Saturday, June 21, 2008

Tips for Make Ahead (Freezable) Meals

As you may know, making meals ahead is sort of an obsession for me. It is just so much easier to pull a meal out of the freezer than to prepare one from scratch. It's not that I don't love making meals, it's that sometimes I don't love making dinner. I don't love wondering what to have and then forgetting to make something and at 5:45pm asking the boys, "do you want corn dogs or macaroni and cheese tonight?" Ugh.

Make ahead meals are also convenient for when you're having company, but don't want to spend all your time cooking. Or when your friends are expecting new babies, and you'd like to help them out in the first few days. Or for when you're having a party, so you don't get overwhelmed in the days before. There are so many reasons to do this!

I did realize that I have several recipes here labeled as "Make Ahead," but they cannot be frozen, so I have added a new category called "Freeze It." And the "Freeze It" recipes still qualify as Make Ahead. So don't get confused. Click on the links to see all of our freezable and make aheadable recipes! Enjoy.

Here are my tips for successful make ahead, Freezable meals. (there may be more tips later, this is all I can think of right now)

1. If you're making dinner, why not double the recipe? Serve half, freeze half. You know you love it, and you'll have a great dinner waiting for you on a busy night in the future.

2. Buy some cheap extra pans (8x8 or whatever the recipe calls for) so you won't be missing your good brownie pan when it's in the freezer filled with Beef Enchiladas. The kind they sell at grocery stores are perfect for this. Or you can even use the disposable aluminum pans--I've done that for giveaway meals so the recipient doesn't have to worry about getting a pan back to you. (this is quite helpful if your friend lives 60-90 miles away!)

3. Divide and store your meals in appropriate size containers for your family: if you have four people, store four servings together. If it's just you, store 4 separate servings in 4 separate containers so you won't have leftovers that might go to waste.

4. Securely cover and seal your food. For food in pans, I use Glad Press'n Seal first, covered by foil. You don't want your hard work to be lost to freezer burn! Securely seal all ziploc bags and plastic containers.

5. And most importantly: LABEL & DATE your dishes in the freezer. That way you'll know exactly what it is, and when you need to eat it by. If you're like me, it might be helpful to post a list on the outside of your freezer with the dishes you've made and when you need to eat them.

6. Consider getting a few friends together, and each making a triple batch of a freezable dish, divide them up, then trade! You will end up with several new and different meals to try. *I plan to host one of these parties when my new kitchen is complete. FYI. It will be fun!

Do YOU have any tips for freezable/make ahead meals? Please comment and let us know! Of course we'd love to have your freezable/make ahead recipes posted on the website too!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting such great tips for make ahead meals. I am a new mom going back to work this week and although I love cooking healthy food, I know I am going to be tired and unmotivated some nights. Thanks for the tips!

Min said...

Oh I'm so glad you found this helpful! Let me know if you try any of the recipes. And good luck with motherhood and work and everything!
Take care.

Jessamy said...

I am years behind on this post but I've just discovered your blog and I'm lovin it! Great tips, especially about cheap pans and press-n-seal wrap. Thanks!

Min said...

Welcome to the blog, Jessamy! It's never too late, glad you are enjoying it.

Anonymous said...

just found your site i have 3 kids and things get crazy in the evenings with homework and baths and everything, so i'm thinking about trying the make ahead method as well as freeze it. the question i have is with the freezer meals. Some of the casseroles i make i could just pop them in the oven but what can i store them in, to go from freezer to oven, doesn't glass break in the freezer, plus i can't afford that many dishes. Please help just starting out with this and not sure how but i am sure that it will help have supper ready at a decent time and help cut down on the stress during the week.

Min said...

Hi Anon, I haven't had my glass casseroles break in the freezer, just be careful and don't drop them. But it's really helpful to buy some of the cheap aluminum one-use pans at the store. They come in all different sizes and then you won't worry about your good glass pan breaking. Make sure you wrap everything well, follow the tips above. Good luck, and let me know how it all works out!

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