A handful of recipes we bet you’re never caught without.
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Frozen Zip-Top Bags of Soup
Credit: Jennifer Davick

Southerners are a prepared lot. Many of us have a secret stash of hostess gifts to take along on last-minute gatherings. We have closets stocked with backup linens for every bed and pull-out in the neighborhood, and enough monogrammed towels to outfit an entire sorority house. But we've got another little secret: Walk out to garages, carports, or basements around the South and you're likely to find a deep freezer (affectionally referred to as "the deep freeze") chock-full of prepared foods ready to pop into the oven. Never is there an occasion where we'll be caught without food on the table. Whether it's a quick, unexpected visit, or a crazy-busy weeknight. (Others might hear fast-food calling, but you know there's a King Ranch Casserole in the freezer with your name on it.)

Keeping track of all the food you have in stock is going to be the real challenge. For that, make sure to keep an updated list somewhere that you can reference often. Record the item, date you put it in the freezer, thaw-by date, and any other information on baking or heating that might be helpful to your future self.

With that, here are the foods prepared Southerners always have in their freezer:

Quiche

Picture this: It's Saturday night and you just remembered you invited Mary Glenn and her family over for brunch after church. That's when you recall you've stored away a quiche for precisely this type of scenario. On your way home, pick up a bowl of cut fruit from the grocery store's refrigerated produce section and brew a fresh pot of coffee while the quiche heats in the oven. Voila, brunch in a flash.

A Few of Our Favorite Recipes:

Casseroles

Yes, that's an intentional plural "casseroles." Sometimes you need a not-yet-baked ziti, other times it has to be our cheesiest, creamiest, chicken enchiladas. Whether it's a quick weeknight meal, or a neighbor who is suddenly in need of a helping hand, a casserole is never the wrong choice—and always just the thing to have stocked in the freezer and at the ready. Ideally, you would make sure to give it adequate time to thaw before heating, but a second option is to put it in the oven while it preheats. This will jump start the thawing process before the true bake begins. You'll still need to give it at least an extra ten minutes if baking from frozen, depending on the size of the casserole.

A Few of Our Favorite Recipes:

Soup, Stew, Chili

Find another food that fares as well in the freezer—we dare you. Maybe ice-cream has it beat, but when it comes to ease of storage and its one-and-done dinner appeal, soups, stews, and chilis take the cake. Don't even think about storing your extra batch of soup in a bulky container though. Let it cool completely, then add two-serving portions to freezer-safe zip-top bags, seal, and lay flat in your freezer. Once they're frozen, you can stand them up side-by-side (as pictured above) or simply stack them at the bottom of the freezer.

A Few of Our Favorite Recipes:

Fish

Floridians know this to be true: A freezer isn't fully stocked unless a substantial amount of individually portioned fish is found within its depths. Whether it's shrimp, flounder, salmon, or cod—the seafaring proteins are made for life in the deep (freezer, that is). Just be sure to pay attention to whether the fish has been frozen before. The reason Floridians are so fond of a stock of freezer fish is because many of us buy it straight from the docks where it hasn't been pre-frozen. You can refreeze it if you've kept it refrigerated and it's still fresh, but it might lose a bit of its moisture in the process, resulting in a slightly drier cut of fish once cooked.  

A Few of Our Favorite Recipes:

Bread

Whether it's a loaf of white bread you picked up from the store, packaged garlic bread, or Grandma's famous yeast rolls, bread is a freezer staple and for good reason. Thaw individual slices of bread in minutes or pull out a bag of rolls and pop them in the oven for a pillowy-soft side for your Sunday dinner. Muffins, cinnamon rolls, and scones also make great freezer breakfast options.

A Few of Our Favorite Recipes:

Dip

Forget the football games, sometimes a neighbor, friend, or relative drops by and a cocktail is in order—stat. And we all know you can't serve a glass of wine without a little something to munch on. In these situations, a cheesy dip will go far. Just make sure you always have crackers, carrot sticks, celery, or chips in stock. If you're the prepared Southerner I think you are, I bet you already thought of that.

A Few of Our Favorite Recipes:

Cookie Dough

Some cookie dough is meant for the freezer—hello, Icebox Cookies—while others may be intended to bake right away but work out just fine if dolloped onto a cookie sheet and placed in the freezer—looking at you, Chocolate Drop Cookies. Once your dollops are frozen, just transfer to a freezer-safe zip-top bag and place back in the freezer. You can pull out as many as you like at a time and bake, you don't even need to wait for them to thaw. Alternatively, many cookie varieties are quite tasty when frozen after baking. If you've ever had a frozen chocolate chip cookie that still somehow has a delightfully chewy center, you know what I'm talking about.

A Few of Our Favorite Recipes: