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Apr 28, 2014 07:05 PM

Cooking advice for make ahead meals

Once or twice a month I batch cook meals for my father. He lives 90 miles one way, so I batch cook for this reason. He's disabled, but knows how to cook basic things and obviously reheat. He lives by himself and often makes crap like hotdogs, mac and cheese, or ground beef with rice and tomato sauce.

I like to make him food he wouldn't normally make for himself because it requires more than one person to eat it.

That being said, I could use some food ideas that I personally can cook myself and freeze at my house that will reheat perfectly fine in a microwave or in the oven. I'd like something I can divide and portion out into individual portions easily for him to pop in and reheat.

Things I have done in the past and some of his favorites:
Stuffed peppers
Chicken noodle soup
Stuffed Cabbage

I'd love to incorporate other meats into his diet, like chicken and even pork, but I have no clue how to prepare them so they freeze and reheat well. Also what about noodles like spaghetti noodles, do they freeze and reheat well at all?

I'd like to add that he has trouble chewing, so whatever I make him has to be relatively easy on the jaw, so steak and what not is probably out of the question.

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  1. In the mid-80s I did the same for my grandfather who lived 200 miles away. Did that drive twice a month for a few years!

    The surprise big hit with him was Beef Bourgignon done with pork instead of beef. I used to freeze it in those boilable bags, and always used those frozen pearl onions so he could see all the different veggies in it.

    Another favorite was spaghetti casserole, which was simply spaghetti baked with bottled sauce, cooked ground beef, and sliced olives, topped with cheddar cheese, then baked. That I'd portion out, wrap in foil, then freeze, and he could reheat them easily in the oven.

    You can also make it with fettucine, small sausage meatballs and a different cheese for a change.

    1. Braised chicken dishes freeze very well and reheat well.

      1. Cooked spaghetti can be frozen, plain or in sauce. Better plain, since it will suck up a lot of sauce so the reheated dish won't be as moist as before it was frozen.
        There's SOME texture change in freezing any pasta - any starch, really - but pasta works better than potatoes, which get mealy unless blended with something else as in mashed or scalloped.

        There are lots of threads for make-ahead, freezable meals on this board and Gen Topics. With chewing a problem, all sorts of hearty soups, especially pureed ones, should be high on your list. Also meatloaf and lasagna. mac& cheese. Use the microwavable reusable plastic containers, like Gladware, sold in supermarkets. There are even divided ones that will hold an entree and side(s).

        1. MIL did this for literally years for her mother.
          whatever she'd made for dinner for the family she took what was left and packaged it into TV dinner trays. back then they were foil now I guess heavy duty paper.
          she made the trip once a month and had a freezer in her own garage where they were frozen until the drive. her mon had a freezer too so they went right in hers and were cooked in a counter top toaster oven.

          Swiss steak (of ground beef) mashed potatoes and corn
          Salmon patty with rice and gravy with green beans
          Fish fillets with buttered noodles and peas
          Chili with corn bread steamed cabbage
          meat balls
          tuna casserole

          all very much appreciated

          7 Replies
          1. re: iL Divo

            Thank you! I bet he'd love swiss steak and some fish. I wonder though how fish reheats if I cook it first?

            1. re: chobette

              I think reheated fish generally sucks :( Pardon my bluntness.

              Here are some stuffed peppers I did a few nights ago:


              And quiche which can be cooked in a square pan and cut in pieces:


              1. re: chobette

                Fish works best in the form of fish cakes

                1. re: chobette

                  Something like salmon cakes would work, something like seared fresh fish probably not....
                  Does he like tinned fish like sardines? That would be the most fool- proof, he could add the tinned fish to a grain salad or veggie heavy stew

                  1. re: chobette

                    MIL did fish often especially always on Friday. never a problem.

                  2. re: iL Divo

                    I really like the idea of accumulating a week or two of frozen portions from daily family meals. Much easier for some to fit that into a busy schedule, instead of a full day of batch cooking.

                    1. re: MidwesternerTT

                      you're right mid.
                      plus instead of packing up leftover hoping some body would consume and taking up room in the frig, she had those tins at the ready, compartmentalized and each portion was set in it's place and foiled over. plus portion control was not a problem for an elderly woman who's appetite had waned over the years.

                  3. If he liked stuffed peppers then what about stuffed zucchini, eggplant or cabbage?
                    You can expand on the chili with a white bean chicken chili, sweet potato black beans chili or many other variations.
                    Baked ziti, ravioli, meatballs, and pasta sauce (assuming he can boil water and make pasta) all freeze well too.
                    This previous thread has some great ideas specifically for the elderly, also do search the boards for tons more make ahead and freeze ideas:

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Ttrockwood

                      Awesome, I'll check out the recommendations on that link as well!

                      1. re: chobette

                        I second the specific recommendation of white-bean chicken chili if you're looking to get more chicken in his diet. It's ridiculously healthy, and even more healthy than *that* if you go with boneless, skinless, chicken breasts which I've found you can do with some additional seasoning. It reheats very nicely multiple times and tastes better after some time in the fridge than it does on the day it's made.