Say good-bye to the drive thru and soggy freezer meals forever

Making Fresh Freezer Meals

by Leanne Ely CNC

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A few years ago (quite a few years ago, actually), a new cooking trend was born, once a month cooking. The whole idea was to spend a day cooking, freeze what you make, and then reheat it as needed.

Great idea, soggy delivery. The proponents of this type of cooking said that it only took a day to make a month's worth of meals and you had "great" dinners that you could reheat anytime. The problem was that most of these dinners took on the watery characteristics of reheated casseroles and the flavor of the food was as lukewarm as their presentation. The other issue is time. A whole day for heaven's sake! Who can literally take a day off from life to do this?

In the early 2000's, a new version of once-a-month cooking was born and the result is dinner assembly franchises popping up like ground hogs in the spring. Everywhere you turn in suburbia; there are several of these types of storefronts, with more coming to a strip center near you.

The idea of these places is to come in, spend two hours or so assembling 12 to 15 meals from their already chopped veggies and pre-prepared ingredients, so all you have to do is put them together raw, label and freeze for cooking at a later day. The thing is that it doesn't come cheap.

So what's a time-stretched, harried homemaker to do? Do it yourself, of course! There is a way to do this. Here's how:

Find meals that can be assembled in their raw state, defrosted successfully, and then cooked freshly. A good example of this is meatloaf. All you have to do is make your meatloaf mixture, shape it, and then put it in a freezer zipper bag. Mark the bag and date it, and then on the day you want to use it, defrost it and bake it. You will never know that your meatloaf was previously frozen!

Here is a recipe that we have on our very first Twenty for the Freezer, a downloadable menu with 20 recipes that you assemble all at once, freeze and cook later as needed. When you have a freezer full of meals like this to choose from, you will say good-bye to the drive thru forever! Enjoy!

In a one-gallon plastic freezer bag, mix and blend well together:

Mega Marvelous Meatloaf

Serves 4

2/3 cup dried stuffing mix
1 egg
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 pound extra-lean ground beef
1 1/3 teaspoons garlic powder
2/3 teaspoon thyme
1/3 cup ketchup
2/3 teaspoon honey
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Salt and Pepper to taste

Seal the bag and blend the mixture together by squeezing and kneading the bag. Unseal the bag. Starting at the bottom of the bag, roll the mixture to force out any air and then seal the bag again. Insert this bag into a gallon-sized plastic freezer bag, place a copy of the recipe into the second bag as well, and seal it. Place your label on the bag or write the name and date on the bag and place in the freezer.

When you want to have this meatloaf for dinner, thaw in the fridge overnight and then preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place meatloaf in a loaf pan and bake for about one hour or until done.

Per serving: 390 Calories; 24g Fat (55.7% calories from fat); 26g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 133mg Cholesterol; 578mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Grain (Starch); 3 1/2 Lean Meat; 3 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates.

Serving Suggestions: Serve with mashed potatoes, steamed green beans and crusty whole wheat rolls

Note: To save storage space in your freezer, place blended ingredients into a plastic storage bag and roll it up to force out any air, then seal and place in freezer.

Leanne Ely is a New York Times best selling author of Body Clutter and the popular Saving Dinner cookbook series. According to Woman's Day Magazine, she is the expert on family cooking.

Leanne's syndicated newspaper column, The Dinner Diva can be found in 250 newspapers nationwide and in Canada. Her vast broadcast experience includes media satellite tours, QVC several times as well as guesting on several national television shows, including HGTV's Simple Solutions, ABC Family's Living the Life, Ivanhoe's Smart Woman, Small Talk for Parents and Talk of the Town. She has guest chef-ed on the cooking show, Carolina Cooks and has taught cooking classes all over the country for Bloomingdale's.

In addition, she is a seasoned radio personality. Leanne's own radio show, Heart of A Woman aired during drive time in two major California markets, Los Angeles and San Diego. Her current show, The Dinner Diva is one of the top Blog Talk Radio shows on the Internet.

On the Internet, she pens the Food for Thought column for the immensely popular,, with over half a million readers weekly. She has been featured in Woman's Day magazine, the Chicago Tribune, St. Petersburg Times, Orange County Register - to name a few. Additionally, she is a sought after speaker and has spoken all over the country, with keynote addresses to corporate and non-profit entities. Visit Leanne Ely on Google+.

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