Making big batches of soups, stews, and casseroles on a weekend means that you can eat frozen leftovers for weeks to come. It’s easy to eat a nutritious lunch when you can grab a frozen container of last week’s dinner while running out the door for your 8 AM calc class. An accessible microwave at lunchtime is an obvious must-have, but the warmed up soup will sure do you better than your campus center’s cheesy fries…I promise. Luckily, there are tons of easy recipes that produce several meals worth of food and also freeze well. And, these foods will keep in your freezer for months…and months.
The trick to efficiently stowing your meals at sub-zero temperatures is to freeze them in portion-sized containers. This way, you are not defrosting a big batch of soup only to eat a quarter of it and then freeze it again. Food will stay fresher in the freezer when it freezes once, and stays frozen. Besides, your freezer can look like the epitome of 1950s domesticity with small, stackable Tupperware containers, labeled and color-coded. It would impress my grandmother, that’s for sure.
My favorite foods to freeze are soups and stews–anything with a watery base. You can also freeze casseroles and have your own, cheaper version of any of your favorite frozen supermarket meals.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Basic Lentil Soup. In your biggest stock pot sautee a couple of white onions, a few minced garlic cloves, two to three carrots, and two to three stalks of celery in olive oil or butter. When these vegetables soften, add two healthy cups of dried brown lentils along with an equally healthy tablespoon of salt. Add enough water to cover the veggies and lentils to give it a soup-like consistency. From here you can season your soup as you see fit, by adding other vegetables, spices and grains like barley and rice. My newest twist on lentil soup is to add butternut squash, curry powder, and plenty of black pepper. After the soups has simmered for 45 minutes or so, you can fill yourself a bowl for now and then split the soup into a number of lunch-sized containers. Let the soup cool before putting it in your freezer. When you defrost and reheat later in the week, enjoy alongside some bread and butter or a fresh salad.
Winter Squash and Apple Soup. In that same, or another, big stock pot, sautee one large white onion in olive oil with thinly sliced apples (Granny smith works well). When the apples and onions are soft, add your favorite winter squash (mine is butternut) that has already been skinned and steamed. Add enough water to cover the ingredients—not too much as a stew-like consistency is quite satisfying with squash soup. The winter squash will cook down and meld with the apples after about thirty minutes of simmering. Add salt, pepper and spice to taste, and serve yourself a bowl with some grated cheddar cheese on top. As with the lentil soup, divide into your Tupperware lunch-sized containers and let cool before freezing.
Mexican-Inspired Lasagna. This is a layered casserole, like lasagna, but contains ingredients most often found in enchiladas. It’s a little less labor intensive than enchiladas and still contains that comforting blend of melted cheese, corn tortillas, and enchilada sauce. You’ll need to prep your ingredients before layering them in a 9×13 casserole dish. Have on hand: enchilada sauce, a package of corn tortillas, canned black beans or refried pintos, lots of grated cheddar cheese, salsa and/or freshly chopped tomatoes and onions. The first layer in the casserole dish should be a small amount of enchilada sauce so the tortillas don’t stick, and then in order: tortillas, beans, salsa/veggies, cheese. When the dish is full, pour the rest of the enchilada sauce evenly over the casserole, add extra cheese to the final top layer and pop into the oven at 350°F for 45 minutes until cheese is browned and bubbly. When cooled, cut into at least 8 portions. Eat what you want for now and freeze for later.
Michaela Wood is a very recent, very broke graduate from Marlboro College in the hills of Southern Vermont. She loves dark chocolate, kale, and taco night in the dining hall.