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Old 05-27-2013, 10:12 PM   #1
mrsstats
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Freezing meals for elderly parents

My MIL & FIL are not doing well. FIL has rare cancer and broken femur bone, he is pretty much bedridden. MIL has back problems and has limited mobility. Since we live about an hour a way and DH & I work full time, we can not be there everyday. There are other family members nearby and 1 daughter lives with them. However, she has her own medical issues.

I offered to make meals for them and need suggestions on the best way to freeze them for easy reheating. Any help is appreciated.
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Old 05-27-2013, 10:16 PM   #2
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A friend had a small catering business especially for helping older folks who don't cook for themselves. She used aluminum throw away pans with lids and printed reheating instructions on top. Worked well and the seniors enjoyed the meals.
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Old 05-27-2013, 10:23 PM   #3
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Could they qualify for Meals on Wheels?
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Old 05-27-2013, 10:30 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrsstats View Post
My MIL & FIL are not doing well. FIL has rare cancer and broken femur bone, he is pretty much bedridden. MIL has back problems and has limited mobility. Since we live about an hour a way and DH & I work full time, we can not be there everyday. There are other family members nearby and 1 daughter lives with them. However, she has her own medical issues.

I offered to make meals for them and need suggestions on the best way to freeze them for easy reheating. Any help is appreciated.
If you choose to use reusable baking dishes (get them from the thrift store and they'll probably come out cheaper after a few uses then aluminum, but you'll have to wash them), spray them with cooking oil before you assemble the dishes. I've found it works easiest if you have a chest freezer to do the freezing in, and use aluminum foil over the top. I'd assemble most things completely uncooked before freezing and let them cook them at home, just be very realistic with the cooking instructions you attach in terms of how long it takes. And I'd pay careful attention to what ingredients freeze well, it's not always possible to adapt a casserole recipe for freezing, sometimes the ingredients separate on you.
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Old 05-27-2013, 10:37 PM   #5
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Are they going to be using the oven or microwave for reheating? That's one consideration. I do a lot of batch cooking and freeze in plastic containers and then pop many foods out into my antique Corningware for thawing and reheating, using in the microwave. For a layered dish like lasagna, the last time I bought foil pans which went right in the oven.

There are many web sites with recipes and ideas for once-a-month cooking or batch cooking to help you. I precook many casserole-type items and things like meatloaf and chili for reheating. You can even prebake and stuff potatoes for reheating.

Hereyago's idea of Meals on Wheels is a good one, too. If your ILs have not been evaluated for services like that, you may find that MOW would be a nominal cost. It's another person to make contact with your loved ones and provide them with additional social interaction, and provides additional variety in their diets.
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Old 05-27-2013, 11:41 PM   #6
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Check to see if you can find divided food trays, instead of just making casseroles. That way there's a larger variety of food, and more healthy options for them. When you make your dinner, just make a little extra for them as well. Baking is probably the cheapest route (aluminum pans) and make it taste the best.

http://www.kitchendance.com/tvdinner.html

I would cook the meat or potaoes, and leave veggies or quick cooking sides raw that way everything can be heated in 20-30 minutes.

Last edited by SandrA9810; 05-28-2013 at 01:12 AM.
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Old 05-28-2013, 08:17 AM   #7
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Meals on Wheels may not be a good option. In my area they delivered 5 frozen meals once a week (like the Banquet ones in quality.) They couldn't accommodate any allergy requests because they said they made all the meals the same and in one kitchen. Also, they did not taste very good and several times made me sick. I have allergies to mango, tree nuts, shellfish, seafood.......not difficult to avoid. Plus they were heavy on the pasta and carbs and I am diabetic.

I actually find that the frozen dinners from the grocery store taste much better! I cannot stand long enough to scramble eggs and my doctor referred me to Meals on Wheels. When she found out about the allergy "stuff" she agreed that it wasn't very good.
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Old 05-28-2013, 08:59 AM   #8
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Small portions and complete meals work best for situations like that. (For new moms, too). I might consider small, straight sided aluminum pans with cardboard lids, wrapped in an extra layer of foil (a restaurant supply store would have them). They'd need to be heated in the oven or transferred to a microwave safe plate, but you could add frozen veggies and a starch and have them all ready to go.

Batch cooking will save your sanity. Once a week, set aside a few hours to shop, prep, and make a batch of food around a central protein. You end ip only needing to chop veggies once, dirty up pans once, etc. Use whatever is on sale to determine what you plan.

For example:

You could get a big batch of ground beef and make:

Individual meat loafs in muffin cups
Swedish meatballs
Hamburger vegetable soup
Lasagna in muffin cups
Freezer sliders
Brown bag burritos

With a big batch of chicken breasts or thighs, you could make

Homemade chicken hand pies
Chicken, broccoli, cheese & rice bake
BBQ chicken and corn muffins
Chicken stew
Chicken soup with rice

With a ham, you can make

Ham & veggie muffin size quiches
Ham pizza pockets
Ham & bean soup
Sliced ham with mashed sweet potatoes

And on and on...I've done these off and on for a while and they work great. Stay away from potatoes and pasta. Dairy is tricky, but doable. I don't have a single website or specific links, but I know I have gotten a lot of recipes from Alton Brown, a few OAMC websites, and the blogs 'Can you stay for dinner?' And 'Big red kitchen.'

I hope their recovery is swift! And good on you for taking a helping hand to them. I bet it is appreciated.
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Old 05-28-2013, 09:50 AM   #9
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Cute & Fluffy, Great ideas! Thanks for such lengthy reply. Kudos to you and everyone else helping OP out.
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Old 05-28-2013, 10:15 AM   #10
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It'd really help to know the extent of your MIL's limited mobility. You can picture what she can and can't do and are used to explaining it that way, but it's hard to know what to suggest without knowing her limitations. When my mom was mobile, I'd describe her the same way - but - her problem was that she could walk slowly but standing still and carrying objects with two hands would have been difficult to impossible for her.

I'd also suggest talking to their main caregiver/s and ascertain what they really need for support. Chemo can also change the way food tastes and that should be taken into consideration as well. All my mom wanted when she was taking a certain kind of chemo was hardboiled eggs and a few other foods because they were the only things that tasted "right".

I would make dishes that can be frozen in individual portion sizes. Things like casseroles can be refrigerated after cooking and then cut and frozen in individual portions on a tray and then the portions can be placed into a ziploc bag for easy storage. A chicken dish can be treated similarly - put the cooked chicken pieces individually on a tray and then top with the sauce and freeze.

I'd also consider healthy snacks - crunchpaks are AWESOME.
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Old 05-28-2013, 10:20 AM   #11
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I am not one to do much freezer cooking because I do not really like casseroles or "one pot" dinners. (I don't like it when all my food tastes the same.)

Maybe consider freezing some hearty soups and getting some of those bake-from-frozen rolls or loaves of bread?

Would your MIL or SIL be able to boil some pasta if you made a variety of frozen pasta sauces? (Are their mobility issues great enough that they need "heat and eat" meals or would they be able to handle some simple cooking (boiling noodles, making rice, etc) to supplement your frozen stuff.)
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Old 05-28-2013, 10:52 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SandrA9810 View Post
Check to see if you can find divided food trays, instead of just making casseroles. That way there's a larger variety of food, and more healthy options for them. When you make your dinner, just make a little extra for them as well. Baking is probably the cheapest route (aluminum pans) and make it taste the best.

http://www.kitchendance.com/tvdinner.html

I would cook the meat or potaoes, and leave veggies or quick cooking sides raw that way everything can be heated in 20-30 minutes.
Oh thanks for that one! I will be using that for my Dad!

Freezable meals that I have done with success besides the obvious pasta ones, beef stew(my dad loves that one) mustard chicken thighs with rice and carrots, spinach and cheese calzones.
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Old 05-28-2013, 10:54 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Piper View Post
Meals on Wheels may not be a good option. In my area they delivered 5 frozen meals once a week (like the Banquet ones in quality.) They couldn't accommodate any allergy requests because they said they made all the meals the same and in one kitchen. Also, they did not taste very good and several times made me sick. I have allergies to mango, tree nuts, shellfish, seafood.......not difficult to avoid. Plus they were heavy on the pasta and carbs and I am diabetic.

I actually find that the frozen dinners from the grocery store taste much better! I cannot stand long enough to scramble eggs and my doctor referred me to Meals on Wheels. When she found out about the allergy "stuff" she agreed that it wasn't very good.
My uncle was on MoW when we lived in Tucker, GA. He was borderline diabetic at the time he started. The MoW in that area was supplied by the neighborhood senior center and the food was AMAZING. Everything was delicious (according to him) and the doctor took him off of the daily blood tests in a matter of months.
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Old 05-28-2013, 11:35 AM   #14
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My uncle was on MoW when we lived in Tucker, GA. He was borderline diabetic at the time he started. The MoW in that area was supplied by the neighborhood senior center and the food was AMAZING. Everything was delicious (according to him) and the doctor took him off of the daily blood tests in a matter of months.
i truly wish the meals were good (and safe for those with allergies) here! I think the program differs in different places. Unfortunately. I wish it were standardized somehow!
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Old 05-28-2013, 06:42 PM   #15
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I live 400 miles from my mom, so obviously I don't get to see her much. She's 79 now and she no longer cooks. Instead, she snacks--lots of crackers, nuts, chips, etc. She is overweight but malnourished. She won't have Meals on Wheels if they personally came to her house and served her a 7 course meal. When I go down there I always make foods she can freeze for later, like individual meat loafies, ham, chicken, turkey w/gravy, collard greens & rutabagas(her favorites), homemade applesauce,and sweet potatoes. I also cook her some things she wouldn't normally have, but she likes, such as brussel sprouts, fresh green beans, squash & onions, broccoli, mashed potatoes & gravy, mac & cheese. And I buy a few things she can keep in the pantry, though I have to be careful of that--she lives alone, so stuff can sit there a pretty long time. I go through the cabinets about once a year to make sure she's not eating stuff from 2001.
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