Before we go any further, I need to emphasize that 8 weeks of food is a lot to take on, especially towards the end of pregnancy. I had a lot of back and abdominal discomfort towards the end of my pregnancy that made standing for long periods of time difficult. If you want to pack your freezer, plan ahead – don’t wait until you are 39 weeks along! I started one month before my due date, and just kept cooking things and adding to our stockpile until a few days before my due date. If you have a helper, use them! Without my husband helping this would not have gotten done.
As far as supplies go, I like to store my freezer meals in slider top freezer bags. I used to use Ziploc brand, but as far as I can tell they discontinued the slider top freezer bags. Don’t use the non-freezer bags in the freezer, as they periodically break and leak while defrosting. Ask how I know. And I really like a slider top so I know that the bag is closed. The Up&Up brand bags from Target have been pretty good so far (available in gallon- or quart-sized). Bags are good for slow cooker meals, soups, muffins, and anything oddly-shaped. Store them FLAT in the freezer so you can stack them or file them on their sides. Some meals freeze better in a casserole dish, and I use disposable foil pans for those meals. I have noted how I stored each food below for easy reference. However you store it, label your food with what it is, the date, and cooking instructions so you don’t have to dig them out later.
- Tuscan White Bean and Garlic Soup (double recipe, 2 gallon-sized freezer bags)
I usually use Great Northern beans and dried sage when I make this. While I have not noticed it in the past, the cream separated from the rest of the soup upon reheating. This was more of an annoyance than anything else (it just made for a lot of extra stirring), but next time, I’m going to wait to add the cream until right before serving the soup.
- Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (double recipe, 2 gallon-sized freezer bags)
I didn’t notice any separating with this soup, but it doesn’t hurt to leave the cream out until serving. Read my full review of this soup here.
- All-American Beef Chili (single recipe, 3 gallon-sized freezer bags)
This recipe is from The Make-Ahead Cook: 8 Smart Strategies for Dinner Tonight, which I borrowed this book from my library. This recipe on Brown Eyed Baker is the same, but half the amount the book recipe yields.
Wow, what a great chili! It’s a bit too spicy for my kids (although they did enjoy the toppings and cornbread that we served up with it), but I thought it was a good amount of seasonings for grown-ups.
- Easy Chicken Noodle Soup from a Leftover Roasted Chicken (2 single recipes, 2 gallon-sized freezer bags)
Do not freeze the soup with the egg noodles! You can add egg noodles once you reheat the soup, but this soup is also delicious without them. I prepped this soup twice, each time after I made a whole chicken.
- Onion-Butter 2-Step Chicken (double recipe, 2 8×8 foil pans)
I highly recommend cutting large chicken breasts into smaller pieces so they bake more quickly. I forgot to cut up the giant chicken breasts I bought and it ended up taking about twice as long to cook them all the way through.
- Mini Garden Turkey Loaves (double recipe, 2 dozen mini meatloaves in 2 gallon-sized freezer bags)
I have made this recipe several times now and we love it. The mini meatloaves freeze so well and they reheat quickly in the microwave. However, be forewarned that the prep time listed on the recipe is way off. Especially for a double recipe, I think it took me about a half an hour to cook off all of the liquid from the vegetables.
- Dijon-Pecan 2-Step Chicken (double recipe, 2 8×8 foil pans)
Again, cut large chicken breasts into smaller pieces so they bake more quickly. My kids really enjoyed this one!
- Slow Cooker Maple and Dijon Pot Roast (double recipe, 2 gallon-sized freezer bags)
I like the flavors in this pot roast recipe. Usually I only use 2 onions, and add about a pound of carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/2 – 1 inch chunks. I made it with bacon for the freezer, but I usually just throw some olive oil into the pan before searing the meat.
- Ginger Peach Chicken (double recipe, 2 gallon-sized freezer bags)
This is one of my favorite dump meals for the slow cooker. I’ve made it with fresh ginger and ground ginger and both versions were excellent. Mix everything in the freezer bag EXCEPT for the frozen peaches. Add those in for the final 30 minutes of cooking or they will turn to absolute mush. I also recommend slicing the onion VERY thinly (I use the 4mm disc on my food processor).
- Slow Cooker Taco Chicken Bowls (double recipe, 2 gallon-sized freezer bags)
- Tender and Juicy Slow-Cooker Meatballs (single recipe, 4 gallon-sized freezer bags)
These are the meatballs I used for pasta and meatball night as well as for meatball sandwiches – they are my husband’s new favorite meatballs. However, it is important to note that I did not follow the recipe for the sauce, and instead added my meatballs to a single batch of the Best Slow-Cooked Tomato Sauce. I started the sauce first, prepped the meatballs, and popped them into the Dutch oven once they were out from under the broiler. Also, I used all of the meat to make meatballs (instead of making a meat sauce), and ended up getting about 32 instead of 16, great for stretching this into a few meals.
- Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables (single recipe, 3 8×8 foil pans)
I love this recipe, although I’m still working on convincing my kids that it’s okay for different foods to touch each other. I freeze before baking, and I cook the pasta for about 3-4 minutes less than what the box instructs. Use a high-quality sauce with a flavor you enjoy.
- Vegan Tuscan Pumpkin Pasta Sauce (double recipe, 2 gallon-sized freezer bags)
I wanted to throw different sauce into the rotation and landed on a pumpkin sauce. My neighbor used to make the most delicious pumpkin sauce with sage, but many recipes warned that they would separate if frozen and I did not want to deal with that issue. Finally I found this delightful recipe. It is vegan so no cream and no separating. Its flavor reminds me of a cinnamon raisin bagel, but is not so sweet that it felt weird putting it on pasta. You really just have to try it to understand – it is so good and so fast to make.
Next week I’ll be wrapping up this series with Part 4, all about freezer-friendly sides, sweets, and extras!