Stocking a garage freezer with comfort food brings a busy family bliss. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Stocking a garage freezer with comfort food brings a busy family bliss. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Freezer-to-table meals a dream come true for this busy family

The pandemic has made chest freezers hot commodities right up there with Lysol wipes and toilet paper.

On a blustery day this fall, the heavens parted, angels sang and a 5.4-cubic foot freezer was delivered on our doorstep.

We had waited six months for this baby — or fourteen years, depending upon how you calculated it. My mother-in-law has been encouraging us to purchase a chest freezer ever since we bought a house. It required Jenga skills to fit it into our garage, but my mother-in-law was right; owning a freezer is a blessing.

But before I describe post-freezer life, I need to explain how difficult it was to buy one in the first place. The pandemic has made chest freezers hot commodities right up there with Lysol wipes and toilet paper.

I ordered a freezer from Sears in spring that supposedly had a six-week delivery window. When the date approached, I received a robocall delaying delivery. I dutifully called the toll-free number, waited on hold, went through the COVID-19 screening to ensure their employees would be safe.

Seven days later, I went through the whole process again. This happened three times. I asked the operators why they kept rescheduling when they obviously didn’t have freezers in stock but never got clear answers. The employees were apologetic, and I tried to be kind. It wasn’t their fault the supply chain was screwed up. Finally the robocalls became so annoying that I canceled the order altogether.

My dream of owning a freezer died. Every major store I investigated had the same backorder wait. But then, in September, I noticed that the online retailer QVC had freezers in stock. They were brands I’d never heard of — Commercial Cools and Danbys — but they were available. I ordered one with low expectations of it arriving. A week later, a chest freezer was on my front porch.

Could this be real? Had my dream of owning a freezer finally come true? Yes, it had! The freezer had a dent in the side from the packing strap, but it worked.

My kids wanted to stock it with ice cream that night, but I had a different plan. My vision was straight out of a Methodist playbook. I wanted casseroles with extra cheese, frozen and ready to be delivered to new moms, ill neighbors and our own dinner table when I was pressed for time. The cooking rampage began the next morning, and hasn’t stopped since. My favorite creation is loaded macaroni and cheese.

Now when I cruise up to the Trader Joe’s checkout stand with a cart full of frozen vegetables I have to stop myself from bragging. We have a freezer, and it is glorious!

Loaded macaroni and cheese

1 (8 ounce) package bacon

1 (16 ounce) box macaroni noodles

3 medium onions

1 (10 ounce) bag frozen sweet potatoes

1 (10 ounce) bag frozen broccoli

1 (10 ounce) bag fresh spinach

1 (16 ounce) container of cottage cheese

2 (8 ounce) bags shredded cheddar cheese

Cook the bacon and cut it into bite-sized pieces. Boil the noodles by following the directions on the box. Dice and then caramelize the onions.

Mix the noodles, bacon, onions, sweet potatoes, broccoli, spinach, cottage cheese and cheddar cheese in a 9-by-13 casserole dish. Cover with foil and freeze.

If you have extra ingredients, make a second meal for a friend.

When you’re ready for a freezer-to-table meal, bake from frozen for about 1 hour at 350 degrees. Remove the foil cover for the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at teachingmybabytoread@gmail.com.

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