I just spent an hour or so looking at “freezer meals” and I will say most of it did nothing for me. Yes, you can pop a freezer bag of chicken satay into an instant pot and ta-dah! have a fairly instant meal, but most of the recipes didn’t appeal. Adequate? Yes, certainly, but tempting? Not so much.
After thinking about it, it seems to me that casseroles, soups, stews, etc. that can be frozen are best stored without the bulk of their liquid ingredients. That would leave combinations of meat/veggies and sauces to either be put into a hot oven or in a pan with liquids, right?
And that puts me back to where I had been: ingredients, not meals. Those ingredients would probably be thick sauces, cooked meats, and veggies.
I use basically these: savory, marinara, and Mexican.
Savory sauces here are frequently based on cream sauce or a gravy with drippings.
I used to make what I called “sauce balls.” This is simply the correct amount of butter for a basic cream sauce or gravy creamed with enough flour and salt and pepper.
For 1C of cream sauce, add 1C milk to the proper amount of sauce balls, over low heat, and you’re done.
The big problem is remembering to use them! I’ve been told that if you use wheat flour, the sauce can not want to set. The answer is to use rice flour, I’m told. But I don’t remember this being a problem? I should make up a batch of sauce balls and see how it works! Certainly, I have all the ingredients in stock: flour, butter, salt and pepper. It wouldn’t be difficult. I don’t remember which cookbook I got the idea from originally, it was over 20 years ago. I made these for a few years then found I’d stopped using them, and didn’t make any after that
I’ve already covered the tomato-based sauces by freezing the broiled tomato soup base and herb combos. It isn’t, strictly speaking, a sauce, but a soup base. I think one recipe of the soup base would probably work for 2 or more meals?
Also, I’ve covered the tomatillo-based sauces with my version of salsa verde. I found this green enchilada sauce, which looks appealing, it’s chili based, rather than tomatillo based and it’s thick.
Beef, Chicken, and Pork are the meats I use. I never use veal and we almost never eat fish.
Beef: I have a cookbook with many pot roast recipes, seasoned various ways. I rarely buy large hunks of meat these days, but I could set aside ingredients for the seasoning… or maybe modify her individual pot roast recipe? The book is More Beef for Your Money Cookbook – Mary Dunham, Peter H. Wyden Publisher, 1974.
- savory (onion, bullion, catsup, flour)
- zesty (onion, tomato soup, vinegar, apple sauce)
- with tomatoes and corn (onion, canned tomatoes, paprika, canned corn)
- Italian style (onion, carrots, celery, tomato paste, tomato sauce, red wine, beef bullion, sugar, basil, oregano, spaghetti, Parmesan),
- Bavarian (apple juice, tomato sauce, onion, ginger, cinnamon, vinegar, bay, flour)
- Mexican (paprika, onion, tomato sauce, sugar, chili powder, vinegar, Worcestershire, corn)
- Individual pot roasts with bullion noodles (onion, tomato juice, Worcestershire, noodles, bullion)
And more — there’s 37 different pot roast recipes!!!
Bullion: I’d use a demi-glace rather than bullion cubes or stock. (Better than Bullion most often).
Canned Soups: I can eliminate some of her recipes right away because I don’t like most canned soups these days. It seems to me that Campbell’s and other food processors have cheapened their foods so much that the quality and taste isn’t what it used to be. I’m an old woman and I ate Campbells cream of mushroom soup for decades and loved it. I can’t stand the stuff they currently sell! I will buy canned Kosher soups when I can find them. They’re more expensive, but still tasty.
Canned Vegetables: I tend to use frozen.
Tomato Sauce/Paste/Catsup/Juice: Although I can’t eat canned tomatoes in any form from the supermarket. I can use my “stewed tomatoes” buzzed in a blender, thinned with water, or cooked down. THAT I can eat.
Tomato sauce is something I ‘d stopped buying long ago. Did you ever look at the ingredients? Tomato paste and water. Why not mix your own? Save money and space in your pantry, just buy more tomato paste and add your own water, as needed!
Beef Stew: I like making stew in the oven! Always seems like magic: put meat, veggies, water into a covered pot, bake a while. Then add a little flour, return to oven. Hey presto! Stew! The way to freeze that would be to preprep the ingredients without the water and flour. You can buy frozen stew veggies easily enough, so it would just be adding the meat, maybe dredged in seasoned flour and browned first?
Chicken: Many recipes I found used precooked, supermarket chicken. I haven’t bought one in years because I like the organic thighs I buy in bulk better.
Pork: I found one blog using carnitas as a base for a batch of recipes. Certainly that works, I proved that a while ago! (See here if you don’t know what I’m talking about.)
Cooking meat ahead wouldn’t be difficult.
I’m going to make up some cream sauce balls, some of that enchilada sauce and look again at the individual pot roast recipe to see if I can modify it to suit us!
I will write comments about those examinations below.
- The basic unit in the pot roasts seems to be a chuck roast, 3-4 lbs. I bought one 7/26; it’s in the freezer. —————————–————————————————————————————————————————————–The pot roast I bought was 1.4 lbs at $7.99 a lb, $11.19 total. I cut off a piece, 5.25 oz (almost exactly 1/3 lb or $2.62 worth) and put it back in the freezer. That means the pot has $8.57 of meat. I seared it first in a little peanut oil and some of the fat from the roast. It’s cooking with 3 carrots*, 3 pieces of celery, 1/2 a bell pepper, and 1/2 an onion* (*from our farm share).
- Made 7 butter balls, used 1 stick of butter. They’re in the freezer! 7/29 Note: Measure flour into separate container before doing this; it makes a mess!
- The bulk ground beef I bought ($6.49/lb) is thawing in the fridge. After it thaws a bit more, I’ll break it into 3: 1 piece – 1 lb, 2 pieces – 1/2 lb each. I thought about making ground beef stroganoff, but it’s awfully hot for pasta or rice and a simmered sauce. I could just make beef in gravy and use that. I have some cooked pasta, if it’s still good? –> IT’S TOO HOT FOR THAT TOO! I BOUGHT STUFF FOR SANDWICHES. Too hot to cook!!! ————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–We grilled the first 1/2 lb of this as hamburgers 7/31, for dinner. OMG they were great! We had the 2nd 1/2 lb in tacos, on another really hot August night, for dinner.
- We ate the LO pasta with roasted veggies for dinner 8/1. I made a double batch, as there were a lot of the farm veggies starting to look “tired” and the recipe works great for that. I added butter and a small amount of bread crumbs to the pasta and swirled it around in a pan until it got warm. I thought about freezing it, but the summer squash and zucchini in the veggie mix will just get watery if I do — so it’s in the fridge. Maybe another veggie pie, like this one? I’ve made that before, it was good! It got forgotten and tossed, alas. 😦