Jump-start hearty casseroles by prepping and freezing the main ingredients ahead.
Shortcuts to Supper
Credit: Ralph Anderson / Styling Lisa Powell Bailey / Food styling Pam Lolley

Stock your freezer with cooked ground meats, cubed chicken or turkey, and shredded cheese, and you can assemble family-pleasing main dishes in a snap. In fact, if your freezer is stocked, our recipes boast prep times of only 15 minutes. Add a tossed salad and bread, and you have an impressive menu. And as a handy guide to some sure shortcuts, see "Easy Measuring, Easy Freezing"--then enjoy your time to unwind.

Italian-Inspired Recipes:

Easy Measuring, Easy Freezing

  • 1 to 1 1/4 lb. uncooked lean ground beef, turkey, or sausage = about 2 1/2 to 3 cups cooked and crumbled
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lb. uncooked chicken breasts = about 3 cups cubed and cooked
  • Preshredded cheeses are convenient and freeze great but can be costly. Consider grating your own: 2 (8-oz.) blocks of cheese, shredded = about 4 cups). Partially freezing the block, especially softer cheeses such as Swiss and Monterey Jack, makes grating a breeze.
  • Pint- to gallon-size, zip-top plastic freezer bags are excellent choices for storing food items. (A pint-size zip-top plastic freezer bag is perfect for 1 cup cubed cooked chicken breasts.) Also check out the great plastic freezer container choices that go from freezer to microwave to dishwasher. They come in several sizes, including 3 cups. Whichever you choose, make sure you purchase good-quality bags and containers that are designed for the freezer.
  • Label your items for freezing, including the amount and date. If properly stored, shredded cheeses and cooked meats can be frozen up to three months.
  • Chopped onions show up as an ingredient in lots of recipes. You can freeze them after chopping, but freeze them raw.

"Shortcuts to Supper" is from the February 2007 issue of Southern Living.