Meal planning before baby arrives: Update on freezer meals and casseroles

Freezer casserole
Saucy Broccoli Chicken Bake (popped back into a dish to thaw)

Before our little Moshe was born 3 months ago, I shared my menu plans and freezer meals that I had made in preparation for the weeks and months following the birth.

I promised an update later about which meals froze the best, since most of the freezer meals were ones I hadn't tried freezing and baking/reheating later.

We're rather spoiled in that we usually like meals best when they're freshly made rather than frozen. I did think that almost all of the freezer meals were drier than a freshly-made version would have been. But all were edible and enjoyed! :) I may be having second thoughts about not liking freezer cooking... :)

I'm so thankful that the third trimester was the easiest part (physically) of this last pregnancy, as I was able to get quite a few meals stashed in the freezer!

At least a couple times a week, I made a casserole or meal that could be frozen for dinner, doubling the recipe and freezing two 8x8-inch square dishes for future use.

Having homemade freezer meals on hand has been such a blessing! And storing the meals in bags with a similar shape allowed me to fit quite a bit into our small freezer.

Frozen burritos
Frozen homemade burritos: My new favorite convenince meal!

Specifics about main dishes completely assembled and frozen:

  1. Easy Lasagna (unbaked) -- Good, but on the dry side.
  2. Burritos with beans, rice, cheese, and beef filling (individually wrapped in foil, then sealed in a freezer Ziplock; will warm in the oven) -- Wonderful. A favorite and a new staple in my freezer!
  3. Creamy Macaroni and Cheese (unbaked) -- Not as creamy as fresh. Still very tasty.
  4. Three-Cheese Baked Spaghetti (unbaked) -- A little dry. Good, but not great in my opinion.
  5. Beef and Spinach Quiche (fully cooked; will re-warm) -- Rewarmed great. Mine was crustless though.
  6. Saucy Broccoli Chicken Bake (unbaked, w/rice on the bottom) -- Better than I expected. Almost as good as fresh!
  7. Spinach Rice Casserole (unbaked) -- Really good.
  8. My Mom's Meat Loaf (unbaked) -- Still haven't made this one yet!

Freezer casserole

None of these casseroles have tasted freezer burned, though they've been frozen for 4+ months now. Just one of the reasons I really like using a FoodSaver for freezing foods!

Frozen quiche
A crustless quiche (still thawing), which was actually really good!

Meal ingredients in the freezer: (read more about why I do this)

Pre-cooked beef with diced onions (for lasagna, crockpot pizza, stuffed shells, and baked spaghetti)

Pre-cooked beef with onions, green peppers, and taco seasonings (for taco salad, spanish rice with beans, nachos, or burritos)

Pre-cooked pinto beans with Tapatio and salt

Pre-cooked beef with onions and spinach leaves (for quiche)

Leftover diced oven-roasted chicken meat (for cheesy chicken vermicelli, chicken lasagna, chicken pot pie, farmhouse chicken, poppy seed chicken and asparagus, chicken fried rice, or saucy broccoli chicken bake)

Freezer casserole

Having the meat or beans already cooked, seasoned, and/or diced makes all of the above recipes into "quick and easy" for me! :) I've written more about preparing ground beef for the freezer here. I also like homemade frozen meatballs, which are just as good as fresh -- or even better, since the flavors permeate the meat!

Freezer spaghetti

More thoughts on meal-planning after birth, and lots of ideas on preparing for a new baby: Working hard ahead of time really helped me transition during the newborn stage!

My friend Bethany has also done lots of Once-A-Month Cooking and has shared her menu lists and photos of her finished food for the month. In this post, she writtes about which recipes worked great for freezing and which ones didn't taste as good. Be sure to check out all her posts on Once-A-Month Cooking for more inspiration!! :)

Weekly Menu Plan -- April 25 - May 1, 2010

Sunday (w/company)

Rotisserie chicken from Costco, green beans, scalloped potatoes, apple slices with cream cheese apple dip, and caramel pecan cheesecake for dessert


Freezer meal, peas, fresh bread (maybe a new dinner roll recipe?)


Grilled steak, baked potatoes, corn, green beans


A new chicken recipe, cooked peas and carrots, rice


Tuna melts on Italian bread, cooked veggies, fresh fruit


Homemade pizza, green beans, fruit


Beans and rice, with cheese and sour cream

Weekly Menu Plan (April 18-24, 2010)

I'm glad I made this week's menu plan several days ago; after having two very fun but very busy days of company this weekend, I'm too tired to think about cooking right now! :) I'm more of a "morning person" though, so I'm sure when Monday morning arrives I'll be rested and ready to tackle another week. :)


Lunch (w/guests): Taco salad with ground beef, pinto beans, lettuce, shredded cheese, tomatoes, avocado, sour cream, green onions, and peppers (This was SO yummy; I love taco salad!)

sliced fresh fruit, and caramel pecan cheesecake for dessert

Dinner: Leftovers


Grilled chicken with pineapple and mango, rice, green beans

Tuesday (Yehoshua's 6th birthday!)

Grilled chicken, green beans, peas, and chocolate cheesecake (this day's menu was planned by Yehoshua)


Leftovers or a freezer meal, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower, apple slices


New grilled chicken recipe (involves homemade pita pockets and I'm not sure what else!)


Chicken Bacon Artichoke pizza (recipe coming this week!), green beans, fresh fruit


Cookout at Joshua's parents' house (I know we're taking our Weber grill and grilling something, as well as taking chocolate cheesecake and orange-vanilla dream cheesecake, but I'm not sure what else yet!)

Weekly Menu Plan (April 11-17, 2010)


Leftover homemade pizza (rewarmed for 12 minutes at 375 degrees), salad, tabbouleh, fruit


Taco salad with fresh tomato salsa, sweet potatoes, fresh pears

Fresh tomato salsa recipe


Oven-roasted chicken, new recipe using smoked salmon & pasta, green beans, frozen strawberries


Creamy macaroni & cheese (from freezer), peas, homemade wheat bread, apple slices


Lasagna (from freezer), green beans, apple slices

Easy lasagna recipe


New homemade pizza idea, cooked peas


Lunch: leftovers

Dinner (w/guests): Grilled chicken breast, homemade wheat bread, salad, and still deciding on the rest! :)

Weekly Menu Plan (April 4-10, 2010)

This week's menu was a challenge for me to plan. Nothing sounded very good, and we have doctor appointments three different evenings! Appointments are really the only inconvenient thing about being a one-car family. :) Anyway, at least I have a plan for the week. I'm excited about trying a couple new recipes, too!

Grilled chicken, asparagus, and rolls
Sunday's dinner



  • Grilled chicken with avocado salsa, green beans, homemade matza, fresh apple slices, fruit salsa





  • Undecided (need to talk with our guests before planning the meal)


Weekly Menu Plan (March 28-April 3, 2010)




  • Same as Monday (leftovers)



  • Chicken quiche, unleavened bread, cooked peas, fresh pears



  • Leftovers or a casserole from the freezer, fresh fruit

Weekly Menu Plan: March 21-27, 2010

Oatmeal options

Breakfasts this week will include: Oatmeal, bananas, homemade mocha frappuccinos (Joshua only), and cinnamon crunch granola.

Lunches this week will include: Leftovers, cheddar cheese slices, mixed nuts, oranges, peas, bell pepper slices, cucumber sticks, and salads.

Grilled steak recipe

This week's dinner menu:


Monday (company coming for dinner!)






Cooked pinto beans
Cooked pinto beans (seasoned with salt, splashed with Tapatio, and dabbed with sour cream!) are one of our favorite foods. Simple and affordable and so delicious! :)

What's on your menu this week? Anything new, or just old favorites? :)

Salads for the week: Making time for healthy eating

My salad with cheese!

After the birth of our baby Moshe 6 weeks ago, both Joshua and I got really motivated to start eating more healthy foods and less not-so-healthy foods. After giving birth, I finally got back on talking terms with our bathroom scale and faced the reality that my nursing baby needed me to be eating lots and lots of nutritious foods and my body needed me to seriously cut back on the desserts!

One of the ways we have incorporated more fresh veggies into our daily diet has been through lunchtime salads. Joshua takes a big salad to work for his lunch ("If that's all I have to eat, well, I'll eat it!"). I eat a big salad here at home for my lunch, taking bites in between changing diapers, washing little hands, nursing my baby, and rescuing children from disasters and emergencies.

Getting started on the salads

If I had to do up salads daily, or even a couple times a week, there's just no way I'd find the time for it. I mean really, a granola bar (or even a big bowl of homemade granola with milk!) is just a whole lot easier.

So to make salads easier, Joshua and I have been making up a week's supply on Sunday evenings. This has worked wonderfully! I have no excuse to not enjoy a big salad every day, and it's just so handy!

Washing lettuce

This week, Ruth (2) helped me in the kitchen as I made salads. Joshua had been to Costco earlier in the day, so we had plenty to work with!

We recently got a salad spinner, and I must say it is a nice tool to have! The lettuce and spinach leaves get nice and dry and the lettuce keeps a lot longer in the fridge. In the past, our salads were always turning brown after 2-3 days. Now, I can keep a container of salad for 5 days without it turning brown, and even longer some times! Oxidized lettuce isn't harmful to eat, but it's not fit to serve to company, and it's just not as pleasant or enjoyable. (We have this salad spinner, only in white, and we got it at Costco.)

Earthbound Farm carrots from Costco

I love the carrots from Costco: $5.29 for a ten-pound bag! Since they're organic, I usually just scrub the carrots rather than peeling them, so there is very little waste from this big bag. I shredded some for salads and cut some into sticks for the children. I also went ahead and diced some to cook later this week (along with peas) for the evening's cooked vegetable side dish.

Ruth with finished salads

Here is Ruth with all the finished salads! Yum!

Now... is there really room in the fridge for that many pounds of salad?!

All in the fridge!

Yes! There was just enough room. This very, very full fridge will be mostly emptied by next week's Costco trip!

Joshua's dressing to take to work

Joshua likes ranch salad dressing. We mix it with an equal part water, to make it easier to coat the lettuce (and cut down on calories!). These are the little containers of dressing he takes to work for his salad.

Joshua's container of salad

A colorful container of salad for Joshua's lunch! If he's adding chicken or boiled eggs, I send those along in a separate baggie.

If anyone has tips for making salads easier, I'd love to hear! I'll be sharing more healthy eating and menu tips as time allows! :)

Weekly menu plan (March 7-13, 2010)

While I never seem to be doing everything I wish to accomplish, there's usually a few things that are going smoothly at any given time. Right now, one of the "smooth" things has been meal planning.

For the past few months, I've actually been successfully planning a weekly menu every week! We're focusing on extra fresh fruits and veggies, as both Joshua and I want to be healthier -- and I must say, I do feel better with how we've been eating lately!

Homemade mocha frappuccino recipe

Here's the menu plan I just made out for this coming week:


Homemade Mocha Frappuccinos (for Joshua only; 2 cups per day)

Lots of fruit -- fresh bananas, apples, and pears; frozen blueberries

Toasted and buttered homemade wheat bread OR homemade granola with milk (I've been keeping 2 kinds of homemade granola on hand -- my mom's granola recipe and my favorite Cinnamon Crunch Granola)

Almond coconut granola


Salad (with Romaine lettuce, spinach, carrots, celery, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, shredded cheese, and leftover chicken breast) -- I prepare a huge amount Sunday evening and then Joshua and I eat salad Monday-Friday for lunch

Fresh veggie sticks (carrots, celery, cucumbers, peppers) -- for the kids only

Cheddar cheese slices, mixed nuts, in-shell peanuts, milk -- for the kids only

Homemade wheat bread recipe

Snacks: Roasted almonds, bananas, frozen peas (kids)

my mom's meat loaf recipe


Sunday -- Oven-roasted chicken, baked potatoes, green beans

Monday -- Salmon Potato Casserole, peas, corn

Tuesday --Three-cheese stuffed peppers, garlic bread, green beans

Wednesday -- My Mom's Meatloaf, baked potatoes, green beans

Thursday -- Leftover meatloaf, leftover salmon potato casserole, green beans

Friday -- Easy homemade pizza (x2), cooked carrots, cooked peas, and cheesecake*

Saturday -- Leftover pizza; something from the freezer (burritos, perhaps?); veggies; fresh fruit

*Friday is our 8th anniversary; I'm angling for this chocolate caramel almond cheesecake that Joshua created for our 5th anniversary!

Chocolate caramel almond cheesecake

Meal planning before baby arrives: Main Dishes

Easy lasagna recipe

I've been busy filling my freezer in anticipation of our new baby's arrival! :) We've been eating more fresh veggies for our meals, and the space that was previously occupied by 5-pound bags of Costco vegetables is filled with meals to lighten my load in future weeks. :)

I've already shared my breakfast menus and made-ahead mixes, so it's on to the rest: main dishes and easy meal ideas! :)

I've taken the plunge and frozen a number of fully made casseroles using the "mold technique" with my 8x8-inch glass dishes. Each dish should be one meal for our family, and I've made a variety of things in hopes that we can figure out what we do and don't like in a freezer meal! :)

Chicken lasagna recipe

For the past 4-6 weeks, I've made a double recipe of a dinner casserole a couple times a week (filling a 9x13-inch dish for dinner plus two 8x8-inch dishes for the freezer). This hasn't really been too much extra work (just extra ingredients!!). I use FoodSaver bags to seal all of my freezer food/meals since they are the BEST at preventing freezer burn and keeping food tasting its finest! :)

Three-cheese baked spaghetti recipe

Main dishes completely assembled and frozen:

Easy Lasagna (unbaked)
Burritos with beans, rice, cheese, and beef filling (individually wrapped in foil, then sealed in a freezer Ziplock; will warm in the oven)
Creamy Macaroni and Cheese (unbaked)
Three-Cheese Baked Spaghetti (unbaked)
Beef and Spinach Quiche (fully cooked; will re-warm)
Saucy Broccoli Chicken Bake (unbaked, w/rice on the bottom)
Spinach Rice Casserole (unbaked)
My Mom's Meat Loaf (unbaked)

Saucy Broccoli Chicken Bake recipe

I've also prepared meal ingredients for the freezer. Due to limited freezer space and a preference for freshly-prepared meals, having pre-cooked meat, beans, etc. in the freezer is one of my favorite ways to make cooking "from scratch" so much easier! :)

Meal ingredients in the freezer:

Pre-cooked beef with diced onions (for lasagna, crockpot pizza, stuffed shells, and baked spaghetti)

Pre-cooked beef with onions, green peppers, and taco seasonings (for taco salad, spanish rice with beans, nachos, or burritos)

Pre-cooked pinto beans with Tapatio and salt

Pre-cooked beef with onions and spinach leaves (for quiche)

Leftover diced oven-roasted chicken meat (for cheesy chicken vermicelli, chicken lasagna, chicken pot pie, farmhouse chicken, poppy seed chicken and asparagus, chicken fried rice, or saucy broccoli chicken bake)

Having the meat or beans already cooked, seasoned, and/or diced makes all of the above recipes into "quick and easy" for me! :)

Easy pizza recipe

I also have a list of just plain easy meals. When my freezer is depleted of my fully-made freezer meals, I'll turn to this list for last-minute or not-planned-the-night-before dinners!

My list of easy dinners:

Baked chicken drumsticks
Easy Tuna Noodle Casserole
Grilled burgers
Easy pizza
Beans and rice
Baked beans
Meatloaf and baked potatoes
Rice lasagna
Baked cod or salmon 
Salmon potato casserole
Grilled cheese sandwiches
Italian Cream Cheese Chicken over Pasta

Italian cream cheese chicken over pasta

I had planned to freeze some soups, homemade bagels, pre-made garlic bread, etc. but my freezer space wouldn't accommodate all that. So, I tried to stick with main dishes and main dish ingredients, and will make soups or breads as time and ability allows when the time comes. :)

I feel so blessed to have food prepared ahead in the freezer -- much more food than I had with previous childrens' births. Cooking large amounts of ground beef, making a double batch of something, or just freezing the leftovers (like leftover chicken meat from a roasted chicken!) isn't double the work, with some extra effort and only a few extra dishes to wash. :)

I also tried to only make/plan things we really love to eat! :) I'll have to update after we've tried some of the casseroles, since most of those I have not frozen before. Freezing a casserole took some bravery on my part! :)

Update: I share our opinions on the casseroles we froze that were mentioned in this post

Do any of you have tips to share regarding post-birth meal ideas, freezer meals, or easy (from-scratch) meals? I'd love to have even more ideas! :)


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