Some days you just do not have the time or energy to cook. With a little advanced planning you can have a homemade meal even when you are too tired to cook.
I first became interested in freezing meals because of the promise it held for doing less work in the kitchen and less money for food. What mother does not want more time and money? I dutifully bought the book about cooking once a month and studied their suggestions. It only took me two months to realize once a month cooking was not for our family. I did not have the energy or desire to cook for a full day and eat frozen meals most nights of the week.
My exploration into the wonders of frozen foods was not all for nothing. I do not cook for a month at a time, but at any random time you can probably find three or four meals in my freezer, able to be thawed in the microwave and ready to eat in less than an hour. It does save me money and I do not have to eat commercial fast food. Here are some things I learned about freezing meals:
Choose quality containers
Invest in good containers that will go from freezer to oven. I use the Pyrex glass dishes that can be used in the microwave and have a tight sealing rubber lid to prevent freezer burn. Some things I store in freezer jars, but not many.
Plastic freezer bags work well for some things, but can get messy when you try to get the food out. In addition, they need to be laid flat on thier side while freezing to ensure a good shape for storage.
Pay attention to the shape of your container and the space in your freezer. Containers with handles that hang off the end may take extra space. If you have a dish that absolutely must be used for a meal, but do not want to leave the dish in the freezer, line the pan with foil before preparing the food. After the meal is frozen, remove the food and foil from the pan and store in a plastic freezer bag.
When you cook, plan to make extra
When I make lasagna, I do not prepare it in a 9×13 pan because it is too big for my family. Instead I make two or three smaller lasagnas, we eat one that night and the extras get frozen.
Most soups and many baked meals will freeze well. It takes very little extra time to double the recipe so you have one for dinner and one in the freezer. Other meals that work well are shredded barbecues or taco fillings. Pancakes and french toast freeze well, and are easy to reheat for a quick breakfast.
Take advantage of food sales by cooking a favorite recipe in bulk and freezing it in glass dishes or freezer bags. Another great trick is to buy a larger amount of meat (which is usually discounted) and freeze it with the marinade. Put it in the refrigerator in the morning and it will be ready to grill for dinner that night.
Baked goods often freeze well allowing you to enjoy them fresh anytime. Cookie dough can be frozen in individual portions before baking, allowing you to bake only the amount you want at a time. Yeast breads can be frozen before the final rise. Let them thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then rise before baking. Quick breads can be frozen as batter.
Experiment before you freeze
Always try a new recipe before you decide to freeze it. Trust me, you do not want 4 pounds of barbecue that no one likes taking up residence in your freezer.