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Recipes for Busy Moms Recipes for Busy Moms

*~ Create Your Own Frozen Dinners ~*

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Create Your Own Frozen Dinners

Healthier Meals that Save Time & Money

-- By Leanne Beattie, Health & Fitness Writer

You're busy. Whether you work full-time, attend college, care for a loved one, run a household—or all of the above—you don’t always have time to make yourself nutritious meals. Like many people who want to eat healthy on a budget, you probably rely on those handy frozen entrees to fill the gap. After all, they seem like a bargain compared to going out for lunch every day. 

But if you do the math, you're probably spending at least $60 per month for frozen meals that don’t taste that great and are processed, packaged, and preserved. Why not make your own frozen dinners and save the extra money? By using better quality ingredients and controlling the cooking method, you’ll always have a supply of quick and tasty meals on hand—foods you actually like to eat! 

Compared to store-bought, homemade frozen meals are:

  • Healthier. Many commercially-prepared foods are full of salt, artificial ingredients, preservatives and unhealthy fats. By making your own meals, you can control what goes into them and use quality ingredients like brown rice instead of white rice, organic vegetables instead of conventional, and olive oil instead of palm oil. 
  • Inexpensive. While a frozen meal may be cheaper than a restaurant bill, it's still more expensive than cooking from scratch. If you prepare your own meals with whole ingredients, you can save $100 a month or more. 
  • Time Savers. Making your own meals doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Set aside one day a month to cook a few recipes and you will have enough meals to last for weeks on end. You can even make cooking a social event by inviting some friends and sharing recipes—you’ll get to try something new while you chitchat with your buddies. 
  • Eco-Friendly. Frozen entrees are packed in plastic and cardboard that usually ends up in landfills. When you make and package your own foods, you can decrease your impact on the planet by using glass or plastic containers over and over again with little to no waste. 
  • Full of Variety. Prepackaged frozen meals don’t offer any flexibility—what you buy is what you get. While you might like some of the ingredients in the meal, not everything is going to appeal to you. But by creating your own, everything will be up to your taste level and standards—and you can change the menu, ingredients, and combinations any time!

The choice is yours. Preparing freezer-ready meals isn't a difficult task. To get started, use these meal-preparation and storage tips.

  • The containers you use to store your meals in should be both microwave- and freezer-safe. Both glass and plastic may work well, if they meet these standards (all glass and plastic containers are different). Another option is large freezer bags. Certain foods will freeze well in a bag, and can then be defrosted in the refrigerator, placed in a microwave-safe container, and then reheated.
  • Before portioning out cooked food into containers, allow it to cool completely first and always leave extra room at the top of to allow for expansion of the food during freezing.
  • Make sure food is wrapped well and/or covered with air-tight lids to prevent air from getting in.
  • Foods with high moisture content (such as soups) tend to freeze better than drier foods.
  • Don’t turn your food into a mystery science project. Use a permanent marker to label each dish with a name and a date. For maximum quality and flavor, use each meal within a couple of weeks. Just like in a store, rotate your stock so that the newest meals are in the back and the oldest are in the front for easy access.
  • Vegetables should be slightly undercooked to prevent them from becoming mushy when you reheat them.
  • Be careful about bacterial contamination. Completely cool hot food before freezing it to prevent the growth of bacteria. Bacteria can grow when the outside of food freezes while the inside remains warm.
  • If you’re not sure a meal will freeze well, cook and freeze only a small portion the first time. If the quality is okay, then go ahead and freeze more in the future.
  • Read your owner's manual to find the fill level that will keep your freezer running at peak energy efficiency. Certain freezers run best when completely full, while others shouldn't be filled more than half-way.
  • Consider posting a freezer inventory list nearby to track the meals (and dates) of everything in the freezer. Check off each item as you remove it and you will know exactly what foods are available at all times. This also prevents forgotten foods from going to waste.
  • Freezing your meals is a great way to keep foods longer, but frozen doesn’t mean forever. As a general rule, fruit and vegetables will stay freezer-fresh for around eight months, fish and shellfish for up to six months, and meat and poultry for three. Trust your instincts and throw out anything from the freezer that smells or tastes "off."
  • Don’t re-freeze defrosted foods because the taste and texture will decline and you could be risking bacterial contamination.

As a general rule, the following dishes tend to freeze well: baked goods, burgers (sometimes uncooked will freeze better), burritos, calzones, casseroles, cooked beans, cooked grains, egg rolls, enchiladas, French toast, quiche, lasagna, manicotti, mashed potatoes, meatballs and meatloaf, pancakes, pot pies, poultry, roasted meats, sauces, sloppy Joes, soup, stuffed shells, taco fillings, tofu, TVP, and waffles. Foods that do NOT freeze well include: egg- and cream-based sauces, instant rice, salad, stuffed poultry, hard-cooked eggs and fried foods. 

If you’re ready to start making your own frozen dinners, here are a few healthy SparkPeople recipes to get you started with flair! 


by on Apr. 11, 2011 at 8:30 PM
Replies (11-20):
dntbgmeb4cofe
by on Apr. 11, 2011 at 8:43 PM

Vegan Brainless Banana Pancakes

Nutritional Info
  • Fat: 2.6g
  • Carbohydrates: 48.4g
  • Calories: 246.6
  • Protein: 9.3g

Ingredients

1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 banana, mashed
1 1/4 cups soy milk
1 tbsp sweetener
sliced fresh fruit (garnish)

Directions

1. In a large bowl, sift the flour and baking powder together. 

2. In a small bowl, mash the banana with a fork and add 1/4 cup of the milk, mixing together until there are no lumps. Add the banana, sweetener, and remaining soy milk to the dry mix and stir together until "just mixed." 

3. Portion out about 3/4 to 1 cup of batter onto a hot non-stick pan or a lightly oiled frying pan and cover with a lid. Let sit on medium heat until the center starts to bubble and become sturdy. Flip pancake over and cook other side until golden brown. Repeat process until all the batter is gone.

4. Garnish with fresh fruit and maple syrup.

Makes 3 servings.
dntbgmeb4cofe
by on Apr. 11, 2011 at 8:44 PM

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

Nutritional Info
  • Fat: 10.1g
  • Carbohydrates: 61.1g
  • Calories: 355.8
  • Protein: 7.4g

Ingredients

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 large egg white
Cooking spray
3/4 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons butter

Directions

Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine buttermilk, oil, egg, and egg white, stirring with a whisk; add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

Heat a nonstick griddle or nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Spoon about 1/4 cup batter per pancake onto griddle. Turn pancakes over when tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked. Serve with syrup and butter. 

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 2 pancakes, 2 tablespoons syrup, and 1 1/2 teaspoons butter)
dntbgmeb4cofe
by on Apr. 11, 2011 at 8:45 PM

Salmon Patties

Nutritional Info
  • Fat: 7.7g
  • Carbohydrates: 11.5g
  • Calories: 208.2
  • Protein: 22.2g

Ingredients

14oz can red sockeye salmon or pink salmon - drained 
1 extra large egg 
1/3 to 1/2 cup whole wheat oatmeal breadcrumbs - enough to hold the salmon together but you don't want them to be too heavy. 
1/4 cup diced onions
1 tsp basil - more to taste 
1 tsp parsley flakes - same as above 
2 tsp lemon juice 

Directions

Mix all ingredients. 
Mash up the drained salmon. Form into patties (makes about 5 nice sized patties). 
Cook in a little olive oil over medium.
Heat until browned on both sides. 
Serve topped with lowfat or fat free sour cream or just eat them plain.
These are very tasty cold as well, and go nicely with cooked brown rice. You can add or omit spices according to your tastes.


Number of Servings: 5
dntbgmeb4cofe
by on Apr. 11, 2011 at 8:45 PM

Salsa Turkey Burgers

Nutritional Info
  • Fat: 1.5g
  • Carbohydrates: 7.6g
  • Calories: 161.8
  • Protein: 29.4g

Ingredients

1 lb ground turkey (99% fat free)
1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs
4 tbsp chunky salsa (use medium or hot for extra kick)

Directions

Combine all ingredients until well mixed. 
Add salt and pepper to taste. 
Divide into 4 patties. 
Spray a frying pan with cooking spray and cook over medium heat until cooked thoroughly (about 10 minutes), flipping once about half-way through.

Number of Servings: 4
dntbgmeb4cofe
by on Apr. 11, 2011 at 8:46 PM

All-Star Pork Meatballs

Nutritional Info
  • Fat: 16.4g
  • Carbohydrates: 13.8g
  • Calories: 287.4
  • Protein: 20.7g

Ingredients

1 pound ground pork
1 tablespoon onion flakes
3/4 cup crushed corn flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 egg
1/4 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard 

Directions

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. 

2. In a large bowl, combine ground pork, onion flakes, corn flakes, salt, pepper and egg.

3. In a small bowl stir together ketchup, brown sugar and dry mustard. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the ketchup mixture into the pork and mix well. 

4. Spray muffin tin with vegetable cooking spray. Form 6 meatballs and place in muffin tin. Coat the top of each meatball with the remaining ketchup mixture. 

5. Bake for 30 minutes at 375 degrees F., until nicely browned and glazed. 

Serves 6 (about 2.5 ounce servings)
dntbgmeb4cofe
by on Apr. 11, 2011 at 8:46 PM

Bean Casserole

Nutritional Info
  • Fat: 8.2g
  • Carbohydrates: 26.7g
  • Calories: 223.9
  • Protein: 11.7g

Ingredients

2 lbs lean ground beef
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chooped celery
1-10.75 oz. can cream of tomato soup, undiluted
1-6 oz. can tomato paste
1/2 cup ketchup
1-16 oz. can green beans, drained
1-17 oz, can lima beans, drained
1-15.5 oz. can wax beans, drained
1-16 oz. can red kidney beans, undrained
1-16 oz. can pork and beans, undrained
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp prepared mustard
1/4 cup pure maple syrup (optional)

Directions

In a large Dutch oven, brown beef over medium-high heat. 
Drain fat. 
Add onion and celery; cook until tender. 
Stir in soup, tomato paste, and ketchup; simmer 15-20 minutes.
Spoon into a large kettle or roaster. 
Add all remaining ingredients; stir well. 
Bake uncovered, at 350F for 1 hour.

Number of Servings: 25
dntbgmeb4cofe
by on Apr. 11, 2011 at 8:47 PM

Deluxe Tuna Noodle Casserole

Nutritional Info
  • Fat: 7.7g
  • Carbohydrates: 26.6g
  • Calories: 302.9
  • Protein: 31.2g

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup carrot, chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1-1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 cups skim milk (can use dry milk plus water)
3 oz (90g) fat free cream cheese, cut up
8 oz whole wheat pasta (I use penne or rotini)
3-6 oz cans tuna, chunk white in water, drained

Directions

Preheat oven to 350.
In a 4-quart saucepan, over medium heat, cook celery, carrot, and onions in olive oil until tender, stirring frequently. 
Stir in flour, salt, and pepper until blended
Gradually stir in milk and cream cheese and cook, stirring constantly until blended. 
Continue cooking until sauce is slightly thickened and smooth. Remove saucepan from heat.
Meanwhile , prepare pasta as directed on package, undercooking by several minutes.
Into cheese sauce gently stir hot, drained pasta, and the drained tuna. 
Pour mixture into a 12 x 8 baking dish that has been coated with olive oil. 
Bake 20 minutes or until mixture is hot and bubbly.
Makes 10 1-cup servings.

Number of Servings: 10
dntbgmeb4cofe
by on Apr. 11, 2011 at 8:48 PM

Easy Greek Chicken Casserole

Nutritional Info
  • Fat: 14.6g
  • Carbohydrates: 64.0g
  • Calories: 547.3
  • Protein: 42.7g

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chopped onion (about 1 large)
2 tablespoons dried thyme
1 to 2 teaspoons black pepper
10 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups (1/2-inch) cubed red potato (about 2 pounds)
2 cups (1-inch) cut green beans (about 1/2 pound)
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons anchovy paste or finely chopped olives
2 (14.5-ounce) cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
8 skinned, boned chicken thighs (about 1 pound)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°.

Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the thyme, pepper, and garlic; sauté 1 minute. Increase heat to medium-high. Add potato; sauté 8 minutes or until potato begins to brown. Stir in green beans, water, anchovy paste, and tomatoes. Remove mixture from heat. Nestle chicken thighs into potato mixture. Top with feta cheese. Cover and bake at 375° for 45 minutes. 

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 2 thighs and 2 cups potato mixture)
dntbgmeb4cofe
by on Apr. 11, 2011 at 8:49 PM

Fish Loaf

Nutritional Info
  • Fat: 7.9g
  • Carbohydrates: 16.1g
  • Calories: 266.9
  • Protein: 34.6g

Ingredients

2-6 oz cans of tuna
1-15.5 oz can pink salmon
4 pieces of whole wheat bread, crumbed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp basil
1 tbsp cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Add all ingredients together in a large bowl. 
Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray and bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes. 


Number of Servings: 6
dntbgmeb4cofe
by on Apr. 11, 2011 at 8:52 PM

Taco Filling

Nutritional Info
  • Fat: 5.2g
  • Carbohydrates: 12.9g
  • Calories: 135.8
  • Protein: 10.0g

Ingredients

1 tbsp extra light olive oil
1 med onion
2 tsp chopped garlic
1 lb extra lean ground beef
2 cups cooked pinto beans
1 cup tomato sauce
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
1 cup water
1 tbsp taco seasoning (add more if you wish)

Directions

Saute' the onion and garlic in the olive oil. 
Add ground beef and cook until no longer pink. 
Add remaining ingredients and cook on low until sauce has thickened and flavors have melded. 
Use in tacos, taco salad, taco pie, taco spuds...


Number of Servings: 12
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