Dear Home Ec 101:
My totally awesome, yet annoyingly prepared sister-in-law has just begun her 7th month of her first pregnancy and is in major nesting mode. She emailed me last week looking for recipes that she can make now, freeze, and just reheat after the baby comes or as she puts it, ‘I won’t have time to make my normal 3 hour dinners and need something that hubby can just reheat’. Do you have any suggestions for her? Or any other baby-prep advice?
The unprepared sister
Three hour dinners? Holy cow, she’s right, there won’t be that kind of time for a while or maybe ever. My youngest just turned 3 and it was only recently that dinner prep became easier. Of course, I took the back-to-back-to-back kid route. While I am a huge advocate of bringing children into the kitchen, it doesn’t have to be for every meal. I’m not quite the glutton for punishment some assume.
The trouble with a blog format is sometimes it’s hard to find topics that have been addressed in the past, so I’m very glad you sent in your question. I am working hard to improve the navigation on this site to make topics such as this more accessible for casual readers.
To start, check out this post on great meals to freeze ahead. Be sure to read the comments, as usual the Home Ec 101 community has some fabulous suggestions.
To that list I would add:
- Chicken Noodle Soup – just skip the noodles and add cooked noodles to the reheated soup
- Country Style Cube Steak
- Ground Beef and Cabbage Skillet – due to the tomato content, I would prepare this, then place in freezer safe zippered bags, rather than foil.
- Meatloaf – divide into serving size portions and flash freeze on a baking sheet before wrapping and storing.
- Sloppy Joes
When choosing recipes to freeze, keep these things in mind:
In general, avoid cream sauces, they tend to separate unless flash frozen and most of us without commercial equipment tend to not be able to replicate the store-bought results. That said, alfredo sauce is pretty easy to make in just a few minutes, file that one for an I need something quick night.
Potatoes are another key ingredient to avoid. . . most of the time. Potatoes have a high water content that may alter the texture of a dish considerably. That said, I have had excellent luck freezing beef stew and shepherd’s pie. For best results, keep the potato cubes small and don’t make the mashed potato layer very thick in shepherd’s pie.
If your sister plans to breastfeed, she may want to read a few articles on diet and breastfeeding before she plans her menu. It’ll help her modify recipes (things like reducing the garlic) to help with that journey.
Remember, how you freeze a meal has nearly as much effect on the results as the actual recipe.
I usually get my foil pans for freezing from the restaurant supply store or my favorite close-out store Big Lots. These two sources can be significantly cheaper than grocery or big box stores like Wal-mart or Target.
Freezing is a great plan, but it’s also a good idea to build up an emergency pantry. As a rule I typically recommend whole, fresh foods, but you never know when weather, germs, or colic are going to conspire to make leaving the house far too burdensome to even consider. I don’t know what I would have done if it weren’t for cereal and peanut butter toast with my first child. Throw in an ill-timed blackout and that’s a recipe for misery, at least for the unprepared. In addition to the well-stocked freezer, I highly suggest having plenty of shelf-stable food on hand.
Ok Home Eccers, what do you have to add? I would love to hear your advice in the comments.
Best wishes to your sister.
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