Left...unders? Tell me how you cook meals in advance!

So my wife is pretty seriously pregnant. Hooray! And the baby is coming any day now, and it’s going to mean both of us will be at home for about two weeks straight, at which point I have to go back to work. She’s going to have her hands full even though we’ve got a lot of great friends, so I’ve been cooking ahead for both of us. Every two or three days, I make some big “serves 8-10” dish and then divvy it up into single- and double-serving tupperware, and throw it in the freezer.

Right now I’ve got corn pone, some chili (milder so it doesn’t make the breast milk bitter), a few servings of chicken+veggies that can be used to fill any number of quasi-Mexican tortilla-based foods, some African bean soup, and… well… that’s about it.

So, Dopers, what I gotta know is this: what do you cook ahead of time? What meals can be prepared days or weeks in advance and then reheated from the freezer for dinner when the mood strikes? Recipes are greatly appreciated, but if you just have the name of the dish that’s fine too.

Almost any sort of casserole freezes well. Just reheat in the oven at 350 until warm and bubbly again. If it has crunchy bits on the top, freeze it without the bits and add them on near the end of reheating.

Shepherd’s Pie is good. I’d make it up to the last step, but don’t bake it. Freeze it potatoes and all, and then bake it when you’re ready.

Calzones (that recipe is for Barbeque Chicken, but you can also make Calzones with anything you’d find on a pizza, or make it with chicken or beef stew inside and call it a Pasty.) and Chimichangas or homemade burritos freeze well and are healthier than what you’ll find in the frozen section. It’s also nice to have something Mom can eat one handed while nursing or holding the baby.

Sloppy Joes and taco meat can be browned and seasoned ahead of time and frozen in meal or single serve quantites to make very quick lunches or dinners. Those I would just microwave to warm up.

Don’t forget breakfast foods! This Ham, Egg and Cheese Breakfast Bake is really indulgent, and these Egg and Artichoke Squares are to die for. I’d make 'em in muffin tins, actually, and then freeze them that way - you don’t even have to cut and portion them that way, just pop 'em all into a freezer ziptop bag when done.

Try spaghetti, lasagna, or anything Italian. I often make 2-3 lasagnas at a time, and freeze some.

I recently made a meatball casserole, which my family raved about and made enough for about 12, despite its claims of “serves 6-8.” (Not sure who those 6 were, but they must have been gargantuan.)

Recipe, more or less:

1 lb frozen meatballs, thawed
2 ½ c. spaghetti sauce (I used homemade, but jarred would work)
¾ oz. fresh basil (I’ve used ½ tsp. dried, and it didn’t make much difference)
1 c. sour cream
1 c. ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
2 minced garlic cloves
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. dried oregano
8 oz. egg noodles, cooked and drained
1 ½ c. shredded mozzarella cheese

Lightly grease 2 ½ qt. casserole dish. Preheat oven to 350. Spoon 1 c. spaghetti sauce over bottom of dish. Place meatballs on that, then layer fresh or sprinkle with dried basil. Combine sour cream, ricotta, eggs, garlic, oregano, salt and the rest of the spaghetti sauce, and then stir in noodles. Pour over meatballs. Top with cheese. Bake 55-60 minutes, until bubbly.

Oh man, you’ve GOT to get yourself a pre-marinated pork loin. You can find them at the grocery store near the ham. There’s varieties like garlic-herb, garlic-pepper, teryaki, barbeque, etc.

Anyway, get one of those puppies. Two or three pounds will not be too much for 2 people (I can put away a 1-pounder in 2 or 3 meals). Cooking it is easy - 20 minutes per pound, the directions should be on the package.

Once it’s cooked, cut it in to 1/2" slices. Put it in a nice sealed container (I use a Corningwear dish with a lid) in the fridge and now you can eat like KINGS for a week.

You can put it on salads, use it in stir-fry, have it as a main meat with a side, put it on a sandwich or just snack on it cold right out of the fridge.

I’ve had my pork loin stick around for at least 2 weeks in the fridge cooked. I’ve also bought a 2lb. loin, cut it in half, and stored half in the freezer. It’s really no big deal since it cooks so quickly and easily.

You can thank me later :slight_smile:

Most soups freeze well (although I don’t know about cream-based ones, as I tend to make broth-based) and are really healthy, as well as easy to reheat. There should be good produce available now, so this is a great time to make vegetable soup.



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Oh yes, congrats Jurph and Mrs. Jurph!

I’d second the spaghetti and lasagna. We usually make them, eat a meal, then divvy up into meal sized servings (enough for all of us) and reheat as needed/wanted. I can usually get 5-6 meals out of a pot of spaghetti for the three of us.

Porcupines (meatball with rice and onion in it and baked in tomato sauce) are good, or any sort of meatball.

You can put chicken or meat in a bag with your preferred marinade and then freeze. When you defrost you just cook, no need to wait for it to marinade.

I frequently eat out of my crockpot. Toss a big hunk of pork loin in there, let it go for a half a day or so, then tear it all up and add bbq sauce/seasoning to taste. Soup works too.

We generally make at least two meatloaves at a time, and the excess go into the freezer, uncooked. One time, when my husband was looking for a steak, he was pleased to note that we had both a meatloaf and a batch of lasagna in the freezer. He said that it gave him a warm fuzzy feeling to know that we could pull out a delicious dinner with almost no prep work.

Making several meatloaves at one time is only slightly more time consuming than making one. I suppose that we could bake them all at once and freeze individual portions, but we’re happy with freezing them raw.

Macaroni and cheese is my planned-over comfort food. I’m not adding a recipe because I’ve had it many different ways and haven’t found one I didn’t like.

Or do what I’m doing now. I’m cooking a turkey and will dismember it for dinners later.

Check out websites about once a month cooking for some ideas. One of my favorites is Frozen Assets.

We usually make manicotti by the pan-full and freeze most of it. Fill half the tubes with a meat/spinach mixture and the other half with ricotta cheese. After it cooks and cools, we Seal-A-Meal individual portions and freeze.

Or try hearty soups. I generally make these in 3 to 5 gallon batches, then package for freezing. Microwave to thaw, then re-heat in a saucepan, adding a handful of broken spaghetti to the soup at this point. Simmer until the pasta is tender and dig in.

This turned out quite well when I made it. It should be freezable for a few months:

I’d suggest adding more veggies, though…it’s a good starting point, but it could use something more (bacon? ham? peppers?)

Buy a rice cooker if you don’t have one. Finely dice several chicken breasts and fry them with diced onions and red pepper flakes. Ziploc and freeze small portions for two-person meals. Steam two or three cups of rice once a day (negligible effort involved if you use the cooker). Take about half of the rice for the two of you, top it with a portion of microwaved chicken. Any decent cooker set to ‘keep warm’ should keep the rest of the rice reasonably tasty until evening to go with more of the chickeny goodness.

I’m loving pre-cooked potatoes, the mashed ones from Country Crock and the sliced/diced/hashed ones from Simply Potatoes.

Get’cha some of those and fix a big roast beef. Eat it once with potatoes and gravy and veggies, again as hash with potatoes and onions, and the bits and pieces left over are good in pasta and tomato dishes.

I also get a pre-roasted chicken once every couple of weeks. Great for sandwiches, chopped up in a green salad, or tossed with some cooked noodles.

First off, congrats.

Second, here’s a great and easy Baked Ziti. My favorite casserole doesn’t have a website (Mom clipped it out of the paper when I was a kid), but I’ll put it here.

Chicken Spaghetti Casserole

Combine 2 cups cooked, diced chicken, 4 oz. of spaghetti (cooked and drained), 1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup, and 1/2 cup each of shredded cheddar cheese, grated Parmesan cheese, and milk. Mix lightly. Spoon into 1.5 quart casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees covered for 45 minutes. Top with 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese and sprinkle with Parmesan. Cover and return to oven until cheddar cheese melts.

The leftovers are good in the microwave the next day too. You may have to cook longer if it’s been frozen. (It’s been a long time since we had to do so.)

Congrats, Jurph and Mrs Jurph!
My favorite plan-over is pot roast. Roast your favorite cut of roast in a large dutch oven with carrots, onions, mushrooms and potatoes (about 15 minutes prep time, a couple of hours in a medium oven). You can get a meal for two the first time out, then add some thickening and tomatoes and cook slowly on the stove top or oven for beef stew. Depending on the size of the roast and the amount of veggies around it, you usually will get about six more servings from it (which you can freeze individually for later microwaving).
My other fave is getting a rotisserie chicken from the grocery (most of the time about the same price as a whole raw chicken), get one meal from it and then bone it and freeze the cut up meat in one cup packages for everything from soup to chicken salad to tacos.