There’s really no end to the yummy goodness you can make-ahead and freeze. Doing so can save you time and money, as well as guarantee a home-cooked favorite any night of the week. Over the years, I have experimented with freezing a lot of different items.
Here are my top five items to keep on hand in my freezer:
While I grew up eating canned soup, that’s not been the case for my kids. The canned variety is generally oversalted, oversweetened, and overpriced. Since it’s so easy to make my own, there’s really no reason not to.
I regularly prepare our favorite soups, sometimes two or three varieties at a time, and freeze them in family- and individually-sized portions. It’s super easy to grab a few different pints of soup from the freezer for a quick lunch or supper. They pack well to work as well to reheat in the microwave.
Soups are great to pack on vacation, send to college with your child, or fill the freezer of a new mom or aging parent. Soup is good food. Particularly if you make it ahead of time and stash it in the freezer.
Casseroles are an ultimate comfort food. It speaks my husband’s love language to pull a pan of enchiladas out of the oven. For my kids, it’s my famous Chicken Pot Pie or Lawnmower Taco. It’s even easier to treat their tastebuds when I’ve made a bulk batch of these and stashed them in the deep freeze.
Consider your favorite lasagna, enchilada, quiche, egg bake, or other casserole. Next time you prep it, make two (or more) and freeze the extras. It really doesn't take that much more time, but you'll reap the rewards later.
Marinated or Cooked Chicken
Boneless, skinless chicken breast is one of the most economical proteins here on the West Coast where it’s regularly less than $2/pound. I snatch up big flats of chicken and do one of two things: I package trimmed breast fillets with marinade in a ziptop freezer bag, or I cook it up by poaching or grilling and then I freeze the cooked results.
The fruit of my labor is an easy, ready-to go protein. I can thaw the marinated chicken in the fridge overnight and have it ready to throw on the grill at dinnertime. I can thaw the cooked chicken and toss it into salads, stir it into soups, or tuck it into sandwiches.
Taco and Burrito Fillings
We’ve always been big taco and burrito fans, so it makes sense to keep the fillings on hand for quick and easy suppers. By cooking up bulk batches of seasoned taco meat, pinto beans, or carnitas, I’ve got the makings of many a great dinner. Since these items are already cooked, I can quickly thaw and reheat, lay out tortillas, taco shells, chips, rice or even fried potatoes, and an array of toppings, and dinner is served before I can make a run for the border.
Apple pie is a meal, right? Well, at our house it is, at least on the first day of school when I serve apple pie for breakfast. While it may not be your typical "meal," it sure is nice to have a stash of pies in the freezer.
Every fall, I prep as many pies as I can and store them in our big freezer. This allows me to surprise my family with a fresh-baked pie on cold fall evenings. It takes the load off my Thanksgiving Day prep work since I only need to slide them into the oven on Wednesday night. And it brings a comfort and a touch of sweetness to savor the flavors of fall throughout the cold winter months.
When I’ve got my freezer stocked with these five of my favorite things, all’s right with the world. I can surprise my family with their favorite foods. I can pull a quick dinner off in less time than it would take me to find my car keys and latch some car seats. I can rest a little easier, knowing that if other plans don’t go my way, at least dinner will.
Check out Jessica's book on freezer meals
→ Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook
Visit Jessica's family cooking blog:
→ Good Cheap Eats
(Images: Jessica Fisher)