This post is written by contributing writer, Justyn from Creative Christian Mama.
When you’re expecting a busy, stressful or overwhelming time in your life, you can make things easier by planning ahead. It may be a good thing, like getting married, having a baby, moving to a new house, or having out-of-town visitors, or something else, such as a planned surgery or caring for somebody else with a slow recovery from illness or injury. Whatever it is, your family still needs to eat. Eating out, ordering in or even buying prepared meals from the grocery store can quickly get expensive. Besides, in times of stress we all need nutrient-dense, real foods to help us get through and recover.
When I was expecting my second baby, last November, I started stocking up our freezer with meals and foods we love and I’m so glad I did! My husband and father ended-up having whooping cough during my eighth month and my dad was still fighting pneumonia when the baby was born. Having nearly a month’s worth of healthy, delicious food in the freezer was a lifesaver!
Do you have a major life event coming up? Clean out your freezer and get busy in the kitchen! Here are some ideas for foods that freeze and reheat well.
- Pancakes: Whip up a batch of your favorite pancakes and let them cool on cooling wracks. Once they are cool, layer them with parchment paper in between and then slip them in zip-top bags. Gently squeeze out all the air, zip the bag shut and freeze. You can remove just how many you need each time, since the parchment paper keeps them from sticking. To reheat, stick the pancakes in the toaster or toaster oven for a few minutes.
- Breakfast Burritos: You’ll need tortillas and scrambled eggs, along with any other fillings you want (bacon, sausage, sauteed onions, cheese, etc.). Tear off as many squares of plastic wrap as you’ll need (one for each burrito) and then lay a tortilla in the middle of each one. Add a scoop of scrambled eggs to the middle of each tortilla and then add your other fillings. Roll up each tortilla burrito-style (top, bottom, left, right), then wrap the plastic wrap around. You can fit several burritos in a zip-top bag, which will help prevent freezer burn. To reheat, remove a burrito from its plastic wrap and pop it in the toaster oven for several minutes on “defrost” (a microwave will work, but I don’t recommend it).
- Baked Oatmeal: We absolutely love baked oatmeal! I know it sounds strange, but give it a try and I think you’ll love it, too. Once you’ve cooked and completely cooled a batch, carefully cut it into squares and wrap each square in plastic wrap. Slide them into zip-top bags and freeze. These will defrost well in the toaster oven, too, but instead of putting them straight on the wrack, set them in an oven-proof container, after you remove the plastic wrap.
- Muffins: We enjoy making several batches of savory muffins with different fillings and freezing them for breakfast, snacks or even to go with dinners! Cook and completely cool your muffins, wrap them well with plastic wrap and stick them in zip-top bags (are you noticing a pattern, here? ). These can be defrosted in the toaster oven, but you can also transfer them from the freezer to the fridge to defrost overnight, then just warm them for two or three minutes.
- All of the breakfast foods above can be eaten at lunchtime, too.
- With some of the dinner foods, you can cut them into individual serving sizes before freezing for a convenient lunch.
- Soups, stews and chilis: These are wonderful for freezing. If you are caring for somebody who won’t have much of an appetite, making plenty of homemade stock/broth in advance and freezing it would be an excellent way to provide nourishment. For those with more of an appetite, try some fajita chili, beef and bell pepper stew or your favorite soup. To freeze it, use canning jars and fill them, leaving at least two inches empty at the top. You can thaw them overnight in the fridge, or put them in a bowl of cool water, slowly adding slightly warmer water every ten minutes, so that you don’t heat the frozen jars too quickly and cause them to crack.
- Casseroles: Any kind of casserole can be made ahead and frozen! Just follow the instructions on my shepherd’s pie recipe. By the way, the shepherd’s pie was the best comfort food, after the baby was born. Many crock pot recipes can also be adapted for freezing as a casserole. We made our crock pot lasagna and beef/chicken enchiladas following the freezing instructions for the shepherd’s pie and it worked beautifully! I haven’t tried it, but I’m sure paella or risotto would work well, too, either as a casserole or in jars.
- Partial Meals: You can also freeze partial meals, such as the pork filling for bbq pulled pork sandwiches or some Indian food, like chicken tikka masala. Finishing up the meals by buying cheese and buns for the pulled pork or cilantro and flat bread for the chicken tikka masala is quick and easy! Think about some of your favorite meals and get them partially prepped. Could you grill some burgers or chicken breast to wrap in plastic wrap and freeze? Cook some seasoned taco meat and some refried beans and freeze them in jars. One of our best ideas, making up dozens of meatballs to freeze. Once we cooked the meatballs, we filled one-quart jars halfway with pasta sauce, then added meatballs. It was such a treat to be able to thaw a jar of meatballs and sauce to go with some pasta and garlic bread!
- Along with pancakes and muffins, we also had great success with freezing quick breads and regular home-made bread. The taste of fresh-baked bread without the work is wonderful during stressful times. Try our cinnamon swirl bread for a special treat in the mornings!
- Homemade English muffins, bagels, freezer biscuits, and other breads would be good, too.
- You can freeze pizza dough, baked crust or even topped pizzas for a quick dinner!
If you aren’t able to spend a few days cooking meals, you can always just double everything you make for a few weeks and freeze half of it. When the time comes, you’ll have the nutrition and flavor of a home-cooked meal with the ease of a frozen dinner!