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Freezer Food for a Sick Friend

I have a friend who was just diagnosed with very aggressive cancer. Treatment is going to take all of her and her husband's time and energy, and one thing I thought I would do is prepare some homemade food that they can keep in their freezer so that on tough days, they have something they can heat up that isn't fast food, highly processed (frozen dinners) or completely unhealthy. They are omnivores, and her husband is a big meat eater, but vegetarian dishes would be OK as well. I have thought of the obvious, like lasagna, but any other ideas would be welcome. We all live in San Francisco, so access to ingredients is not a problem, and we have lots of services that can deliver fresh food, like lettuce to make a salad, etc., so I'm trying to come up with main course ideas. Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

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  1. all cooked & frozen and just need reheating:

    (key in all --> moisture/sauce/gravy to protect the protein).

    thickly-sliced meatloaf frozen in sauce would be good, in my opinion.

    meatballs in italian red sauce.

    sauerkraut and meatballs (i'm obviously on a meatballs kick, huh?). my mom's recipe here on chowhound is good. http://www.chow.com/recipes/13527-geo...

    chili is good, and freezes well.

    chicken cacciatore.

    country captain chicken.

    hearty stews, like beef stew.

    ham and bean soup.

    pork tenderloin slices in sage or rosemary gravy.

    this lima bean and ham salad is AWESOME (though not frozen, it LASTS WELL in fridge). http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/840712

    another non-frozen item, but good for slicing for sandwiches over a week: slow-roasted, dry-brined eye of round. when properly roasted, it is juicy and tender, though economical.

    uncle ben's "ready rice" varieties in the orange bags would be excellent for your friends to eat. there are lots of options and some variety in the grains, as well.

    wishing your friend the very best for recovery. bless you for helping her and her husband.

    2 Replies
    1. re: alkapal

      those are great suggestions alkapal. having done this for my sister when she was ill and going through chemo, i did all kinds of soups (chicken soup and add chicken breast in the last half hour so it's a one-dish meal, vegetable beef, clam chowder, etc.) and all kinds of stews (beef stew, chicken fricasee, moroccan chicken and olives, etc.). A one-dish meal from freezer to microwave or oven was the easiest for her to handle and she digested better when the protein was small (no big hunks of meat). she also became very salt-sensitive so i tended to go low sodium since she could always add salt and pepper. I also would try to remember when I was cooking something for my family that would freeze well, to make extra and freeze it for her. and i kept her freezer stocked with great sorbets which she found refreshing.

      1. re: teezeetoo

        I agree with teezeetoo about small pieces of protein versus big hunks of meat. Lots of great suggestions here, to which I will add shepherd's pie. In general, things that go down easy without a ton of chewing or a lot of knife work seem to work best in my experience.

    2. French Lentil soup with sausage in a chicken broth base. Frozen into 1 cp. containers makes an easy, single serving meal. Goes well with soba noodles, which cook fast.

      Pasta e Fagioli, also using chicken broth & tomato sauce in the base.

      A friend who was on chemo liked these 2 soups.

      1 Reply
      1. re: lafouchow

        mmm, i like that lentil soup idea. carrabba's has an awesome lentil and sausage soup. http://www.food.com/recipe/carrabbas-...

      2. I've been waiting for a friend to have a baby (its inevitable, all my friends are baby makers right now), so I can give something like this Taco Box. I think it would apply to your friend's situation as well. http://www.thekitchn.com/new-baby-tac...

        I like the idea of it because I'm sure they'll be getting a lot of pasta based dishes. When my dad passed away a lot of people brought food, and we got sick of lasagna and spaghetti and the like.

        Another suggestion is fixings for sandwiches... nice bread, good meats and cheeses, that way they can put together what they feel like eating, without having to turn on the oven or heat up an entire meal. Same for salads, especially if you can have the fresh products delivered to them.

        Some other thoughts are meatloaf (uncooked but frozen), fixings for hamburgers/turkey burgers, hearty soups/stews, and maybe even a few frozen pizzas.

        Also, don't forget things like snacks (granola bars, trail mix/nuts, fruits, cheese & crackers) that they can grab and eat, and also things like drinks (juices, sodas, tea, coffee, whatever it is they drink). Since they won't have time to run out to the store, even the small necessities will be appreciated.

        I hope your friend will have a swift recovery :)

        1. turkey or chicken pot pies, loaded with veggies.

          You may want to consider when preparing anything with a sauce (especially tomato sauce) - keeping and freezing the sauce separate. Some chemo patients find the acid in tomatoes to be unpalatable.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Foody4life

            yes, i guess that is very critical! but it makes freezing successfully much harder. i suppose the foods will be used rather quickly, so freezer damage is not such an issue.

          2. Thanks everyone for the tips so far. I did not know about the acid in the tomatoes either. If anyone else has any other observations about chemo patients specifically and what kind of foods might be good or bad for her, please let me know. I know her husband will eat anything I make, but I want it to palatable for my friend too!

            2 Replies
            1. re: farmersdaughter

              Find out from the husband if there is anything the doctor has told her is off limits and find out if her tastes are changing or if she's having difficulty with certain foods. There are a lot of really good articles online about cooking for people with cancer and what seems to work and what doesn't. A lot will depend on the treatment. Some people get sore throats from chemo, others have GI issues, some need extra calories added in the form of heavy cream, peanut better, etc. because of the loss of appetite, some need added protein, etc.

              1. re: farmersdaughter

                Also, throughout treatment there may be times when the patient is neutropenic (low white cell count). Most raw foods (think sushi), some meats, uncooked fruits and veggies, some cheese and dairy etc will be restricted during this neutropenic period.

                More info here:

                Here's an older thread that may be of interest:

              2. It is so nice of you to make food for your friend.

                There are a couple of threads on food good for chemo which I looked at in the past. Keep in mind that since there are many different chemo regiments your friend might react differently to the treatment.

                Here is one thread:

                and here is another on chemohounding:

                I hope this helps.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Disneyfreak

                  I have been making soups for my mom and dad over the past year or so, since my mom had a fall that put her into the hospital and into a wheelchair. I make stews occasionally, but like the soups because I can expand their vegetable variety hugely, without forcing them to shop and cook foods that are beyond their regular scope. I make lots of vegetable pureed soups. They can add cream or milk if they wish, or not. I've made beet borscht, butternut squash and apple, celery root-leek, Italian wedding with extra veggies worked in, tomato-fennel, etc. I always add greens or other fibrous veggies to soups, especially if they are pureed and my parents won't know what I've slipped in.

                  The soups are hearty and can be eaten as a meal, with toast, a salad or a sandwich if they don't feel like cooking an entire meal for themselves.

                2. I am currently undergoing chemo, and have discussed food with fellow patients. The number 1 thing to know is that chemo affects taste buds, digestion, mouth health and appetite - and to complicate things it affects different people in very different ways (even with identical drugs). So, you can easily make food for your friend's husband (who will need help and support almost as much as she does) - but for your friend it is more complicated. The effects of each chemo may be different, and will change during each cycle. Therefore a variety of foods is needed, as what she can/wants to eat will vary day to day.

                  I have had minimal chemo side effects, and have filled my freezer with veg/bean soups, plain fish and veggies - plus some treats in small portions that I can cook quickly and nibble on. (I don't eat meat). I find I need to keep my blood sugar up or I feel nauseous - consequently I have put on a few pounds!
                  Many people like to suck ice/frozen juice (especially pineapple) during chemo as it helps relieve mouth problems (chewing may be an issue).

                  I know this is all very vague - but if someone was filling my freezer then a wide range of small portions of things would be ideal, both savoury and sweet - plus bread, cheese and milk. Avoid chilli-hot foods, unpasteurised and blue cheese, mussels, live yogurt etc. Apparently I should be avoiding tomatoes and acid foods - but I've not found eating them to be a problem.

                  1. Agree with soups and stews, just don't include potatoes which do not freeze well in juicy dishes.

                    Also, roasted chicken, shredded and in gravy, one- or two-serving packs, can be served over bread or toast for an open-faced sandwich, over noodles (cooked and frozen separately, maybe tossed with butter, toss in hot water to warm), or over a microwaved baked potato or sweet potato.

                    Also agree with the snack things. Sometimes all she'll want or can keep down is a bite. Make muffins or breakfast cookies with maybe a shot of nutritional yeast. Wrap individually and pack in a large freezer bag. Grab and go.

                    1. You should ask what their eating situation is.

                      Are they eating foods with strong smells
                      What foods are they steering clear of for the sake of the patient
                      Is it for the patient? If so what can or do they want to eat?

                      Those sorts of things.

                      Give them some idea of what you are thinking of and tell them they can pick or say what they want or if it needs to be modified (like only pureed things, or no strong smells, nothing hot in flavor or temperature).

                      If the wife is in the hospital, then of course you fix him whatever he likes without restriction (except for size). Small and easily reheated is so nice. Eating on lasagna for a week because there is a giant pan of it can be burdensome.

                      So sweet though.

                      Baked chicken, freshly baked bread, some sort of baked pasta, a small undressed salad and cake work well. Not freezer material, but gosh it feels good to have that come to your door without a fuss.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Sal Vanilla

                        It's wonderful that you're wanting to help your friend. I worked in oncology for years, and found that, as stated above, the very same chemo drugs affected people differently. So, don't be offended if your delicious [whatever] is inedible for your friend. If you're in the US, the American Cancer Society publishes a free booklet that might help, with ideas on increasing protein, decreasing aromas that might be nausea inducing, etc. Had patients who had nearly everything taste metallic and could tolerate only the blandest of the bland, and others (my sis included) who ate whatever they wanted. Sis even stopped for pepperoni pizza on the way home from chemo! You're a good friend.

                      2. chicken pot pies sans pastry...........give them some Pillsbury rolls

                        Shepheard's pie

                        Beef tips sauteed then added to a red wine/garlic/beef broth sauce........nice with noodles and then can be added and frozen after cooking

                        Pork Tenderloin.cooked, sliced thin with apples, apple juice, and garlic...maybe some onion cooked

                        A key may be what she can eat........or endure........stay away from spicy and too many herbs

                        I have done this for several cples......I use the mini loaf pans that are throw-away.....just about right for 2 lighht eaters with bread and salad

                        1. I hope I'm not repeating here:
                          - very mild chicken or turkey chili
                          - a large batch of pesto (easy on the garlic)
                          - polenta
                          - stuffed shells or manicotti if she's okay with tomatoes
                          - blintzes
                          - baked oatmeal
                          - rice pudding
                          - bread pudding
                          - pancakes
                          - egg/frittata muffins

                          Some chemo patients just can't handle food odors at all, so hot or warm food becomes a problem. It might be nice to buy them a couple of bags of good frozen fruit in case she has to default to smoothies to get in some sustenance. Frozen grapes are also good if she gets mouth sores.