You may have heard that it's hard to find time to shower when you have a new baby. It's true. It's also hard to find time (or energy) to cook and then also clean. Although we were very fortunate to have friends and family bring us meals the first few weeks this, of course, didn't happen 7 days a week. So, we were really thankful that we had decided to prepare some homemade frozen meals before our baby arrived.
I'm a lucky lady for many a reason but the specific reason I'm referring to now is that my husband is the cook of the family (and because he's the cook, he's also the grocery shopper!). Seriously - that's lucky! It's not that I can't cook. I actually used to do it, although my meals were a LOT simpler than his and he uses a lot more fresh ingredients than I ever did. It all started way before we had kids when I was working 12 hour shifts as a bedside nurse and didn't get home until nearly 9 p.m. He would have dinner ready so we could eat together. The trend has continued and I'm thankful he actually enjoys cooking because with children and both of us working full time, this is a huge help. We often read about the challenges motherhood brings but it's just as hard for him to find time and energy to cook as a working dad. This post comes with a lot of appreciation for my husband.
He started preparing our frozen meals about 6 weeks before our baby was estimated to arrive. The meals can last in the freezer for about 6 months. He uses a variety of methods to store them. We used some of our ceramic and Pyrex baking dishes that have lids. We really try our best to minimize the amount of disposable products we use but we do use some aluminum foil pans. For one thing, we would run out of baking dishes if they were all in the freezer and another reason is on an especially rough day; it is really nice to have fewer dishes to clean. We also have one of those air tight "Food Savers" so we use those packages for some meals too. The air tight bags are especially nice for chili or individual meals (like lasagna). When my husband's planning to make a frozen meal, he will usually make a double batch so we have enough for dinner that night and the other batch to go in the freezer.
Below is the list of our favorite foods that freeze really well:
-baked macaroni and cheese
-chicken pot pies (with puff pastry made separately)
I have included recipes for our 2 favorites. Most of the above meals he has made for so long the recipes are all in his head but he will be happy to dictate the ingredients to me if there are any special requests.
- 1 pound ground beef and 1/2 pound ground pork (can substitute ground turkey or veg product)
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 - 4 carrots, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 1 can tomato sauce
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- spice to taste with chili powder, black pepper, cumin, paprika,
* First cook onions until soft and then add garlic (for about a minute) then add meat to brown. Add those and all other ingredients to crock pot. Add water to almost cover. Cook on low for about 10 hours.
Serve for dinner and lunch the following day and then freeze the remaining chili.
This one is actually my family recipe and one of my all-time favorite dishes.
-1 pound mostaccioli noodles
-1 jar spaghetti sauce (seasoned to taste)
-2 pounds ground beef (or substitute turkey or veg product)
-1 pound mozzarella cheese
-1 onion and 4 cloves of garlic
* Cook chopped onion until soft and add minced garlic (about 1 minute). Brown ground meat (or substitute) then add seasoned sauce. Cook noodles.
Layer ingredients in baking dish in following manner: meat sauce, noodles, meat sauce, mozzarella cheese, meat sauce, mozzarella cheese. Put ingredients in 2 separate pans. Cook one for dinner that night and the other gets covered and straight into the freezer.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 30-45 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is browned.
*This one is actually my family recipe and one of my all-time favorite dishes.
The first 3 months were a pretty tough time for us while we were learning how to take care of a new baby on much fewer hours of sleep. Both me and Baby #1 had some complications after birth that added to the challenge of a new baby. We started to get into a good routine right around 3 months which was precisely the time that I went back to work. We often speak of my first 3 months back to work being as challenging as the first 3 months of our baby's life. Our frozen meals were especially handy during that 6 month period. But now with a 1 year old and 3 year old we still try to keep at least a few frozen meals stocked in the freezer at all times. We all have those super busy days or just plain worn out days. It's like a special gift for the entire family to just have to prepare a salad or cooked veggie and then have a healthy meal that just needs to be thawed, heated, and enjoyed!
Do you have any meals that make a great frozen dinner? Please share!