I have a very, very dear friend that is next to impossible to buy gifts for at Christmas and at her birthday. She’s single, professionally successful and has one of those jobs that takes up a LOT of her time. She does well enough for herself that she can buy almost anything she wants and her tastes are specific enough that you can’t usually risk spotting something unique and knowing she’ll like it.
This is hard for me as gift giving is one of the love languages in which I excel. I generally put a lot of time and effort into finding just the right gift for someone and when even that doesn’t pay off, I get frustrated
My standard gift for the person who has “everything” is an experience. For instance I might take Hair to a concert and dinner for her birthday. With Mr W’, I’ve given him a flight in a glider, scuba diving lessons, a day long paintball outing with friends and similar experiences.
The problem with this friend is that she lives 200 miles away and her work schedule makes it difficult to plan anything. So I was back to square one.
Then I had an epiphany. One of the things I know she misses the most since I moved is getting to come have dinner with us. She loves “Jen-food” and rarely gets to eat it anymore. She’s also been working on getting back in shape and while she has done a great job of getting her workout routine back in check, the food part is harder. After all, when you come home from work at 9pm, the last thing you want to do is make yourself a healthy dinner.
I’ve freezer cooked at many points in life and still freeze extra portions of meals every now and then to have them on hand for nights we’re running behind. And while healthy is an important part of the equation, the thing my friend was really struggling to eliminate was heavily processed foods and pre-made freezer meals that were chalk full of sodium.
Stocking her freezer with Jen meals seemed like the perfect idea.
So when Hair and Tapioca were headed over to see her on her birthday (did I forget to mention my dear friend is Hair’s older sister?) and I couldn’t go for scheduling reasons, I sent them along with a card and two batches of homemade ice cream. The card promised that the ice cream was just a taste of what was to come and promised at least two weeks worth of dinners for her freezer.
Hair texted later to say her sister had literally danced around the kitchen when she read the card.
The next weekend, I wrote down a list of every meal I was taking, gave her detailed reheating instructions and packed it all up into coolers. Mr W and I drove everything over, unloaded it into her freezer and had a freshly cooked meal (plus freshly made chocolate chip cookies) waiting for her when she came home. We spent the night hanging out and chatting and returned home the next morning.
So what did we take? I honestly can’t remember it all and like a dolt, I forgot to write it down…but here’s what I remember…
- White Cheese Chicken Enchiladas
- Skinny Spinach Manicotti
- Skinny Spinach and Chicken Manicotti
- Mongolian Beef
- Linguini with Shrimp Scampi
- Honey Soy Chicken
- Chicken Divan
- Oven Roasted Pork Chops
- Homemade Gnocchi
- Homemade Sweet Potato Gnocchi
- Shredded Mexican Chicken
- 2 Bags of Cilantro Lime Rice
- 2 Bags of Mashed Potatoes
- 4 Twice Baked Bacon Cheddar Potatoes
- 5 Mason Jar Muffins (Blueberry, Raspberry, Cinnamon, Cranberry Orange & Chocolate Chip)
- Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (1/2 pint mason jar of dough)
- Chocolate Fudge Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (1/2 pint mason jar size)
- Cool Whip Cookies (1/2 pint mason jar of dough)
- 4 dozen Silver Dollar Pancakes
- One Dozen Crespelles
And at least a few other things. It worked out to 12 entrees, 10 sides, 10 breakfasts and 5 desserts. It should last her a month when interspersed with other fresh and quick meals or take-out.
She absolutely loved it. Ultimately, it probably didn’t cost me more than about $30 in extra groceries. With rare exceptions like the twice baked potatoes and the muffins, I simply froze an extra meal’s worth of things I was making anyway. It took about three weeks of advance planning to get it all put together. For me, it was an act of love, for her, it was an amazing gift that she couldn’t buy.
For those of you on tighter budgets trying to figure out what to give a single friend or family member for their birthday or the holiday, consider this as an option. You’d be surprised at how excited people are to heat up “real food” when they’re mostly used to take-out and bagged food. There are a million great freezer recipe sites out there and no shortage of meal ideas.