You’re sold on the idea of having some meals waiting for you in the freezer, but you need some ideas to get you started.
Remember, it’s not just about having full meals, like a casserole. You can take your dinner-hour from a drudgery to a delight just by having one or two elements of a meal in the freezer.
Here are some of the things I make for the freezer.
Bread can be a costly grocery item, especially if you’re buying whole grain breads and specialty breads like biscuits and dinner rolls. We eat a lot better and spend a lot less by making some of our breads at home. It’s really not as hard as it may seem. And because bread is mostly hands-off, you can work in a batch of bread with any freezer cooking session.
I freeze breads in various forms, at various stages. From just the dough, to the formed dough, to the baked product. I flash freeze anything that might freeze into one big lump, like uncooked biscuits. Then I store each bread item in a large freezer bag, so I can take out just how many I need at a time.
Some of the bread items I make on a regular basis are:
- Muffins; baked and ready to eat
- Pizza dough; just the dough before any rising
- Biscuits; formed dough, (not baked) flash frozen
- Corn muffins; baked and ready to eat
- Garlic bread; assembled but not baked
- Cheesy garlic bread; assembled but not baked
- Waffles; cooked and cooled, flash frozen
- Bread crumbs; save those end pieces nobody likes and turn them into bread crumbs.
Recipe helpers are those things that are not stand-alone dishes. They are essential components of recipes I use often, and usually a complicated or time-consuming component. I find that if I have that element done and ready, I’m much more likely to make that particular recipe. For example, if I have sweet potato topping, I can just make a super quick version of sweet potato casserole. But on a busy weeknight there’s no way I’m making the topping. So, I make a bunch, keep it in a freezer bag, and just use what I need.
Here are some other Recipe Helpers I have in my freezer:
- Cooked black beans
- Shredded cheeses
- Smoothie packets
- Bread crumbs
- Refried beans
- Ritz cracker topping
Chicken and beef, partially prepared
There’s just something about having the chicken all cut up and ready for a meal that makes the difference between me being willing to make dinner and … not.
So, for may years now, I’ve been buying chicken when it’s on sale and freezing it in meal sized portions, cut into small pieces or strips. Lately I’ve been buying my boneless chicken from Zaycon foods. (link here). I get 40 pounds of natural boneless skinless chicken all at once. That means I have to prepare 40 pounds of chicken for the freezer all at once.
And then there is the ground beef.
Oh, the time you can save by preparing lots of ground beef at once! From something as simple as forming it into patties for hamburger night (oh yes, just having that much done is enough to motivate me to believe I can get dinner on the table!) to making some dishes in their entirety, your choices are endless. (Okay, maybe not endless, who needs endless beef choices?)
It’s amazing how many meals, or main dishes, I can make in a very short time. You can make several different dishes at once or just choose any one of them and make multiple batches any time you have 4-5 pounds of beef. If you do that and no other freezer cooking, you’ll still see a major difference in your daily meal prep time.
Here are some of the dishes I make when I have lots of ground beef to cook:
- Taco meat
- Sloppy Joe filling
- Pizza filled rolls filling
- Shepherd’s pie (filling or whole pie)
- Spaghetti sauce (it even helps is your’e using canned sauce, which I do.)
- Vegetable beef soup
- Meat loaf or mini meat loaves
Imagine spending about 2 hours in the kitchen and having multiple meals’ worth of each of the above dishes! Pretty cool!
I’m getting an order of ground beef from Zaycon next month, so I’ll write a post on how I prepare that for the freezer as well.
I’m still working on expanding my list of main dishes that I am willing to freeze. I don’t love serving lots of casseroles, but there are definitely other main dishes that do well in the freezer. So far I’ve had success with the following:
- Chicken enchiladas
- Poppyseed chicken
- Vegetable beef soup (don’t add the water)
- Stuffed shells
- Taco meat
- Everything in the list above of what I make with ground beef
- Breakfast casseroles
- Marinated chicken breasts
- Barbecued, pulled chicken
- Cooked, chopped chicken (for soups, etc.)
And so many things I’m forgetting.
Like cookie dough! My freezer is seldom without cookie dough!
I may not have all of these foods at any given time, but I usually have many of them. It’s not hard to make several meals’ worth at a time, so it’s somewhat easy to keep a stock of just about everything you use often.
I try to do some freezer cooking on Saturday mornings. I’ll be posting about my successes (and definitely my failures) here so you can cook along with me. If you haven’t yet, please take a minute to sign up for my mailing list. That way you’ll always know when I’m doing another freezer cooking session, and when I get a sudden craving for a new dessert!