Freezer Care Package


What can I do?

We’ve all heard ourselves asking this when friends are struggling with illness (their own or their aging parents’ or their kids’) and we’ve all probably come back around to a similar answer: Food. For better (normalcy) or for worse (one more thing to be exhausted by), people still need to eat. In my mind — this is Dinner a Love Story after all — dropping off a meal that can be frozen, however cliche, is still one of the more appreciated things you can do for someone going through a rough patch. This past weekend, we spent a few hours banking a week’s worth of those meals for a bedridden friend and her family. I thought I’d share the line-up in case you’d like to bookmark as a resource.

One thing: If you plan on doing this for someone, I recommend freezing everything in flattened BPA-free zip-top bags, which makes thawing more efficient. I’d also recommend including thawing instructions for two scenarios: 1) When they’ve thought to thaw their frozen dinner ahead of time or (more likely) 2) When they haven’t thought to thaw ahead of time. (Go in with the assumption that they are pretty distracted.) I’ve included thawing notes below, but here is a downloadable instruction sheet you can print and include in the care package. I recommend personalizing it with a handwritten greeting and signature, and include your mobile so they can text you if they have any issues.

And by the way, this plan might come in handy when the primary dinner maker in the house is traveling for work, or for someone in the nesting phase of their pregnancy, or someone insane who just appreciates a well-run ship.


MACARONI & CHEESE

If thawed: Place pan covered with foil in 350° oven for 25 minutes.
If frozen: Place pan covered with foil in 375° oven for 1 hour or until knife inserted into center comes out warm.
Recipe: Dinner: The Playbook


CHICKEN POT PIE

If thawed: Place in a 425° oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until crust is golden and filling is bubbly.
If frozen: Place in a 425° oven and bake for just under an hour, or until crust is golden and filling is bubbly.
Notes: I prepared the pie fully until the step when you actually bake it. (So I froze with an un-baked dough draped on top.) I’ve never actually baked one directly from freezer, so hopefully these googled instructions will work. You’ll know it’s ready to eat if a knife stuck in the center comes out warm. Also, if crust looks like it’s starting to burn before inside is bubbly, just tent with foil.
Notes Part 2: If you’re feeling ambitious, brush the top with egg wash (a whisked egg) before baking to get that sheen-y color.
Recipe: From Dinner: A Love Story, or here (look for instructions for 9-inch pie plate)

PASTA WITH PORK RAGU

If thawed: Dump ragu into medium pot, and heat on medium-low until warmed through. While it’s heating, prepare pasta according to package directions.
If frozen: Run the bag under warm-ish water until you can break the sauce into chunks (while still in the bag). Dump into medium pot, and heat on medium-low (covered) until warmed through. While it’s heating, prepare pasta according to package directions.
Notes: Top with Parmesan if you have it.
RecipeDinner: A Love Story (or here)


CHICKEN CHORIZO CHILI with CORNBREAD

If thawed: Dump chili into medium pot, and heat on medium-low until warmed through. Wrap cornbread in foil and heat in a 300° oven for 15 minutes.
If frozen: Run the bag under warm-ish water until you can break the sauce into chunks (while still in the bag). Dump into medium pot, and heat on medium-low (covered) until warmed through. Wrap cornbread in foil and heat in a 350° oven for 20 minutes.
Recipe: From How to Celebrate Everything (or another chili, here) Cornbread: Silver Palate (I usually omit the bacon)


CHICKEN ORZO SOUP

If thawed: Dump into medium pot, and heat on medium-low until warmed through.
If frozen: Run the bag under warm-ish water until you can break the soup into chunks (while still in the bag). Dump into medium pot, and heat on medium-low (covered) until warmed through.
Recipe: From Dinner: A Love Story (or here for similar)


EXTRAS

SLICE & BAKE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Preheat oven to 350°. Unwrap dough and cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds (return unused dough to freezer); place 2-inches apart on a baking sheet. Bake cookies until edges are golden brown, 15-18 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool. (Recipe: Dinner: A Love Story or here for similar)

GREENS & RED WINE VINAIGRETTE
There is probably enough for two nights of dressed greens here. (Recipe: New Favorite Salad Dressing.)

Related: Soup for a Friend

 

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30 Comments

One Little Bat

This is such a nice thought (and post)! It’s really useful for someone to just not have to THINK too much about food but still get some goodness in them to keep energy levels up through difficult times.

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Ann

Thank you for putting this together! I’m 7.5 months pregnant and starting to worry about how to stock up my own freezer so that my future self (and husband) will have Things to Eat once our small one comes to join us. I am going to test run this list on myself, before hopefully passing it forward to other worthy folks in the future. Many thanks!

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Jenny

I hadn’t even thought about that — thanks for the idea, I added it to the “list of people who might find this useful” in post.
GOOD LUCK!!!

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Ronda

Love this, always looking for easy ideas for passing it on and I love the if thawed or not. Question: anytime I freeze orzo in my soup it sucks up all the broth when warming – have you not found that to be true with this recipe?

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Lori

I love love love this post, thank you for such great ideas on how to be nice. We can all use a little nice from time to time. 🙂

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Cynthia

I once attended a baby shower for a third baby…they wanted nothing for the baby as they had everything they needed in that department. It was a * stock the freezer b/c four people have to eat * shower and it was so much fun to see all the lovely things people brought! These are some great ideas and I encourage others to host this type of shower!

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Amy P

I’ve been to a shower for a third baby where everyone prepped freezer meals together – one person organized the recipes and bought groceries, and everyone chopped and browned beef and assembled the meals while chatting and eating snacks and when they left, her freezer had about a dozen meals in it!

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Melissa

I love these ideas! I have thought about taking dinner to friends much more often than actually doing it because I don’t know what to take.

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gabrielle

I love this post – it’s inspired me to cook for my neighbor who lost her husband last year. New enough to still be in deep mourning, but long enough that most people have stopped checking in and bringing her meals. Thanks so much for posting and reminding us to keep kindness moving forward.

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Katie

Jenny this is so helpful! I’ve been doing a lot of this lately, both for sad and happy reasons. I’m glad to have some more freezer meal ideas and cohesive instructions. Food is always more than JUST food. Love your recipes!

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Taylor Filaroski

Love this idea! I always want to help out but am worried people won’t like the food I make haha, so it’s nice to go with some old staples (who doesn’t like mac n cheese??)

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Rachel

As someone who just had knee surgery and was couch-bound for 5+ days, this is a dream! My friend brought one crockpot freezer meal, which was appreciated by my husband! I’m bookmarking these for the happy and sad times.

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Sarah

Jenny, this post is the highlight of my day!!! It is everything I love about DALS, and everything I want my year to look like – blessing other people from my kitchen. Will be referring to this list again & again.

I had my first baby last year, and have since seriously upped my game when others have a newborn, or other reason for some love from my kitchen. Cookie dough is a great idea! My go-to soup at the moment is a arabic inspired creamy lentil soup – gluten free, dairy free & vegan! My other inclusion to my care packages is a beverage – often a bottle of sparkling water with mint leaves and citrus.

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Melanie

I love this! I recently made a meal for new parents, and I scooped the dough and froze it so it was ready to just pop on a sheet pan (or directly into their mouths).

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Heather

I love this post. This is so helpful, on many levels. I want to add that I made your chicken & orzo soup from the DALS cookbook when I was about to have my 2nd child. I made it before I went into the hospital (c-section) and my husband loved it! Thank you.

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Erica

What a kind and generous idea. It must have taken a lot of time to prepare so much food! This kind of generosity is exactly what we need in such uncertain and anxious times

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E E Faris

This is a great idea! It’s also good for families with new babies. I like that the packaging is disposable, otherwise people feel obligated to wash and return containers and that’s another burden on them. May we all have a friend kind enough to do this.

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Dani

I make cookie dough, refrigerate for a few hours and then roll into balls and then freeze. I suppose you could roll them into balls right away but it might be easier with cooler dough? But then I just have a gallong freezer bag filled with little dough balls–easy to pull out one, two or however many, and cook! The rest stay in the freezer. I only do it for myself, so I can have warm cookies every night, but I’ve thought about it being a great gift (if only I can stop being selfish). It would get rid of the slicing step which sounds potentially hazardous with a big chunk of frozen dough… 🙂

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Kristen

This makes me think of my mom and when she was doing chemo treatments while I was in high school – we had the freezer stocked that year between meals from sports friends, school friends and church friends. She didn’t know what to do with all the food, but a friend told her that “people want to help you, so let them help you.” And in the end, her doctor said she was one of his only patients to ever gain weight during chemo!

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Morgan

Add another group of people to this list – moms of multiples! I’m a sahm with 20-month old twins plus a 6yo with a husband who works long hours. Freezer meals save me all week long. Looking forward to adding these to my repertoire.

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Hilary

This is such a wonderful and caring idea. I would love to see a version of this in the future with vegetarian/vegan recipe options included as well.

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Taste of France

This is an excellent idea. I can’t say enough how much we appreciated cousins and friends bringing food when my father died. Making the arrangements with my mom was hard, and not having to think about what to eat helped SO much. (Plus I came in from out of town–out of the country–so it wasn’t like I had a stocked kitchen to turn to.)

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susan

This is a wonderful post! I’ve cooked and delivered meals for friends and family in the past and always needed ideas. Now I have them. Thanks!!!

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Michele

Oh I so need this great post. My freezer is empty(ish) and due to a family crisis I am doing a deer in the headlights about what to make and freeze so my family will not starve. Thank you so much

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Kathryn Gaiennie

Thank you Jenny-
This email from you has arrived at a perfect time for me. Several friends dealing with heartbreaking news, and even though Meal Trains have been organized, it is nice to take something that they can stash away for that odd time when they want something different.
I appreciate your talents.
Sincerely,
Kathryn

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