter for your soup. Freeze it in a well sealled plastic container. A glass jar is likely to crack. Leave space at the top of the container as the soup will expand as it freezes.

superminnie
06-04-2009, 10:29 AM
I haven't actually done this yet but this website might help you out.
http://onceamonthmom.com/

dyna
06-04-2009, 10:54 AM
I find it very helpful to keep browned hamburger an cut up cooked chicken breast in freezer ready to go. I cook the meat put it on cookie sheet till frozen then put it in a freezer bag which allows me to pull out however much I need for a meal.

Good for tacos, sloppy joes casseroles. 2 cups of meat is usually what I put in sloppy joes an tacos etc. I add it as I start heating whatever I happen to be fixing. Being loose instead of a big glob helps it heat faster.

Chopped onions, peppers etc frozen on the cookie sheet then added to bag is a huge help too.

Most casseroles freeze well you can do that either by lining pan with foil putting casserole in pan an freezing till frozen then pull pan out lift foil out an casserole comes out with it. You can then remove foil put it back in pan you originally had it in to cook it. Remember that is going to require thawing time along with cooking time. Buy the throw away foil pans put casserole in that an freeze in the foil pan much cheaper than tupperware. OR make an bake casserole cut it serving size portions then put on cookie sheet or some might be stable enough to stay together an go ahead an wrap as they are an freeze individual serving size portions which heats much faster.

I would use 2 months as a rule of thumb for most things, meat tends to take on a strong flavor as it gets old. Now my frozen onions etc I can keep longer.

A crockpot would come in very handy too throw your food in there night before set it in fridge take it out put it in the electric cooker part turn it on in the am an you got supper at supper time.

BTW YOU very smart to plan ahead with the frozen meals with a new baby life can get challenging those 1st few months.

MrsPete
06-04-2009, 10:58 AM
I'd suggest that you make a trip to Dream Dinners (or a similar meal preparation spot). They make it very easy: they do the planning, the shopping, and the cleaning up. You just go from station to station, assembling meals just as you like (omit the onions from this sauce, add extra cheese to that casserole). In about two hours you come away with a freezer full of meals, and you'll have a good variety of quick-to-fix, labeled meals. It's not as cheap as making things at home and freezing them, but it is not outrageously priced -- it's less expensive than eating out. Also, it's a savings in that you don't end up with 1/2 a bottle of this-or-that ingredient that you rarely use.

Here's why I suggest this: I frequented these places for about a year -- and I still go occasionally -- and I learned a great deal about what freezes well and how to assemble /package frozen meals to best advantage. When I'd frozen things on my own earlier, I had the mistaken idea that everything should go into the freezer completely ready to eat. Now I have a good handle on the idea of putting together sauces . . . then later cooking the meat and adding the sauce.

What I mostly do now is "batch cooking". That means I see a certain item on sale, and I buy a bunch of it and make up a bunch of that recipe all at once. For example, today I intend to put together 5-6 recipes of chicken pot pie. It doesn't take much more effort to make a whole bunch than it does to make one recipe, and I'll freeze the extra 4-5. For chicken pot pie, I store the chicken/vegetables/sauce in a quart-sized ziplock, and when I'm ready to make it I thaw the mixture, pour it into a pie pan, and cover it with a pre-made Pilsbury crust.

If you're doing it on your own, chicken enchilladas are a good fool-proof first recipe; put them into throw-away foil trays -- I buy them from ebay. Breakfast burritos are good too (wrap individually in wax paper ready to be microwaved, store together in a big ziplock).

Another good one is chicken dumplings /soup: I cook up the chicken, tear it into little pieces, and store it in ziplock bags in its own stock. Into each bag I place a spoonful of chicken boullion, thyme and poultry seasoning, and UNCOOKED cut-up veggies. My family likes onions and diced carrots, but you might choose peas or celery -- it does't matter what vegetables. When you're ready to use this, you pop it into the pot, add water and bring it to a boil. If you want it to be chicken-dumplings, add a can of cream of chicken soup, then take FLAKY biscuits from a can and tear them apart horizontally into thin, thin biscuits -- they'll boil up into wonderful dumplings in no time. If you want chicken noodle soup, add water and then whatever noodles you have on hand.

MrsPete
06-04-2009, 11:03 AM
I find it very helpful to keep browned hamburger an cut up cooked chicken breast in freezer ready to go. I cook the meat put it on cookie sheet till frozen then put it in a freezer bag which allows me to pull out however much I need for a meal.I do this too. It's great to be able to pull out just a small amount of cooked ground beef, ready to put into canned spaghetti sauce or to add to the top of a baked potato.

One hint: Don't brown the meat in a frying pan. Boil it in a pot. You'll be amazed at how quickly it cooks and how much less mess you make. Drain away the water (and the fat), and in the same pot add onions, garlic -- whatever seasonings you want.

camlace
06-04-2009, 11:08 AM
Well for lasagna ( which freezes very well) you would not cook it first ( except the noodles of course). To freeze it cover the pan first with plastic wrap then use heavy duty or freezer aluminum foil to tightly cover. It should be good for a week or 2. The day you cook it, take it out of the freezer the day before and put in the fridge to thaw or take out in the morning for counter thaw. remove plastic before cooking



On the other hand I DO cook my lasagna first and store it in the freezer in individual portions (or make lasagna rolls rather than a tray) that I pop in the microwave for a quick lunch. As much as I needed premade dinners for hubby and I after our daughter was born, I also needed easy lunches for myself while home with the baby ;)

mrsklamc
06-04-2009, 11:54 AM
When I precook ground beef to freeze, the freezer bag fills with ice. Any clue what I'm doing wrong? Do I need to let it cool more first maybe?

Mystic
06-04-2009, 12:18 PM
When I precook ground beef to freeze, the freezer bag fills with ice. Any clue what I'm doing wrong? Do I need to let it cool more first maybe?
It is safest to let your meat (or any other dish) cool completely before freezing. Let dishes cool at room temperature until cool enough to put it in the fridge for a few hours before the freezer. You may be leaving lots of air in the bag also. I really like the Ziploc vacuum bags. You can remove what you want and re-vacuum the bag to freeze the rest.

Enchiladas are really great for freezing. I like to freeze tuna casserole too. I keep a veggie soup area in my freezer, every leftover veggie goes in here, when it is full, we pull it all out and make soup. It is always delicious and it is practically free! My mom did this when I was growing up with 5 brothers and sisters. It was about the only way I ate veggies without crying about it!
Congrats on your new addition!:flower3:

DebMcDonald
06-04-2009, 02:30 PM
I also do alot of frozen cooked beef and that way I can quickly add it to a sauce and we can have pasta. For taco's I brown my beef, add the taco seasoning and let it cool and freeze and then all I do is microwave and we're ready for dinner.

Also check out the crockpot receipe thread, there's alot a great recipes there.

I also buy alot of chicken breasts, place several in a ziplock bag and let it sit in the fridge for a day and then freeze it. When I thaw it, it's ready to be thrown on the grill.

I make montary chicken and freeze it all the time. Chicken breasts, add bbq sauce on top of the chicken breasts, add cooked bacon on top of that, add shredded cheese and freeze, thaw when ready and cook.

Go to dream dinners, check out their recipes and then google search them. I've visited our local "easy dinners" and "make and take kitchen" and now just visit their website monthly for ideas.

dis-happy
06-04-2009, 03:32 PM
I was pg. 2 summers ago, and during the heat wave in August I spent a few days doing freezer meals (baby was due in Sept)....so glad I did!!! Made life much easier.

I ordered some recipes off the Saving Dinner website. There is a section for freezer meals, I think I did about 20 of them. Great recipes, come with a shopping list, as well as tips for how to store (gallon size freezer bags that lay flat in your freezer) and what to serve with the meals. There wasn't anything that my family didn't enjoy eating.

Congratulations and good luck with everthing!

pianoronni37
06-04-2009, 04:03 PM
This is probably a really dumb question - but I have absolutely no experience with freezing/thawing foods!

When you brown the ground beef in crumbles, and you go to use it in a recipe (say, Tacos or Spaghetti Sauce), do you just use it from frozen, or do you have to thaw it first in the fridge?? Or is there another way to thaw it?

Also, with frozen veggies - how do you do that? LoL - I had no idea that was possible, we through out SO many veggies just because we can't eat them all in their time slot, we'll be doing that a LOT! How do you thaw them when it's time to use, though? Just throw them in a pot/pan?

Also (Sorry!!) when you freeze pasta/lasagna/soups - do you just reheat them from frozen or do you have to thaw them first, too? I'd LOVE to do that for the week for easy lunches for DH and myself - make a big pot/pan of food and freeze it individually and just pull it out and use it!

Thank you SO MUCH for your help! :thumbsup2

dyna
06-05-2009, 05:30 AM
Meat you can use it frozen it will thaw as the sauce heats

Veggies onions, peppers, celery etc chop an put on cookie sheet to freeze once frozen put in zip lock freezer bag onions in a bag peppers another bag etc freezing on cookie sheet allows you to be able to pull out a hand full easily without the whole bag being one big glob. These you can use frozen in cooking most of the time. Meatloaf etc you might need to thaw the veggies a bit.

You can also keep a bag of left over veggies in freezer once bag full have mixed veggie for dinner as a side or add to soups an stews.

The frozen dinners home made is simple freeze on plate you can either thaw in fridge or pop them in the microwave an hit the frozen entree button same as for bought frozen dinners.

worm761
06-05-2009, 08:04 PM
I tried a brand new recipe tonight and thought of this thread. I have been paying close attention to it because I am pregnant and this just seems like a good idea. Anyway, these are very yummy and look like they would freeze well.

Cheesy Salsa Mini Meatloaves

1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 egg
12 saltine crackers, finely crushed (about 1/2 cup)
1 1/2 cups finely shredded four cheese
1 cup salsa

1. Heat oven to 400.
2. Mix first 4 ingredients with 1 cup cheese and 1/2 cup salsa.
3. Press evenly into 12 muffin cups sprayed with cooking spray. Use back of spoon to make indentation in center of each. Place muffin pan on foil-covered baking sheet.
4. Bake 20-25 or until meatloaves are done (165 degrees). Top with remaining salsa and cheese; bake 3 minutes or until cheese is melted.

bnf2
06-05-2009, 10:19 PM
I do lots of freezer meals. My best advice: http://www.30daygourmet.com/

This site helps with what can and shouldn't be frozen, ideas on containers, etc. I like to line dishes with plastic wrap, freeze, then pop out of dish and place in freezer bag (or vacuum seal in my food saver) for long-term storage. Then when I'm ready to bake just pop back into the original dish.

Many meals I prepare to the point of cooking then freeze. If you cook them then freeze you are just heating 'leftovers.' KWIM? I generally undercook pasta and add more sauce with my lasagna/pasta bakes. Again, the 30 Day site helps a lot with all that. Might be able to find the companion cooking manual a the library.

Congrats and the new babe and good luck with your meals!

polkadotminnie
06-05-2009, 10:56 PM
One hint: Don't brown the meat in a frying pan. Boil it in a pot. You'll be amazed at how quickly it cooks and how much less mess you make. Drain away the water (and the fat), and in the same pot add onions, garlic -- whatever seasonings you want.
I have never boiled meat. How long do you boil it for? Does it reduce the flavor?

ah1126
06-05-2009, 11:09 PM
Stuffed shells do well being frozen. I try to set it in the fridge the night before or the morning that I am going to cook it. I put it in the oven, then turn the oven on to preheat.
I also enjoy breakfast or regular burritos. For the breakfast ones I cook scrambled eggs, sasuage or ham, and cheddar cheese. For the regular ones I do chicken and mozzarella cheese or seasoned hamburger, rice and cheddar cheese. It is great to make you own and put whatever you like in them. I wrap them each in plastic wrap then place in a large ziploc bag.

Congrats!

TiffanyK
06-05-2009, 11:16 PM
Here's a post I did on my blog called 5 Ways to Make Your Freezer Work for You (http://eatathomecooks.com/2009/05/5-ways-to-make-your-freezer-work-for-you.html)

Congrats on the new baby!

polkadotminnie
06-05-2009, 11:44 PM
Has anyone frozen a rotisserie chicken that you purchased like from Costco? How do you do this? Thanks for all the valuable info. I am a working mom with 3 busy girls. I feel like we eat out too much because we are on the go to after school activities. Any help is appreciated...:thumbsup2

TiffanyK
06-06-2009, 08:07 AM
Has anyone frozen a rotisserie chicken that you purchased like from Costco? How do you do this? Thanks for all the valuable info. I am a working mom with 3 busy girls. I feel like we eat out too much because we are on the go to after school activities. Any help is appreciated...:thumbsup2

I think you would want to take the meat off the bones and then freeze it in a ziplock bag. I love having chicken frozen like this. Just thaw it in the microwave and add it to whatever casserole or dish you're making. It would be great in Asian Noodles with Stir Fry Veggies and Chicken (http://eatathomecooks.com/2009/05/super-simple-asian-noodles-with-stir-fry-veggies-and-chicken.html) That dish only has 4 ingredients. The pasta is angel hair and cooks in just minutes. So much faster and cheaper than eating out. Tastes better too.

MrsPete
06-06-2009, 08:47 AM
I have never boiled meat. How long do you boil it for? Does it reduce the flavor?I just cook it 'til it's done -- kind of like I do everything else. I don't pay much attention to recipes.

No, the flavor isn't reduced. You don't have browned edges, but this is meat that goes into casseroles, into sauces, etc. Add the onions, garlic, whatever else AFTER it's drained.

If you're a little suspicious, just give it a try with one-pound of meat. It's a small investment, and if you disgree with me you won't have lost much of anything.

MrsPete
06-06-2009, 08:51 AM
Has anyone frozen a rotisserie chicken that you purchased like from Costco? How do you do this? Thanks for all the valuable info. I am a working mom with 3 busy girls. I feel like we eat out too much because we are on the go to after school activities. Any help is appreciated...:thumbsup2I make homemade five-hour chicken (four at a time 'cause that's what'll fit into my oven) and freeze three. Usually I cut them up and store them as boneless chicken to save space in the freezer. The kind I make is VERY good either cold, rewarmed, or popped into a casserole -- but only the quick-cooking kind because the meat is already fully cooked, and it isn't good to over-do it.

Teresa Pitman
06-06-2009, 09:25 AM
Another good site to check is www.recipezaar.com. If you go to the Community or Forums section, there is an OAMC group, and one of the "stickies" is a set of cooking plans. For each of those, there are complete directions: what to buy, the order to prepare the ingredients, etc. These are pretty much foolproof! The forum is also a great place to ask questions, and people share recipes that have worked well for them.

One tip from me (as a mother of four and grandmother of three with another on the way!): think about other meals, too. I found I was starving in the morning (after breastfeeding all night long!) but the baby was wide awake so it was hard to make breakfast. Fortunately, some friends had made me whole-grain waffles and French toast and then froze them. (I wasn't vegan at the time, as I am now!). I could just pop the waffles or French toast in the toaster and they'd thaw and heat up and I could eat them with some fruit or maple syrup and have a quick but nutritious meal. Muffins also freeze really well and you can make a nice variety for quick breakfasts or snacks throughout the day. I've seen somewhere a recipe for frozen "Egg McMuffins" if you eat that kind of thing.

Teresa

Teresa Pitman
06-06-2009, 09:27 AM
Another easy way to brown meat (I don't eat meat any more, but I did this a lot when I wasn't vegan) is to put it in a plastic colander or strainer, put that in a micro-wave safe bowl, and then heat it in the microwave. All the fat will drain off into the bowl, and you'll just have the cooked meat left in the microwave. It's quick and easy and gives you almost fat-free meat.

Teresa

pezheadmeg
06-06-2009, 09:34 AM
Has anyone frozen a rotisserie chicken that you purchased like from Costco? How do you do this? Thanks for all the valuable info. I am a working mom with 3 busy girls. I feel like we eat out too much because we are on the go to after school activities. Any help is appreciated...:thumbsup2

I'm a devotee of the precooked frozen bags of Purdue and Tysons chicken. Granted when I'm cooking for one the bags last a while. I can make a meal out of most of the kinds in minutes.

Another thing I've learned is to make a box of pasta early in the week. When it's still warm, I toss it with oil. Then it's just a matter of heating it up with an easy topping.

YoTony2
11-08-2009, 02:39 PM
Another good site to check is www.recipezaar.com. If you go to the Community or Forums section, there is an OAMC group, and one of the "stickies" is a set of cooking plans. For each of those, there are complete directions: what to buy, the order to prepare the ingredients, etc. These are pretty much foolproof! The forum is also a great place to ask questions, and people share recipes that have worked well for them.

One tip from me (as a mother of four and grandmother of three with another on the way!): think about other meals, too. I found I was starving in the morning (after breastfeeding all night long!) but the baby was wide awake so it was hard to make breakfast. Fortunately, some friends had made me whole-grain waffles and French toast and then froze them. (I wasn't vegan at the time, as I am now!). I could just pop the waffles or French toast in the toaster and they'd thaw and heat up and I could eat them with some fruit or maple syrup and have a quick but nutritious meal. Muffins also freeze really well and you can make a nice variety for quick breakfasts or snacks throughout the day. I've seen somewhere a recipe for frozen "Egg McMuffins" if you eat that kind of thing.

Teresa

Teresa, thank you for the link! I can't wait to try out their OAMC recipes!

Many thanks!

Tony