Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Freezer Meals

**Update - Click here for a review of the meals we made**

This post is extremely long, but hopefully it will be helpful to someone planning on freezing meals! I plan on posting updates after we actually eat this food too, to give an update on how it fares after the defrosting process.


Upstairs Freezer

I have always thought that making meals to freeze would be a great idea, but we have never found the motivation to do a big day of cooking before now - I guess the idea of having a newborn to take care of is the kick in the pants we needed to try this out! I have made a few things for some of the new parents in my life before, so that was a good small test run. After doing this, I really wish we had done it sooner - it didn't take THAT long at all, and would be great for nights where you don't feel like cooking - it helps if you have thought ahead enough to take something out of the freezer to defrost, but it's not essential (usually you can just bake for longer). This was definitely a team effort though - so that made it a lot easier and more fun :)

When planning what to make, I probably went a bit overboard, but Ben helped to keep my plans realistic, and more in line with the amount of freezer space we have :) We have 2 normal size freezers - one upstairs and one in the basement. There is obviously still more we could make, but we have a great stash for now! We might add some in coming weekends, and if so, I'll edit this post with the additions to the freezer to keep everything in one place. We tried to always put things in either single or double serving size packages (depending on what we were freezing) so that we wouldn't have to make a full pan of enchiladas at once, for example - we could just make 2 at a time.

For all of the meals with chicken, except the chili, we used 2 rotisserie chickens that Ben then shredded - this saved a TON of time and effort. Probably not the healthiest way to go in terms of sodium content, but oh well.

If anyone has any tasty freezer meals or tips to share, please leave a comment!

Cooking for the freezer stash

Cooking for the freezer stash

Chicken and Black Bean Chili
Ben made a double batch of his chili one Sunday, we ate 2 servings and then froze the rest. We froze this in 2 large ziploc freezer bags - they were intended to be frozen flat, but apparently I did not convey that message very effectively to Ben because he just put them in the freezer upright so now they are frozen in a non-space saving way - I GUESS I'll let it slide :)

Chicken Black Bean Chili

Recipe - a Ben original
4 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
2 28 oz can of tomato sauce
2 15 oz can of black beans (drained and rinsed)
2 15 oz can of corn (drained)
2 diced onions
2 heads of diced garlic (Ben has a little obsession with garlic)
4 stalks of diced celery
2 packet of chili seasoning
red pepper flakes (as much as you want to make it spicier)
3 serrano peppers, diced (keep the seeds if you want it to be hotter, otherwise toss the seeds out)

Chicken Black Bean Chili

Chicken Spaghetti
We have made this before, a few times. I brought it to my coworker Leigh's house right after she had her baby last year, and we also made it for Nate and Molly when Mia was born. This is delicious, and I can tell you from experience that it still tastes delicious after being frozen. As with most casseroles, you freeze this prior to the baking step.

Link to Recipe from Pioneer Woman
(makes about 8 servings - we put this in 2 8x8 pans)

For this, we tried a method for freezing that I read about somewhere - put foil inside of a baking dish, fill with the casserole, cover, and then put in the freezer for about 30 minutes to solidify a bit. At that point, you can take the foil-wrapped casserole out of the pan and put it in a ziploc, so you aren't leaving a pan in the freezer. I have heard the double wrapping also helps prevent freezer burn. Then, to bake, you can just put the whole foil wrapped package inside the pan.

Chicken Spaghetti

Chicken Spaghetti

Chicken Spaghetti

Chicken Spaghetti

Chicken Enchiladas
These were easy - we obviously took some shortcuts here by using a can of enchilada sauce, rotisserie chicken, and canned black beans, but you can make them as difficult as you want - there are tons of great enchilada recipes out there!

As I mentioned, we froze these in packages of 2 enchiladas wrapped in foil, and then put a few packages in a ziploc. These were frozen prior to the baking step as well.

Recipe (if you could even call it that - these amounts are definitely approximate)
12 large tortillas
1.5 pounds of chicken, cooked and shredded
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 large onion, diced
large can enchilada sauce
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Mix chicken, black beans, onion and about 1/4 the can of enchilada sauce together. Place 1-2 tablespoons of the mixture in the center of one tortilla, add shredded cheese, roll up. Top with a spoonful of enchilada sauce and more cheese.

Wrap however many enchiladas you want in foil, place in ziploc bag. To serve, defrost in fridge or on the counter for a few hours, unwrap from foil and place on baking sheet. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until heated through.

Chicken Enchiladas

IMG_3124

Chicken Enchiladas

Chicken Rice Wraps
I made these for Becky and Rett previously, and have heard of many other people making them as well so they seemed like a safe bet. I think these will be great for lunches!

Recipe (adapted from
this document that I found on a cooking message board)

2 cups dry rice, cooked as directed on package
1 lb. chicken, cooked and shredded
2 cups medium salsa
1 pkg. Taco seasoning mix
8 large flour tortillas

In a large bowl, combine chicken, salsa and seasonings and cooked rice.
Spoon mixture into center of tortillas and wrap.

To FREEZE: Simply wrap each folded tortilla in tin foil and place in 1 gallon freezer bag. To reheat, unwrap and microwave for about 2 minutes, flipping once.

Chicken Rice Wraps

Chicken Rice Wraps

Chicken Rice Wraps

Chicken Rice Wraps

Spaghetti Sauce
I found this recipe just by googling freezer spaghetti sauce - it's very basic (and filled with weird spelling errors... but oh well) which is exactly what I wanted. We did double the amount of meat - using a full pound of ground pork and a pound of ground beef from Blue Gentian Farm. I'm glad we did, because this makes a LOT of sauce, and the amount of meat seems just right now. I tasted this a few times during the cooking, and it tastes delicious. We froze this in quart size bags with enough for 2 servings, and it made 5 bags (10 servings).

Link to Recipe from Mom's Budget

Spaghetti Sauce

Spaghetti Sauce

Baked Ziti
I have actually never made baked ziti before, but I figured now was the time to start, as it is a frequently found dish on "freezer friendly" lists. From what I hear, lasagna is a common dish to bring to new parents, so I figure we'll probably get some of that from family or friends... baked ziti is pretty similar, but will provide something a little different!

We used the same freezing method as the chicken spaghetti and this made 2 full 8x8 pans as well. Again, this was frozen before the baking step. This looked soooooo good, I really am quite excited to eat it :)

Link to Recipe from Annie's Eats

Baked Ziti

Baked Ziti

Baked Ziti

Pulled Pork
We have made pulled pork a few times in the past couple months, since Ben bought a few pork shoulder roasts from Blue Gentian Farm at the Minneapolis Farmer's Market. They were always delicious so it seemed like a good pick for the freezer. He went last Saturday and got one pork shoulder and one huge ham roast.

Typically we have this with barbeque sauce as sandwiches, but we froze it as approximately 1 1/4 cups of the unadorned pork in quart size bags so we can use it either for sandwiches or tacos or whatever.


Pulled Pork
Please note that Ben used packing tape to secure the pork in plastic wrap when seasoning overnight :)

Pulled Pork

Pulled Pork

Pulled Pork

Pulled Pork

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins
I knew I also wanted to have some breakfast foods on hand - muffins seemed like a great idea as they can be eaten with one hand, and I know they freeze and reheat well since I've done it before. I have made these specific muffins before, to give to Nate and Molly - I had one to test out and it was delicious :)

I baked and cooled them, and then put the whole cooling rack in the freezer for a bit to flash freeze the muffins so they wouldn't stick to each other inside the ziploc bag - it seemed to work well! When we want to eat these, we can either microwave directly from the freezer, or try to remember to take a few out the day before.

Link to Recipe from Annie's Eats


Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins

Pineapple Muffins
These were simple, except we couldn't find pineapple yogurt so I settled for orange passion fruit. Close enough. I did not do the glaze since that wouldn't freeze well. As you can see, they burned on the bottoms/sides, but they still tasted great. I baked them for 15 minutes but clearly should have checked a little earlier!

Link to Recipe from Annie's Eats

Yogurt for Pineapple Muffins

Pineapple Muffins

Pineapple Muffins

Pineapple Muffins

Blueberry Muffins
I have made and froze these before - very simple recipe and SO good. The recipe made 2 more than I could fit in a freezer bag, so I devoured them in about a minute.

Link to Recipe from Simply Recipes

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

Breakfast Burritos
Ben saw this post on The Simple Dollar while ago, and has been wanting to make these to freeze ever since. He makes them quite frequently (and not just for breakfast) so we know we like them.

We used large tortillas, and I think medium ones are used in the recipe - so we only ended up with 16 burritos (instead of 36 - so yeah, ours will definitely be keeping us full for longer I guess!). Other alterations were using dried and then cooked black beans, adding a bit of milk to the eggs, and adding a diced large green pepper to the mixture. We wrapped each one in foil and put 4 to a ziploc bag.

Link to Recipe from The Simple Dollar

Breakfast Burritos

Breakfast Burritos

Breakfast Burritos

Breakfast Burritos

Breakfast Burritos

Breakfast Burritos

Breakfast Burritos

Breakfast Burritos

Banana Nut Muffins
I have made these a few times before, and they are DELICIOUS - very easy to prepare too!

Link to Recipe from Simply Recipes


Banana Nut Muffins

Banana Nut Muffins

Banana Nut Muffins

29 comments:

  1. I'll be doing a lot of these recipes this weekend thanks guys!

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  2. Dang you guys! I was going to make you Baked Ziti as something different!! :) Oh well, the more the better, right??

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  3. Great post! My sister in law is due in May and I offered to make her some freezer meals. I'll definitely be checking back here for ideas.

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  4. Loved this post. The hubby and I are going to steal some of these before our baby comes in April. So inspiring!

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  5. This is on my mind because our fourth child is due any day now. I didn't notice one of my very favorite techniques for freezer meals, so I'd like to share it.

    Take your favorite slow-cooker recipe (no potatoes, though, they don't freeze well). Prepare the ingredients up to the point when you would throw them in the slow cooker. Then throw them (minus water) in a gallon freezer bag instead and freeze.

    To use the frozen-slow-cooker-contents method requires a little bit more planning on the day you're going to serve -- you have to defrost the bag, overnight in the fridge or in the microwave, and then put it in the slow cooker in the morning before you want to eat it, adding any water right then. But a big advantage is that the food is only "cooked" once, rather than cooked/thawed/reheated, and so it retains its texture a bit better. Just write on the bag how many hours, whether it needs to be on HI or LO, and how much water to add.

    If the meat doesn't need to be browned, so much the better -- you can then toss frozen raw meat right into the bag with vegetables and such.

    Another trick I like to use is to brown a whole lot of ground beef with onion and freeze the browned mixture in bags -- ready to be defrosted, seasoned, and made into no-fuss chili, tacos, sloppy joes, etc.

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  6. Erin, this is great. Good job on prepping all the meals (Ben too).

    If I ever have kids, I wonder what I'd do to get ready for it. I could totally see myself waiting until the baby comes and then saying "oh crap". Ha!

    Good luck!

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  7. We tried the chicken enchiladas for dinner last night - thoroughly enjoyed them, and had plenty of extras to put in the freezer! I am at last starting to look organized!

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  8. I'm a regular reader of your restaurant review blog and followed your link over here. Wow! You guys are all set. I had a baby last year and all that food would have lasted us months. People do love to bring food by so you will probably not touch your freezer stash for the first week or two because of all the gifted food.

    Other suggestions for non freezable food to have on hand are granola bars and/or trail mix. Especially if you're breastfeeding you'll want super fast snacks that you can eat with one hand.

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  9. I just emailed this post to my friend Wendy. So that means I've forwarded her your baby registries and your food stockpiling tips...am thinking one or both of you is going to start thinking I am a little crazy with the "This is how my friend Erin did things..." routine, but oh well!

    Instead of bringing you food after you have the baby, I'm thinking I'll just invite myself over for dinner, as you'll consistently be having better food than I have... : )

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  10. Hi! I am planning on making freezer meals for myself (expecting in May) as well as a friend who's now a couple days overdue. These all look great! I'm definitely bookmarking your blog. Thanks for posting all this info, the pics and links and everything!!

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  11. I found your blog when looking for freezer recipes to make for several friends who are expecting. These are great! One friend had her baby about a month ago, I gave them chili that I had packaged in the GladWare BPA-free containers that can go directly in the microwave, along with some frozen cornbread muffins which could also be reheated in the microwave.

    I have a second friend who is due next week, and I think I am going to make your chicken & rice wraps and/or chicken enchiladas for her and her husband.

    Another thing I have been making that freezes wonderfully are cinnamon rolls - I use this recipe: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2007/06/cinammon_rolls_/. It is a little time consuming, but makes a ton (7 pans full). I then freeze the pans before baking. They can be defrosted for an hour or so at room temp, and then popped in the oven. I also provide a separate little container of cream cheese icing to defrost and slather on the top, rather than using the icing in the recipe. My friend who had her baby last month loved them, because they had family staying with them the first few weeks, and she said it was great to have something homemade to serve them for breakfast (they got lots of casseroles, but no other breakfast items).

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  12. I just wanted to say thank you so much for your post. I was looking for freezer recipes for a friend who has no maternity leave, her husband is out of work and she only gets four days of vacation to spend with her son after he is born :( Your list really came in handy and now I have 14 meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner!), a lot from you, that I will be making for them. You saved me a TON of time searching for good recipes to use. :) Thanks again. - Nik

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  13. LOVE these recipes! I am due next week and thought I would make some things this weekend to freeze. You make it seem so easy. I can't wait to try these myself. Like you, this is our first child. We also live in an old 1920's home in need of constant repair but we love it! I plan to bookmark your site and follow along when I can. Thank you for the great recipes! My sister in law is due in May and my sister is due in June so I will definetly make some of these recipes to share with them as well!

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  14. Thank you so much, I am going to work on these this weekend or next! I am so HAPPY to find some healthy freezer recipes that do not involve cheese or bacon and grease!

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  15. Thank you for this post. We are having our 3rd child in about 6 weeks and I am currently assembling a list of freezer meal recipes as well as easy-to-make recipes. Your blog post was very helpful!

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  16. I love this post! I'm expecting baby #2 soon and was looking for some things to make ahead and freeze. I wasn't sure how to do it and I found your blog. Thanks so much for sharing! :)

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  17. Brilliant read indeed. I learned a lot of new things.

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  18. Thanks for all these great ideas!

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  19. Enjoying your blog! Freezer cooking will truly change your life. I am in a group of 4 that does this about every 2 1/2 months. We make 100 meals total in about 5 hours. We SELDOM ever pre cook meals, BUT there are some that are just too awesome to do so we go ahead on those. I love all of your pictures. One day I will add lots of pics so my blog will look good, but with 6 kids and 3 of these under 2.....well you can only imagine! Thanks for such a great read! www.
    5survivethedrive.blogspot.com

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  20. This is awesome! I am planning on making a bunch of freezer meals for my SIL that is having a c-section and these are great! Thanks!

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  21. I happened upon this post when searching for freezer meals. These are great recipes and ideas, thanks! I just had to comment that if you aren't using crock pot liners yet, they are a must! Here's what I got on Amazon for my oval CP. http://www.amazon.com/PanSaver-Ovenable-Liners-23-Inch-14-Inch/dp/B00165NF4G/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1327351616&sr=8-6 They come with 100, you can use it in pans too, it's a steal! Thanks again for the ideas!

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  22. I like your ideas here but I couldn't leave without a comment to the aluminum foil. I learned some time ago that foil gets into food especially tomato based, and enchilada sauces. It even did it with some rice I made recently.
    Take a bowl of sauce, spaghetti, chili, or enchilada sauce would work perfectly, lay a piece of foil over it such that it touches and wait. Check back in an hour or two and you should see it. The foil will change it's appearance. Very small spots will appear and even some holes will appear, holes as if someone had stuck a needle though the foil. That is aluminum getting into your food.
    I just cringed as I saw you making all that wonderful food and then covering or wrapping it with foil. Be safe. Try what I said and see what I'm talking about. I now use Zip loc bags, rubbermaid containers and a good quality plastic wrap.
    Thanks for your ideas here.

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  23. Found you through pinterest. You two are amazing and all your food looks fabulous and easy and not weird ingredients either! Score! I enjoyed all the other helpful comments as well. Great Job!

    Debbie

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  24. Do you think you could reheat the chicken enchiladas in the microwave instead of the oven? I'd like to make them for my husband to take to work when I'm too lazy to cook the night before :).

    By the way - my frozen baked ziti is in the oven now as I type thanks to finding your blog post several months ago.

    Thanks, Candice

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  25. Candice - I'm not sure that would work since as written, they are frozen before baked - but maybe if you froze them after baking it would work? I doubt they would really taste that great, but it doesn't hurt to try one batch at least!

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  26. When I make rice, I cook two entire bags. Use what I need that night and let the rest cool. Once cool, I portion out the rice into zip top baggies. Press flat and freeze. This is an awesome thing to have on hand as part of a meal but also if you don't feel well and just want rice. Great to add to soups, casseroles or under anything. I do the same thing with chicken. I cook a whole pack or buy three of the rotissery chickens. Then I portion it out into zip baggies. If you do both the rice and chicken this way, you know you always have some meal basics that are just a microwave defrost away!

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  27. I think that chest freezers are better and very practical. There are actually some very good offers:

    Chest freezers from comet

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  28. You rocked it! Thanks for the tips :)

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  29. Thank you!!! This was my favorite resource when I was making freezer meals before my 2nd baby. I had no idea where to start and your posts were perfect!

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