Monday, August 27, 2012

{Freezer Meals}

Freezer Meals:

It seems like everyone is talking, pinning, and trying this method of in advanced meal prep.

I first tried freezer cooking a couple of months before Grace was born at the end of 2010. Our freezer was tiny but I was able to keep it stocked with plenty of meals and it came in handy, particularly after we became first time parents.

It wasn't all successful though. I learned a couple of lessons on what can and can't (or shouldn't) be frozen. There was a Tortilla Chicken Soup incident that I don't think Ian or I will ever be able to forget. Turns out, cilantro can go rancid when frozen and then thawed.

Lesson learned.

My taste buds will never forgive me for that one.

We have a much larger freezer now and I have officially started freezer cooking for after the arrival of our second baby girl, Sophia. I thought I would share some of my favorite freezer recipes. Even if you aren't expecting a new arrival, freezer cooking can be really helpful, especially as the months of the busy holiday season approach.

There are several different ways to freezer cook:

Batch Freeze Cooking- where you stock up and spend a whole day or an afternoon cooking several meals to freeze.

Crock Pot Freezer Cooking- Where you slice and prepare all of the ingredients ahead of time but do not actually cook the ingredients, simply freeze them together so that you can put them in the crock pot on the day of cooking.

Single Meal Freezer Cooking- Prepare and cook a meal for the sole purpose of freezing it.

Double (or Triple) up Freezer Cooking- My personal preference. On the day that you prepare a meal for your dinner, simply double the ingredients and, in turn, double the results. One meal goes on the table, one goes in the freezer!

You can do whatever way you want, but I usually double or triple my recipe and freeze the extras because I feel that it is most cost effective AND the least stressful. Only one set of dirty dishes, the same amount of prep work (approximately,) and you get to actually eat the food that you prepare on the day that you do the work!

The first freezer meal I have made in the new house is:

Li'l Cheddar Meat Loaves

Now, I know meat loaf isn't everyone's favorite, but I l-o-v-e this recipe. It's got enough other flavors that makes it not too much like just a loaf of meat. It's moist, cheesy, and a hint of sweetness.

A little meatloaf back story. I whole heartedly believe that you love the type of meat loaf that your mom made. My mom makes a mid western style meat loaf and I love it. Ian's mom makes a Louisiana/Southern style meatloaf and he loves it. When we got married, I knew that I would never be able to replicate his mom's meatloaf and I also knew that it wasn't really fair to just keep making my mom's meatloaf (which I couldn't get quite right anyways.) SO, I set out to find our own meatloaf recipe!

I found this recipe on Tasty Kitchen. It is originally from Julie's Eats and Treats and we honestly look forward to this meal every time it comes around.

The directions are for doubling up and freezing one half (one normal portion) of the recipe. Pictures are on the owner's site of the preparation process.

  • 2 whole Egg
  • 1 1/2 cups Milk
  • 2 cups Cheddar Cheese
  • 2 cup Quick Cooking Oats
  • 1 cup Chopped Onion
  • 2 teaspoons Salt
  • 2 pounds Lean Ground Beef
  • 1 1/3 cups Ketchup
  • 1 cups Packed Brown Sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Prepared Mustard 

1. In a bowl beat egg and milk.
2. Stir in cheese, oats, onion and salt.
3. Add beef and mix well.
4. Shape the mixture into 8-12 loaves; place loaves in a greased 13x9x2 inch baking dish.
5. Combine ketchup, brown sugar and mustard. Spoon over loaves.
6. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes or until meat is no longer pink.
7. With remaining meat mixture, spoon into greased muffin tin and cook at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Do not cover with sauce. Will make 12-18 additional loaves (for freezing!)
8. Eat and enjoy the 8-12 loaves for dinner,  let muffin tin meatloaves cool for 30 minutes, then place in a freezer safe container and freeze for later use.

If you have extra sauce, you could always freeze it in a baggie, or you could make another batch of the sauce (ketchup, brown sugar, and mustard,) at the time of reheating the frozen meat loaves.

I tried freezing the sauce in individual disk shapes, thinking it would be easier to grab one or two per loaf if I was only heating up a loaf or two, but it didn't freeze very well.

When using the frozen meat loaves, thaw, top with sauce, and cook for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F. You can reheat them all at once or just a few at a time.

I've also prepared this meal for freezing and not baked them first. They turned out fine but I am choosing to cook things thoroughly this time around, just to be safe.

We love this meal with mashed potatoes, green beans, yeast rolls, and sauteed squash!

Stay tuned for more of our favorite freezer meals!


Lauren said...

oh i so need to be better at this! this would save so much time...maybe just a little bit of motivation is what i need!

Emily said...

This sounds delicious, I am excited to try it!! :)

Emily Powell said...

I am for sure going to do this kind of prep for baby number 2. I'm pretty sure all I did was sleep and nurse when G was born...I could never remember to eat. It was terrible!

Rachel and John said...

Yum. I freaking love meatloaf. I've never had a meatloaf I didn't love. I'm totally going to try this one because anything with cheese in it is great in my books! Thanks for sharing!

I want to freezer cook before William's due date in December but if I start now I know that I will end up using the dinner's before then. That's what happened last time!

Cindy said...

I'm totally pinning this! I've always thought the same thing - our mothers make very different meat loaves, and I've tried a couple to find "our" meatloaf (even though I wasn't consciously doing it for that reason). So I'm going to try this one and freeze a batch! :) Thanks!

Julie said...


Thanks for the feature! Freezing this is a great idea and I should do this more often, but I never seem to. Look forward to peaking around you blog :)

Julie @ Julie's Eats & Treats