The only problem we ran into with the freezer casseroles was the freezer. We have a fancy french door fridge that looks great but it's freezer is pretty much useless due to it's size and shelving structure. We had been talking about getting a chest freezer but hadn't really found a deal good enough to make us move on it. I was concerned about the older models we found on craiglist with electricity usage. We used to have two 55 gallon fish tanks and a 75 gallon salt water tank- our electric bill was INSANE. When we found out we were pregnant, we gave them all away for free (or good karma as I see it) on craigslist due to the massive time investment keeping the tanks up cost us. I couldn't believe the reduction in the electric bill!
I searched craigslist all week, and found a chest freezer that was only 3 years old for one hundred and fifty dollars. I wrote the poster, but she had someone pending. I started looking commercially to see if I could find a clearance or floor model sale. I struck gold at Lowes. I found a Holiday 5 foot chest freezer, brand spanking new, retail price is $169.00 (you can see it here). You can use a 20% off coupon to save $33.80, making your new freezer $135.20 PLUS Lowes offered to deliver it the next day (which was a Saturday!), install it (which involves plugging it in- but still) and haul away any old appliance for FREE. Score! When I searched online- they only offered the free delivery for appliances over $400.00, I may have gotten a special deal... So if they quote you anything other than free- try to work with them. If your local- go to the Woodbridge Lowes on Smoketown Road. Because it's new, it comes with an energy guide which quotes a yearly energy cost of $26.00.
This is the second awesome experience we've had with Lowes (the last guy we spoke to there helped us find a Smoker/Gas/Charcoal grill that had a missing thermometer (which you can buy online at the parts store for $7.00), and gave it to us for $100.00, saving us $200.00 and an entire afternoon of putting it together (it was a floor model so no assembly was needed.) Keep it up Lowes- you and I are are just starting what could be a beautiful relationship.
Once I started filling the freezer, I started envisioning a way to have a visual display of what was in the freezer. I was originally thinking large magnetic dry erase board with recipe cards (complete with photos) arranged on the board using magnets. But then I realized the cost involved in this plan, and decided it wasn't worth it. Then I kicked myself (not literally), because the entire freezer is a giant magnetic dry erase board! So... I came up with this for FREE (I seriously love free!):
I used our printer to print out titles. "What's in me?" (what the freezer contains) and "What I'm missing." (what needs to be made and frozen). I glued them to scrapbook paper and cut up a roll of magnetic strip tape I had in the craft room. I attached 4 small pieces of magnet to the back of each card.
For each recipe card, I had one one index card with the recipe on it, another recipe card with the photo on it and I used 4 small pieces of magnet tape in the middle then sealed the edges of the cards using scotch tape.
When we're hungry- we can peruse the "freezer menu" of what we have. When it's gone, we move that card over to the "What I'm missing" section. If it's horrible and we hate it, we can throw that card out.
I went to party city and purchased disposable freezer casserole dishes for $.69, they have aluminium covers as well that pinch close. We cover the dish with plastic wrap then pinch the top on (put a note on label to remove plastic wrap before baking).
The above photo is lasagna.
Chicken enchilada casserole.
Chicken enchilada casserole covered in cheese.
Finished casserole, ready for the oven. I always label the same and include the dish title, expiration dates, a plastic wrap warning (if applicable), instructions for baking/reheating and any other pertinent info.
After this week, I have 5 casseroles, frozen homemade mozzarella sticks, and frozen BBQ Beef Cups (packaged individually- can be microwaved to reheat in 4 minutes). I have no prep time for dinner during the week, just throw in the casserole about 5pm and go get it out at 6pm. I'm excited to see what I can add to my stash this week!