5 reasons to keep an extra casserole in the freezer

Keep a casserole in the freezer.I have a freezer packed with all sorts of good things to eat. Along with frozen fruit, the ice cream, and this summer's vegetable harvest, I keep a couple of extra casseroles in my freezer for emergencies. Having some frozen meals on hand means that I'm always prepared meal-wise for the unexpected, such as the time some of our out-of-town relatives showed up during dinner time.

Being able to stretch out dinner (or brunch) for unexpected company is one good reason to keep extra casseroles on hand. Here's four more good reasons.

No time to cook. A hectic work schedule often gets in the way of preparing a balanced meal for dinner. With a casserole in the freezer, I can prepare a healthy dinner in under 20 minutes by tossing the casserole in the microwave while assembling a dinner or fruit salad. For those times when an evening meeting keeps me away from home, extra casseroles on hand also makes it easy for my husband to whip up a balanced meal for the family.

To streamline prep time, I both prepare and store my casseroles in freezer-to-oven safe glass containers.

Funerals. When my neighbor lost a close relative several months ago, I brought her over one of my casseroles so she wouldn't have to worry about dinner for several evenings. Bringing meals to a funeral is an old custom that can provide comfort and nourishment to the bereaved even when they might not feel like cooking.

For company potlucks. My husband's office staff holds a potluck brunch several times a year. Since the potlucks are usually a spur-of-the-moment thing, I keep a breakfast casserole in the freezer for the mornings when he's expected to bring a dish to share. So that the dish comes back to me after it's been cleaned, I stick a self-adhesive address label on both the casserole dish and the lid.

Shut-ins. Whether you are visiting sick friends, an elderly relative, or popping in for a visit to your parents or grandparents, it's nice to bring along something they can enjoy eating later. Casseroles are easy to make, easy to store, and an affordable alternative to store-bought goodies.

So how do I find the time to make extra casseroles? I simply double up the ingredients when cooking a one dish meal for my family and portion out the extras into a freezer safe container.

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Ten ways to use up monster zucchini.