Thursday, March 10, 2011

Freezer cooking when preparing for a baby

As I recently mentioned, we're expecting another baby in May. We are so excited, and are busy getting prepared to welcome this little bundle of joy into our life. I will say that one thing that is really intimidating to me right now is the thought of cooking with a toddler at my feet and a newborn in my arms. That said, one thing I'm working on is freezer meals to have on hand when the baby arrives. When our first child was born, we were given many meals by friends from our church, and they were always a welcomed sight...truly some of the best gifts a new mother could receive! I honestly do not know how we would have made it without those dinners the first few weeks, and am forever grateful for them. However, we are now living in a different town, and live far away from our new church, so I am determined to be prepared this time around with having my freezer stocked up. Any meals we happen to get will be a wonderful blessing and gladly accepted, but I want to have a few meals stashed away so I'm not dependent on receiving them. 
Freezing meals is something I have mentioned on here time and again, and I even have a section titled "good to freeze". Many times when I make a recipe, I'll double it if I have enough ingredients so that I can stick an extra meal in the freezer. It really takes very little extra time to just go ahead and make twice as much, and stick the extra in aluminum foil pans. And often, if a recipe makes a 9x12 portion, since we only eat about one 8x8 on our own, I can double to recipe and get one 8x8 for dinner and 3 9x12's to freeze for the future.
I originally intended on freezing one meal a week starting at the beginning of the year. While I've fallen somewhat short of that, I've been able to freeze several and am doing my best to stick to freezing something every week, even if it's just bread or a side. Some weeks I don't get time to freeze anything, and then other weeks I'll freeze a couple of different items...which always helps me feel a little more prepared. Some things I've frozen are just small portions to add to a meal, and then there are other meals where I have managed to get 1-3 8x8 main course dishes into my freezer.

Here are some things I've frozen so far:

French Bread (always good to have on hand)
Corn Bread (we have pinto beans and corn bread about once a week, so this is an easy meal)
Mashed Potatoes (yes, you can freeze them! Just add a little more milk and butter or sour cream when you reheat them).
Pizza sauce (scroll down pizza dough recipe for the sauce recipe)
Taco meat (no recipe. just ground beef, onions, and taco seasoning. Here is a make-your-own seasoning)
Lasagna (new recipe I never posted. great except I'm not a big sausage person so next time I'll use beef).
Baked penne with chicken and sun dried tomatoes
Sloppy Joes
King Ranch Chicken
Classic Spaghetti Sauce
Chicken Pot Pie (I doubled this recipe and managed to get 3 pies out of it!)
Chicken Noodle Soup (similar ingredients to pot pie, so I made them at the same time)
Baked Ziti
Strawberry bread
Strawberry gelato (such a yummy dessert!)

There may be a few more things I've frozen, but mommy brain has taken over and I can't find the list I made when I took inventory of my freezer last week. I have several other meals I would like to freeze in the next few weeks, and am always looking for new freezer meal recipes to try. In addition, I'm hoping to start using my crock pot more often, having the super easy pinto beans and corn bread one meal a week, pizza once a week (because it's a fun  treat that is so easy and home made pizza isn't nearly as unhealthy as take out),  having my husband grill weekly since it will be summer, and having some vegetable nights with all the produce that will be in season. I'm also going to stock up on frozen vegetables when they are on sale to keep on hand.

One thing that is helpful if you are into freezer cooking is to have an additional deep freezer. We bought one at a scratch and dent appliance store, and it has served us so well. I love keeping items such as freezer meals, extra frozen veggies, and meat on hand.  Sometimes I have more than at other times, but times like these when a baby is about to arrive make it such a blessing to stock up beforehand.

I love getting aluminum pans at the dollar store. I usually wrap the pan in two layers of foil, and label the top one. Once it's time to cook, I remove the top layer and leave the bottom one on until near the end of cooking. Most meals that are frozen can be cooked unthawed by just doubling the cooking time. I usually aim for cooking most meals for 2 hours on 350 degrees F-1 1/2 hours covered, then the last 1/2 uncovered.

As I continue to freeze more meals, I'm updating this post with links to each recipe in case you are interested in freezing meals as well. And if you have any meals you love to freeze, please share them! I would love the recipes.


Stacey Hays said...

I love freezer cooking. I'm looking forward to putting a deep freezer in our basement soon. I have a great chicken enchilada recipe and a chicken taquito recipe that freezes great if you want them! Miss you friend!

Anca said...

What a GREAT post, Nancy!!! You are so on top of it! I am also hoping to do some more frozen meals, but since I don't have a deep freezer, it's much tougher. I like to freeze tomato-basil soup, cooked, shredded chicken, chili (b/c you can add on top of baked potatoes, make tamale pie, skyline chili dip, etc.), burritos/enchiladas, garlic mashed potatoes, quiches, chicken and salsa soup, and mushroom/polenta lasagna. Just a few more ideas since you have a huge freezer. Way to go supermom!!!

becca Simmons said...

Love this post! Because, 1) I am jealous of your deep feeze! 2) I am trying to freeze more often lately and need the inspiration. 3) I just love your blog! :) Right now I have your inside-out ravioli in my freezer (except a little extra veggies, no meat)

Becca said...

The crockpot has become my best friend in the kitchen since having Asa. I use it several times a week. It is SOO nice to find a quick moment in the day to dump the ingredients in and know dinner will be ready whenever Matt's arrival home and baby/toddler schedules allow. And it makes the house smell good all day. :) Love love love. And I often try to double a recipe and put the leftovers into the freezer. I make sure to use a container that fits the crockpot. Then when we want to eat that extra portion, I pop it out of the container (run water over the bottom), into the crockpot, and put it on low. It's EASY all over again!! :)

Megan said...

My freezer mainstay that got me through the first months with Jon was shepherd's pie. (I still make it regularly, since it is so easy and makes a hearty meal). It can be made either in a pie plate or in individual ramekins. My mom and sister each bought me several ramekins since they knew it was a favorite dish!

Congratulations on the new family member!

Emily said...

i've got to get into freezing meals!! thanks for all this info...very helpful!! :) xoxo

Anne said...

Congrats on the upcoming baby! It sounds like you are doing a great job getting prepared. I've tried to that before but it takes a lot of self discipline (that will totally pay off after the baby comes and you are enjoying such great food!) Way to go!

Nancy said...

Thanks Emily, and Anne! I'm somehow just now seeing all of the comments people have left over the past year on my blog...somehow missed them until now! Thanks for commenting!
Anne, I just love your blog!