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Does Anyone Make "Frozen Dinners" for the Office?

e
ExercisetoEat Mar 10, 2008 02:45 PM

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

  1. im_nomad Mar 15, 2008 07:06 AM

    alot of my lunches are frozen. I'm on my own at the moment, but I still love to cook just about every evening, and especially on the weekends at this time of year!!! Alot of the dishes i make, have about 4-6 servings in them, and i also make things like tofu based "meat" loaves etc and bean cakes etc. So i portion out whatever i'm having for supper or what not that night, and then divide the remaing portions to freeze. Works great, as i'm not living off the same leftovers for days in a row, and my freezer is always pretty full of great things to eat on lazy days, so that i don't reach for less healthy or appetizing fillers. The weighed or measured servings also keep me from eating more than i should. Doing this really keeps me in line with my diet.

    What i've been doing of late, especially with soups and stews....is portioning the servings out into small or medium ziploc bags, pressing all the air out, and stacking them flat on top of each other in the freezer. Takes up SO much less room, and these flat little servings actually fit in my purse to take to work !! To boot, i don't need to refridgerate them, i leave them out on our kitchen counter and by lunchtime it's almost defrosted. I know this is a little more wasteful plastic-wise, but i never seem to have enough tupperware type containers to fill the freezer, or they tend to go missing at times at work.

    With things that might stick together (like the "meatloaf" slices or bean cakes), i lay each slice out flat on a baking pan and freeze, then put them in baggies or a container. Like you would with berries and such. I also freeze leftover tomato sauce and the like in ice cube trays this way and pop back into a bag for easy small serving retrieval )

    I have frozen couscous and rice dishes and the results are not too bad for lunch meals. Potatoes do not tend to freeze well on their own, but i have made fish cakes in the past and the texture of the potatoes didn't freeze too badly. In chowders and such, it does not freeze well at all. Really grainy.

    1. sarah galvin Mar 14, 2008 08:33 PM

      When my kitchen was being renovated, I had to eat out of the freezer and use only a microwave for 3 months. I made individual servings in categories - starches, like rice or pasta and froze them in little freezer bags. I made veggies, stews, meats, etc. and froze all in individual servings. Then I could go to the freezer and pick out the combo I felt like for that meal and I could mix it up rather than eating the same combo all the time.

      1. f
        food_eater79 Mar 14, 2008 05:02 AM

        I like to make sandwiches for work. I'll often do it in the morning before I go in, or maybe the night before if I have time. Buying in bulk will save you $$.

        1. l
          Liz K Mar 13, 2008 03:35 PM

          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

          1. t
            torty Mar 13, 2008 02:37 PM

            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. redgypsy Mar 13, 2008 02:12 PM

              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. p
                porceluna Mar 10, 2008 08:40 PM

                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
                  e
                  ExercisetoEat Mar 13, 2008 08:48 AM

                  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. m
                  MalinDC Mar 10, 2008 02:50 PM

                  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
                    j
                    jsaimd Mar 10, 2008 03:09 PM

                    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.

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