This is a blog post that is near and dear to my heart at the moment. My husband and I are currently preparing for our first child to arrive sometime in the next couple weeks. (Which also explains why it has been so long since my last blog post.) As part of that preparation I am filling the freezer with meals that we will be able to easily enjoy with every little effort, once our little one arrives.
My goal is to have 24 nights worth of dinners cooked. I figure with a night of ordering out once a week, these meals will keep us going for at least 4 weeks. At first I just took a day and cooked a bunch of meals. Since then, in order to conserve energy, I cook a large batch of something for dinner, eat it that night, then freeze the rest into containers. Each container has 2 portions to cut down on the number of containers filling our freezer. I will say, that we have a chest freezer too. It may be hard to get this much food ready without one. But anyone can do a handful of meals. Anything that you have the time, energy and space for will help for those nights when you just can't even keep your eyes open. After all, you want to make sure you are still eating healthy and not turning to fast food and junk food in a moment of desperation.
All of the recipes below will freeze, thaw and reheat well. I just have a couple of tips to make the food even better.
1. When picking recipes, don't choose something that doesn't have a sauce or liquid. The liquid helps protect the dish in the freezer as well as makes it more enjoyable once thawed.
2. Put a layer of plastic wrap over the container before you put the lid on. This provides an extra layer of protection from freezer burn.
3. Don't expect to keep the dishes in the freezer more then a month to a month and a half. You are not putting any preservatives in this dish so it won't last as long as frozen food in the grocery store.
4. Don't reheat your food directly from the freezer. Let it thaw for a day or two in the fridge first, then you can reheat it.
5. Clearly label everything with the name, date and number of portions. This just helps you avoid confusion.
6. Make sure food is completely cooled before putting it in the freezer. Once again, this will help you avoid freezer burn and ice crystals on your food.
Now on to some of the recipes that I have been making for my husband and I to enjoy!
This fall classic is easy to cook in large batches, it freezes well and it is perfect for watching the game and teaching your little one about football. Thaw it out and serve with some garlic bread and carrot sticks for a simple meal. This particular recipe is a basic one. Feel free to amp it up and make it your own if you feel comfortable.
Chicken and Dumplings
Another comfort food classic that freezes well, chicken and dumplings will feed you for three or four nights. The best part is, you don't really have to make anything else
to go with it. You already have your protein, starch, and veggies all in one pot. You can get complex and start with a whole chicken, make your own broth and then pick the chicken off of it. Or you can use a boxed stock and chicken breasts or thighs to simplify the process. After all, you most likely have a list of things you are trying to get done before baby arrives.
Cranberry Chipotle BBQ Pulled Pork
Red Wine Braised Chuck Roast
Any braised beef dish like a pot roast, stew or short ribs would be perfect for your freezer if your baby is coming in the fall or winter. The braising makes the meat tender, the liquid keeps it moist through the freezing and reheating and it will warm your soul during the cooler temperatures. It also uses a very affordable cut of beef, which is an added bonus. You could make this exact same recipe with short ribs or turn this into a stew with some vegetables.
Cheesy Spinach Dip Chicken Pasta
Not the best option if you are watching your weight post baby (or your husband is!), but if you want something full of comfort and cheese, this is the way to go. It takes your favorite spinach dip and turns it into a chicken pasta dish.
Dad's Meat Sauce
What would freezer meals be without something Italian. Make a big batch of homemade sauce and all you have to do is boil up some pasta. Or take this meat sauce and turn it into a lasagna. Steam some broccoli and if you're really feeling motivated when you serve this, make garlic knots from pizza dough. This is my favorite meat sauce. It is my dad's recipe and I don't think it gets any better than this.