I love to cook. But a little over a year ago I had twins, and cooking with them around is, well, to put it mildly, almost impossible. So I have had to adapt, lest the whole family go hungry. Now I try to prep big meals all at once, usually after the kids are asleep. And any time I make a big meal, I make a second one to put in the freezer for later.
I have described my method to some other twin mommies, who were intrigued, so I thought others might be interested in how to go about this. Once you get started, the possibilities are pretty much endless.
You really need extra freezer space to make this work. Before our kids were born we invested in a stand alone freezer that used to reside in our garage. We moved it with us to Maryland, and it now is in the unfinished portion of my basement. A freezer is well worth the extra money if you have the space. I prefer a stand up version for organization purposes but a chest freezer is even more economical if you are looking to get one on the cheap.
I keep all-purpose disposable baking pans on hand at all times. They stack nicely in the freezer and allow me to make freezer meals without putting a casserole dish out of commission until we eat the frozen meal later on. Usually, I stock up when they are on sale for buy 2 get one free.
Some freezer meals that are in my regular rotation:
Lasagna (Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book- I use turkey instead of ground beef)
Creamy seafood lasagna (Betty Crocker Cookbook)
Peach bourbon baked pork chops (hubby approved favorite)
Mexican lasagna (personal recipe- basically using burrito wraps as the "pasta" layer with shredded chicken, taco seasoning, black beans, sour cream, salsa, Mexican cheese, corn; all baked in the oven just like lasagna)
Chicken Nuggets (I use coconut milk instead of egg for M)
Meatloaf (Betty Crocker Cookbook - have to come up with an eggless version for M)
Bacon Ranch Pasta Bake (new recipe I tried for the purposes of this post)
This is not as gourmet as I used to cook, but the recipes are crowd pleasers and easy to make in large amounts.
I write the instructions for baking right on top of the tin foil so I don't have to pull the recipe out when it comes time to cook the meal.
Usually I freeze things right before the point you would have put the dish in the oven, but do all the cooking and prep that the recipe has you do up until that point. Bread crumbs I usually hold off on putting on top until I pull the dish out of the freezer and am ready to bake. The chicken nuggets and meatballs I fully cook and then freeze in ziplock bags to pull out a few at a time to heat up for a quick easy meal for the kids.
One of these Bacon Ranch Pasta Bakes is ready to be frozen, the other one I will cook for this week.
Here are my nicely stacked meals in my freezer.
I have to admit, I got a lot of my ideas for how to go about doing this from Saturday cook-ins at my church, MPC, in Pennsylvania where we made a lot of meals at once for our Deacons to give out when people were sick, or just had a baby and needed a meal. We would pull one of these meals out of the church freezer and deliver it when it was needed. What a great way to have a meal on hand if you have a friend in need!
I have yet to try pre-preparing crock pot recipes for the freezer, but many other people do this. I have done a rice casseroles successfully, and also a quinoa casserole, but both were a bit bland. I am still on the hunt for a great rice based casserole.
Here is the cooked Bacon Ranch Pasta Bake. I have to say, this recipe is delicious. I think it's the bacon. Let's be honest; it's always the bacon.
What kind of meals do you prep for your freezer?