Smart moms know that spending extra time on food prep can save their dinner on busy nights. Instead of buying expensive frozen meals with ingredients you don't recognize, create your own hearty frozen meals. You'll have a tasty, homemade meal waiting in the freezer for those days when soccer practice and Girl Scouts go on too long and you need a break from cooking.
Soups and Stews
Soups, stews and chowders are naturals for freezing, then reheating on busy nights. Make a large pot of your family favorites, doubling the recipe. Ladle the leftovers into large or individual-serving containers, and put them away in the freezer for another day. Avoid potatoes in the stew, however, as they often turn mealy after being frozen. Stir milk-based broths more frequently while you reheat them to prevent them from separating.
Grocery freezer aisles are filled with prepared pasta dishes and for a good reason. Pasta meals freeze and thaw with very little change in flavor or texture. Make a double batch of spaghetti, ravioli, lasagna or any other pasta dish your family loves. Serve one, and freeze the second one immediately. There's no need to thaw pasta dishes before reheating them; simply place them in oven-safe pans and heat until the sauce is bubbling.
If your family members often come home at different times in the evening, make personalized "TV dinners" for each child from her favorite dishes. Package extra servings of family favorites in the freezer, and label them with the ingredients and your child's name. School-age children can fix their own dinner and enjoy healthier food than commercially frozen fare. Your children may look forward to frozen food night as their favorite dinner of the week if one gets her favorite meatloaf while the other dines on ham slices.
Freeze food as soon as you finish cooking it for the safest storage. Choose freezer-safe zip-top bags and place them in plastic food storage boxes while they freeze solid. Then you can remove the square blocks of food for longer storage. Wrap lasagnas and other casseroles in foil and freeze them in the pan in which they'll bake. Then slip them out of the pan when frozen and double-wrap them for protection from freezer burn. Purchase individual sectioned plastic plates that are microwave-safe to create customized meals for the kids.
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