I came along this wonderful tip as I was looking up ideas for freezing pasta dishes for make ahead type meals. Very clever! If you don't want to tie up your baking pans in the freezer, line them with plastic wrap before filling. Once the food/casserole has frozen, lift out, remove plastic wrap, and transfer to resealable freezer bags (take plastic wrap off). Label and date and place in freezer. When ready to bake, remove from plastic bag and place in pan to reheat.
By wife2jfbuilder from Minneapolis, MN
I like this idea, except that I don't like to cook or even microwave with plastic wrap. I can't be sure about the chemicals in it. I plan to use parchment paper instead. I have never used the bags they sell to line a slow cooker, but if safe, they would be another alternative.
I have a target goal of trying to spend no more than 300 dollars a month for groceries for me and my fiance. My spending for food usually is not very frugal. I have this impulsive urge to buy take out when I don't want to cook. I forget to pack lunches and snacks with me when I go out and end up buying take out.
Cooking meals like casseroles and soups is something I would like to do more. I just don't know where to really start. Any sites that suggest how to make easy simple soups and casseroles, that can be frozen? Or does someone want to share any ideas of your own?
By ChildGoddess from Kenora, Ontario
It really is possible to feed 2 on 300 a month and you are smart to think about casseroles and soups. I get the impression that you might be a beginner cook? Start with something easy but that has big impact, like a lasagne. I happen to love the recipe that is on the no-bake Barilla lasagne noodle box. I have been cooking for 40 years, but that is the best one I have ever used.
You could do two 8x8 dishes that would each yield 4 hearty portions, or enough for 2 nights. I add a couple layers of very thinly sliced, cooked Italian sausage too, which makes it my own. A basic chicken noodle soup is also a great economical dish, especially if you can get your chicken on sale. Go to allrecipes.com and foodtv.com for lots and lots of great recipes. Get yourself a crockpot and make large batches of beef stew (for that night, and to freeze leftovers). Economical doesn't always mean pasta either; think polenta or brown rice. Best of luck to you!
I've been fixing this Bisquick Taco Bake for years. I first made it WAAY back when my husband and I first started living together, and it's been a family favorite. I use a can of beans instead of corn (personal preference). I use less cheese (maybe 1 cup) and I mix the cheese right into the Bisquick mixture. I accidentally mixed it in a long time ago, and I liked the results better. I don't think I've ever frozen it, but we usually have leftovers a few nights later, and my husband will take some for his lunch.
And I agree about using the crock pot. Toss it together and turn it on in the morning, and have a yummy dinner that evening! And you can use the less expensive meats . . . they'll still be nice and tender after the long, slow cooking. We like this stroganoff recipe. I HAVE frozen the sauce before, and it thawed/reheated nicely.
And this pepper steak recipe is an oldie but goodie for us. Over the years I've modified the recipe a little. I use low sodium soy sauce, omit the salt, and add maybe a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. I buy no salt added 14.5 oz diced tomatoes (can't find 16 oz anymore!), and add a small can of tomato paste. I serve with brown rice. It freezes well.
I hope you find some good recipes. If you find that you like a crock pot recipe, you can increase the recipe and you'll have more to freeze. Best of luck!
Thank you guys a lot for your feedback and advice. Yes, I'm a beginner cook. Lol. I have a crock pot at home. I want to make some frugal crock pot meals with it.
Soups are the best fast food in the world. Freeze half in two serving containers. Keep the other half for quick microwave meals. And you can increase your servings of vegetables so quickly and be much healthier.
Here are some of the ones I have been cooking this past three months.
And this one is the best - but cook tortellinis separately and put those in the bowl first (omit noodles from recipe) and then ladle in the hot soup, top with grated Parmesan cheese.
Use your time wisely by planning to make two or three of these in one day over the weekend. That way you have many meals prepared ahead and just have to clean up the kitchen that one day.
You will be shocked how much money you will save and how much better the food you prepare will taste.
Both of these are Crockpot recipes and both are freezable ;-)
Crock Pot Orange Chicken
6 skinless boneless chicken thighs
1 can orange soda
1/4 cup of water
1 cup diced celery
Place chicken in crock pot and pour soda and water over the chicken and then top with celery. Cook on low and test for doneness at 6 hours but, depending on your crock pot, it could take up to 8 hours.
Zesty Minestrone - Slow Cooker
A yummy full bodied meal when served with crusty bread smothered with unsalted butter and a mixed green salad tossed with a vinaigrette dressing.
1/4 cup zesty Italian salad dressing (I use Kraft)
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, peeled, chopped
1 can (14-1/2 oz.) diced tomatoes, not drained
1 can (19 oz.) kidney beans, white beans or garbanzo beans rinsed
2 cans (14 oz. each) vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1-1/2 cups small shell pasta, uncooked
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (fresh or packaged)
Heat dressing in large nonstick skillet on medium high heat. Add onions, celery and carrots; cook 2 minutes or until crisp yet tender, stirring occasionally. Transfer in to a slow cooker. Add tomatoes, beans, broth, water and seasoning and stir. Cover with lid. Cook on low for 6 hours. Stir in pasta and cook 10 to 15 minutes or until pasta is tender. Sprinkle with cheese just before serving.
This is very easy to cook, economical, and makes enough for several meals.
Easy Taco Soup
1 and &frac; pound ground round beef
1 large onion chopped
2 cans stewed tomatoes ( Do Not Drain)
1 can Ranch Style Pinto Beans (Drained)
1 can regular Pinto Beans (Drained)
1 can cream corn
1 can yellow hominy * (Drained)
1 can Rotel with green chili
1 package Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing (dry)
1 package McCormick Taco Seasoning Mix (dry)
Brown beef and onion. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, lower to simmer , simmer a couple hours.
This is a thick, dark red, soup with the consistency of chili.
(Hominy not optional! You won't taste it and it adds a little "crunch" that is delightful in this recipe. But if you must, substitute a can of yellow corn kernels. Very festive when served topped with grated cheddar cheese, chopped green onions and a dollop of sour cream.
Crockpot : You can use your crockpot for this recipe. It makes a nice dinner to come home to on a cold day. Brown the ground beef and onion. Do not drain beef mixture, pour into crock pot, and add all other ingredients. Stir. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.
This is a fantastic group if you are looking to get freezer recipes & learn all the little tricks & hints!
Learn to make a white sauce from scratch -- google it
You can vary the white sauce to become a homemade version of cream of chicken, mushroom, celery, cheddar etc.
Mac & cheese casserole with ham and spinach or broccoli pieces in it.
Lasagna can be made with cottage cheese cheaper and frozen too.
starch such as rice, noodles, potatoes
veggie such as peas, carrots, corn, greens, etc
topping such as cheese, seasoned bread or cracker crumbs, crushed potato or tortilla chips, etc.
Line your casserole with foil enough to wrap over the casserole while freezing. When frozen you can take the foil wrapped casserole out of the dish and replace in freezer and your dish is free again.
I am trying to get a definitive answer regarding freezing breakfast egg casseroles. Does one bake them and then freeze? Or freeze them unbaked?
If baked and frozen, what about defrosting first or does one bake them frozen and for how long if they have been previously frozen? If unbaked and frozen, please, the defrosting and baking details.
I need this info asap, please. Does one cover the previously baked and frozen casserole when reheating? Does one decrease the liquid amounts in a previously baked and frozen egg casserole? Your assistance is needed.
We freeze it both in a full casserole and in smaller "single serving" sizes.
When we do a whole casserole, we cook it leaving it a bit undercooked, so that the eggs are set, but the top is not nicely browned. If we are planning to freeze it, we do not put the cheese on top. When taking it out of the freezer to cook it, we cook it covered at 350 degrees F until the middle is not cold (I don't know, maybe 30 min), then we uncover it, throw the cheese on top and cook it for another 15 min or so until the cheese is melted and crispy brown.
Our favorite way to freeze it, though, is in small portions. We make the casserole as per directions (we make two, one to eat, one to freeze), then we cool it, cut it into squares, wrap them in aluminum, put the pieces in a plastic bag and freeze the package. In the mornings, if you get up, pop one wrapped piece in the oven while you get ready, it is warm and ready to eat when you are done. (Maybe 20 min. in a 350 degree oven). My boys use this as their breakfast regularly. Hope some of that helps.
I recently started making breakfast casseroles in mini loaf pans to help with a quick breakfast in the mornings. I make the entire recipe (including cook time) and then cover each with a little wax paper on top of the mixture, and then aluminum foil. Take it out of the freezer the night before and then slide the casserole out of the loaf pan in the morning and pop into the microwave for about 1 minute. It's been one month now and the casseroles are still great from freezer to table. A little milk might help if you like it to be moist though.
I'm making stuffed zucchini, and want to freeze them. Do I stuff them first and cook them or just stuff, cool, wrap well, and freeze. Then when I want to serve, unthaw completely and then cook. I am also trying to make a yellow squash casserole and am wondering do I do the same with it, put all together and then wrap and cook after completely unthawing. Thank you.
By Rosanna from Dallas, TX
I have made and frozen stuffed zucch's for years. I always stuff and cook as if to eat, then cook, cut up into portions, wrap tightly, and then freeze. I will save crumb or parmesan topping for when I re-heat it to give a fresh look (it microwaves great). Sad to say, it IS zucchini, and a lot of liquid "leaves" after thawing. However, it is so delicious that we drain it off and chow down! Even when my picky daughter was tiny, she would always eat it. So, since my zucchini didn't produce this year, who wants to give me some big ones for stuffing? Just kidding.
Preparing for Freezing: Select recipes that can be prepared in advance. When preparing meals, plan for extra servings that can be packaged and frozen as individual meals.
Best Freezing Method (s): Cooked casseroles can be stored in the refrigerator until cool and then transferred directly into the freezer.
Suitable Packaging: Casseroles should be frozen in moisture and vapor resistant containers that are not be prone to cracking or breaking at low temperatures. Containers should provide protection against absorbing flavors or odors and should be easy to label. Suitable packaging for freezing casserole will depend on the method of reheating: oven-ready dishes with an airtight cover, freezer-grade plastic bags, rigid plastic containers or glass containers or heavy-duty aluminum foil. Microwave casseroles should be frozen in ceramic, glass or microwave-safe plastic container. To keep food fresh to the longest time, it's important to match the size of your casserole to the dish, allowing for 1/2 inch of headspace.
Maximum Storage Time: from 3 to 4 months at 0ºF.
Thawing: Casseroles should be thawed in the refrigerator, or in a microwave oven on a defrost setting.
Tips & Shortcuts: Line a baking dish with heavy-duty aluminum foil, fill with food and freeze it until firm. Remove the foil package, now in the shape of your baking dish, to free up your dish for other purposes until you're ready to reheat your casserole. Reheating will be faster if you freeze individual portions. Foods that are fried or have a crisp outer coating may need to be reheated for 2 to 3 minutes in a hot oven to retain crispness.
Refrigerating Casseroles: Store meat based casseroles in airtight containers for 3 to 4 days.