Freezer meal plan (January 2012)

Chicken Gravy and Biscuits recipe
Chicken Gravy and Biscuits (from Eliyahu's birthday meal this weekend!)

Last week I mapped out my freezer meal plan. I love having meals in the freezer, because it makes menu planning (and dinner prep!) so much easier!

My problem is that I like using the meals more than I like making them. ;) So if they're there, I tend to use them... unless I'm planning ahead for a specific event (like the birth of a new baby) and making myself be a good girl and save the freezer meals for later. :)

Our new baby isn't due until the end of March, so normally I wouldn't have started my freezer meals quite yet. But, as it happens, Joshua will be having two major surgeries (craniotomies) before that time, so I decided to jump-start my freezer meal cooking and hopefully be ready for whatever happens post-surgery. :) (The surgeries are to treat two different conditions -- Trigeminal Neuralgia and Superior Canal Dehiscence. This You Tube video describes what Joshua experiences from having SCD.)

Anyway, my freezer meals will certainly come in handy over the next few months! I'm looking forward to getting the freezer stocked with prepared (homemade!) foods again. :)

My favorite freezer meal resources/tips:

My FoodSaver. We've had ours for 10+ years and it's so handy for storing food compactly and fighting freezer burn. I wrote more about why I like having a FoodSaver here! :)

The "mold" technique -- freezing casseroles and then removing from the dish. (I then use the FoodSaver to seal the "squares" of food.) Same size = easy stacking! Plus, I'm not wasting space by storing dishes in the freezer (not to mention the cost of disposable dishes!).

The "straw" technique. For softer foods like cookies or burritos, or individually-wrapped foods (like burritos, chimichangas, egg rolls, etc.), I double-Ziplock-freezer-bag them, using a straw to suck out the air in each bag. My freezer burritos stay fresh a long time in the freezer this way!

Life As Mom's freezer tips. Check out her site for lots more variety -- she's an expert! ;)

Yehoshua helping with the quiche
Yehoshua helped weigh and wash spinach for our quiche last Friday

My freezer meal plan includes mostly main dish meals. If I have time, I'll do some of the make-ahead pantry foods (like granola!). Most likely I won't do any desserts, due to time and expense. For breads, I'll just use my bread machine as-needed. We actually haven't been eating a lot of bread these days. (We often have fish and rice is a good side for that. Joshua takes beans or leftovers in his lunch rather than sandwiches.)

And the best part of my plan? I'm planning these meals into our weekly dinner menus so I can just make a super big batch and freeze the extras (hopefully 2-4 meals' worth). I'll be spending extra time on "dinner prep" each night, but I won't be spending the whole day in the kitchen. Well, okay, I will -- because we do our school work and everything else in the kitchen too. ;)

Playing with boxes from Costco
The kids in their box tower after last week's Costco trip :)

Main dish freezer meals I'm making (frozen before baking unless noted):

Quiche (I made this crustless to save time)
Beef and Bean Enchiladas (add extra sauce)
Easy lasagna (add extra sauce)
Saucy Broccoli Chicken Bake (under-cook the broccoli, put a layer of rice in the bottom)
Chicken gravy (to serve with biscuits or rice)
Spinach rice casserole
Italian Beef and Beans (to serve with pasta)
Cheesy Chicken Vermicelli
Tuna Noodle Casserole
Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
Freezer-friendly bean and rice burritos
Breakfast burritos
Three-cheese baked spaghetti (add extra sauce)

Other easy meals from my freezer:

Crock pot BBQ chicken (serve with buns or over rice)
Salmon burgers
Pan-fried pollock (serve with rice)

Soups for the freezer:

Beef Vegetable Soup
White Chili
My Mom's Chili
Veggie Bean Soup with Spinach

Breakfasts or other:

Whole wheat berry pancakes (cooked; re-warm in toaster)
My mom's granola
Cinnamon Crunch Granola
Chewy oatmeal chocolate chip granola bars
Easy baked apple oatmeal
Maple Rosemary Bean Salad
Grilled chicken breast (for on pizza, quesadillas, etc.)
Cooked pinto beans

See also: My freezer meal plan and updates from before Moshe was born! :)

I'll be using lots of the groceries we got last week -- starting with the more perishable things like spinach and broccoli. For my weekly menu plans, I'm just picking things from these lists that I haven't made yet, and then making as large a batch as possible. :)

This freezer cooking is going to be my "big" project over the next 2 weeks! I hope to get the majority of it done in that time, and then in late February after both surgeries are over I'll evaluate what I want to make/add before the new baby's born! :)

Comments

Tammy,
I didn't know you were pregnant. So happy for you and Joshua. What a wonderful family you all are.
Blessings,
Cathy

Thank you, Cathy! :)

I just watched the video on SCD and read about Trigeminal neuralgia. I feel so sorry for Joshua. I hope the surgery will relieve him.
Good luck with your freezer cooking
Aline

Thank you, Aline. :)

How did your mom's meatloaf turn out last time you froze it? That is MY FAVORITE meat loaf recipe. I have never thought to freeze it though. Would love to know how it turned out.

Katie
www.glutenfreefoodstorage.net

I think I froze 2 meatloaves last time, but I wasn't really impressed with the texture. It was more compact and not so moist/tender as it is when made fresh. Since beef is expensive, I don't think I'll freeze meat loaf again; it's quick to make up fresh and we like it better made fresh! :)

I've heard other people say they love freezing meatloaf ahead, though, so I could just be too picky. ;)

Are you freezing it uncooked or cooked? I have had good results freezing meatloaf uncooked and then thawing and baking.

I froze my meatloaf uncooked. It was the seasoned/formed meat in a log shape, wrapped in plastic wrap and freezer paper. It tasted great; it was just the texture that was different. :)

Try slicing the meatloaf and spooning the sauce over the slices before you freeze them. Then warm up as many slices as you need in the microwave. This is what I do and I think the texture is good when re-warmed.

Good for you being so diligent with all that is going on for your family. I barely meal plan for regular life! All the best for great results in your husbands surgery. Take care Tammy.

Thank you, Angie. :)

for Joshua, you and unborn baby to be ... and the kids ...wow, you are certainly going to have your hands full ...

Yes, and thank you. :)

My goodness, that YouTube was fascinating (as most medical mysteries are). I hope Joshua gets relief as dramatic as the fellow in the video. What a difference!

Thanks for watching it! :) Most likely the surgery will help Joshua a lot, so... :)

I didn't know you were pregnant. Is this the first mention of it? Anyway, congratulations! Praying for you, your baby, and your dh.

Thank you! :) I have mentioned being pregnant this time, but I didn't do a special announcement post. :)

My late sister also suffered from trigeminal neuralgia. After a lot of yrs of medications she had a procedure done that was supposed to help and did bring a little relief. But she had other health problems, mostly lung, so she was afraid to have the surgery. I hope your husband does well with the surgery. I hear the success rate is very high. I know you must hate seeing him try to deal with it as I did with my sister. On another note love your site.
God Bless

Thank you, and I am sorry to hear of your sister's struggles with TN.

Tammy, thank you for all your posts about cooking and freezer meals! They are really an inspiration! I am horrible about cooking and we end up eating out much too often, but I am expecting my first and really trying to get organized and make a change. Your posts have helped a lot, especially the one especially about freezer meal planning for baby's arrival!

I was wondering, the baking powder biscuit recipe you list with your chicken gravy... can that dough be made ahead of time and frozen also, or would that not work? I am horrible about knowing what sorts of things you can and can't freeze.

Best wishes to you and your family :)
Ashley

Hi, Ashley!

I have never frozen biscuit dough, so I'm not sure how well that would work. I do think it *would* work, to freeze the unbaked biscuits (I would roll/cut to freeze rather than doing drop biscuits), but I think after time they wouldn't rise as well (so maybe better for shorter-term freezer cooking, a month or so). :)

Another option for biscuits is to mix the dry ingredients, cut in the butter, and the only thing left to add would be the milk. You can store the "mix" (everything but the milk) in the freezer (if using butter) or in the pantry (if using shortening) until needed... like a homemade Bisquick. :)

you can freeze the milk, and still be able to use it.

I make biscuits all the time, and freeze them. I make them like always. (tip pop the cut pre-baked biscuits into the freezer for a few minutes maybe 15 max on the pan you will be baking them..this helps them to rise up even fluffier). Cook your biscuits as normal flash freeze and then bag up.

Reheating in the microwave for 30 seconds they are hot fluffy and delicious.

My DH leaves before 6 am M-F and I am still trying to peel my eyes open with the steam from my coffee, so this is a great help...i often will make breakfast sammys like this for him to take to work and eat.

Tammy, I randomly found your blog... searching for something to do with dry cleaning.
Anyway, so here I am looking around.. you have a great approach to every day life...
Deff. going to take some pointers from you with meal planning and other things

Where about are you?
I live in Guelph, ON Canada... and enjoy my trips to the farmers market with my mom few times a month.

Hope to be back soon :)

Thanks for commenting! We live near Seattle, WA. :)

Our new baby is due near the end of March, too, so I've been getting started on the freezer meals. Thanks so much for this great list! I definitely want to have more breakfast items in the freezer this time. That seems to be an especially challenging time for us, and hopefully that'll help things go more smoothly this time around. :)

I hope your husband's surgery goes well!

Blessings,
Michele

Thanks, Michele! Congratulations on your little one due soon! (Well, March seems soon to me, anyway!) :)

I'm thinking I may need to bump "granola" up from the "would be nice to make ahead" to the "must get made ahead" list because I'm noticing that making oatmeal kinda wears me out some mornings! :) Cold cereal is easier... and I love granola. :)

Congrats on your new baby! I am also expecting but not until June. I am just in the planning stages of my freezer cooking strategy. My question is can I freeze granola and how long do you think it would keep? We go through about 6 cups a week. This is our favorite meal/snack. Thanks also for all the advice! I just decided to try grocery shopping every 2 weeks, and using Costco frozen veggies on the second week. Thanks for the advice!

Yes, granola can be frozen. I'd say it should keep for a month or two without freezer burn in a freezer ziplock bag -- maybe longer. I don't freeze mine because it keeps for several weeks just on the pantry shelf, and we go through a lot more than 6 cups a week when I make it. ;)

I hope your bi-weekly shopping works out well! :) We love Costco's frozen veggies. :D

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