How do I prep freezer meals with four small children?

Sarah - posted on 07/03/2010 ( 34 moms have responded )

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I have four small children ages 6 years to 7 months. I want to start making freezer meals so on busy nights I don't have to give feed my family quickie, often unhealthy, meals. I love that they all want to help, it is just they all want to help at the same time!! Any suggestions?

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Hi there!!!
It is actually pretty easy... I cook only once every 3 or 4 weeks!!!
I but the biggest bag of natural chicken at Sams.. its about 16 pounds or so.. I cook about 3 of those bags at the time... I bake them all in about 4 or 5 batches of different seasonings and very slowly at low temps in the oven.... at the same time I am making a big pot roast in the rock pot and a huge batch of brown rice ( I cook it with cilantro and chopped up onions and sometimes I add mixed veggies to it too).

once all of it is cooked and TOTALLY cooled down I divide the chicken in freezer ziploc bags, I add about 2 servings per person in the bag so when I thaw it out I have two meals out of the bag.... i do this with all of it.. rice, pot roast and whatever else I cook...
Also I make a huge batch of mac and cheese for the week. ( that doesn't freeze that well)

now that you have all of the hard work done.. all you have to do every day for dinner is cook some green beans or other veggie or noodles.. any kind of side!!!! It never takes me more than 15 minutes to get dinner rolling!!!! on Sundays I take whatever frozen meat I want for the week and by the time I need it it will be thawed out!!!!!

I hope this works for you.. I have been doing it for years!!!!

[deleted account]

My brother, sister, mom & I do this a couple times a year. Our picky eaters like these recipes:

Beef...Brown a bunch of burger (with seasonings) & freeze in 1 lb. portions. Put together a few Tatertot Casseroles (1 can green beans, 1 can cream soup, 1 lb burger, tatertots on top). Make some up as BBQs, or just keep plain for tacos, spaghetti, etc.

Chicken...In a large electric roaster, cover 10 lb. of chicken legs/thighs with water. Add salt, peppercorns, onion, celery & make soup while dealing with the burger. Pull out a couple meals' worth of meat before it loses all its flavor & freeze with BBQ sauce. Add bouillon to soup if needed & freeze that as well with some de-boned meat.

Cookies...We also make multiple batches of cookie dough, flatten in a cookie sheet, partially freeze, cut into cookie-sized squares & freeze (line pans with the plastic liners from cereal boxes for easy transfer & cleanup). So nice to be able to bake just a dozen cookies when you take supper out of the oven! You don't feel compelled to eat all the cookies while still fresh. Of course, you do need to "forget" that there's yummy dough right there in the freezer for midnight snacking!!!

Swiss Kiss Chicken...Get a bunch of chicken breasts on sale. Lay them out in a 9x13 pan. Put a slice of cheese on top of each (provolone also good). Sprinkle a box of stuffing mix on top (or make your own if you prefer less salt). Mix 1 can cream soup & 1 can milk; pour over all. Cover & freeze.

Beef steaks...buy some cheap cuts, slice them finger-sized and you can have steak strips with gravy from the slow cooker, or add a clove of garlic, 2 T. ketchup, 2 cups beef broth & thicken, then stir in sour cream for a nice stroganoff!

For some people it works well to cook double, but that never lasts around here. We have supper leftovers for lunch the next day, which also saves me cooking time!

It's great that your kids love to be in the kitchen. Keep encouraging them, know there will be messes & it will all pay off. My 12 year old makes the bread for me and occasionally a full meal. My 7 year old is my muffin/waffle buddy and loves to watch Alton Brown Good Eats episodes.

Get everyone involved...We have pizza nights...Preheat the oven and baking stone to 500 degrees, start the dough in the bread machine (or stand mixer) and by the time the rest of the toppings are prepped, we're ready to top pizzas. We don't have a pizza peel, but if you work quickly, you can stretch the dough thin, put it on parchment paper, top the pizza & slide it onto the stone. This will cook in 7-8 minutes. You can also do them in a pie pan. Make the crust a bit thicker, and if you want the "pan" pizza crust, spread out about a quarter-sized spot of oil.

Good luck! Every day gets better as the kids get older. Challenges change, but each stage has its memorable, wonderful moments!

Lisa - posted on 07/15/2010

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I always have a stockpile of meals on had for just such an occassion. I don't have time to prep all in one day, though, so I double my recipe and save 1/2 and we eat 1/2 that night. Also, some tricks I've learned to speed dinner prep up is precooking the proteins. Chicken I put in my crockpot raw, cook it plain w/out seasonings or moisture for about 8-10 hours on low depending. When done, I shred it all and put into little ziptop baggies and freeze. A handful of shredded chicken in a ziptop sandwich baggie is plenty for 6 servings. THEN I also precook my hamburger and sandwich baggie it, too. Another idea for quick and easy is marinate. Put your chosen protein in a gallon ziptop add your marinade and then freeze the bag w/ the marinade. When you're ready to use, take it out a couple days early and it will marinate while defrosting and be ready to use fast!

I use the book "Dinner is Ready" by Deanna Buxton as my reference to determine WHAT is freezer worthy and best ways to store and how to store. LOVE it! A lot the recipes my family LOVES, too!

Good luck! It's lots of fun and very addicting once you get started!!!

I have some of our favorite recipes on my food blog, too. http://gourmified.blogspot.com

Lisa

Carol - posted on 07/14/2010

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If you have a crock pot they are wonderful for having a meal ready when you get home! There are lots of recipe sites online with tasty casseroles & one dish meals. Many of the sites have sections dedicated to Crock Pot cooking. I use mine every summer & any itme I am going ot be gone for the day.
Also check out the recipe section here. Who better to recomend some thing fast & nurishing than another busy mom?

Janette - posted on 07/14/2010

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I cook meals for a month all in one day. It takes some planning to get started but is easy once you have done it the first time. I pick out meals , usually 15 different things and I double this. So for two weeks we eat a different meal every night then the next two weeks is a repeat.The next month we choose different recipes. Cooking day is very very busy so I recommend no children. I also do breakfasts. The cost is the best part, I can feed a family of 4 30 breakfasts 30 dinners for $250.00. The convenience is so worth the cooking day experience. I take meals out and thaw in the refrigerator overnite when it is time to cook dinner I slip it into the oven for 30 mins. or so. It is great.Meals are healthy,and adjusted to my family and I have more time for things I want to do in the evenings instead of standing at the stove cooking for an hour or so. Invite a friend to help and you get things done faster and easier and both of you can enjoy the convienience.

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Amanda - posted on 02/27/2012

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Each night one child could help you. Set up a chart for everyone to see and when that day of the week that has their name on it then they become your Sous-chef for the night. Maybe let them wear a special apron and you get to have some quality time with that child then. And make it a fanfare! The other two kids could help set the table for you, and you with your Sous-chef's assistance can serve the family :)



Monday, Wednesday, and Friday can be the nights when your three oldest kids can help you cook. Each child getting their own night of course. The other two nights either you get to cook alone or your spouse gets to help you! Bon appetit!

Jordan - posted on 02/24/2012

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I don't know if someone has mentioned this site or not, but I love them and they have helped us so much with time, money, and cooking healthy meals. It the Once a Month Mom web site and they are freezer meals. They give you the whole menu, and there are several menus to choose from. Here is a blog I wrote on how they helped us and the things we learned on how to do it working around kiddo's. Hope it helps! http://simplyriver.blogspot.com/2012/02/...

Audra - posted on 02/23/2012

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I'd schedule your night to make freezer meals for the week/next two weeks, etc. and either send the kids to a sitter or set up a separate area and have a sitter come there. For the same experience your kids can help you make a just-add-water batch of muffins, or something else that's easy. OR set aside a different night and let them help you make 1 freezer meal. But the point is to prepare dinner in bulk to make life a bit easier for you, and bless their hearts I know they want to help Mommy, but you're not going to accomplish what you NEED to accomplish if they're helping. If the older kids want to tend the younger ones in exchange for a special kitchen session with Mom, or work on their OWN recipe at the kitchen table while you do what you need to do in the kitchen---maybe you can make that work. Otherwise, you'd have to be superhuman to tend to both at the same time and STILL want to do it again :).

Gizzelle - posted on 07/16/2010

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Use tupperware or alternative. Make big batches of Spaghetti, soups, Tuna mornay, Pasties, Beef strog. Take note of how many scoops each child and yourself eat in one meal and make servings accordingly. I sneak extra veggies in all of these by grating them ie: carrot, zucchini etc. Note potatoe and sweet potatoe (yams) do not freeze well.

Brigid - posted on 07/16/2010

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I feel your pain and am very excited to read your responses I too have 4 kids , but 17 mos til just 6 last week. Thanks for asking the question.... tonight after they are all down I will enjoy reading the responses! Good luck over there!

Carla - posted on 07/16/2010

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Making double or triple the amount at once has always worked for me. 'They' tell you to make it all at once, on the weekend, but who has time to spend an entire day cooking? Crock pots are a God-send, and there are many crock pot recipes out there that are great! Start it in the morning, and when you get home, viola! Dinner is served!

I will add one thing, however. My kids and now grandkids have always loved helping cook. It is a hassle, no doubt. But, my 3y/o granddaughter can make scrambled eggs by herself now (except the hot part, I help) I never discouraged them from helping, even though it takes longer. If you don't teach them when they WANT to learn, later on down the road, they won't want to take the time to learn.

God bless, good luck, sweetie!

Fipe - posted on 07/16/2010

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Okay here is something that I totally came across while watching a health show. I was getting my kids chicken nuggets since I am pregnant and hate smelling food cooking. All you need are the following:

Fresh Chicken Tenders
Corn Flakes
Eggs(for an egg wash)

I use fresh chicken because it is healthier for the kids. I also buy in bulk since I have 4 kids it takes a lot to feed them and it makes a ton.

You crush up the corn flakes in a big bowl. It has got to be big enough for you to coat the chicken. Make you egg wash. Dip you chicken in egg and then in the corn flakes. Place on a greased cookie sheet. I normally line my cookie sheets with foil paper and use a cooking spray. Less mess and less oil. I cook them at 425 for 20 min. or until they are done.

The corn flakes gives the chicken a crispy coating without frying them. You can add salt and pepper or any seasoning you want but my kids like them without it as long as they have their dipping sauce. They freeze well. I normally put them in individual servings and throw them in the freezer. The whole process from start to finsh takes about an hour on Saturday but I make a ton and it last for a long time.
Another thing I like to do it precook anything I can before putting it in the freezer. If I am going to have chicken stir fry or cassorle in the week I cut up the chicken cook and then freeze. Then all I have to do on the night we are going to have it is microwave the chicken add it into what ever I am going to make and it saves so much time.

Shirley - posted on 07/16/2010

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i know what you mean i went back to work when my son was months and found that some nites when he got older i had to have his dinner ready before the rest of the family so i found that if i made a big meal of what my child likeed then let it cool and put into a bag with the amount that he would eat and put it in the freezer then when i ran out of time to make him something i would just pull it out of the freezer, defrost and then heat and give it to him and he was always happy and i knew what he was eating and it was healthy and quick. hopes this helps you a bit

Nancy - posted on 07/14/2010

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Do you want suggestions of recipes or how to prep them with 4 kids under foot?? Maybe dad or another friend or family member needs to take them all to the park to play for a few hours to give you some quiet time to cook. Then they'll be good and tired when they come home and you'll be able to focus on cooking and freezing. Good luck

Carol - posted on 07/14/2010

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I used to cook double the amount for a meal & freeze half for later. By giving each child an age appropriate task such as putting out placemats,silverware,plates, etc. they can all feel helpful, Then while the food heats you have time for a story or talk about the days events.
Enjoy the "help" while you can. Too soon they will be busy with lives outside the home.

Rose - posted on 07/13/2010

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Many good replies so far! I have done the whole freezer meal thing but never seem to find the time when I was working full time. Usually what I would do is by bulk packages of meat and make up the whole thing at once. I would brown 5 pounds of hamburger and then freeze what we didn't use. I also make up meat balls or salisbury steak (the hamburger kind) in 5 pound batches. When I make my spaghetti sauce I make a crockpot full. We have spaghetti one night then I freeze most of the rest of the sauce. Instead of washing out the pot I then make chili with a base of the sauce left in the pan. Since I'm not working full time now I hope to start doing freezer cooking again. At the moment I have 2 refrigerators, a chest freezer and and upright freezer available. I think we could probably eat for 6 months if I could afford to fill all of them.

Elizabeth - posted on 07/13/2010

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sorry, 1 can of soup 1 can of rice and 1 can of water, don't forget the water!

Elizabeth - posted on 07/13/2010

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When my children were small, I use to make 2 times the dinner, cook one (usually oven meals), and freeze one. I use to make 2 to 5 lasagna at a time and freeze. Put in fridge in morning and when I came home from work, wa-la home made dinner. I takes the same amount of pans to make 2 or 3 times the food as 1 and not much more time. saves a lot of time and work. a family favorite recipie, 1 can of mushroom soup, 1 soup can of rice, whatever meat, chicken, pork or fish, cook in oven covered 30 min or untill rice is cooked-add a side of vegetable and done. Stuffing mix is also good instead of rice. use bullion for the stuffing.

Sandy - posted on 07/13/2010

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You can also check out places like Dream Dinners; (or similar in your area). Where you go and make meals, they help you package them and they do the clean up. They can be pricey, but, it can also add to your freezer of ready made meals. Another suggestion: crockpot! You can put it together the night before, and start it up in the morning. Meals are waiting for you. I don't use mine as much as I should, but when I do... it's nice to come home to a hot meal, that your not waiting for it to cook! :)

Beth Ann - posted on 07/13/2010

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I too have four children and a busy schedule. My phlosophy is that if I am cooking why not cool extra and freeze. So if I am making meatloaf, it is only a few extra minutes to make 3 or 4 meatloaves and freeze them, the same for stew, soups, pasta, rice, chicken fingers, fish sticks, macaroni and cheese, pesto sauce, etc. Get a slow cooker, too. When you prep on meal for the slow cooker, prep 3 or 4 and freeze so on those really crazy days, all you have to do is dump the prepped meal and some stock into the slow cooker and set it on high. when you get home, dinner will be ready. Good Luck.

Lorraine - posted on 07/12/2010

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hi , i only have a son but i came from a big family so we alway's cooked in bulk and i still do the same thing then freeze the leftovers for when i can't be bothered cooking. i find the best ones to do are ones with pasta and rice because when you cook your meal cook twice as much rice and pasta then put the leftovers in freezer bags, i drizzle a little bit of oil on the pasta to stop it from sticking then you just need to flatten the bags down and tie it of, it only takes a few minutes to reheat in the microwave and do the same with your meats like bolanase, curried sausages, chilli con carne with verry little chilli with kids and even fried rice are good to freeze with sweet and sour chicken that's frozen. sometimes i just make up meals in take away containers that way on friday's we just have freezer meals and a break for you i make up some kids size and some udult sizes so even if you took one udult size meal that would feed 2 kids, i even freeze quiches that i make with a muffin tray so if i feel like some for lunch i take a few reheat them and have a sallad with it. it's not offten we have packet food because i make evrything myself even chicken strips i do before hand crumb them in cornflakes and breadcrumbs then freeze them ready for a night so good luck .

Karin - posted on 07/11/2010

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Google "Once A Month Cooking".
I have 1 or 2 recipes from this type of thinking that I will make ahead of time, and a few mixes that I just have to add 1-3 ingredients and bake (such as brownies).
As for little kids, I have the SAME darned problem most days, as they ALL love to cook! So, most of the time, they get to do anything that does not involve the stove.
If I'm doing A LOT of cooking, I will do all the chopping, juicing, grating and prep of every recipe before getting started, so the kids have a lot to choose from.
The kids love to unwrap the butter, juice citrus, clean corn on the cob, etc... As a diversion, we have set out fresh fruit, or a favorite snack for the kids if it's not meal-time, or let them have a treat while watching a movie. One of my kids actually likes to wash dishes, so I let her do that while I'm finishing stuff up. When she was little, I could let her stand on a kitchen chair in front of the sink with two little cups and a half full sink, and let her go at it.
When they were REALLY little, and it was dangerous for them to be underfoot, we had installed gates to block them from the kitchen. That helped soooo much!
Good luck, I hope you get some great ideas from this post! I know I have learned a few things already!

Dana - posted on 07/11/2010

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check out savingdinner.com. nice concept. can buy just a package of recipes to see how she does it and then do it on your own with your favorite recipes.



fyi, I also plan my meals, a month ahead during the school year (less so in summer; I get too warm to want to cook much so it's salads, grilled cheese sandwiches, and grilling :)

Sonia - posted on 07/10/2010

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try and make a charter/rota for who will help each time you prepar a meal. try shepperds pie, lasagna, mac and cheese, casserols, veggie soups, etc... and why not some cookies dough?...

Melanie - posted on 07/10/2010

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I like the kid friendly job idea. One of my 7 year olds jobs is to open cans and drain vegetables. We got him his own mini colander and he uses that. My oldest is 11 and so can shred cheese or help slice while I prep other stuff. My middle son is old enough to shred chese or stir. So they each have their job and are only allowed in the kitchen one at a time.
So on spaghetti night my youngest opens cans and drains and then sits at the table while my daughter browns meat and my older son shreds cheese at the table for the bread. And while they are doing this I am getting the water boiling for the noodles. Then I get the veggies (mushrooms, olives and artichoke hearts) and add them to the sauce. And so on. It allows them to help in such a way that they are out of the, so to speak.

Veronica - posted on 07/09/2010

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Hi Sarah
I would suggest that when they go to sleep that would be the perfect time to prepare the meals and packed them in the freezer. When you need, then you would only have to heat it in the microwave.

Hope that my suggestion helps.

Bye
Veronica

Annamariaa - posted on 07/08/2010

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The best thing I ever done was to buy hamburger meat in bulk like 20/30 lbs fry it up with a onions and bell peppers seasoning it like I would for anything and them packageing it up in 2 lb ziplock bags so that when I want to cook I can do just about anything in 10 min. chili pull out a pack of meat add chili seasoning beans tomato's and you have a chili in 10 min, spag. add meat and jar sauce let simmer while you are cooking your noodles in 8-10 min you have spag. and your bread can be in the oven at the same time. same with taco's or taco salad meat, sauce or seasoning use dorioto;s or whatever you prefer and your ready in 10 min. same with hamburger helper, shepards pie it all ready in 10 min.

Kacie - posted on 07/08/2010

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Go to www.Recipezaar.com and in the search bar write something like "freezer friendly meals" or just "freezer" and it will give you a bunch of them....most meals if you are packaging them up individually will require you to put a few tablespoons of water in with them before freezing so that when you are thawing them they do not dry out.

Tina - posted on 07/07/2010

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Hi, we do the same thing and it makes it so much easier. I have a good friend with kids about the same age so we get together for a 'play date' every once in a while. The kids play and watch movies and we share cooking and baby duties. The kids are fed, bathed and ready for bed by the time one of us has to head home. It's a really lovely way to spend a day - and nothing more to do when you get home. I hope this helps. All the best.

Chris - posted on 07/06/2010

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Sarah,

Wow, you must be a very busy lady. Here are a couple of recipes from The Pampered Chef that you can prep and freeze. If you have any questions, please just let me know.

Enjoy. . .
Make-Ahead Chicken
1 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Cut chicken into ½-in. cubes using Chef’s Knife.

Heat oil in 12-in Skillet over medium-high heat 1-3 minutes or until shimmering. Add chicken and cook 7-10 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink, stirring occasionally. Drain chicken, if necessary.

Greek Chicken and Orzo Skillet
To prepare and freeze:
1 portion “Make-Ahead Chicken”
2 medium zucchini, cut into ¼-in pieces
1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (14 oz) garlic and onion flavored diced tomatoes
3 tbs Greek Rub

In Bag 1, combine chicken and zucchini In Bag2, combine beans, tomatoes, and rub.

To finish and serve:
2 cans (14 oz) each chicken broth
½ cup water
1 lb uncooked orzo
2 oz crumbled feta (optional)
black olives (optional)

To cook and serve immediately:
Add contents of Bag 2, broth and water to 12-in Skillet; cover and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.

Reduce heat to medium, add orzo. Cover and cook 5 minutes (or halfway through cooking time according to package directions), stirring occasionally.

Add contents of Bag 1. Cover and cook 5-7 minutes or until orzo is tender and zucchini begins to soften. Remove from heat; top with feta and olives, if desired.

To cook and serve from freezer:
Add contents of Bag 2, broth and water to 12-in Skillet; cover and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook 8-10 minutes, breaking contents apart as necessary.
Proceed as directed above.


Chicken Dijon Chicken Noodle Toss
To prepare and freeze:
1 portion “Make-Ahead Chicken”
2 cups frozen peas
¼ lb deli ham, diced into ¼-in. pieces
1 can (10¾ oz) condensed cream of chicken soup
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
In Bag 1, combine chicken and peas. In Bag 2, combine ham, soup and mustard.
Seal Bag 2 and place into Bag 1; seal

To finish and serve:
12 oz uncooked rotini pasta
½ cup water
8 oz sour cream
1 oz grated fresh Parmesan cheese
(optional)
¼ cup snipped fresh parsley

To cook and serve immediately:
Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.

Meanwhile, place water and contents of Bag 2 in (12-in.) Skillet; cover. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.

Add sour cream to Skillet. Reduce heat to medium; add contents of Bag 1. Cover and cook 4-6 minutes or until chicken is hot, stirring occasionally.

Toss cooked pasta with parsley. Spoon chicken mixture over pasta and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

To cook and serve from freeze:
Cook and drain pasta as directed above.

Meanwhile, place water and contents of Bag 2 in (12-in.) Skillet; cover. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat; cook 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking
contents apart as necessary using Bamboo Spatula.
Proceed as directed above.

Melissa - posted on 07/05/2010

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assembly line meals, such as lasagna. find something age appropriate each can do.i dont know what the middle ages are but maybe let the baby play with measuring spoons or something and the 6 yr old can help tear lettuce for a side dish help spoon sauce etc.

[deleted account]

One thing I have is a vacuum sealer. I make my food and then put it in the bags that can be cut to size and sealed shut and vacuum sealed with the machine after cooled. I put it into the freezer and when I need it I put the entire bag unopened into a pot with water in it and boil it in the water until heated. It keeps the moisture and the flavour in the food while being easy to reheat. I have done it to soups - lasagna (a little messed up in looks but still yummy). I hope that helps some. I know its not a specific recipe but it is a good thing overall for precooked freezer meals. By the way cream soups can be done they just need to be mixed well by kneading the bag before you open it.

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