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Single student strategies// Freezing portion size leftovers

I'm sure that this has been covered before, but my brief investigation of the board history yielded nothing.

I want to create a student-friendly cooking strategy where I cook stews and soups and whatnot (pasta sauce, other mains, lunchy items) for the week. And just keep them frozen or refrigerated. Because there's not enough time to cook daily, but I want to eat well and stick to my budget. And avoid processed foods.

I am cooking for one. ----> So cooking family size and freezing portion size seems rational/economical. Or also preparing items that will last the week in the fridge. Thoughts?

I make a double batch of banh xeo. The "batter" lasts four or five days. I have a bag of shrimp in the freezer. Simple and quick to toss together at home.

Also made hummous last week (my first time, soaking the chick peas and all). Amazing how easy it is. Now I have all of this hummous in a jar in the fridge and I had grilled some bell peppers earlier in the week. I brought grilled bell peppers, raw bell peppers, kalamata olives, celery, pita, and hummous to school and ate them in the library while I was studying. It was fabulous.

Another approach I have embraced is putting together a naked salad. Making a dressing to store separately. And bringing them both to school.

Something along those lines. For home or to take as lunch.

And then regarding freezing. We don't have a microwave at home. Stove, oven, and toaster oven are the available reheating options. However, there are plenty of microwaves at school. So depending...

------> My most urgent question is how to freeze a chili I made a few days ago. For reheating at home.

I also made cornbread pudding in a skillet (fun!), cut it up, threw it into a freezer bag. Intend to revive it piece by piece in the toaster oven. Is there a smarter way to store this?

Would also like to, as much as possible, avoid non-durable materials such as aluminum foil, plastic wrap, etc. I'm a big fan of the mason jar. Although I don't think it freezes well...

Thank you!

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  1. Invest in some food storage containers. Ziploc makes some containers that aren't too expensive because they do wear out/stain. Chili freezes really well and you can pretty much remove the lid from the plastic container and pop it in the microwave. I often reuse yogurt tubs/sour cream etc for chilis and soups. You can recycle them when they get tired out. Tomato based sauces or curries tend to stain the plastic containers-which is fine it just doesn't look as nice.

    Ok I just read that you don't have a microwave- I would dump the frozen block of chili into a pot and slowly heat it on the stove if you don't have time to defrost. If it is stuck in the container, just run hot water on the sides.

    Definately don't put the mason jars in the freezer.

    1. I freeze in ziploc, takes up 1/3 the room, lies flat, just defrost and put on the stove, I do the same for most. I do have ziploc containers and use them for some things, but ziplocs to me work as well or better especially when you don't have a micro to reheat and eat. The way to go for me.

      Also I freeze pasta, cook almost all the way drizzle with olive oil and then cool and freeze in a baggie. Just reheat in boiling water for a minute or 2 and serve. Great easy and takes minutes to cook a box of pasta

      I love to cook 4 or 5 chicken breasts at a time or get a roasted chicken from the store. Most store after 8 at night cut the price in 1/2. If not get chicken and marinade in a general olive oil, vinegar and seasoning. Grill, broil or bake, bone in is great too. Anything you can afford then cut and dice or keep whole in baggies. Great for salads and pasta. Mason is good in the fridge, not in the freezer. Stay away from that. Baggies for me and I know that fall along the line of plastic wrap, sorry. I wrap in parchment too which is great, but then you need more. Freezer baggies for me are the most economical and easy. Especially is you pre cook and wrap in parchment first, like for chicken or meats, solid foods. Then re use the baggies.

      Pork tenderloin is a great economical meat. Get when on sail and marinade, then grill or saute in a pan and then finish in oven, or just cook in the oven. Slice and bag up. Makes great uses for soups, pastas, salads or just a main course.

      Roasted beets, another good freezer stable. Love making grilled cabbage or pre boil potatoes in slices and freeze. 5 minutes in the oven with some cream and butter and a side dish.

      I hope baggies will work, I'm not fond of foil either, freezer burn. Parchment first or wax paper but then a baggie. I've heard of other options but nothing works as well.

      1. When I was in school, I would bake a turkey breast, then cut into pieces and freeze for sandwiches. I also made light versions of "sloppy joes" with ground meat, crushed pineapple, chili sauce and mushrooms, and froze those in small bags and froze. Heated in a microwave in a heavy paper cup at school and then put on a fresh bagel. I also made a light meatloaf, again with crushed pineapple and things. (I guess I was really into crushed pineapple in those days!) I haven't made any of those things in eons, but they bring back good memories.

        How about split pea or lentil soup, frozen? If you make one or two good things each weekend and freeze it, pretty soon you will have a well-stocked freezer, so you don't have to repeat things.

        As far as the mason jars, foodsaver has an attachment for mason jars, so you things stored in them (like soups or stews) will last longer. And then you store in the fridge. Because the air is vacuumed out, things last much longer.

        And if it makes a difference, you can usually rinse out and reuse baggies so you aren't wasting.

        1. Pesto frozen in ice cube trays is a great easy pasta sauce to store in the freezer. You can pull a cube out, let in sit in the bowl while cooking the pasta. Saute up some chicken, or cook frozen shrimp in the pasta water, soften non-oil packed sundried tomatoes in the pasta water. Now mash or break up the pesto cube and mix all together. Leftovers are great as a pasta salad. I also like to stir in some ricotta for that.

          For the chili, I'd freeze it in single portions and the if you are reheating it at home, pull it out of the freezer in the morning or the night before so you can reheat on the stove. If it's not fully defrosted, a double boiler (metal pan over a pot is fine) may the way to go.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Stuffed Monkey

            Nice idea, tried once, haven't done since. Great idea. They worked well, I just never do them but excellent.

            1. re: Stuffed Monkey

              Thanks. I had decided to freeze the chili in a muffin tin. Then I freezer-bagged it in its little portion sizes.

              The other night I reheated one using the double broiler method. Fantastically simple. And it was great.
              (Although the corn bread pudding was MUCH better fresh than reheated in the toaster oven.)

              Thanks for all of the suggestions. They are inspiring. I am keen to explore other possibilities--- as I have the time.

              Since September I've also been making challah. One recipe yields two loaves (or sometimes I split into three). I freeze one and have it for the next week or whenever. Take it out and let it defrost/ final rise overnight (in a heated room) then throw it in the oven for a half hour. It's thrilling to have fresh bread ready so quickly.

              I froze pesto last summer and it was a great success.

              I have a favorite recipe for puttanesca, perhaps I'll try making a double batch next time. Freezing some and refrigerating the rest.

              Again, thank you all.

              1. re: sophie.

                Sophie - are you studying Chowhound? At a masters course? Keep experimenting and posting - your discoveries will lead others.

            2. Here's another strategy that might be useful - I make noodles in the time it takes to boil water in a pot + ~10-15mins. This has the advantage of giving you a fresh meal when you're at home, but it's not really useful as a take as lunch option.

              I add a couple of dried shiitake mushrooms that I've rinsed but not soaked to a pot of water. Then boil the water.

              When the water has boiled, add a few frozen dumplings. Typically these are local made frozen bags that I get at Chinese supermarkets, but depending on where you are, you might be able to get handmade ones to freeze at home from restaurants. The dumplings take 10 mins to cook.

              About 5 mins later, I add noodles (they take ~5 minutes to cook, if they need more time, add them earlier, if less add later; that way the dumplings and noodles are cooked at the same time.)

              While waiting, I cut vegetables, typically gailan/jie4 lan2/chinese broccoli, separating the stems (longer to cook) from the leaves.

              In a bowl meant for the noodles et al., I add sesame oil, soy sauce, Zhen4 Jiang1/Chin Kiang black vinegar (all to taste), chilli sauce. Rendered lard can be great here if you happen to have that handy.

              With 30 secs before the noodles and dumplings are done, I toss in the veg stems. With 10 secs left, I toss in the leaves.

              Drain everything, put everything in the bowl with sauces. Toss.

              Garnish with cilantro, and caramelised shallots (make yourself or buy from Asian supermarkets in jars).

              The dumplings are frozen and easy to store, a bag of veg can keep over the few days you make this dish, I've used both fresh (store in fridge) and dried noodles (store at room temperature).

              The most important part is to add each ingredient to the pot of water to make sure everything is cooked at the same time when you stop and drain.

              2 Replies
              1. re: limster

                Can Sophie make enough of this dish to have leftovers that she can take to school the next day?

                1. re: rememberme

                  It's more of a method to rapidly cook something fresh, rather than generate useful leftovers.