Meatloaf is a family favorite, but it can take a while to prepare. If you're used to saving meatloaf for a weekend meal, you may be surprised to realize that you can prepare meatloaf ahead of time. Prepared meatloaf can keep in the refrigerator overnight, or you can freeze it, baked or unbaked, for future meals.
Making Your Meatloaf
Every mom has her own family recipe for meatloaf, ranging from basic beef topped with ketchup to meatloaves made with ground turkey, mixed with dry ranch seasoning or flavored with bacon. Fortunately, all meatloaves will refrigerate or freeze well. You can even simply opt to make a double, triple or quadruple batch whenever you make meatloaf, taking care of two to four meals in one evening. Mix your ingredients then shape them into a loaf to fit a large pan, an 8-by-8 inch pan or a traditional loaf pan.
Refrigeration is Crucial
Fresh or thawed ground meat, or a raw meatloaf made from fresh or thawed ground meat, will keep for one to two days in the refrigerator. Some meatloaf recipes even recommend an overnight stay in the refrigerator to improve flavor. If you realize you're out of time but don't need your meatloaf for that night's dinner, cook the meatloaf until the center reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit, then freeze it.
Freezing the Meatloaf
Freeze meatloaf, whether cooked or raw. Cooked meatloaves can be removed from the freezer the night before then thawed overnight in the refrigerator. Warm them through in the oven then serve with your favorite sides. Opt to cook your meatloaf, before you freeze it, if you take advantage of freezer meals on nights when you're short on time. Raw meatloaf should be thawed overnight then baked according to your recipe.
For a kid-friendly twist on the usual meatloaf, bake and freeze your meatloaf in muffin pans or small loaf pans. These smaller meatloaves thaw and reheat quickly. Serve mini-meatloaves on an evening when mom and dad are having a meal they don't want to share or the kids won't eat. This is also an ideal trick if one of your kids won't eat it without ketchup on top and another can't do without it. Everyone can have their favorite without much work from mom.
With a master's degree in art history from the University of Missouri-Columbia, Michelle Powell-Smith has been writing professionally for more than a decade. An avid knitter and mother of four, she has written extensively on a wide variety of subjects, including education, test preparation, parenting, crafts and fashion.