Cook Once, Eat Twice (or more) {Eat Healthy ~ Save Time}

When I make a lasagna, I must cook some meat, add some sauce and spices, layer the noodles with the meat sauce and cheese, then wash a few dishes.

When I make two lasagnas, I must cook some meat, add some sauce and spices, layer the noodles with the meat sauce and cheese, then wash a few dishes.

When I made three lasagnas, I must cook some meat, add some sauce and spices, layer the noodles with the meat sauce and cheese, then wash a few dishes.

I’ve even made up to eight lasagnas at one time.  Even then, my job was to (all together now…) cook some meat, add some sauce and spices, layer the noodles with the meat sauce and cheese, then wash a few dishes.

Whether I’m making one lasagna or eight, I dirty the same number of dishes while preparing the food.  I take barely any extra time to make extra lasagnas, so for me, it’s a no-brainer.  Why would I just make one lasagna when I can make three (or eight)?

(And by the way, I typically only make eight lasagnas at once when I’m feeding a big soccer team.  While my boy-filled family does eat a lot, we are not up to eating 1.333 lasagnas each…yet.)

The same “Cook Once, Eat Twice (or More)” concept applies to almost everything I make - Cheesy Beef and Rice, Corndog Muffins, even these Whole Wheat Waffles.  Scroll through all of my Make Ahead Meal posts to get some ideas and recipes that will help fill your freezer with healthy convenience foods.

You do realize what will happen though, if you start participating in this “Cook Once, Eat Twice (or More)” system?  You will then have a nice supply of healthy, homemade meals to quickly pull out of your freezer and heat up for your family – with little to no effort.  Putting a hearty, healthy, delicious meal on the table will become extremely easy.  You will no longer be able to use the “I don’t have time to eat or cook healthy food…” excuse.

Just so you know.  ;)

Have you tried the “Cook Once, Eat Twice (or More)” kitchen efficiency method?  What are some of your favorite healthy foods you like to make for your freezer?

Comments

  1. says

    I have been trying to do this more and I love it! Since my kids have multiple food sensitivities “compromise foods” are not an option and it has been a lifesaver. It also helps me give my high needs 3 year old the attention she needs since I can be in the kitchen a little less!

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  2. Toni Geisler says

    Stuffed soup, stuffed burgers, enchilada casserole, yaki mando, pizza pasties, Welsh pasties, French Toast, breaded zucchini, meatloaf….are just a few of the dishes we make extras for freezer. We also pkg some as ‘tv dinners’, for those times everyone wants something different.

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  3. says

    When I make one lasagna, we eat about 1/4 of it and then some goes in the freezer, and the rest is eaten over the course of the next week…I do not have a teenage boy issue in my house.

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  4. says

    I will buy 6-8 chickens at a time,roast 2..and out of the 6 I freeze the legs and thighs in packs. Freeze the wings for buffalo wings, save the liver gizzards and hearts in a pack for a random dinner for me…Make 2 pots of stock out of the carcasses one for the freezer and one for my chicken tortilla soup. I make my soup base, leave out enough for dinner and freeze the rest in quarts. The 2 chickens that were roasted get separated for drumsticks for my 2 boys for dinner, 2 of the thighs go into the soup for my husband and I, and the rest gets shredded or cubed for chicken salad and frozen into portions for soup nights!

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  5. says

    I’ve been doing this more and more thanks to you and Crystal at Money Saving Mom. I absolutely love having things in the freezer for busy days or for the day that I just don’t want to cook!

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  6. Alyssa says

    I do this with my spaghetti sauce and lasagnas…since I use the same sauce, I make 6 batches at once…freeze enough sauce for 3-4 dinners (some goes to the in-laws) and make and freeze a lasagna and have spaghetti for dinner that night…love doing that…I need to do it again, but I don’t have any freezer space at the moment, since that’s filled with applesauce and jam (I SO need to learn how to can)…if we get another freezer (soon, I hope), I’d like to put several lasagnas in at a time…nothing like being able to pull one out and plop it in the oven!

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  7. Leah says

    I have never been able to do this. Our freezer space is so small. We have just enough room for a few items and it’s not wide enough to fit most of our pans.

    BUT, I just got a freezer for our garage! Now I have SPACE! Sooo happy. It’s time to start cooking twice. :)

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  8. says

    I love freezer cooking:) I’m actually working on compiling resources for real food freezer cooking for a blog post. I’d love to add you in there!
    Some things I like to keep in the freezer:
    Black bean burgers
    Chick pea patties (from the Everything Beans Book)
    Taco fritters!
    Muffins
    Wheat bread, already sliced
    Cooked beans, refried beans
    Any casserole
    Cooked, shredded chicken

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    Tracy Louise Reply:

    Hi Deb–

    Do you have a good recipe for black bean burgers? Mine never come out right…too crumbly and dry. How do yours do in the freezer? I want to do more with beans–do you have some good resources for recipes? Thanks for sharing.

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    Deb Reply:

    http://www.tammysrecipes.com/mexican_black_bean_burgers
    We really like these! I had the same problem when I tried other
    recipes-too crumbly and dry! These come out perfect for me and are
    super easy.
    I use quite a few recipes from The Everything Beans book (and ebook
    from kitchenstewardship.com). Those bean burgers were actually
    inspired by the recipe in that book.
    I also mix beans into a lot of
    stuff. I mix black beans and cooked ground beef in a 2-1 ratio for
    tacos, and I mix equal parts chopped, cooked chicken and pinto beans
    for fajitas. We use refried beans (from tammysrecipes.com) in taco
    bowls, taco salad, quesadillas and extra bean-y enchiladas.
    I also just today made Coconut Black beans from my blog, which we
    really like!

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    Tracy Louise Reply:

    Thanks so much for the response. I like the idea of mixing in beans with meat. I will check out the bean burger recipe this week. It would be a real blessing if they turn out right. Would you mind sharing the web address for your blog? Thanks again.

    Deb Reply:

    Oh sure, that’d probably be helpful, wouldn’t it:)
    http://wholesomehomemaker.com/2012/03/27/coconut-black-beans/
    We just had those black bean burgers for lunch today. I cooked them
    directly from the freezer, just adding a few minutes to the cooking
    time on each side. They weren’t crumbly at all! I think it helps
    that I puree the beans pretty well when I’m making them.

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    Rachel Reply:

    My husband doesn’t like bean/vegetarian meals but he wants to be healthier
    so we compromised to 1 bean/veg meal a week & I find that all the mexican
    dishes I make now are bean only. Mexican is so flavorful he doesn’t need
    meat to enjoy it. I also make most of my soups vegetarian now (i.e. lentil,
    minestrone, chili) because they last longer in the fridge. In the winter
    I make a big pot on Monday & we eat from it all week. The only problem there
    is that the beef/chicken stocks may be healthier than the veg stock.
    The cajun dish read beans & rice is a good option too (minus sausage).
    I also use the bean recipe from this http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/melissa-darabian/fish-and-white-bean-tostadas-recipe/index.html as a main course with something
    like homemade mac n’ cheese as a side & he loves that too!

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    Tracy Louise Reply:

    Thanks Rachel. To be honest, I am **stumped** when it comes to seasoning vegetarian meals:(. How do you do it so that your husband does not miss the meat?!!! Thanks for any ideas…

    Rachel Reply:

    That bean recipe from the link I posted above is yummy enough
    To make that a main course. And for the mexican I just use taco
    Seasoning with the veggies if making fajitas & have
    Refried beans on the side or just add the taco seasoning to the
    Refried beans for quesedillas, tacos, burritos or enchiladas.
    My mom adds the taco seasoning to the sour cream for veg 7 layer dip.
    Generous amounts of cheese helps flavor mexican bean meals too.
    A sister even uses pepper jack cheese with her mexican dishes. I’m
    Replying from my cell phone so I can’t give you a taco seasoning
    Recipe but I know that you can find one by doing an internet search
    For “taco seasoning recipe” a good one should have chili powder
    And cumin. Good luck! Maybe you could practice/experiment for
    Lunch.

  9. Kathleen K says

    I LOVE freezer cooking. But we don’t have a freezer. Well, we do, just the skinny little tall one in our side-by-side. It holds our frozen berries, meat , freezer packs (in north TX, we need them coming straight home from the grocery), a HUGE ice maker that no one uses.

    So I thought the post was useless. I can’t make 8 lasagnas and stick them in my freezer. Or four. Or even two. BUT then the lightbulb came on! I can brown the meat and cook up the sauce. Then freeze that in lasagna portioned bags. It’ll at least speed up the process.

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    Jen Reply:

    Hi Kathleen,
    I had the same issue with our side by side freezer & an unused ice maker &was actually able to remove the ice bin. I stored it in the basement in case we ever needed it again, but now I can store 2 9×13″ pans + my bucket of fresh ground wheat on the top shelf of my frezer & also stack a couple of small things on top of the bucket.

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  10. Sandra Lee Stewart says

    I read your blog last night at work and upon coming home, found leftover chicken waiting for me to eat so I cut it up, cooked up pasta, added some cr of mushroom soup, mixed all together, put in a casserole dish and topped with cheddar cheese, then “tossed” in the freezer (gently – LOL). All of this in the time it took for me to wind down to go to bed – approx 20 minutes. Now, my husband has another heat up and serve dinner. (We both work wacky schedules that he has to interrupt his sleep during the day to cook for the kids.) I’m going to make the lasagna on the weekend – maybe just 2 casseroles worth (I feel so unworthy). And I just made the hash browns – most are in the freezer, some for lunch. So fast. Keep up the good ideas and recipes, please!

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  11. Charlotte Moore says

    I always make triple or more spaghetti sauce when I do it. I just freeze the sauce and then I only have to cook the noodles and make a salad and dinner is ready. I freeze taco meat,sloppy joe meat, chili, your pasta bake, and chicken and rice for my son that lives away. When he comes home he leaves with a cooler full of Mom’s cooking. I also make corn bread muffins. whole wheat rolls, whole made whole cinnamon rolls and freeze them. It is so nice to have on hand.

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  12. Susan F. says

    Kathleen K. I really appreciate your input. I can’t cook more than one lasagna because I don’t have pans. The meat and sauce idea is a great one. I love the ideas and sharing here Laura. Thank you. I do freeze portions of a pan of lasagna when I ame a very large one. If I can get some put away. :)

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  13. Andrea Smith says

    So, honest question. Do you have eight lasagna pans? Thanks to you, I have purged the aluminum from my kitchen, what do you do? I love cookinh ahead, but I hate plastic and aluminum and miss my dishes! I do love freezing soups and sauces in jars. :)

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    Andrea Smith Reply:

    Sorry, not a good phone typer. :/ I mean, when my dishes are up in the freezer, I miss using them for other things. And I’m very thankful for the Funky Kitchen ebook that challenged me early in my marriage to get poisons out of my kitchen!

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    Tracy Louise Reply:

    Hi Andrea–

    I am trying to rid my home of toxins as well. I spent the past weekend reading over blog entries at Beth Terry’s plastic-free site. I am stumped over what to do about those handy plastic bags in the freezer. Does anyone have some ideas about how to do batch cooking without using plastic? I am going to look for extra casserole dishes at thrift shops/yard sales.

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    adamswifeamanda Reply:

    Natural Value makes plastic bags that are PVC and plasticizer-free.
    i’ve been buying them at a local supermarket. they can also be found online.
    - maybe that will help you.

    Rejoicedover Reply:

    I wondered the same thing? How do you freeze them? Or your chicken and rice or any of your other meals that require something other than a jar or ziploc bag?

    We have enchiladas once a week, so I make a big batch of taco meat, borracho beans and shred some cheese, and enchilada sauce. Then I freeze these in portions for each week.
    I used to make tortillas, but the process takes a while for me, and with five under the age of 6, I can’t spare the time yet. One day…

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    Kathleen K Reply:

    Back in the day when we had not one but two deep freezers, I used a second casserole dish, greased it well, lined it with parchment paper, and made the casserole in it. Then I froze it and popped out the frozen casserole (lasagna, whatever) and wrapped it well and stuck it back in the freezer. Labeled of course, lest my memory fail me and I don’t recognize the dish. Or I send a child out to get it who can’t tell frozen lasagna from frozen peas. Yes, it happens. Now since space is such a precious premium, I freeze sauces, chili, soups, etc, in zip-top bags, press out extra air and lay them flat in the freezer. They stack well that way. Still labeled, of course!

    (Note that zip-top bags may not be the most desirable since they are still plastic, but sometimes we make sacrifices for convenience.)

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    Rebecca Reply:

    Yep, This. I have only 2 pyrex 9 x 13 pans, but they are the same and so any casserole i make fits in them. Once they are frozen, just pop them out and freeze separately.

    Alicia Reply:

    Hi Andrea! Just a thought. I began regularly cooking like this a couple years ago. We decided it would be well-worth the money to purchase a good number of varying size glass casserole dishes. I spent maybe $40 & they are still plenty. I don’t remember one time needing a dish & not having it. If soemone is reading this & doesn’t have the budget for that immediately, I would think yard sales, etc. would be a good place to start. Or maybe ask some close family/friends if they have any they’d “like to get rid of.” (: I tried the whole freeze in one dish, then pop it out & wrap & freeze & take out & put back in same dish & thaw deal, but having lots of dishes on hand seems to simplify things for me. Hope this helps!

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    Laura Reply:

    I actually do have seven 9×13 pans and have been surprised that I often am using all of them at once! When I’m feeding the soccer team and need to use 8, I typically borrow from friends. :)

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  14. Brooke says

    Yes, I love doing this! Even if I’m not doing a big freezer cooking ordeal to fill up my freezer. I like fixing 2 meatloafs at once, Chicken Salsa Soup (actually one batch makes two meals b/c it’s so big). I know there’s others but I can’t think of them right now. :)

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  15. says

    I freeze meatloaf, meatballs (for spaghetti), and porcupine meatballs. I haven’t figured out how to freeze chicken yet (I mean I freeze 2 chicken breasts together so that I only have to thaw one pack at a time). I’ve thought about chopping them up and freezing them in whatever sauce (marinade, stir fry stuff, whatever).

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  16. adamswifeamanda says

    i always make extra blueberry whole wheat pancakes and freeze them. my kids and husband love them but it seems to take forever to make them. so i make several batches at once and freeze what’s left over.
    then – when they want pancakes again, i just put them all on the griddle just long enough to heat them through and we’ve got hotcakes again!

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  17. Angela says

    I like to make large batches of chili, stew or meatballs and then freezing for easy meals. My new favorite is your whole wheat waffle recipe. I triple the batch when I make them and then freeze in individual servings. I love having them handy for my 4 year old. It’s so easy to take them from the freezer and pop them in the toaster and my favorite part is that I know all of the healthy ingredients in them and it makes me feel like a super mom!

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  18. Britny says

    Hi! I’m having an issue with your make ahead/ freezer cooking. I’m new to SO much in the cooking department and I notice many of your recipes you’ll say “it freezes well for a quick meal”. Well, which one’s do you thaw first and what can just be thrown, I mean, placed carefully in the oven frozen? How do you cook/ re-heat those things? As if you don’t do enough, could you put an extra sentence or two for some recipes saying something about if it should be thawed first or maybe how you re-heat it?

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    Laura Reply:

    Yes, that would be helpful if I would do that!! I’ll try to go back gradually and add better instructions to those posts. In general, I just throw the frozen item into the oven and bake for a few extra minutes. A casserole usually needs to be thawed somewhat first, but if I forget, I just put it in the oven, turn it on, and bake for an extra hour or so.

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  19. Nicole B. says

    I have never done freezer cooking. Lasagna requires so much expensive cheese in our house, the parm or asiago, almost a pound of mozzarella, and then the ricotta, is pretty pricey. So, making 8 at a time is EXPENSIVE! Over 80 dollars. Plus, I do not have that many 13 by 9 pans, I only have 3 of those. (I would have to give up my dessert bake ware to house more pans, and I draw the line there!) I do make my own homemade sauce, though.
    Our quick I don’t feel like cooking dinners is pasta nights. I have a perfect tomato based sauce and we pick a pasta out and make garlic bread and pick out a veggie and bam.
    I do make almost all of our bread and I freeze bread for later. I have some awesome brown and serve recipes for rolls. But I usually just freeze loaves for later.
    I freeze leftover chili and mac and cheese. But it usually is forgotten about. We don’t have a microwave any more so you have to be more creative about heating things up and you have to give yourself time to cook and eat the leftovers.

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  20. Kelly says

    I love freezer cooking but my husband is pretty picky about eating stuff that was frozen. Sometimes he is OK with it if the food was not cooked before freezing and other times he still doesn’t like it. Since I want to make food that he likes I try to limit the freezer meals to certain things (spaghetti sauce, pizzas (partially cooked), bread, cookies). My daughter and I are less picky so I freeze cooked stuff for us to eat all the time. Love your blog!

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    Kelly Reply:

    I just realized that freezing an assembled but uncooked lasagna
    would work well. My husband hates how the cooked noodles get
    mushy when they are frozen. Thanks for the inspiration!!

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  21. says

    I have bought what to do with the cow in your kitchen recipe cards. I have to say I love the bbq meatballs. How would you go about freezing those. Bake first then freeze, or freeze, thaw and then bake. What would your freezer instructions be for that dish. That is a dish I would love to have pre made in the freezer. In your experience does it freeze well? Thanks
    Katie

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    Laura Reply:

    I’ve done it both ways – baked first then freeze, or freeze raw then bake. Both work well. If they are pre-baked, I simply rewarm them. If they are raw, I thaw them (or partially thaw them) then bake them for a slightly longer time than the recipe calls for.

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  22. says

    I completely agree with your method. This makes life so much easier. However, can you talk about what items don’t do well in the freezer? For example what about veggies, or stew with veggies, such as onions and peppers in it. Does it still taste good after defrosting?

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    Laura Reply:

    Potatoes don’t always thaw well without being mushy, otherwise, I’ve had good success with casseroles, stews, or soups with veggies. Pasta usually does well for me, unless it has a cream/milk base, then it doesn’t always rewarm well.

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  23. Rachel says

    This & many other posts on this blog encourage me! Liked all the ideas in the comments too! The only thing I have to add is that I like to freeze quiche bites, breakfast sandwiches & oatmeal breakfast bars. I plan to learn to freeze more breakfast items as well because no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to function in the morning. I’ve prayed too & I guess productive mornings are not God’s will for me right now. I also love making double dinners & freezing ahead especially when expecting a new baby. I, however freeze everything in freezer or vacuum ziplocs. I don’t mind gradually switching over to glass for health but I’m afraid it will expand, explode & shatter glass all over. Has this happened to any of you and if so, what are the tips to avoid it?

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    Laura Reply:

    As long as I don’t put a frozen casserole into a hot oven, I’ve always been fine. I try to thaw the dish/casserole at least a little bit before putting it into the oven. Plus I usually put the dish into the oven before I turn it on, then let the dish heat up WITH the oven so that there is no drastic temp change.

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