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Old 10-21-2008, 10:03 AM   #1
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Freezing meals ahead

Hi, Mrs. Doubtfire here, aka David. Two weeks ago my life was settled perhaps into a rut. Today I am living at my daughter's to help with many things including two grandchildren ages 8 and 10.

Now, I get breakfast, see the children off on the bus or take them or both, clean, wash clothes, rake leaves, help with homework and cook. I must establish a schedule.

Question - a friend recommended that I cook ahead and freeze the main part of the evening meal. Children are home about 4:00 and daughter is home about 4:30 and all are hungry. I need ideas for things that are good to freeze.

Recommendations for dishes that can be prepared ahead and frozen (in Tupperware?) please! I need help! I can cook but not many things at a time and that makes it slow dinner.


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Old 10-21-2008, 10:26 AM   #2
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I do this every Sunday night so I have something to take to work for lunch (got bored with packet sandwiches!). I always find Indian curries are great for this as the freeze very well. In fact, many of them are quite happy in the fridge for the whole 5 days so I don't always freeze them. Not sure how easy/hard it is to come by Indian ingredients in the USA? I have a few good simple recipes if you haven't made Indian food before.

If not Indian then I often make a big meat or bean chili and freeze that in portions. Stews/casseroles tend to freeze quite well too. There is an amazing French casserole called Cassoulet (it is my favourite thing in the world!) and although I don't think it would freeze well, I think it would be fine in the fridge for up to 4 or 5 days. I think because we are now so afraid of food poisoning, these days, we forget that many foods last quite well in the fridge (not all mind you!).


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Old 10-21-2008, 11:03 AM   #3
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Wonderful, Thank you Allen of the UK! Adequate ingredients for Indian curries I should find without problem, meat and bean chili sounds good, and I must look up the Cassoulet. If I can't find it maybe you will be able to help with a recipe.
Thanks again,
Ms. David
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Old 10-21-2008, 12:13 PM   #4
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Well, David, first of all, try not to look at this as your settling into a rut. Look at it as a challenge and it will ease some of the pressure and anxiety you are currently experiencing. So take a deep breath! There are a LOT of things you can do. Here are some hints which I have used, to offer for you:

1. It's usually the cleaning and prep work that takes the most time for just about everything you want to make, so, if can have as much of your ingredients prepped, a lot of your cooking time will be saved.

2. If possible, have the kids help you with the prepping. This doesn't necessarily have to be for that night's meal. Have them help you prep things for meals to be had later in the week.

3. If everyone likes salad, this is a great "veggie" to have for your sides. You can clean, cut, prep all the lettuces, for several days. Wash lettuces, tear them by hand or use one of those plastic salad knives, which prevent the rusty color which appears on the lettuce. Dry the lettuce in a salad spinner or with paper towels and store, air tight, in either plastic zippy lock bags or tightly sealed in a plastic container. Do the same if you plan to have additional things in the salad, such as cukes, tomatoes, onions, etc., clean all that, slice it, etc., and have all of hose items ready to go, stored separately, as well.

4. Something our boys enjoyed is "Mexican/Spanish" night. I would have everything prepped for this dinner, cheese would be grated, tomatoes chopped, lettuce thinly sliced, even the ground beef. This would be browned, seasoned, etc., cooled, then placed into zippy plastic bags or containers, etc., and kept in the frig, or, frozen. At dinner time, just pull everything from the frig, zap the beef and refried beans, and in 5 minutes, dinner is on the table!

5. Another thing you can do here with the ground beef, before seasoning it, brown up several pounds. Divide into 3 portions ~~ 1 portion for the "Spanish" night, 1 portion pound to use, say....in a chili, and another portion to use in a plain tomato sauce for pasta. You can make your own sauce or purchase a jar of plain sauce, to which you would heat it, then add the ground beef to make a hearty meat sauce. Cook your pasta, and since you already have your salad ingredients ready, while the pasta is cooking you can put the salad together, set the table, etc.! Boiling the water and cooking the pasta can have a complete meal on the table within 10-12 minutes!

6. Make a roast, if it is in your buget, and make one somewhat larger than what you would need for a meal. With the left over meat, cube it and have it ready to make beef stew or make a beef stroganoff. I wouldn't make the "sauce" for the stroganoff, as that is very quick to whip up....it's the beef part which takes the time. The stroganoff can be done within 15 minutes, the stew a bit longer, but if you also cook additional carrots and potatoes with the roast, this will also lower the cook time for a hearty stew! Yum! You can freeze the cooked roast and veggies for the later put together of the stew. You can even make homemade "tv dinners", or homemade "pot pies", a hearty beef soup like beef barley. You can also make a beef stir fry of some sort.

7. Roast a chicken or two, or the specific parts if that is what your family eats, and do the same with it as in the suggestions in #6. You can also make a chicken parmesean with the sauce you made in #2 above, adding some pasta as a side and to stretch the meal out. (this is just a personal thing, but since pasta cooks up quite quickly, 4-10 minutes, depending on the shape and brand, I do not freeze it, nor rice, as both get quite sticky/pasty...IMHO!)

Then there are always the casseroles, but from what your post sounds like, you may be trying to avoid those???

And, there is never, ever, anything wrong with making breakfast for dinner!

Hope these few suggestions help you out!

Good luck and have fun with all the suggestions you receive from here!
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Old 10-21-2008, 12:44 PM   #5
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Here are a few general hints:

When you cook, cook a lot, and then freeze the leftovers in small portions. You can freeze just about anything...just use your common sense.

When you cook a big piece of meat, turn the leftovers into other dishes, for example: pork roast into pulled pork, pork stir-fry or fahitas; beef roast into beef stew, roast beef sandwiches, or meat spread; roast chicken into chop suey, chicken pot pie, soup or chicken salad.

When you make sandwiches, utilize tortillas and pita bread for a change from plain bread. Speaking of bread, if the kids won't eat whole wheat, they do now make a soft, white whole grain bread. By the way, I don't know of a kid who isn't happy with a toasted cheese sandwich or a tortilla sprinkled with grated cheese, rolled up, heated in the oven and cut into bite sized pieces. Add a little tomato sauce and some pepperonis, and they become pizza rolls, and are a lot tastier than the frozen ones the kids seem to crave.
We get by with a little help from our friends
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Old 10-21-2008, 12:54 PM   #6
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Thanks again everyone, actually casseroles are good, I just haven't had any experience freezing meals and didn't know what works best and what won't work.
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Old 10-21-2008, 01:23 PM   #7
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Spaghetti sauce with meatballs or sausage, everything.

fully cooked. I bread and fry, or cook in the oven mostly, eggplant and zucchini slices. Then when I make or have tomato sauce all I need to do is layer with cheese and bake for eggplant or zucchini parmesan.
Robin Miller on Foodtv plans meals for fast cooking. She doesn't freeze the ingredients but preps and pre cooks different items for the whole week. Might be worth watching if you can to get some ideas. If you cook a ham you can then slice and freeze the extra and make scalloped potatoes with ham. I wouldn't freeze the potatoes though. You can certainly make the potatoes and keep in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 days and reheat.
Don't make the mistake of thinking that everything must be done right before you eat. Potatoes can be peeled, cut and kept in the refrigerator, covered with water all day. Just put on the stove to cook about 30 to 45 minutes before you want to eat.
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Old 10-21-2008, 05:36 PM   #8
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You can get foil containers which we have used to make up lasagnas and cottage pies. You make them up to putting into the oven stage and freeze them at the point. When ready defrost and put in the oven.
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Old 10-24-2008, 07:41 AM   #9
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If you make individual meatloaves with a tomato topping or base, be sure to wrap in plastic and not in foil for the freezer. The tomato is acidic enough to dissolve the foil over time.
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Old 10-24-2008, 06:09 PM   #10
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Wow! There are great suggestions hear - I really don't have anything to add except blessings to you - I hope all is going okay with you and your new "role".

Michele Marie
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