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Freezer Cooking for the Elderly

 Looking for ways to spread frugal blessings? Try freezer cooking for the elderly!

A guest post by Jody

My grandmother is ninety-eight years old, and until she fell six months ago she was still living relatively self-sufficiently at home. Her independence was important to her, and so she was still making most of her own meals.

Like the ideal farmer’s wife, she had spent a lifetime making spreads of pot roast, mashed potatoes, applesauce, green beans, corn, gravy, rolls, apple pie, pecan pie, butterscotch pie and cherry pie – the woman could make some pie!

At ninety-eight she just didn’t have it in her to do all that anymore. About twice a week she would make enough Cream of Wheat to last for a few days. For lunch and dinner she resigned herself to making simple things like a grilled cheese sandwich or bread and butter. Besides that, she just couldn’t eat very much, so it seemed pointless to cook an actual meal. She had been about 5’9” in her “prime”, but now she was barely able to make the scale read 100 pounds.

During this time she started paying a service to provide meals a few times a week, but couldn’t quite boast of the flavor. We knew it was bad when during a visit, my parents’ dog (who eats everything from cupcakes to coffee cans full of bacon grease) got left in the car with one of the meals. They found that the side dishes had been consumed, but he had refused to touch the main course. When even the dog won’t eat your meat, you know it’s bad!

Living over fifteen hundred miles away I was at a loss as to how to help. I was concerned that she was not getting enough variety or nutrition in her diet, and I knew that it was quite a feat for her to pull together the simplest of meals.

The main factors were:

  • Lack of variety
  • Lack of nutrition
  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of appetite

An Idea!

Last November when I was there for Thanksgiving, we had our usual feast at her house, though the kids and grandkids did the cooking. Despite the gluttony, there were still plenty of leftovers. That’s when I had an idea.

I pulled out her muffin tins and went to work. Using one leftover at a time, I filled the muffin tins with all the typical Thanksgiving fixings. When a tray was full I put it in the freezer and pulled it out a couple of hours later. I would let it sit a couple of minutes to loosen the food from the edges, then I would dump out the cubes, put them back into the freezer and move on to the next leftover.

I thought about putting all of the little circles into Ziploc bags according to what they were, but then decided that would be too complicated for her to get all of those bags out for one meal. Instead, I utilized her endless collection of empty cottage cheese containers. I put a cube of each item into each container, so that all she would have to do would be to pull one container out of the freezer, arrange the items on a skillet or a plate for the microwave and presto! She would have a nutritious meal of very little portions with plenty of variety and hardly any work to get it.

I happened to be there at Thanksgiving, so I didn’t need to do any extra food preparation for this, but I started wondering if other people would want to incorporate this kind of thing into their freezer cooking days. It could be helpful for the elderly or even a single person who wouldn’t likely be able to eat an entire lasagna or casserole if it was offered to them.

Extra Tips

Some tips I would have for doing this would be to:

  • Be sure of dietary restrictions.
  • Label the container with large print.
  • Attach any directions.
  • Write a note of encouragement or a smiley face.

Compared to all of the meals my grandma has made me over the years, I know this is just a drop in the bucket, yet I hope to bless her as she has blessed me.

“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”  James 1:27

Jody loves cooking in huge portions and is still learning to try a recipe out in a multiple of one before doing eight batches at once – and then realizing it’s not such a good recipe – and then eating that from the freezer for a very long time.

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photo by ex libris

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46 Comments

  • MusicMaven says:

    Thanks so much for this post. 🙂 I love it when our frugal or organizational ideas can be used to help others!

    • Louise Burton says:

      I have just come across this post and think it is a wonderful idea. I intend to use it for myself as a prep for my meals. Simple and effective way of cooking with no waste.
      Love from South Africa?

  • Melissa says:

    What a wonderful idea! I wish I had thought of this when my grandma was alive. She got forgetful in her old age and would often leave the stove on, so she had to have it taken out of her assisted living apartment. Making freezers meals like this would have been a blessing because she only would have had to microwave them.

    Thanks for such a great post!

  • Susan says:

    Great post! I have found that small Dixie Cups work well for this sort of thing too.

  • Crystal says:

    This is a wonderful idea! I LOVE it – Thank you!

  • Laura says:

    What a great idea! I never would have thought of it. I’ve often seen elderly people ahead of me with their frozen dinners at the grocery checkout. I though there must be a better way to eat when you don’t need much, but couldn’t think of a solution. I really like the idea of the younger generation “giving back” to our elders.

  • jennifer says:

    What an awesome idea! We always make bread on mondays. We have recently changed our recipe to a 3 loaf instead of 2. I always put the third in a set of 4 mini loaves. Perfect to send with a freezer cooking day batch!

  • Sonshine says:

    Great post! I do something very similar for my elderly parents right now. 🙂 My mom has moderate dementia/alzheimer’s and did all the cooking when she was in her prime and my dad doesn’t really know how to cook so I have been putting meals together for them so that they are not eating out at restaurants for all their meals. They have divided plates and other plastic containers that I am able to make them up homemade “tv dinners” to be able to stick in the freezer.

    Here is a link to a post that I did about freezer cooking for the elderly…
    http://glimpseofsonshine.blogspot.com/2009/03/urs-freezer-friendly-meals.html

  • Heather Anne says:

    Thank you for this reminder. I did this for my grandparents around the holidays but I really need to be intentionally about doing it on a regular basis. What a great idea to use the muffin tins!

  • Karrie says:

    I love this idea!! It is so sad when grandparents can’t do the things they used to be able to. What I would do is every Sunday make our sunday dinner at home and bring them a plate. This way they get a yummy home cooked meal at least once a week. Plus my grandma would love it when I would homemake her a real loaf of bread. She would eat that all week long.

  • Ashley says:

    Such a nice idea! :):)

  • Tonya says:

    This is a wonderful idea and one I wish I could do for my grandma. She lives about 14 hours away from me now 🙁 I miss her so very much but thankfully we have the phone to keep in touch weekly!

  • Jennifer says:

    I have often thought that for a single person, making a lasagna in a loaf pan would work beautifully. Each lasagna noodle is about the size of a loaf pan and you can easily layer things up to the top. After it had cooked you could eat 1 piece and probably have 2 for leftovers.

    • Elizabeth says:

      @Jennifer, I’ve done this before for just my husband and myself before our kids got old enough to start eating the same stuff as us and it worked out wonderfully, especially since we are notoriously bad about eating leftovers!

    • Judy says:

      For lasagna, we use macaroni noodles. No layering needed. Easier to eat. Would cook in muffin tins for individual portions.

  • Elizabeth says:

    These are all great ideas! Another option would be to make a big pot of soup or chili and either freeze it in the 2-cup crew top containers (Ziplock as well as Kroger have these available) or even put the cooled soup in freezer zipper top bags and freeze them flat so they can be easily stacked.

    • Rachael says:

      For our family of four (but one is a baby), I cook up big batches of soup and freeze them in the 32 ounce yogurt containers. Works great for casseroles and chili, too!

  • Veronica says:

    I do something similar for my mother who isn’t all that old but suffers from the begining stages of Alz … and has always been a terrible cook. I put everything on a plastic plate and use the “press and seal” type plastic wrap to cover it. I freeze and then label. I don’t put veggies on these plates as they don’t really microwave well and the grocery store has single serve frozen veggies. My mom pulls a plate out of the freezer about an hour before she wants to eat, lets it thaw a little, and then microwaves for a minute or two. She eats better and I can stop worrying about her nutrition just a little bit.

    • katie says:

      Hi Veronica, Does the press n’ seal prevent freezer burn? How long did it last with that? Thanks! I am making meals for our 95 year old grandparents now and love this storage solution

    • Jess says:

      I was wondering how well these keep and if the food gets freezer burn? This sounds like a great idea!!

    • Jess says:

      Thank you for this post. From the comments it sounds like there are many of us with the same issues.

      Soup freezes well, and the muffin tin is a great idea. But mine always get freezer burn (I think the freezer is old).
      Bags work best for me but not for my grandmother.

      Someone else commented that she makes individual plates and uses press and seal film. I am going to try that next. It is too overwhelming to my grandmother to pick a main and side from the freezer. When there are too many options, nothing sounds good to her. Simple is key.

      Our top meals are mini meatloaf, massed potatoes, corn, carrots, salsa, and grilled chicken.

  • Suzanne says:

    I am loving this!! I am going to start freezer cooking more (I am pregnant and want to stock up for the delivery) and this would be a perfect way to make a few meals to give to the elderly without hardly any extra work on freezer cooking day!! A great way to give back for all our grandparents have done for us!! Thanks for a great post!

    • dee says:

      @Suzanne,
      A Jewish friend told me when she was expecting her first child, her co-workers threw a “freezer shower” for her. Jewish tradition does not allow having any baby items in the home before the baby is born. Her co-workers wanted to throw a shower, so they all made meals for her to freeze. She loved it!

  • Jeannine says:

    Great idea! Thanks for sharing. Yes, you are right.

  • Wendy says:

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful idea. You are a blessing to more than your grandma!

  • Liz says:

    This post made me tear up- what a fabulous way to help out your family. I’ve always loved that verse; it makes me really happy to see that concept shared and promoted here.

  • Janet says:

    This is a wonderful idea that I have used with my grandmother. She lives 1200 miles away, so when I go to visit, usually annually, I make our regular dinners extra large and freeze her some tv type dinners. I use the divided plastic containers and they can be reused. Last time we were there, I had about 75 meals for her in the freezer. She can cook some, but loves the convenience when she doesn’t feel well or is tired.

    On a side note, when other family members heard about this, they also started saving her freezer meals out of their extra. She’s pretty stocked up now.

  • Amy F :) says:

    Great idea! Thank-you for sharing!

  • Lisa says:

    I love this idea too. I have started doing something similar for my elderly grandparents for gifts. They have so many things and really do not need anything in way of gifts. But, for holidays/birthdays, etc. I still like to get them something special. I have started making homemade foods to give to them as gifts. For example, this past weekend for grandparent’s day I made them two dozen mini apple cinnamon muffins. I used one of the small envelope muffin mixes–which was less than a dollar–and used my mini muffin pans. I was able to stretch the mix to make two dozen mini muffins. I’ve also frozen individual portions of various soups, meatballs and mashed potatoes, and homemade biscuits and breads. It is a gift they really appreciate getting, plus I know that they are getting nutritious, homemade food that isn’t costing the family an arm and a leg to provide for them. They love that it comes from me and I find that they eat more because I made it especially for them–often they don’t eat much or say they don’t have much of an appetitite. They also have entertained other elderly guests by sharing their homemade meals–allowing some great time of fellowship. It is a gift that has kept on giving!

    • Jamie says:

      I’m doing this too for Christmas gifts, but for my parents only in their late 50s. They have gotten lazy and eat fast food or freezer food. They don’t need anything and this would be convenient healthier food.

  • Marquisha Turner says:

    I can’t believe I didn’t think of this! My mother is going through chemo right now and my grandfather lives with her and my father. He can still cook and so can my mom, but they both have days when they just don’t feel up to it. My dad can only make cream of wheat or oatmeal! I did some freezer meals for them, but I never thought of this! I cook every day for my family, so it’s hard to go over and cook for them also on a daily basis, but from now on, I will use this idea because we ALWAYS have leftovers!

  • Thank you for this post. It made my heart hurt in places I didn’t know existed. It made me think of my own grandmother, also far away from me, who was a gourmet cook in her prime. She used to cook dishes from all parts of the world with the greatest of ease. When she moved into a elderly housing facility, she was still self-sufficient and was able to cook for lots of her neighbors. When that got to be too much for her due to health conditions in the last few months (and her doctor told her to stop helping everyone else), she moved into a different assisted living home where she can get meals at the cafeteria. It breaks my heart. Can someone please cook her a good meal? Some curry perhaps? 🙂

  • Sarah says:

    awww this is so sweet. i wish i was close enough to do this for my grandparents.

  • Cheryl says:

    Great idea. Going to make some meals for my Dad. This is perfect.

  • Thank you for this post today. It made my heart hurt in places I didn’t know existed. It made me think of my own grandmother, also far away from me, who was a gourmet cook in her prime. She used to cook dishes from all parts of the world with the greatest of ease. When she moved into a elderly housing facility, she was still self-sufficient and was able to cook for lots of her neighbors. When that got to be too much for her due to health conditions in the last few months (and her doctor told her to stop helping everyone else), she moved into a different assisted living home where she can get meals at the cafeteria. It breaks my heart. Can someone please cook her a good meal? Some curry perhaps? 🙂

  • Joy says:

    Thank you so much for this idea!!! I usually bring a few meals over once a week for my Poppop so he has something different to eat , but I never thought of freezing mini meals for him. And he has all of those 30+ year old plastic containers I could use too 🙂

  • Joy says:

    I was wondering…do you freeze the cubes in paper muffin liners like in the photo, or do you normally do it without, like ice cubes? I was thinking that the paper might get stuck to the food, but muffin trays don’t pop food out like ice cube trays.

  • Jennifer says:

    I love this idea! What a great way to help parents, grandparents, or even elderly neighbors!

  • Linda says:

    I have been cooking for Dad for several years. His freezer space is limited, so I make things for him and store them in my freezer so he has a variety in his. All he will use is the microwave. I freeze in plastic containers, he takes them out a bit before he wants to eat, then puts them in a microwave safe container with a paper plate over the top to keep splatters down. I have just bought a small crock pot for him and will plug that into a timer for him, so he doesn’t forget it.

  • Tonia says:

    Awesome.. Every week I see my grandmother throwing away food from meals on wheels for essentially the same reasons..

    But wasn’t sure what I could do

    I only live a little bit away from her.. But now I know what I can do! Thanks!

    Also my mom lives not too far away and I will be using this for her also as I know she won’t cook for herself regardless of if she is able.. <3 You have greatly blessed me as I now feel like I actually can help! tyvm!

  • This is brilliant.

    It would also work for single folks (I know I always ALWAYS made way too much food and then ended up tossing a lot of it).

  • Sandi says:

    Freezing foods in silicone muffin tins makes them so much easier to pop out. I cook a big batch of steel cut oats and freeze in my silicone muffin tins. When frozen, I pop them out and throw them in a bag, ready for quick easy single servings.

  • Scott says:

    Healthy eating is so important for the elderly! Many are too proud to ask for help so this is an awesome idea. Just pop these frozen meals in the crock pot or an easy to use microwave and they can have a healthy, nutritious meal. And, they were able to take care of (most) of it themselves. I work with many elderly and senior patients with health problems and will put this in my arsenal of suggestions. Thanks for the ideas!

  • Pat says:

    I learned to make small frozen meals when my husband was in Viet Nam during the late 1960′! Thanksgiving dinner was 1/2 Cornish game hen with all the trimmings because I had a freezer full of 1/4 or 1/2 or 1/16th meals prepared as I would have for seven adults. I did use plastic containers or glass to create the meals, and if I wanted a different meal, I could use frozen veggies. I steamed/or stove/oven reheated them since we didn’t have a microwave at that time.
    Now, because I am in my 70’s, I make huge batches of several different soups with fresh ingredients and freeze them in plastic containers. I do not eat much meat any more, so a bowl of bean or lentil based soup and a dark green salad with various toppings is quick, healthy and requires minimum effort. And I always have more if someone drops by for lunch or dinner. I do the same for dessert, pasta meals and quick breads like biscuits (which are drop). I make my own crock pot yogurt, oatmeal and stews. Usually make enough for about 2 months at a time, but some things last even longer. The only thing I do not try to freeze after preparing is fish. Now I am using the same tactics for my 98-year-old father and his wife who has Alzheimer disease.

    • Mary Anne says:

      Pat, wow! I feel like Jamie’s parents (see Jamie’s post, above) – fifties and just can’t bother cooking at all.

      Mom really likes the frozen broth cubes I gave her. She sticks them in with whatever is in the microwave and it just makes it all taste hime cooked. Who knew? I only did it because I was *sharing* with her some cooked chicken that no one else would eat because it was so thoroughly well-done. Ok it was Death Valley dry. The broth cubes were a hit, and the dog is really loving them in this hot weather, two-fer!

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