With the kids going back to school and activities soon, many parents are on the lookout for ways to simplify their daily routines without sacrificing family time or healthy eating. One way to do that is to stock up on freezer meals.
You’ve probably seen the freezer meal phenomenon on Pinterest – the basic idea is to spend a few hours one day chopping, cooking, seasoning, and compiling meals that can be frozen and then reheated quick and simple each night. Whatever your family’s tastes or preferences, freezer meals CAN save you time, energy, and even money.
So where do you start? Here are a few simple ideas to get your freezer stocked:
Also known as campfire dinners, hobo packets are the epitomy of simple and delicious. The basic idea is to wrap an individual cut of meat in foil with the seasonings and vegetables you’d normally cook on the side, then bake (in an oven or over hot coals). This method steams the contents to perfection and results in a delicious single-serving dinner – perfect for picky eaters or those inevitable nights when everyone wants something different.
The basic idea behind crockpot bags is the same as hobo packets – you combine all the ingredients and seasonings into one container ahead of time for easy cooking later. Crockpot freezer meals are great for big families, potlucks, and entertaining. They also make wonderful, healthy meals without heating up the house by turning on the oven. Roasts, in particular, make excellent crockpot bags because the freezing and thawing allows the ingredients to naturally marinate before cooking.
Casseroles freeze well and are a cinch to put together. Like crockpot bags, they are great for feeding a crowd and stretching your dollar by making good use of economy meat cuts and inexpensive fillers such as pasta, beans, and potatoes. Casseroles can be preassembled and frozen cooked or uncooked, depending on your preferences.
With casseroles, however, you should make sure that the ingredients you use will freeze well. Most heavy dairy products, like cream soups, do not. Eggs and fruits and vegetables with high water contents (such as celery) also tend not to freeze well. Keep this in mind when selecting casseroles to stash in your freezer.
- Combine one thin-cut porkchop, two pats of butter (or a tablespoon of olive oil), a handful of chopped and unpeeled potatoes, carrot sticks, and diced onion. Season with sage and black pepper and you’re good to go.
- For a vegetarian meal, toss tofu chunks and olive oil together with garbanzo beans, red onion, zucchini, and any of your other favorite vegetables.
- If you’re in the mood for fish, try a salmon filet brushed with a light brown sugar and molasses glaze and covered in fresh grean beans and summer squash.
- Three Envelope Roast – combine 1 packet each of brown gravy, ranch dressing, and Italian seasoning mixes with 1 cup of water, then pour over a large chuck roast in a gallon freezer bag. Chop your favorite vegetables and add them to the bag; when you’re ready to cook the roast, simply pour the contents of the bag into your slow cooker and let it cook 8-6 hours on high (depending on your cooker’s settings).
- A1 Barbecue Pulled Pork – to give pulled pork sandwiches an extra kick, combine ½ cup of A1 steak sauce with 1 cup of regular barbecue sauce and pour over a pork shoulder (2-3lbs) in a gallon freezer bag. If you’re not into A1, you could substitute Heinz 57 or another steak sauce.
- Chicken Parmesan Casserole
Fill the bottom of a casserole dish or baking pan with cubed, uncooked chicken. Layer in marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese. Freeze uncooked. When thawed and ready to cook, top with Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs tossed in olive oil. A typical 13×9” dish should cook in about 30 minutes on 400°F. This makes a great dish to serve with pasta or garlic toast.
- Pizza Casserole
Mix your favorite shredded cheese blend with pepperoni slices, precooked ground beef or sausage, and/or bacon. Add pizza sauce and pasta (slightly undercooked so it doesn’t get soggy). Reheat on 350°F for 15-20 minutes or until the cheeses are melted and the sauce is bubbly.
Other ideas for freezer stocking:
- Cheese quesadillas
- Homemade waffles and pancakes
- Homemade spaghetti sauce
- Precut vegetables in Ziploc bags (they’re as convenient as steamer bags but cheaper)
- Your favorite soup or stew, in individual portions
- Bean and cheese burritos
- Un-iced cakes or cupcakes
- Banana and zucchini bread