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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!! :)

Comments

thank you!

I think you were reading my mind....my baby is due next month and just yesterday I re-read your post about the freezer meals you made before your baby came, because I've been looking for more ideas as I get our meals prepared for the freezer. I was going to write and ask you for an update of what worked and what didn't....and here it is, the next day! Thank you so much for sharing.

Tammy's picture

You're welcome! :)

You're welcome! :)

I made burritos before my

I made burritos before my son was born too and they turned out great! They made a quick, healthy, and filling lunch for me.

This is a great resource. Thanks for sharing!

Tammy's picture

I thought the burritos were

I thought the burritos were especially time-efficient, as we like them best when filled with a variety of things (rice, beans, meat, cheese) and I cook all those things from scratch/dry, so assembling the burritos and freezing them means it's easier to have a good variety at a moment's notice! :)

Thanks for the update on Freezer Meals

I wondered about freezing pasta dishes and whther the pasta would be limp/ mushy and or dry. We too prefer fresh, but I can also see the benefit of having freezer meals on hand for certain seasons of life, or even for a night when you are busy.

Thanks Tammy!

Saryn

Tammy's picture

Adjusting meals for the freezer

Saryn -- another thing I thought of was that if I knew I was going to freeze the meal, I could adjust the recipe slightly. For lasagna or baked spaghetti, I think I should add some extra sauce or water. For macaroni and cheese, perhaps some extra water or milk in the mixture. Making a few adjustments might make the frozen dinner taste closer to fresh!

And I am really liking being able to use a meal from the freezer once or twice a week... it frees up so much more time in my day!

foodsaver

I love the foodsaver, I even use it for camping, so I can preprep some food to make it easier and quicker. It also keeps food from becoming water logged in the cooler. Its great for buying bulk meats and fish to freeze. Wow I can't believe Moshe is already 3 months old feels like just yesterday you had him.

Interesting about your thoughts on lasagna

I've often frozen lasagna prior to baking and neither I, my family nor my guests have noticed a difference. I wonder if the difference is the recipe, our palates or our expectations?

Tammy's picture

I'm not completely sure,

I'm not completely sure, but... Joshua and I both are rather observant when it comes to food I guess! We pay close attention to what we're eating or how our food turned out... and Joshua has a great nose :P :) Not that I can't enjoy a less-than-perfect meal... many people have said Joshua should get a job as a food critic though because he is very good at analyzing and tasting foods! :)

At the beginning of the

At the beginning of the month, I helped my sister make a boat-load of freezer meals. She was incredulous at first but being a homeschooling mama of 4 she gave it a try. Three weeks later and she is a convert! She's commented to me several times "It is SOOOOO great pulling XYZ out of the freezer."

Erin
www.dutchgirldiary.blogspot.com

Cooking for meal giving

Today, I was just today thinking about what meals are best for freezing as I was needing to fix my friend, who is pregnant and laid up for awhile, a meal for her family (don't know if they will be eating it today or freezing it). I came on here to find something suitable and voila your post - good timing.

Do you mind if I ask a question for you or anyone else reading this? What do you do when fixing a meal for gifting but do not know the families food preferences? I am getting gun shy about fixing people meals anymore because I worry that with picky eaters the food will be wasted. I do find out allergies and if they are big vegi eaters but it is hard to ask about every possible ingredient. For example, today I ended up making your cheesy spaghetti bake figuring that there was very little that could be offencive to anyone (my family likes it). Well, as I was finishing it up one of her kids staying at my house for the day mentioned that half of the family detests cottage cheese. AUGH. I explained that it sort of bakes in and you can't really taste it and she agreed that it smelled WONDERFUL so I went ahead and sent it anyway. Any thoughts?? What do you do?

Thanks, Betsy M

Tammy's picture

Making meals for others -- allergies, dislikes, etc...

I actually always talk to the people before making a meal for them (whether it's a gift meal for them to eat at home, or coming over for dinner).

I ask about allergies, and about foods they don't like. If it's for people with a lot of allergies/dislikes I usually ask what some of their favorite foods are (and make one of those) or consider their needs/requests and then mention a couple different meals that might fit and let them choose one.

About the cottage cheese scenario you mentioned -- I would say it's most likely okay in a recipe like the cheesy spaghetti since it is not a main flavor and only half of the family dislikes cottage cheese (plain? or completely, all together, can't stand a bit in any way shape or form?!) AND you didn't know ahead of time anyway.

I don't ask about every single ingredient, either... we have some friends who mentioned recently that they don't like garlic, but I have served them meals with garlic in the main dish and they didn't notice?! (And no, they weren't just being polite...)

And sometimes people realize they actually don't mind a little of it in something... like, my sisters and mom say they dislike Parmesan cheese but I have used it in meals when they were present and as long as it's not the MAIN flavor, they're fine with it...

I recently made brussels sprouts for guests and was glad to hear that it is a favorite vegetable of one of their children! Another child just ate 1 bite. Oh, well... we can't always make everyone 100% happy, can we?! :)

I guess I'm not saying I intentionally make foods my guests don't like... but after asking for allergy info and foods they just plain don't like -- I just take off from there! :)

I can not believe he is 3

I can not believe he is 3 months old now.Seems like yesterday you had him.How is the van working out for you?I have been excidedly(Is that a word?)waiting for a post about that :)

Tammy's picture

I know! I haven't posted

I know! I haven't posted pictures or much personal stuff lately, have I? I keep thinking I'll have time over the weekend some week, and then I never do... :P I will have to write a family update soon! :)

burritos

Is it just me? I can't get the link to the burritos to work. I'm really excited about finding the recipe!

Tammy's picture

Link to burritos recipe

Thanks for letting me know -- I fixed that link! :)

Links not working for anyone else??

Firstly...thank-you Tammy for all of the great info., I woulda never thunk about 'pre-freezing' meals in my glass pans and then transferring them into Foodsavers bags, what a GREAT idea!!

I was also wondering if anyone else might be having problems with any of the links? I keep getting 'this page does not exist' whenever I try to click on the #2 recipe for the burritos? They look sooo yum!

Quick question

I'm busy stuffing the freezer for upcoming little one...well, for us to eat after the upcoming birth of our little one and have a quick question.

When you say you froze the saucy chicken bake unbaked with rice on the bottom does that mean you just froze the chicken/sauce mix and will be making rice later or did you cook rice and freeze that in a layer under the sauce mix? So it will all bake together when you thaw it out....does that make sense? I'm excited to add a few of your ideas to our stash!

I've got a lot of meals made already, but am hoping to get even more done in this last few weeks. It was one of the best things I did to prepare for Little Guy's birth and I told myself that I would do it with every baby we had...Baby 2 is coming soon and the freezer is getting really full again! It sure helps when Daddy doesn't cook and no one really brings meals. Makes Mommy's life a lot, lot easier!

Thanks for the update,
Heather

Tammy's picture

Chicken and rice

Hi Heather!

For the Saucy Chicken Broccoli Bake, I put a layer of cooked rice in the bottom of the dish, then the [very lightly steamed -- not overcooked] broccoli and chicken, topped with the sauce and some cheese. At that point, instead of baking it in the oven, I froze it. When it thawed, I baked it according to the instructions in the recipe. :)

burittos

I'm going to try your burrito recipe, but could you explain in an easy way, how do you fold them and them not come open?

Tammy's picture

Folding burritos

Sure! :)

I put a strip of fillings in the middle of the tortilla. NOT over-filling is the key to getting it successfully wrapped, but we do like a lot of filling inside, so I use at least 10-inch size tortillas.

I fold the bottom up over the filling, then fold the sides in, and finish rolling the burrito up.

I place the burrito seam-side-down on a small piece of foil and wrap securely so the foil holds it shut while it's frozen and during baking.

My friend Bethany has pictures of how she does hers, too! :)

folding burritos

thanks so much for your quick reply Tammy, I want to try these this weekend. ( also, I looked at your friends pictures, and that helped too)

Recipe Notes

Thanks for adding notes to each link saying how it turned out. I love having a few meals in my freezer but when searching for new recipes, I always wonder what they will really taste like once unthawed and cooked.

Thanks for the update!

I always wonder how "freezer" meals come out when reheated, so thank you for this update! I've been thinking about trying to make some but am never really sure what will come out best. Maybe it's time to give it a try (especially with our first child on the way! A little late now, though, only 8 weeks left!)

dairy & gluten

I enjoy your site as it gives me cooking inspiration, but one problem I'm running into is our family's sensitivity to dairy and gluten. I'd really like to prepare meals ahead of time, particularly the kind that can be frozen, but most recipes I come across, including the ones on your site, have lots of cheese and gluten products (wraps, pasta, etc.). I'm sure if I looked around more on your site, I'd find enough non-dairy, non-gluten recipes to make it work, but off the top of your head can you think of some, or direct me on your site to certain posts?

We are gluten free and I

We are gluten free and I make a lot of Tammy's recipes making a few substitutions if necessary. Of course I don't go making her bread recipe or a lot of the baked goods, but the main and side dishes usually end up naturally GF or I can easily sub corn starch/arrow root powder/GF all purpose flour for the wheat flour called for in the recipe. I have even made one of her cakes using a GF all purpose flour and it turned out great! We are not dairy free, but I would think you could use almond/soy/coconut milk in place of the milk and any type of DF cheese for the cheese or skip the cheese all together.

Katie
www.glutenfreefoodstorage.net

Burritos

What is the time and temp in the oven for both the frozen or just made burritos. My husband loves the freezer burritos and i'd love to make some for him.
Also, I love you're site i'm always making things from here. Yesterday i made the jalepeno tortillas and today is another batch of pepperoni. Thank you so much!

thank you

I am 27 weeks along and I just love everything that you have put together keep up the good work going to recommand your site to all my friends

Amount of Freeze?

I am due next month and just starting to plan some meals that I will start freezing soon. I noticed there are a lot of veteran moms out there and as a first time mom, I am wondering how much to freeze? I plan to factor in four meals per week- with summer I imagine my family will be grilling a lot. so I plan to purchase some cuts of meat that my husband or dad can throw on the grill. That said, how many weeks should I factor for freezing? I have no idea what to expect in terms of being absent from the kitchen with a newborn. Thank you!

how big is your freezer???

Hi...

You will be glad for all that you can put away....but try to do at least 6 weeks worth. You won't feel like cooking till you and your new little one get into some sort of routine for nursing and sleeping. The first few weeks are so tiring and exciting. Then things will start to get settled in, and it'll be easier to get back into the kitchen! Keep sandwich supplies handy too!

Good Luck!

Fix Freeze Feast

Awesome book with great ideas for preparing freezer meals using bulk shopping (such as Costco) - I checked one out from the library and copied the recipes I liked best - lots of steak, chicken and pasta ideas. Can't recall who wrote it but I'm sure a quick google search will find it!

I know this post isn't new,

I know this post isn't new, but I was thought I could share a tip (or a recipe if you want it, just send me a message on FB - "Tiffany Lee"). We make meatloaf "muffins" and freeze them and they are delicious reheated! I typically bake them with aluminum baking cups/liners in a muffin tin and after they're cooled, throw them in a freezer bag or a storage container. We take out as many as we'd like, remove foil liner and pop in the microwave for a few minutes!

Mocha Frappuccino Question

About how much vanilla protien powder do you add to your mocha frappuccino? I have made the Mocha Frappuccino several times without protein powder and LOVE it. However, I'm starting to work out and could use the extra protein. I don't want to add too much and have to throw it out. So, I figured since you add protein to yours, you could give me a jumping off point. :) Thanks for any help.

Freezer cooking

Just started my journey heading for the whole oamc regime. Not as popular here in the UK. I watched your freeze and reuse your baking dish on you tube thank you so much worked like a charm

A
X

Thanks

Thanks for adding notes to each link saying how it turned out. I love having a few meals in my freezer but when searching for new recipes, I always wonder what they will really taste like once unthawed and cooked.

Thaw time?

Love how your articles continue to be useful over the years!

Just wondering, how much thaw time do you give your frozen casseroles before putting them in the oven? Are they all generally at 350 until bubbly through the glass? (Except burritos of course...)

Thanks!

Thaw time?

Love how your articles continue to be useful over the years!

Just wondering, how much thaw time do you give your frozen casseroles before putting them in the oven? Are they all generally at 350 until bubbly through the glass? (Except burritos of course...)

Thanks!

Meat in burritos link?

I clicked on your link for the burritos recipe, but there wasn't any meat. Would you mind posting the recipe that also has meat in it? Also, once frozen, (and it looks like your freezing these before they are cooked, it that right?), what do you do to get them unfrozen and hot? Do you thaw in the fridge, counter, or just have a long baking time? If it's thaw in the fridge, how long does it take to thaw? And then at what temp and time do you bake each of them? Thanks so much. It's really hard to find freezer recipes that include this type of basic information. I have so much to learn :)

Thank you

I am not an expectant Mom...I am retired...just hubby and me. I don't like being in the kitchen all the time but I tire of fast food. So I am happy to have found your site, recipes and tips. Thank you!

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