Freezer Food

March 21, 2013

Do you stock your freezer with meals ready to eat?

By Raleigh-Elizabeth. 1957 GE advertisement found on Etsy.

I have a friend who makes Martha look like an amateur. She’s one of those intimidatingly organized domestic goddesses who makes an art of holiday decorating, keeps an immaculate home, looks like a million dollars even with a newborn in the house, and makes gorgeous clothes for her equally gorgeous children. She even smocks.

So it should come as no surprise that she also has feeding her family down to a routine so polished that even Henry Ford take note. Her secret? Freezer meals. One Sunday every month, she devotes herself to a day of cooking. Pre-cooking, really. Followed by ziploc bagging, labeling, and freezing. All to get the freezer stocked with breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks for the family so they can eat well without blinking for the foreseeable future.

She’s Once A Month Mom‘s most prodigious protege.

While I might spend most Sundays reveling in after-church sweatpants with the New York Times instead, every so often, I go on a freezer food binge. I love having a couple of great recipes in my back pocket for delicious freezer meals that I can take to friends who’ve just had babies or neighbors in need. I take comfort in knowing that if I really don’t want to cook, there’s bound to be something in the freezer we can pop into the oven and know counts as a meal. And mostly, I like knowing that if I come home totally exhausted, my family will have more than popcorn and baby carrots for dinner. (Why no, that’s never happened to me before.)

My favorite go-to freezer recipe is an apple and cherry pork loin, slightly modified from the original Once A Month Mom recipe. A simple recipe, the pork loin is slow cooked with apples, cherries, onion, and celery until it’s succulent and soft and you’re wondering if it’s ever going to make it into the freezer at all. I usually substitute white wine for the apple juice and add dried apricots, freshly cracked pepper, and thyme, but truthfully, you can cook this recipe as is and it’s going to be fantastic.

It’s intended for the crock pot, but my crock pot and I aren’t on speaking terms. Instead, I assemble it, braise it slowly in our dutch oven, and freeze it once it’s on the rarer side of done. Reheating is simple: with great care and tenderness, I take the thawed pork loin, throw it on a microwave-safe plate, and toss it into the microwave. (I’m so gourmet.) I’d be lying if I didn’t also admit that I frequently use Uncle Ben’s microwave rice with this. And salad in a bag.

But it’s still one of those meals so delicious my husband asks for it on a regular basis.

I’ve toted this pork loin to countless church suppers, bereaved friends, parents of new babies, and sick neighbors in need. But mostly, I’ve consumed vast amounts of it myself. It’s a great freezer recipe: the kind that doesn’t break the bank, keeps well, and takes little to no thought to get on the table when you finally realize you’re plum out of ideas for dinner that don’t involve the microwave.

I might never be the kind of mom who can sit down and make a month’s worth of food at once or hand-smock darling outfits for my children, but every once in awhile, I can put together a decent freezer meal that, when push comes to shove, saves the day every time. And might just be on our dinner table tonight.

Do you keep any meals stocked in your freezer? What do you bring to friends with new babies or those in need?

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Shannon { A Mom's Year } March 21, 2013 at 9:15 am

This sounds delicious! I love the concept of once-a-month cooking, but haven’t managed to dive in yet. Some day….

My go-to dinner to bring to someone who needs it is Grandma Marilyn’s Neopolitan casserole. It’s just about the only thing all six members of my family like (sigh), so I figure it’s a safe bet.

http://www.amomsyear.com/2012/10/05/sympathy-meals-neopolitan-casserole/

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2 Raleigh-Elizabeth March 21, 2013 at 10:04 am

That looks delicious!

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3 Summer March 21, 2013 at 9:20 am

D’oh, I really need to give this a try. I live alone, so I’m pretty sure one meal would get me through a month. :\

Also, I just read your crock pot post. My whole world is spinning right now!

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4 Raleigh-Elizabeth March 21, 2013 at 10:05 am

My husband geo-batched (military term for ‘we live in separate states due to this latest relocation’) for a while, and so I did a lot of cooking for one. I’d do a big dish on Sunday and rely on it to get me through the week – not terribly interesting, but super, super easy. (And a lot more conducive to fun after-work activities with friends and still consuming a healthy dinner!)

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5 Martha March 21, 2013 at 9:21 am

Great post, but I couldn’t get past a friend who makes Martha look like an amateur. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE? :)

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6 Raleigh-Elizabeth March 21, 2013 at 10:06 am

I feel like once you start smocking and do it all with a house full of kids, she should be asking you for tips. Especially when you’re just dynamite-looking through all of it. I do things in sweatpants. Sorry, vanity. I knew you once.

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7 Tricia (Once A Month Mom) March 21, 2013 at 9:35 am

I think I need to meet this woman that is my latest and greatest protege! Can you introduce us? :) I’m serious. I’m also glad you love some of our recipes so much as well. That pork loin is amazing!

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8 Raleigh-Elizabeth March 21, 2013 at 10:03 am

Super fan crush! Once a Month Mom!

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9 Grace@ Sense and Simplicity March 21, 2013 at 9:59 am

I don’t do freezer cooking as I often find I don’t like the quality of the food after it has been frozen, but what I do do is have a well stocked pantry and a slew of very easy dinners so I’m good to go in about 30-40 minutes most nights.

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10 Raleigh-Elizabeth March 21, 2013 at 10:07 am

I rely on pantry staples on a daily basis, too. They’re great for weeknight meals!

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11 Rachel March 21, 2013 at 10:32 am

I get ya! I’ve been ruthlessly editing my bookmarked recipes – now that I have a seven-month old, the idea of spending three hours on a meal (after the necessary two-hour grocery shop for the recipe’s 25 ingredients) has minus-zero appeal!

My go-to recipe is Paul Bertolli’s cauliflower soup via Food 52′s Genius Recipes site. (I have tried over ten of their recipes and Kristen Migliore doesn’t exaggerate when she calls them genius.)

As for a useful crowdpleaser recipe that people swoon over time and time again: Martha Stewart’s (oh, irony!) macaroni cheese. I’m too lazy to use the breadcrumbs so the recipe serves 8 instead of 12 with the omission. I know it’s heresy to admit this but I greatly dislike mac ‘n’ cheese so can never quite understand the fuss but, hey, who’s complaining about being praised by friends for their meal?!

Thanks again for your pragmatic posts. That might not sound like a compliment but it is!

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12 Raleigh-Elizabeth March 21, 2013 at 11:26 am

I will totally take “pragmatic” as a compliment – my mother just needs to see this in print to see that SOMEONE out there sees me as pragmatic! (There’s just one of you! But still! A SMALL VICTORY!) But I have to tell you – I’m such a Food 52 devotee. It’s always good to meet another foodie-in-arms! (Or foodie-in-kitchen? Whatever.) I haven’t made that soup before but I will this weekend. THANK YOU for the recommendation!

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13 Jane March 21, 2013 at 10:59 am

I make a phenomenal “whatever’s in the fridge” stew — usually it’s sauteed onions, then chicken, then brown rice/quinoa/barley, whatever veggies we have on hand (green/red/yellow peppers, carrots, tomatoes, turnips, sweet potato, green beans), and a variety of spices (whatever feels good). I’ve taken it to new parents, sick friends, etc. It’s great comfort food, wonderful even after reheating several days later, with tender chicken, and it’s still fairly healthy.

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14 Julie March 21, 2013 at 11:03 am

Soup! I made a double batch for my family and our friends last weekend. poach two bone-in chx breasts in stock (or water, in a pinch) with two cut up (not diced, chunks) carrots, a stalk of celery and a quartered onion. Add a bay leaf, 5 peppercorns, a nub of ginger and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes and shut it off. Leave it covered for an hour. The meat continues cooking through. After the chicken is ready, strain the broth and pull apart the meat. If the veggies are over-cooked you can add new ones. When you want to eat, bring back to a gentle boil and add 1/2c of rice, barley, quick-cooking farro or pasta. I like to add baby spinach and frozen peas too.

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15 Raleigh-Elizabeth March 21, 2013 at 11:28 am

YUM. I love adding farro to this! Great share!

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16 Julie March 21, 2013 at 11:43 am

Ack — I forgot to mention to taste and add salt! TJ’s has quick-cooking farro. Also, try quinoa!

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17 Melissa March 21, 2013 at 11:08 am

I am on my thrift month of Onceamonthmom cooking! I love it and its really helped me a working mom end the frantic it’s 6pm I have 5 mins to get dinner on the table or my kids will go ballistic moments. I don’t cook everything for the month probably 2-3 weeks at a time. i like fresh veggies and fish and we buy and cook those same day. but it lasts us several weeks with variety to keep everyone happy.

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18 Raleigh-Elizabeth March 21, 2013 at 11:29 am

Hooray! I’m so glad it’s working for you! We can love it together : )

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19 Ma March 21, 2013 at 12:11 pm

I like to take a dish of Shepard’s Pie to a mom “post new baby”. It has all the main ingredients of a meal in one bite and it’s easy to keep in the fridge and warm up in a snap… you’ve got the meat, potatoes and veggies all right there. I don’t have freezer meals (except for frozen pizzas in a box) but I’ll make something to keep in the fridge for a couple of days.

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20 Lauren March 21, 2013 at 1:11 pm

This post came at just the right time- I love having meals in the freezer and was just looking for more ideas today for things to cook ahead, as we found out we will be traveling to complete our international adoption in just three weeks! Yikes! I am looking forward to trying the pork- it sounds amazing.
My go-to meal to take to friends is this soup: http://plumfieldshop.blogspot.com/2010/12/reason-246-to-have-soup-for-dinner.html
It’s my personal favorite, freezes well, and makes a ton!

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21 Raleigh-Elizabeth March 21, 2013 at 1:28 pm

What happy news! Congratulations to your happy family!

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22 Karen @ SiciLean March 21, 2013 at 4:04 pm

This is one of my favorite freezer meals, but to be honest, the house smells so heavenly while it’s baking that it often doesn’t make it to the freezer ;)
http://www.sicilean.com/2011/03/rosemary-and-garlic-chicken.html

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23 Justine @ The Lone Home Ranger March 21, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Right on, Raleigh-Elizabeth. I look forward to your posts, always an interesting read!

I’m with you 100% on having a freezer stocked equals more than popcorn and baby carrots for dinner. I have become attached to my chest freezer and love its miraculous ability to produce dinners I forgot I put in it. One of my favorites for potlucks and for those in need is spaetzle. http://www.lonehomeranger.com/2012/05/recalling-my-german-heritage-making.html

Next to chicken soup, it is absolutely the most comforting food I’ve eaten and totally worth the effort for special gatherings. Now if only I had a steady supply of fresh kielbasa.

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24 Regina March 21, 2013 at 11:06 pm

I can’t do the once a month cooking thing because my freezer is too tiny! I do cook once a week, something I started doing when my toddler started eating solids. I bought Annabel Karmel’s Baby and Toddler Food cookbook and tried every recipe marked with a snowflake (meaning good for freezing). It’s a good thing that the toddler recipes are good enough for grown-ups to eat, because yes, I have been known to steal from the freezer stash for dinner!

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25 Olya March 22, 2013 at 8:35 am

My problem is that I keep forgetting what is it that I threw into the freezer. I think a great recipe like the one you linked to is maybe the right way to start – make just ONE thing that’s great for reheating and get used to having THAT on hand!

I lean into the pantry and frozen ground beef/chicken strips a lot on last-minute cooking. And also cut up cheese and ham with cherry tomatoes. I just call it a Mediterranean meal :D

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26 Jillian in Italy March 22, 2013 at 9:19 am

Considering the fact that freezers in Italy are about the size of a shoe box I can’t really manage to get on the freezer meal bandwagon (I’d like to though). But I do remember cooking and freezing everything in site a few days before my twin daughters were born. I just knew that I wouldn’t have the time or energy to cook anything for the first months of being a mom of multiples.

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