How to Choose Freezer Friendly Recipes

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?

Signed,

The unprepared sister

Heather says:

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:

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.

For best results follow the guidelines in these posts: A Freezer How To and How to Freeze Food, Part Two.

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.

Send your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com or leave a message at 843-608-9708 where it may be answered on the Home Ec 101 Podcast. (The first episode comes out on Friday)



19 Comments

  1. Scrumptious Sunday « Kate the Cook on March 20, 2011 at 9:34 am

    […] How to Choose Freezer Friendly Recipes from Home Ec 101 […]

  2. katthedley on December 1, 2010 at 4:33 am

    I like chicken soup, its not just easy to cook but also tasty. that's what i ask from my husband while i was pregnant. i also cook it for it by my self when my husband is not around. so to all pregnant moms out there you can also try it.

  3. HeatherSolos on October 11, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Katie,
    I agree, my personal experience was the same, but in reverse. It didn't matter how bland or carefully I ate, my oldest as miserable. So after a few months I gave up on eating carefully and ate what I wanted for the next year with him and with my next kids. It turns out my first had undiagnosed acid reflux (I took him to 3 different pediatricians, it was a GI doc that found the scarring when he was 3). The peds I saw just said, "Oh babies cry, you're just a first time mom." tsk tsk tsk
    Yeah, it's a sore spot.
    I should probably give the La Leche a League a call for a definitive answer, but I erred on the side of caution for now.

    You do offer good tips for freezing, thank you.

  4. Katie Gregg on October 11, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    I freeze Mason jars filled with my homemade tomato sauce, each "dressed up" in a different way. For instance, one jar will have tomato sauce with wilted spinach and parmesan added; one will have tomato sauce with coarsely chopped pepperoni and grated mozzarella; another will have tomato sauce with seasoned ground beef mixed in, etc. I just add hot cooked pasta and a sprinkling of cheese for a complete meal.

    Also, I do have to add that I eat massive amounts of garlic, cayenne pepper, jalapenos, broccoli, etc., and my exclusively breast-feeding six month old has absolutely no issues. He's healthy and gas-free. I have found that avoiding specific foods during breast-feeding is rooted more in tradition than in hard science. Babies in many non-Western cultures are regularly breast-fed by moms who enjoy spicy and gas-inducing foods, with no adverse effects.

  5. What Are You Into This Month? | The Wooden Spoon on October 9, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    […] recently starred: How to Choose Freezer Friendly Recipes from Home Ec […]

  6. Alice Dick on October 6, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    Regarding potatoes, stuffed or twice-baked potatoes also freeze well. When potatoes are on sale this is a great idea. Bake several potatoes, cool till you can handle them, then cut in half lengthwise and scoop out the insides. Mash with melted butter and milk (or cream cheese, sour cream, half and half… choose your poison), add salt and pepper (garlic powder if you like it), then mix with shredded cheese and minced green onions. Stuff the potatoes and flash freeze on a cookie sheet, then bag them. Reheat in the oven at 350 degrees or so. I find it works very well.

  7. jenny in cg on October 6, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    I make and freeze stuffed shells (no sauce), meatballs (to be sandwiches, sweet n sour, stroganoff, etc.), salisbury steak, chicken & stuffing casserole, meatloaf (to be cooked fresh -but don't use a recipe that has clove, nutmeg or cinnamon type stuff cuz it will get stronger in the freezer), sliced brisket it gravy, hungarian goulash, beef burgundy, carrot bisque, bar-b-qed meats (like another poster), bread dough, cookie dough, muffins and various 'kits' for things like tacos, burritos, enchiladas, quiche, meat pies, etc. where I just freeze the components that freeze well.

  8. Nancy Cox on October 6, 2010 at 11:58 am

    I learned this trick from some friends. Make a huge batch of meatballs (like four pounds), don't put them in sauce. Then freeze in a big ziploc bag. When you want to make spaghetti and meatballs, just take out the meatballs that you need and reheat in the microwave.
    I also like to freeze chili in single serving sizes, but that is right out for breastfeeding.
    Also, I will cook about two pounds of hamburgers on the grill at one time, then freeze the leftovers. Uses less charcoal as well.

  9. Joyce on October 6, 2010 at 11:50 am

    I don't know about Big Lots foil pans but dollar store foil pans are cheaper because they're thinner and smaller which can have some very messy results as I learned the hard way.

    • HeatherSolos on October 6, 2010 at 11:54 am

      I haven't experienced tragically thin foil pans, but they were name brand and they don't always have them, which is why I fall back on the restaurant supply store.

  10. ceci on October 6, 2010 at 10:27 am

    I just realized I shouldn't have used that quote, now I can't email this posting to the mom-to-be. Oops. Thanks for the link, I was pretty sure I had seen a post but I coudn't find it.

    I feel so bad, she just called me and said while they were out of town this past weekend, her brand new, almost full, deepfreeze died and everything in it was lost. We think the warranty or maybe her homeowners insurance will cover some of the food cost but she's very upset that all her work has gone to waste.

  11. J Wynia on October 6, 2010 at 9:26 am

    One thing that really helped me in better using my freezer was to cook and freeze "prepped ingredients" more than whole meals. So, there's already browned hamburger in one pound packages, pre-diced onions, pre-sauteed onions and garlic, shredded chicken and pork, pre-browned stew meat, etc.

    It's not quite "toss it in the microwave and dinner's done", but it becomes a pile of stuff to pull from to make quick easy meals. Plus, I think it's easier to find prepped ingredients that freeze well than it is to find whole meals that work well.

    That said, I also grew up in MN, the land of "hotdish" or casseroles and our freezer always had several of them frozen and ready to go into the oven.

    • HeatherSolos on October 6, 2010 at 9:31 am

      Great advice, J. Did you happen to catch the picture I tweeted from my mother-in-law's community cookbook? http://twitpic.com/2flcdy

      It still cracks me up.

      • J Wynia on October 6, 2010 at 10:11 am

        Nice. I have an entire box of such community cookbooks and they're full of sections just like that.

    • casey on October 6, 2010 at 10:29 am

      Have you read any of Joanne Fluke's mysteries? They are about a cookie baker in Lake Eden, MN – and include cookie recipies. One of them talks about a community cookbook that the town puts together, they ahve a big party to 'test' all the recipies, then the last 100 or so pages of the book are all recipes, I've tried a few of them and they are GOOD.

      • HeatherSolos on October 6, 2010 at 11:33 am

        Actually I have read her books, mostly because my husband is from MN and I can relate to the setting. I find them a light fun read and some of the cookies ARE really good.

    • J Wynia on October 6, 2010 at 1:35 pm

      Oh yeah, my other big category in the freezer is grilled meats. Whenever I fire up the grill, I run a LOT of meat through it. I'll grill up an entire bag of frozen chicken wings, chicken breasts, burgers, brats, pork chops, etc. and put them in the freezer, frozen individually. These really help in particular around here for weekend lunches as well as lunches for taking to work.

      You do want to grill a little more rare than you might otherwise, because things are going to get more well done when you reheat them, but it's really nice to be able to pull out a nice, smoky bratwurst in January in MN.

      It rarely takes any more time to grill twice as many burgers or brats, for instance, as the number you need for the meal at hand. This also more readily lets you take advantage of the big sales on some of these items that happens on "grilling" holidays

  12. Wendi Gratz on October 6, 2010 at 9:18 am

    I love cream soups and I always make a big batch to freeze. My favorite recipes add the cream right at the end, so i just freeze without adding it. Then I thaw overnight, reheat, add a splash of cream, some chopped fresh herbs, and I have tasty dinner in five minutes.

    • HeatherSolos on October 6, 2010 at 9:28 am

      That is an excellent suggestion, thank you.

Leave a Comment