Normally I am not a fan of freezer meals and prefer to cook and eat our meals fresh, but considering I will be a momma of two in just a few weeks, I think having some freezer meals stocked away is going to be so great. I began last week by making a grocery list for the recipes what I wanted to make and took advantage of a sale on ground beef and chicken breasts at Kroger.
I currently have almost three weeks of meals in my freezer, but will continue to add to that over the next couple weeks depending on when I go into labor (and how much my freezer will hold). My parents will be visiting for a week after the baby is born and my mom will for sure help out with dinner and we have some friends who may bring meals as well, but I definitely want to be prepared for the time when all the family and friends have gone home and we have to function as parents of a toddler and newborn on our own.
Picking out meals to freeze is not that hard. Tons of things freeze fairly well. Though I would avoid making a lasagna as that is a common meal that people bring to new parents. Otherwise, just try freezing most of your favorite meals. Casseroles freeze well in addition to many meat dishes, soups, and sauces.
These are the recipes that I have frozen so far:
1. Chicken Spaghetti Casserole. This is originally a Pioneer Woman recipe, but I have altered the recipe to suit our family's tastes like leaving out the cayenne pepper so it's not too spicy for Owen. I froze this meal when I was pregnant with Owen and it reheats really well. Just add a bagged salad mix for a side after baby arrives and you have a complete meal. To make this meal, just assemble the casserole up until the point where you would bake it and then freeze it. When it's time to eat it, just let it thaw in the fridge for a day or so and then cook as usual. I made two disposable aluminum foil pans of this recipe.
2. Crock Pot Sesame Honey Chicken: This was one of the easiest recipes to prep for freezing. I just put the chicken breasts in a freezer bag and added all the sauce ingredients and threw it in the freezer. When it comes time to make it, I will let it thaw in the fridge overnight and then toss it in the crock pot the next day. I am looking for more crock pot recipes to add to my freezer stash since this one was so easy to make. I made two bags of this recipe.
3. Black Bean Burgers: This is a Skinny Taste recipe that we make frequently and because the burgers hold together better if you grill them from a frozen state, we already know that they taste fine out of the freezer. I made 12 burgers to freeze and packaged them in sets of four.
4. Hawaiian Teriyaki Burgers: This is a fairly recent Skinny Taste recipe that we really enjoy. I bought a couple pounds of meat and made eight burgers using this recipe. I wrapped each burger separately in plastic wrap and then put them into a freezer bag.
5. Spaghetti Sauce: I based my recipe for spaghetti sauce off this one from the Pioneer Woman. I made four quarts of spaghetti sauce which I figure can be used over spaghetti noodles or in an Italian casserole of some sort. I will probably be sick of spaghetti after the baby is born, but it is a simple recipe to make a lot of and it freezes well. Plus I think spaghetti sauce for some reason tastes better if it's been frozen as if the flavors get to blend together somehow while it's frozen or maybe as it's reheating.
6. Taco Meatloaf: This is a Paula Deen recipe that is one of Tim's favorites. I can't seem to find it on the Internet though. Basically it's like a normal meatloaf recipe except instead of the normal spices and breadcrumbs, you use taco seasoning, cilantro, and crushed tortilla chips. I made two of these to freeze.
7. Chili. This is Pioneer Woman's recipe for chili and one that I have liked the best of all the ones I've tried (other than my mom's). I made two quarts of it.
8. Chicken Enchiladas: This is a Skinny Taste recipe that we really enjoy. I have never tried freezing it though I have seen many articles about freezing meals that including recipes for chicken enchiladas so I thought I would give it a try. Like with other casseroles, I assemble this up until the point of baking and then freeze it uncooked. I froze two pans of these and I decided to freeze the sauce separately to try to keep the enchiladas from getting too mushy when I thaw them.
9. Pizza dough (not pictured): I made and froze three dough balls, which each make two crusts. We love making homemade pizza and it's much healthier for us than ordering out pizza. Plus, Owen loves helping top the pizzas and it will be a fun thing to do with him once brother is born and he is needing attention.
10. Chicken breast marinated in Stubb's marinade (not pictured): I froze two large chicken breasts in our favorite marinade for Tim to grill at some point. As they thaw in the fridge, they marinate. Simple! If I get another good deal on chicken breasts, I might make another bag of these.
11. Cookie dough (not pictured): I may or may not have also frozen balls of oatmeal coconut chocolate chunk cookies....
My favorite kitchen helper enjoyed helping me make freezer meals.
Here are some additional tips for freezing meals or if you are planning to take some freezer meals to a pregnant friend (who will love you forever and maybe name the baby after you):
- Label each meal not just with its name, but with cooking instructions so you don't have to look them up later. A date also helps so you don't leave them in the freezer too long.
- Spread the workload over a few weeks toward the end of your pregnancy so you don't wear yourself out.
- Double recipes you are already making for dinner.
- Pick up some paper plates and other disposable dinnerware to make clean-up even easier.
- Don't make too many of one type of meal or else you will get sick of it. If you are the kind of person who hates leftovers, freeze casseroles in really small pans like loaf pans so you only have enough for one night and maybe a lunch or two.
- If you have time and space, you can also make some breakfasts recipes. Most breads freeze well. You can also make sure to have lots of frozen fruit on hand for smoothies.
- If you are taking meals to a new mother, don't forget side dishes like a fresh salad. You will get bonus points if you bring a jug of sweet tea or lemonade and dessert. If you want to be extra nice, you can also bring some snacks for the new mom and dad to eat during the day like fresh veggies and dip or cut up fruit. A breakfast of muffins or zucchini bread would also be good ideas. Having people bring us meals and other treats after Owen was born was some of the biggest help we received with a new baby.
- If you are taking meals to a friend, you may want to ask beforehand about any specific dislikes or food allergies their family may have. Also nursing mothers sometimes avoid certain foods which might affect their babies so you may want to ask about that as well.
Do you have any favorite freezer meals? Let me know in the comments. I could still use a few more ideas.