I’ve done a post before about my idea of stocking the freezer. As I mentioned then, I’m just not big on freezer meals. I much prefer a fresh made meal, not to mention I love cooking, so freezing foods for later is not something I do often. I normally prefer to utilize my freezer for stocking up on ingredients and things that I use frequently to make my cooking more convenient, but not to eliminate the need to cook in the first place. That being said, my baby girl will be here in a week or less! While we are adjusting to life as a family of four and I reclaim my position as a 24/7 dairy factory, I know I will be glad that I have some meals stored in the freezer. (And for my regular readers – never fear. I’ve also been working ahead so that I have lots of material ready for the blog and you won’t be left hanging.)
Let me preface this by saying this list is certainly not all-inclusive of what you can freeze. As I mentioned in my first freezer post, you can freeze just about anything you want. Some things freeze better than others. This is simply a list of what I have done to stock my own freezer in this instance, to give some ideas for those interested.
First, I made four balls of pizza dough. It may not be a fully premade meal, but topping and baking a pizza takes about 20 minutes. I always get so excited when I find this in the freezer – it’s like finding money! (It has been really hard to avoid using these the past month or so.)
I made a tray of baked ziti…but I guess right now, it is unbaked ziti. I made the whole dish, fully assembled, and stopped before the baking step. I will either let this thaw in the refrigerator a day before baking or just bake straight from the freezer until it is heated through. (The containers in the back are a recipe I tried that was just okay, so I probably won’t be sharing it here. I wish they contained chicken chili or white bean chicken chili. Both of those freeze very well.)
I made my favorite enchiladas – woot! Now, because of the regular baking instructions for these, I chose to leave the sauce separate so that I can still crisp the tortillas slightly in the oven before topping with sauce and cheese. I think if I were making these to take to someone who had recently had surgery or was otherwise incapacitated, I would probably just go ahead and add the sauce and cheese in advance. I don’t think the quality would be diminished too much by doing so, and I would rather keep it simple for those I was trying help. We also made some of our favorite burger patties, and I’ll be making hamburger buns to accompany these tonight. These are great plain or dressed up as teriyaki burgers with mango pineapple salsa.
When I made meatball sliders with pesto, I went ahead and made extra meatballs and tomato sauce. I also saved some of the slider rolls, and pesto (not shown). This gives lots of flexibility – we can do the sliders again, meatball subs, or spaghetti and meatballs. And since it makes so much food, we will likely be enjoying a combination of those meals. The meatballs are frozen uncooked. To cook them, I will bring the sauce to a simmer and just add the frozen meatballs to the pot, heating until they are cooked through.
I also tend to keep a few breakfast items on hand. Right now I have leftover waffles (those are really for Andrew), as well as all kinds of frozen fruit for smoothies. I haven’t made them yet, but I will probably also add some scones to the stash because I just can’t resist. With pretty much any type of scone, you can mix up the dough, shape them, freeze, and then bake straight from the freezer.
This gem might be the most important of all. This is something I consider a freezer staple at all times. Whenever I make cookies, I only bake as many as I need at the time and freeze the remaining dough balls for later. Seen here are thick and chewy chocolate chip cookies and giant double chocolate cookies. Double yum. In the dessert category, I will probably also be making some vanilla ice cream to keep on hand so that any quick dessert I might serve to guests has the option of being a la mode.
A few additional tips:
Since I was stocking my own freezer, labeling everything with reheating instructions wasn’t crucial. If I were stocking someone else’s freezer or bringing meals to new parents, I would be sure to label each dish clearly with contents and cooking/baking instructions. I will label the meal that I plan to have my dad heat up while he is home with Andrew and we are still at the hospital.
If you know in advance that you are trying to stock the freezer, spread the workload out over several weeks. Rather than devote a full day of work toward making tons of freezer meals (no fun), I just planned one meal per week for the last several weeks where I could make a double batch and freeze half of it. If you are already making the meal, it takes little more effort to make an extra batch.
I personally don’t mind eating the same meal over the course of several days, especially when it’s a favorite of mine like baked ziti or enchiladas. However, I know a lot of people don’t feel this way. You can always freeze large meals in multiple smaller portioned trays so that they have only one or two servings each, allowing for more flexibility in meal options each day.
If you are taking meals to new parents, please see my post on that topic. It has some suggestions on what to avoid, as well as what you can add that will be much appreciated touches.
A few additional ideas on meals to freeze:
Chicken Pot Pies
Pappa al Pomodoro
Chicken in marinade and pita bread for Chicken Gyros
Chicken Noodle Soup
Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza