Sunday, April 13, 2008

Menu Plan Monday & Freezer Tips


Joy, from FiveJs, asked some questions the other day about how I freeze meals in the freezer. So, I've decided to answer her questions in a post combined with my Menu Plan for the week. I've moved slowly into freezing things and not everything turns out the way I'd like, but it has really made a difference in my life. I love knowing that I can always turn to the freezer on hectic days.
I haven't yet purchased any special cookware for freezer meals because I wanted to make sure this was really going to stick. I might some day, but for now things have been working okay just by buying a few disposable aluminum pans, assorted freezer bags, and reusing plastic containers. I try to be careful with the aluminum pans so that I can reuse them a few times before throwing them away. But every once in a while, I'll slice through the bottom of a pan when cutting a lasagna. I guess that's where the glass pans that can go from freezer to oven would work well.
Currently, my freezer is pretty full, but I really don't have as many meals in there as I'd like to by the middle of the month. I might try to add a few this week, or at the very least, avoid using what is in there unless really necessary. Here are the current contents of my freezer:
1) 10 bags veggies (mixed, corn, peas, broccoli, spinach, and stir-fry veggies),
2) 1 1/2 loaves bread,
3) 2 pkgs. hamburger buns,
4) 2 cartons ice cream,
5) 5 qt. sized freezer bags filled with 3c. each of my veggie marinara sauce,
6) 32 oz. yogurt container of sloppy joe meat,
7) 15 tuna cakes in a gal. freezer bag, 3 qt. sized bags of ham slices from our Easter ham,
8) 1 polish sausage,
9) 2 32 oz. sour cream containers of split pea & ham soup,
10) 12 meatloaf cups in a gal. sized freezer bag,
11) 2 batches of homemade cinnamon roll dough, each in a gal. sized bag,
12) 2 qt. sized bags of chocolate chip cookie dough,
13) 32 oz. container of bbq meatballs
14) 1 gal. sized bag of chicken breasts (From a 5 lb. pkg. I cut each breast in half, place individually in a sandwich bag, and then put all the bags into the freezer bag. This way I can pull out just a few easily.)
15) 2 1.5lb. pkgs of ground beef, straight from the meat department
16) 2 lbs. chicken legs, straight from the meat department
17) 2 qt. sized bags of onion, green pepper, zucchini, and garlic saute side dish
18) 1 gal. sized bag with chicken in a creamy gravy sauce that can be used in pot pie, chicken and dumplings, or a chicken casserole
19) 1 aluminum pan of lasagna
20) assorted containers of soups from my Grandmother
21) 2 qt. sized bags of 1/2 lb cooked ground beef with onions and green pepper
22) 2 gal. sized bags of pancakes (enough for 3 or 4 breakfasts for the kids)
23) 1 gal. sized bag french toast
So that's it for right now. I will cook the lasagna straight from the freezer for about 2 hours. The meatloaf cups and tuna cakes will be put on a cookie sheet straight from the freezer and warmed in the oven, although they both taste fine just microwaved also. The reused plastic containers of food will all be thawed first and then either warmed on the stove or in the microwave. The other cooked food in the plastic bags will be thawed in the microwave and then used like fresh in other meals. I think everything else is self-explanatory.
All of the entrees have been added to the freezer by just doubling (or more) a meal I'm already making. This is the easiest way to do it for me as it really doesn't require much more work. One of my biggest flops so far was black bean and rice burritos. They were just too dry, so I might try it again with quite a bit more sauce added to the filling and as a topping. I've also figured out a trick with mashed potatoes. They reheat really well if I thicken them a little with either some sour cream or cream cheese while mashing them. Also, when reheating, if the potatoes seem too runny, they just need to be cooked longer, and the extra liquid gets absorbed and the potatoes turn out as good as fresh. Some other meals I like to have in the freezer are Shepherd's Pie, Chili, homemade chicken fingers, calzones, Swedish meatballs, Chicken enchiladas and chicken and black bean taco filling.
Sorry for the rambling. This method is still fairly new to me (about 9 months) and I have a hard time discussing it concisely, obviously! Anyhow, here is my menu plan for this week:
Breakfast
M - French toast
T - Baked oatmeal and bananas
W - Scrambled eggs and toast
Th - Cereal and yogurt parfaits
S - Cinnamon rolls
Su - Glazed poppy-seed bread
Lunch
M - Pizza grilled cheese, apple slices
T - Tuna or egg salad sandwiches, peaches, pretzels
W - Quesadillas, yogurt, black bean & corn salad
Th - Mac & cheese, pineapple and mandarin oranges
F - Turkey and cheese sandwiches, pear slices
S - Soup (1 container from freezer, stretched with noodles or rice)
Su - Hummus w/homemade pitas, carrot and green pepper sticks, apple slices
Dinner
M - Cheesy pasta casserole
T - Chicken fricassee, polenta, broccoli with cheese sauce
W - Tortilla pie
Th - Polish sausage, broasted potatoes, corn skillet
F - Red beans and rice, corn muffins, cinnamon apples
S - Kids - leftovers, E & K chicken wontons/cream cheese puffs (date night at home!)
Su - Ranch ham casserole, dill bread
Get even more ideas by checking out others menu plans for the week at Laura's.
Also, be sure to stop by FiveJ's. Joy's blog is full of wonderful homeschooling resources as well as lots of great content. I so appreciate her writing and can completely relate to everything she posts about!

10 comments:

Joy 12:03 AM  

Kate,

Thanks so much for answering my questions so comprehensively!

Now I have one more question (for right now, anyway). I noticed you have cinnamon roll dough in your freezer. Would you mind sharing your recipe? I'm going to attempt homemade cinnamon rolls this week but I don't yet have a recipe :)

Thanks, and of course, I absolutely love your blog!

Joy

A Juggling Mum 7:13 AM  

Wow you are so organised, I wish I had some meals in the freezer!

Have a great week!

Rachel xxx
A Juggling Mum

PS - I have a competition running at the moment for a free blog design. If you win you can use it yourself or give it to a friend :)

Laura 9:17 AM  

Your menu sounds great! Okay...starting tomorrow...I was going to begin posting some recipes that are great for making ahead and freezing...(how did you KNOW?!) Sometime during this series, I'll probably link to this post, because you have lots of great ideas!! Would that be okay?!

~TAMY 3 Sides of Crazy~ 9:59 AM  

Great post. I haven't had chicken fricassee in years. You might like to know about a meme I like to do on Fridays called Freezer Food Friday at
http://mjpuzzlemom.wordpress.com/category/home-making/freezer-food-friday/
MJ is always looking for new participants and you can get some great new recipes and tips too.

Anonymous,  1:04 PM  

Hello. Sounds great this week. Do you like the breakfast cookies alot? Do kids like them too? Are they soft or hard? My family seems to be so picky with cookies that I never know what kind they like. Has to be soft and chewy! Thanks in advance. rkcsilva@yahoo.com

Sarah 1:07 PM  

Yum! Looks like a great menu and a great week!

Best,
Sarah

PS - Just a tip about freezing meals in Pyrex . . . if you only have a few pans and need to use them more frequently, line the Pyrex with foil (a few overlapping sheets work best, just in case), put your food in it, freeze, and once hard frozen, you can pop the foil-contained food out and put it back in your freezer in it's "foil pan" and your Pyrex pan can be used in your house. When you are ready to cook the frozen food, just pop it back in the original pan and reheat. Hope this helps!

Kate 1:19 PM  

Laura - Feel free to link here anytime. I can't wait to read your recipes! Your webite is becoming invaluable for me.

Anon - We all really love the breakfast cookies, adults and kids. They turned out soft and chewy for me.

Sarah - That's a great tip. I have done that once or twice before, but I always seem to forget about it. Thanks so much.

Cajunchic 9:20 PM  

Thanks for that post. I have asked hubby for a deep freezer for Mother's Day just so I can do this. this post will help quite a bit.

~TAMY 3 Sides of Crazy~ 2:14 PM  

You are not alone asking about it, so I did a post with the recipe and the picture I took when I made it last. I hope you like it. Have a great week.
http://www.blogger.com/post-edit.g?blogID=6474750727493827160&postID=3955682680444018660
Smiles,
Tamy
3sidesofcrazy

marye 9:36 PM  

It is awesome to have stuff made ahead! I do alot of OAMC...very helpful

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