Healthy, Homemade Gifts: MRE (No, Not Those Meals Ready to Eat)


By: , SparkPeople Blogger

After a long, hard day at work, school, the gym and carpooling duty, who has the time, energy or interest in standing over the stove for an hour? Why not ease the burden for a busy friend or family member with a meal ready to eat?

We're not suggesting you head to the military supply store and stock up on "meals ready to eat." Instead, pick a recipe that your loved one really likes. Maybe it's your chicken and dumplings, lasagna or bean burritos. Whatever it is, make up a batch of it, then pack it in single portions or a family-size container. Keep the meal in the freezer until it's time to exchange gifts. Your gift will melt the recipient's heart!

Think of easy recipes that freeze well: casseroles, stews, and soups are all great ideas.

My stepmom doesn't like to cook, so each time I go home, I bake a lasagna and a chicken casserole and put them in the freezer so she, my dad and my little sister can have hot, home-cooked meals with minimal effort. What is your fail-proof make-ahead meal that you could share with others?

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  • 95
    I have always made more than the two of us can eat.....I just put the leftovers in a freezer bag or container and put in freezer until time comes that too busy to fix a big meal - 3/17/2009   6:45:31 AM
  • 94
    I have been doing this for years.. I also call the church and ask them if anybody has called for food from the pantry.. if needy people need staples, a MRE is even better! In a disposable pan, ready to go!!

    Another thing my neighbor and I used to do,, we would take turns making a meal every week, enough for both families.. trying something new, we were honest if we did not like it and told the other person.. never got a bad one,, she moved away a few years ago and I miss her and the plan!! - 2/8/2009   8:37:36 AM
    My mother-in-law loves chicken enchiladas, but won't fix them for herself. I make an extra pan for her when I cooking, then cut and wrap them as individual servings (she lives alone). That way, she always has something good in the freezer to eat.
    I also cook ground beef with onion in large quantities, then package it in 1-lb. amounts and re-freeze. It sure speeds up most any recipe that calls for cooked ground beef! - 1/16/2009   1:14:36 PM
    looks yummy will have to try this... - 12/24/2008   8:42:44 AM
    I am making lasagnas for my family and friends. Not the cheapest of recipes but got the ingredients from Sam's and heading to the dollar store to get my foil pans to assemble them in. They all love my lasagna so I hope they will like this as a gift. - 12/23/2008   6:42:55 PM
  • 90
    A lot of my friends did this for me when the twins were born. I loved it, and I would love it as a Christmas gift! Great idea. - 12/14/2008   2:01:48 AM
  • 89
    Looks yummy...I'll have to try this. - 12/11/2008   9:46:39 PM
  • 88
    This is actually a gift I'd love to receive LOL! It's been so busy at work, some days I really don't want to go home to cook. And it's just hubby and me :) I'm really going to need to get back into some batch cooking. The two batch dishes I love to cook are chili and lasagna, but then hubby will let it go bad in the fridge. Guess I'll start freezing it. - 12/11/2008   11:53:58 AM
  • JBLAZER123
    I learned years ago when my children were very young to "cook once and eat twice". If I am going to spend the time preparing a meal, it take very little extra energy to make two or three meals at one time, put them in seperate containers and freeze. This system not only saves money, and time, but is much healthier than going out to eat because there is no time to prepare something. - 12/10/2008   11:05:12 AM
    Great idea. - 12/10/2008   9:45:20 AM
  • ANNEN1
    This is a great idea. When I was working I use to pack left overs in individual mael servings. We had a microwave in our area, so I would warm them up and have a haome cooked meal for lunch.
    --Anne - 12/10/2008   2:53:11 AM
    This is a brilliant idea. The next big purchase I make for myself will be a small freezer so I can make a bunch of meals ahead of time and have for the unexpected events that occur to others in life as well as for my own convenience. I enjoy cooking and since I live alone, I hesitate to cook as it makes too much. This would solve that problem and take care of someone else's need at the same time. - 12/10/2008   2:26:45 AM
  • 83
    This a great idea. - 12/9/2008   9:55:02 PM
  • CLAWW855
    I love this idea!! As a gift, or for a sick friend it's no surprise how much a good meal is appreciated!! - 12/9/2008   9:15:55 PM
  • 81
    Just the other day I had a big bag of large green peppers and a few red ones. I made stuffed peppers for us and froze two more batches. They can be thawed and then heated in microwave since everything in them is already cooked. I just might use them for a gift! - 12/9/2008   8:08:43 PM
  • 80
    I like to make black bean chili (usually with left over pork loin that I slow bake for 5-6 hours). I then fill qt. canning jars and gift them to a few senior couples that I know well ("look at that, I made to much chili again!!! Could you take some off our hands?" - 12/9/2008   7:42:13 PM
  • 79
    jewel sells this great 15 bean soup, one bag let is soak all day, throw in some trukey sausage and portion out for a month, freeze, reheat... awsome! - 12/9/2008   5:30:07 PM
  • 78
    i think this is so sweet! I would love to receive ready to meet meals! - 12/9/2008   3:14:20 PM
  • 77
    I'm lovin' the ideas. - 12/9/2008   1:25:36 PM
  • 76
    Thank you for all the wonderful food ideas. I am going to use them to make ahead and freeze items for my elderly mom and for my daughter and her boyfriend for Christmas. Will ask my daughter to do the same. That will give all of us a number of meals for our freezers. - 12/9/2008   1:15:38 PM
  • 75
    Such great ideas here Thanks Merry Christmas everyone!!!! - 12/9/2008   1:10:51 PM
  • TWINSMOM0429
    My twins were 8 months old for their first Christmas. The best gift I received that year was from my brother and siser-in-law who pre-made about 5 or 6 dinners for my husband and I! They were labeled and packaged and ready to put in the freezer and take out whenever we needed a quick meal. What a wonderful gift! - 12/9/2008   1:05:41 PM
  • 73
    This is a great idea for how busy my schedule is - 12/9/2008   12:31:10 PM
  • 72
    I need to do this in my life because my schedule is so hectic i usually resort to eating fast food becuase I'm too tired by the time I get home to cook. - 12/9/2008   12:05:06 PM
  • 71
    This is the perfect gift for new parents too! - 12/9/2008   9:56:37 AM
  • 70
    Such smart thinking Makes life a bit easier - 12/9/2008   9:03:32 AM
  • 69
    I always make a big pan of baked pasta(low calorie) or baked lasagna and mu SIL can't cook(her words not mine), so we always send her home with a small to meduim sized container full of the food we make the night she comes over for dinner, helps her and us so we dont over eat the stuff and she has healthy home cooked meals to eat too. - 12/9/2008   9:01:45 AM
  • 68
    I make a big batch of a low calorie soup every 2-3 weeks and freeze in individual containers to take to work for lunch. Saves me time, calories and $$$. The soups I pick are high in vegetables; low in fat and sodium, so extra health bonus for me as well. - 12/9/2008   4:29:25 AM
  • 67
    I love caserole they are so easy to make - 12/9/2008   12:23:39 AM
  • 66
    I love to make large meals just to freeze and reuse at a later date. - 12/8/2008   11:17:32 PM
  • 65
    I do this quite often and it sure is nice when you need something fast. It's all ready done; just heat it up! - 12/8/2008   10:57:07 PM
    This is a great idea since I'm not employed at this time. I plan ahead as far as meals, but never thought of doubling the meals up and gifting them. This may change our holiday giving this year. - 12/8/2008   9:52:19 PM
  • 63
    Lots of good ideas here...I live alone and cooking meals ahead and freezing them would be ideal for me. I only have a small freezer on top of my fridge--not much room for containers...but maybe I could use the one quart freezer bags--they could lie more flat...I will definitely keep this in mind. - 12/8/2008   9:26:21 PM
  • 62
    It's a great idea! I think I'll do it for my parents.

    Sue - 12/8/2008   8:14:26 PM
    Crockpot cooking is the best. - 12/8/2008   7:57:33 PM
  • 60
    I love crockpot just need to do it.
    - 12/8/2008   7:38:17 PM
  • 59
    I make a head lasagna & chicken cassarole..I make one for now and one for later - 12/8/2008   7:29:34 PM
  • 58
    I love making crock pot dishes. like soup,stews, pot roasts, even lasagna. For lasagna I just spray the crock with PAM. Layer uncooked noodles with sauce and cheese . Cook on low for 8 hrs, My family loves it. - 12/8/2008   6:28:45 PM
  • 57
    I roast veggies - it is virtually foolproof and turns veggies like bell peppers into succulent, sweet treats.

    Just cut up veggies, brush with olive oil, add some spices (I use Mrs. Dash) and bake in oven at 400 for about 30 minutes. Done! - 12/8/2008   5:04:06 PM
  • 56
    What a great idea! Something to give my elderly mother that she might actually use and like! - 12/8/2008   3:34:48 PM
    Homemade MREs are the greatest gift of all . . . whether for ourselves or for others. - 12/8/2008   1:17:52 PM
  • 54
    my family does tamales - 12/8/2008   12:31:17 PM
    I love this idea. Anybody want to put me on their gift list?

    The only freezer I have is the one in my side-by-side fridge, so I don't have a lot of space to freeze things ahead, much less enough to freeze dishes to give to others.

    I asked Santa to bring me a small freezer, but I really don't have a place for one in the house. Maybe I can get rid of something else to make room. Maybe the washer and dryer? LOL - 12/8/2008   12:06:30 PM
    This is a perfect idea for Christmas or anytime of the year! This is what my family does every year for our neighbors for the holidays and they love it! Happy Holidays to everyone at SP! - 12/8/2008   11:24:16 AM
    Hey, I totally want some of that split pea soup with the squash added in. Sounds soooo yummy!
    Happy Holidays to all!
    - 12/8/2008   11:05:05 AM
  • 50
    I laughed when I saw this one for two reasons:

    1. I cook once every two weeks and make enough dinner meals to feed my husband and I for two weeks (26 meals - we get a taken-and-bake pizza every Friday night), so I'm used to cooking in large batches. We have only a small freezer in our fridge, otherwise I'd cook for a whole month at a time - wouldn't take any more time than cooking for 2 weeks does!

    2. For Christmas I'm giving my parents (really my mom) a "gift of time". I sent my mother a grocery list (they live a 14-hour drive away, so I had to get her involved!)that she will purchase between now and Christmas. The day after Christmas, I will cook for her and my dad the way I cook for me and my husband - stocking their freezer with healthy, diabetes-friendly (my dad has Type II) meals.

    Both of my parents work, and with all the kids out of the house now (my brother started college this fall), they've been eating out more because they're too tired to cook (my brother used to help a lot). My mom has especially been having a hard time, as she is sensitive to salt and there is a lot of it in restaurant food. I'd make the meals ahead of time, shopping for ingredients on sale, etc., but it's just too far to transport everything! The ingredients will paid for out of their usual grocery budget, so hopefully they'll end up saving money by not eating out because of my gift. - 12/8/2008   11:03:28 AM
    Much the same as the last comment - but instead I make my own Christmas hampers, and include the foods I know the person receiving will enjoy - 12/8/2008   10:16:14 AM
  • 48
    We've done this for the last several years for Christmas gifts. Instead of buying a token gift for each family member, we instead trade meals. Each family that opts-in, makes a complete meal for the other families. We were going to have to cook for ourselves anyway. This way we have the fun of making a healthy meal, and then giving it away!

    And it's so much more fun eating a meal someone else made! And great knowing that a complete meal is in the freezer, just waiting for us when we need it!

    We've really had fun with this, we can watch sales for the ingredients, and make and freeze the meals ahead of time. So, no Christmas rush. It makes the family holiday get-together a joy instead of a stress. And since we are receiving as many meals as we are giving, there is no "sticker shock" when the bills arrive, because we would have cooked meals for ourselves anyway.

    So, we get to give love, and time, and thought. The things that really count. And we all strive for healthy meals, since one family member is diabetic. Truly a win-win situation. - 12/8/2008   10:13:26 AM
  • 47
    I try to always made double of meals that freeze well like soup stock and sauses. Then I change the way I use them I make a tomatoe based sause and use for pizzia or chilli and it is quick and easy to make a meal little longer in the making stage but well worth it on a night I am running behind. - 12/8/2008   10:10:14 AM
  • 46
    This sounds like an awesome idea! I don't do that here! I have 5 kids who eat up every last bit I make. I could try making super huge batches!!! - 12/8/2008   10:01:02 AM

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