As part of my preparations to welcome the arrival of our baby in the Summer, I am designating June as my month to fill the freezer with ready to cook and partially prepared meals. I was inspired by a blog post I saw about using the freezer to your advantage with batch cooking and preparing ahead (I can't find it now!).
I've gotten off to a lip-smacking start already with two packages of meatballs, two of honey-lime chicken skewers and one each of shepherds pie and fish pie mix. I'm keeping a running tally of what is in there and what is needed to complete the meal, such as rice, vegetables, mashed potato topping and so on.
The plan is that I can meal plan using that list as heavily as I need to once the baby is here and my husband has returned to work after his leave, to lighten the load a little! The shopping receipts have shocked me a little the last couple of weeks until I remembered that I was buying double of some ingredients in order to make one and freeze some. I'm going to plan several meals a week that I can do that with through June, including trying out a few things to see if they freeze OK or not!!
To make it easier I have the following things in stock:
- Disposable roasting pans to put whole meals into as I don't have enough casserole dishes to store in the freezer. They are very shallow which should work great for defrosting and reheating and reduce the risk of cold spots (plus get dinner on the table quicker!!)
- Ziploc freezer bags - great for storing sauces, part meals such as the fish pie mix and marinaded meats in as all the air can be squeezed out and they can be flattened down to stack neatly making the most of the space.
- Permanent markers to label and date, although I strongly doubt there will be anything left there after three months!!
- Plenty of tin foil and cling film to double wrap meals to prevent freezer burn damaging the food and ruining the taste.
Here are some of the meals I am making and freezing:
- Honey lime chicken skewers
- Sausage and fennel meatballs and lentils
- Puffed salmon and spinach fish pie
- Hob-to-table moussaka
- Salmon and lemon rice pastry parcel
- Mexican beef and potato pie
- Mexican bake
- Bacon, onion and potato bake
- Beef chilli
- Pizza bases
- Bean stuffed peppers
- Shepherds pie
I'm also experimenting with freezing waffles and breakfast muffins as the children and I like to have a treat breakfast one of the weekend mornings when my husband is on nights and I want to continue that!
Utilising the freezer on a more long term basis to make menu planning and cooking easier has long held an attraction for me and I would like to get to grips with it. It often seems to involve crock pot meals from freezer to crock though and I've not had much success with that when I've tried it. I picked up a couple of pins recently on my recipes board on pinterest, specifically this one and this one which have encouraged me to have another go sometime..... perhaps in the Autumn!