Frugal & Healthy Make Ahead Meal Makings

Frugal & Healthy Make Ahead Meal Makings

As a busy home manager and mom, my freezer is an essential tool for me!

In fact, I have three of them…the one in my kitchen, one on my “extra” fridge in my laundry room, and a chest freezer just outside the laundry room door in the garage.

Like many moms, I’m prone to make a double batch of many of my tried and true dishes…things like casseroles,chili, and spaghetti sauce…and freeze one for later. I’ve also found that it GREATLY simplifies my cooking efforts to make ahead and freeze some of the main “ingredients” of many dishes…things like ground meat and sauces.

I try to use as little “prepackaged” food as I can to avoid unhealthy additives like MSG (found in almost ALL canned soups and multiple other boxed/jarred/canned items) and various other preservatives and artificial flavorings. Yet many of my favorite, tried and true recipes use things like cream of chicken or mushroom soup, canned chicken broth, or jarred pasta sauce. Since I miss the convenience of just grabbing a can or jar to add to my recipe, I decided to make my own “convenience foods”.

Every six weeks or so I use my trusty stockpot to make big batches of both homemade pizza/pasta sauce and cream of “whatever” soup substitute, which I then package in about 2 cup portions in freezer containers and freeze.

My trusty stockpot

The Pizza Sauce is delicious! I use it not only for my homemade pizza, but anywhere jarred pasta or tomato sauce is called for, like in my Mexican Pizza recipe. Here’s my recipe…I usually make a quadruple batch!

The Cream of “Whatever” soup substitute is SO quick and easy, and let me just say that it BLOWS AWAY the canned stuff! There is really a difference in a dish made with it versus a canned soup. Here’s that recipe…I usually quadruple it too.

The recipes are super simple and each batch takes me maybe 30 minutes to make, start to finish. The next time one of my menu items calls for one of these ingredients, I can pull one out, thaw it in just a few minutes, and be good to go!

I also make homemade chicken broth every few months using free-range whole chickens I get through our meat co-op. I let the broth cook down until it is very concentrated and then freeze it in ice cube trays. After it’s frozen, I pop the “broth cubes” out and store them in a freezer bag. When a recipe calls for chicken broth, I pull out a cube or two and dissolve them in warm water.

Unlike storebought broth, which is full of sodium, MSG, and additives, homemade broth is delicious and full of wonderful vitamins and minerals! It’s truly a super food! ! I cook the broth down so long that there really isn’t much meat left, but I do use what’s there to make a batch of chicken salad or a quick casserole. I use the recipe found in Nourishing Traditions, but almost any basic cookbook will have a chicken stock recipe in it.

I also use my trusty stockpot to easily brown large batches of ground meat. I often do about 10 lbs at a time and then package it in 1 lb servings individually in quart size freezer bags. These stack neatly and compactly, even in a small freezer…I keep mine in my kitchen freezer. Then, when I’m preparing a meal, instead of having to brown my meat, I can quickly pull and thaw a couple of bags anytime a recipe calls for ground meat, saving me quite a bit of time in putting together my dish.

The small amount of time I spend making and freezing batches of these “makings” saves me oodles of time when it comes time for actual meal preparation!

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  1. Hmmm… I'll have to check out that cream of something recipe. Thanks!

  2. Okay, these are great reminders. My freezer is teeny tiny, but pre-browning the ground beef I can do, and definitely making the cream-of substitute — I can't get the actual cream-of soups here, so a homemade version — perfect! Thanks!

  3. That cream of recipe sounds really promising. I'm going to have to try it now. Thanks for the link.

  4. Some seriously great tips! I have never tried making my own cream of chicken soup, but now I want to. And your idea of mixing turkey and ground beef — awesome!!

  5. Awesome! I'm bookmarking this page! I am very interested in your creamed soup ideas. Thank you.

  6. Great tips! Have you tried that cream of something soup with soy milk? I usually make my own cream sauce b/c of lactose problems. I'll have to try your recipe! Thanks!

  7. Great containers! What size are they? Where did you get them? I store this stuff in baggies in the freezer in the garage, but if I had them in little containers i could keep them in the house. Please share. 🙂 Anne

  8. Thanks! I didn't think that cream-of-whatever would freeze well, so I haven't ever tried that, but that one recipe alone will make a huge difference for me!

  9. What great tips!!

  10. Great tips! Thanks for sharing!~Jenna

  11. There are few things in life as satisfying as a well stocked freezer. 🙂

  12. I also make creamed soups at home (using a recipe with a roux base) – I didn't know it could be frozen. I thought milk-based sauces did not freeze well?

  13. Great tips! Do you do this with vegetables, too? I like to buy them in season and store the extra for later. My favorite is kale because it thaws so quickly and is so versatile. Click my name for lots of ways to use it!

  14. Thanks for sharing your recipes. I definitly need to get to work on stocking my freezer soon.

  15. Thanks for all the positive feedback, y'all!Olivia…I haven't tried it with soy milk…we avoid soy around here. We have lactose intolerance issues too, but I use raw milk so that solves that issue.Anne…I use 2 cup Ziploc Twist 'n Loc containers…I got them at the grocery store.Rachel & Anne…I've always heard the same thing, but this has always frozen just fine for me. I've adapted it a bit from the original recipe, but even the original recommended freezing it. Go figure.

  16. I do the pasta sauce thing, but I'm thinking I need to try the cream of …. Thanks for the inspiration!

  17. We do this too at our house, though I've never found a cream of soup recipe that I liked. I can't wait to try yours! Thanks for sharing them with us.Lori

  18. Cool! I do some of this, but I'd really like to do more – but first I DESPERATELY need more freezer space! Reading your first paragraph made me a little green with envy. =P

  19. Everything looks great. I am going to try the pizza sauce tomorrow. 🙂

  20. I do the same thing — love having frozen soups… makes me long for the day when I hope to have a bigger freezer 🙂

  21. Great post! I need to make a batch of that cream of whatever soup soon in preparation for my favorite . . . green bean casserole! 🙂 I've also just recently heard of/began thinking about freezing browned meat . . . genius!Best,Sarah

  22. Awesome post! I was just thinking about a recipe that calls for cream of mushroom soup the other day and wondering if I really wanted to use the store version. This will be so helpful! Thanks!

  23. How embarrassing that it took over a week to comment on your post! Does the cream-of-something soup really freeze okay by itself? I've always read that it separates a lot unless it's already mixed into a casserole or something.I really appreciate you linking up to the Un-Processed foods Carnival; it will be a valuable resource that I will direct my readers to often!Thanks, Katie

  24. These are great ideas even if you don't have a family to feed.I cook for myself (and sometimes my roommates) and these ideas would be great for me. Too many times when I come home from work I grab something pre-packaged because it's easier and quicker than cooking for myself.This would be just as fast and a lot healthier.

  25. I am just finding your blog and it is amazing! You have so much great info and most of it are things I am trying to do with my family! Thank you so much for sharing all of this. I especially am thankful I found the cream of whatever recipe because I was buying a cream of chicken from the store and realized it had partially separated chicken "stuff" in it and I couldn't believe it. There is a lot of junk in our food and I am finding that more and more every day. Can't wait to read more! Thanks!

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