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Does Anyone Make "Frozen Dinners" for the Office?

Hi Chowhounds,

My husband and I are both big fans of the Kashi frozen dinners and they are a lunchtime staple at the office for both of us. However at $3 a pop and for the sake of variety, I was thinking today that maybe there is some way to make similar meals at home and freeze them in plastic containers to be reheated quickly at work during the week. Does anyone do this? I like the Kashi because they are quick to reheat and healthy. I don't have time to make lunch every day and find them a healthier (and cheaper) alternative than eating out. I'd love to hear how you do this at home and any favorite recipes!

Thanks

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  1. Do you cook in the evenings? There are two of us, and I cook every meal for four people. I then turn the remaining food into tupperwares for lunch. If I cook for more than four, I freeze the remaining portions (keeping in mind that certain foods don't freeze all that well).

    1 Reply
    1. re: MalinDC

      I also freeze leftovers in portions to take for lunch. I just froze some tofu, asparagus and mushroom stir-fry, with hot sichuan eggplant and brown rice. Worked very well, but note that freezing does change the texture of tofu. However, I have to say the braised short-ribs and polenta didn't do well, the polenta turned spongey. I just freeze everything together and turn onto a plate to reheat, but you could freeze parts in muffin tins if you need to be able to cook some parts longer than tohers.

    2. I also go the leftovers route, usually just making double at night for the next day's lunch. Stirfries with various whole grains reheat spectacularly. I always had a bit more trouble with the frozen leftovers; they seem to take a really long time to defrost in tupperwares--perhaps the "food chunk" was too thick? I'm thinking that freezing in a thinner layer, maybe 1" deep like in real frozen dinners would work better.

      Soups are great, but be careful with noodles--they get mushy when frozen and reheated. I like frozen tofu, because it becomes chewier and meatier--I might actually like it better than regular!

      If you like light lunches, most muffins freeze really well and only require 30 seconds or so to defrost. That plus an apple and a carton of yogurt would be pretty easy.

      Overall, though, I would say just make double at night for the next day.

      1 Reply
      1. re: porceluna

        I do try to cook double at night but find that with my husband's large appetite I usually only have enough for one person or half a lunch even when doubling a recipe. Plus he often forgets that he has leftovers in the fridge at work and they go bad....the best solution is frozen items but I've run into the same problem as jsaimd that things become a big frozen block and do not thaw quickly or well in the microwave at work. I think the idea to freeze things in thinner layers or freeze parts seperately and then assemble them is interesting.

      2. I do this all the time. What works for me is to think of my weeknight meal prep as weekday frozen lunch prep -- what I mean is I try and prepare things that I know won't suffer from the freezing. One that I make often is a polenta topped shepherd's pie type dish. I make the pie shallow and then invert it in the tupperware so the polenta is on the bottom. This helps with the reheat (because it's not a huge frozen block) and the liquids make the polenta better IMO when re-heating. Not better than fresh for sure but not bad. Of course this works equally well with a potato topping. I also make a couple of cups of barley a week with whatever vege are in the fridge. That can be tossed in 1 cup containers and kept in the freezer for an easy grab and go grain. In the morning I can grab a 1 c. container of barley and maybe some leftover protein from the fridge -- whatever we had the night before -- and have a pretty good meal if I add some salad or maybe any vege leftovers. I also find that for me meats in sauces tend to taste better reheated -- I like making pork chops in a little mustard/sour cream pan sauce and putting those in small glad containers. Again heated up and dumped over the barley I've got a great lunch.

        As for keeping your husband from eating too much of tomorrow's lunch and/or remembering leftovers I'm not sure what to do there. I try and remind my dearest that a big pan of "x" is not all for tonight before we start eating. I also put things into containers quickly -- either before he has a chance to grab seconds (or thirds) or even before we sit down. He benefits from the leftovers (and the portion control) so it works for us. Good luck.

        1. You may want to look at some bento websites for ideas. Alot of bento prep uses parts of the main course from the night before augmented by some additional items that can be done quickly the night before. Example, if you had chicken curry and rice, then add a chopped salad and a hard boiled egg and crackers. Put the stuff to be nuked in one plastic container and the "to be eaten cold or room temp" in another.Course if he is forgetting food in the fridge he is also going to forget to bring his "lunchpail" home (just like a first grader...)- so check out the cheap Gladware type ones.

          1. Yes, but I don't freeze them as meals...

            I roast turkey breast to freeze in 3oz. portions, and cook brown rice to freeze in meal-size portions, and in the morning, I can put one of each in a container with some frozen broccoli (try Birdseye deluxe for bite-size florets), and either some vinegrette to make a rice salad, or some bottled sauce for a "stir-fry" to heat. This saves me when there isn't leftover dinner to take.

            ~Liz