Is one of your New Year’s resolutions to eat more healthy, homemade food? Spend some time preparing a few make ahead freezer meals so you’ll have a fall back plan on the nights when the last thing you want to do is cook something. I’ve gotten together with some of my favorite food bloggers to bring you a variety of freezer friendly ideas. Most of these recipes can be reheated in the oven and only need a few last minute additions to make a meal. A few of them can be made ahead and used in multiple ways. There are snacks and appetizers, too. You’ll find links to the recipes underneath the photo collages. Pick a couple of your favorites and let’s get started!
Feeding your freezer requires a little different approach to everyday cooking. It can be as simple as doubling a favorite casserole recipe and packing the extra away to eat later. If you do this on a regular basis you’ll soon have a variety of meals ready to go. Another approach is to cook several recipes which use the same protein or flavor profile so you can use the same ingredients across several preparations. The final approach is to freeze the individual components of a meal, like a basic tomato sauce or already browned meat in order to save some effort at meal time. It all depends on the kinds of things your family likes to eat, how many are in your family and the size of your freezer.
Don’t jump into a bulk session for an entire month of food if you’ve never done this before! Start small and build experience.
South of the Border Fare
Enchilada Casserole from Simple Life Mom, Pulled Chicken Tacos, Restaurant Style Burritos, Chili Chicken from Homemade Food Junkie, Chicken Enchiladas from Belgian Foodie, Taco Meat from Simplify, Live, Love
After picking a couple recipes, use the ingredient lists to make a master shopping list. Make sure to check your cabinets for the necessary spices. Decide how you’re going to freeze the food. Glass casseroles are the most versatile but are heavy and take up a lot of space. Foil pans are convenient but limit reheating options; loaf size pans are great for small families. Freezer bags will freeze flat and can be stacked; buy the best quality bags. Everything will need to be labeled. A sharpie works well for this. You can write directly on the freezer bag or you can purchase special purpose labels.
Plan how you’re going to cook. Is there a sauce that can be simmering while you cut up the rest of the vegetables? How many onions total do you need to dice? Do you have something to store them in? Do you have enough large pots to cook in or will you have to juggle them? Some dishes can be assembled and frozen right away, others will need further cooking. The recipe should specify but when in doubt, cook it before freezing. Sometimes you’ll need to add ingredients– usually cheese or breadcrumbs– before reheating a freezer meal for best results. Don’t forget to make note to omit them until reheating. Making a list of the steps you’ll need to take will help keep you on track and organized. A small notebook is helpful for this. You can copy or staple printed copies of the recipes and you’ll have space for making notes of changes you make during the process.
Chicken Alfredo Pasta from Moore or Less Cooking, Italian Zucchini Pie from Simplify, Live, Love, Pastitsio from Culinary Flavors, Upside Down Pizza from Simple Life Mom, Weeknight Chicken Lombardy, Bouyourdi (baked feta, tomatoes and peppers) from Culinary Flavors
PREP & COOK
Clear your counters before you begin. You’ll use every inch during a bulk session. Follow your list. Prep the meat, vegetables, pasta (undercook the pasta and rinse under cold water, toss with a little olive oil and hold until needed). Start the oven and do the necessary stovetop cooking. Clean as you go.
Since you’ve cleaned as you went along you should have enough room to work. Arrange the containers and ingredients so everything is within arm’s reach and assemble your dishes.
All Purpose Foods
After all your hard work make sure to package your food to protect it from freezer burn. If cooked, let the food cool before packaging. Some sauce based dishes will be watery right out of the oven but the liquids usually reabsorb during the cooling period. Wrap your meal in foil or bag it properly. Label everything with the recipe name, the date, reheating instructions and reminders to add other ingredients before reheating. Don’t assume you’ll remember, because it’s guaranteed you won’t.
Make note of recipes that didn’t work or that might need to be modified the next time. For example pasta or rice casseroles often turn to mush depending on the recipe. You may prefer to make and freeze the sauce and cook the pasta or rice before combining and serving. (This saves some freezer space, too, as sauces can be frozen flat in bags).
Once you have a couple of freezer feeding sessions under your belt, you’ll have a feel for whether a recipe could be added to your list of make ahead freezer meals.
Thanks to my blogging friends for allowing me to share their freezer friendly dishes and photos.
Looking for vegan freezer plans? Anna from StuffedVeggies has an informative collection and meal plans, too.