PITTSBURG, Kan. —
She also prepared five Tater Tot casseroles, packing them in disposable foil casserole containers that she purchased at three for $1 at the Dollar Store. She secures a package of shredded cheese to the top of each one.
"You don't add that until part way through the cooking process, so I wanted to keep that separate but have it right with the casserole," she said.
Martino-Lewis found two recipes that are not only hits with her children, they also are foods the kids can grab from the freezer and heat on their own.
"Frozen fruit cups were a huge hit, and they're healthy. Another favorite was a recipe for pizza balls. I can make 100 at a time, the kids can help, and then they can heat them in the toaster oven themselves," she said.
She researched tips for bulk cooking online and watched YouTube videos before diving in. She also used trial and error.
"I figured out it's best to use pieces of cardboard between things when you stack them in the freezer," she said. "I also learned to freeze things on a cookie sheet -- like meatballs and the pizza balls -- before putting them in a Ziploc bag, or they stick together."
In the top of each freezer, inside a zip-close bag, she keeps a handwritten list of her inventory so she can keep track of future meals. As the family eats casseroles and other items, she adjusts the list.
"I guess this kind of cooking could be really handy for anyone -- if there's bad weather and you can't get out, or if someone is sick and you can't go shopping," she said. "I like it because that way we're always prepared. To me, cooking is about feeding the family, not being Julia Child."
Andra Stefanoni is a reporter for The Joplin Globe in Joplin, Mo.