By my count, we are working on meal number five for your week of frugal meal planning. We had you plan three and then grab another from your own personal top ten, the meal that you get to phone in.
Meal number five is even easier. On any given day off, at least once every couple of months, prepare at least eight freezer meals. That gives you enough for two months or so and since you are going to create eight to ten different meals, enough variety that your freezer meal isn’t the same every week. There are a couple of recipes listed below that you can easily double so you can eat the first on week one and the second on week 8 or 9 even.
Generally speaking, freezer meals need a bit of fat in them to freeze well and some ingredients simply don’t lend themselves well to freezing. Pasta-based dishes work great, egg-based dishes generally do not although if you suspend the eggs in something fatty like cream in a quiche, that works.
Below are my top ten freezer meals. Some require a full up recipe, others are a bit of this, a dash of that, less structured.
- Stand By Me Lasagna. Everyone’s favorite, this is a very simple recipe that freezes very well. Just be sure and wrap it very well. I make mine ready to cook and it goes straight from the freezer to a toasty oven.
2 pounds ground beef, cooked and drained, mixed with 4 cups ounces good pasta sauce
1 8 ounce carton of low fat ricotta mixed with two eggs, salt, pepper and a heaping tablespoon of Italian seasoning and a fistful of fresh parsley finely chopped (I do this bit in the food processor)
Box of lasagna noodles, uncooked
16 ounces shredded mozzarella
8 ounces finely grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
Method: Starting with the noodles, layer an 8 x 13 inch pan with noodles and then the meat sauce. Dot with the ricotta mixture and sprinkle with a third of the mozzarella. Repeat three times. Finish with the rest of the sauce and the Romano/Parmesan cheese. Wrap very tightly. I use two to three layers of foil. Freeze. To bake: Preheat the over to 350-F deg. Bake for 90 minutes until bubbling and cooked through. Makes two pans. Serve with garlic butter crusty bread, it’s a carb fest after all.
2. Easy Bake Pasta. This is one of my partner’s dad’s favorite meals. I keep it handy in the freezer for when he visits.
Method: Cook 16 ounces corkscrew or other pasta such as bows or fusilli according to package directions only two minutes less than the directions indicate. Drain and cool slightly. Mix in 16 ounces of good pasta sauce, 2 sliced ropes of Kielbasa sausage and 12 ounces of cheddar cheese that has been cut into one inch dice. Mix well. Cover and freeze. This dish can be thawed and cooked for 20 minutes in a 350-F deg oven or it can go directly into a hot oven frozen for 60 minutes. I usually serve this with a simple side of steamed broccoli.
3. Me-Too Meatloaf. I generally freeze a couple of these gems at a time and pull them out when Bob wants pure comfort food. You can get the recipe here.
4. Two for two meatballs. Make Scarlett’s Magic Meatballs.
Once you freeze the meatballs, take half of them and add your favorite Asian sauce. My recipe is below:
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon grated ginger root
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup ketchup
Tablespoon spicy chili oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 cup sliced spring onions, both white and green parts
Method: Mi everything but the onions together in a small sauce pan over medium heat until cooked through the thickened, about 20 minutes. If it gets too thick throw in a cube of chicken stock to thin out. Cool and add the onions. Pour over the meatballs and seal the sauce and meatballs in a zip lock type freezer bag. To cook: Dump everything into a slow cooker, frozen solid is fine. Cook on low for at least 4 hours. Serve over hot rice, with a green salad on the side.
5. Scarlett’s Magic Meatballs. Second Act. You have to use up the second batch of meatballs so if you are not inclined to use them in the typical spaghetti and meatball duo, the try this alternative. Place the frozen meatballs in a zip lock freezer with a sauce you have made from two cans of condensed cream of mushroom sauce, two cans of milk and a couple of handfuls of the cheese of your choice. You should mix this and cook it over low heat until the cheese melts. Cool the sauce, add it to the meatballs and freeze. Again, to cook, dump the meatballs frozen in sauce and all in the low cooker for at least 4 hours. Serve over buttered noodles.
But wait, there’s more. I don’t like canned soups though I will use them in a pinch. I always make my own cream of mushroom sauce:
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup flour
2 1/2 cups low fat milk
2 cups mushrooms, diced fine and cooked in a little butter and olive oil
2 finely minced garlic, cooked with the mushrooms
Fresh thyme, salt, pepper to taste
Method: Make a white sauce by melting the butter and whisking in the flour until it forms a paste and the raw flour smell is gone. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook until thickened. Add the mushroom-garlic mix and cook for another couple of minutes. Add the spices to taste. Mushrooms love fresh thyme so try and grow a small pot of it if you can. Throw in the handful of cheese of your choice. If the sauce gets too thick, add in a chicken stock cube or two to thin out the sauce. Let sauce cool, mixture will thicken even more. Also useful for making green bean casserole.
Up next: Five more freezer meals.