In the weeks before I went back to work, I started filling up my freezer so that I wouldn’t need to waste any valuable snuggle time cooking in the evenings. It worked great, and we just finished up the last tray this week. I’m working on my grocery list for next weekend to make another few batches. I’ll post some of my favorite recipes as I make them, and today I’ll fill you in on my technique.
Since Paul and I are just two people, and he can’t take most leftovers for lunches in his work van, we struggled with managing leftovers way before PJ came along. This is what I’ve come up with that works for us, and I would love to hear how others handle it in the comments! My main tools are:
– Cling wrap and aluminum foil
– 8″ square foil baking pans
– 1 lb (mini) foil loaf pans
– Gallon freezer bags
A typical recipe that feeds 4-6 gives us dinner on the day I make it, a full pan for dinner another night, and a small pan for a lunch portion. And it takes 0 extra time when I consider that I always pack away leftovers anyway. Not bad, right? And a lot of times when I’m looking to stock the freezer, I just double the recipe and get 3 full dinner pans.
Each recipe is a little different to prepare, but some general tips:
– Precook meats before assembling casseroles
– Try to stay away from recipes that use cream or milk in sauce, they don’t freeze well. Cream or cheese soups are a good substitute.
– Read the recipe a couple of times to decide if you will prepare everything all the way through, or freeze portions with a few steps to go when you’re ready to eat them.
Once we’ve eaten our dinner, I dish the leftovers into the foil pans and let them cool, like this:
Once they are cool, I wrap them in a layer of cling wrap, and then a layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil.
VERY IMPORTANT at this point, write on the foil with a Sharpie:
– What dish it is (helpful to write on the top and the sides since they will be stacked)
– Reheating or finishing instructions
– If there is a side dish or other serving ideas.
I have found that the 8″ and 1 lb loaf pans are perfect for us, but most grocery stores sell a variety of sizes if something else works better for you. An 8″ pan gives us dinner for the two of us with enough leftovers for one or two lunches. Both types of pans can go into the oven once you remove the cling wrap, and they are very easy to peel off the frozen food to put it into the microwave or a skillet for reheating.
This system has bought me quite a few nights of extra baby cuddles – no prep, and a disposable pan so no cleanup either. I’m looking forward to making several new batches next weekend, I’ve got a few good ideas to stock up on!