When I come home from work too tired to do anything but pop food in the oven or heat it in the microwave, I have a few cooking tricks up my sleeve to make dinner easy and delicious.

They're called "plannedovers."I would never consider making less than six or eight quarts of spaghetti sauce, chili or soups. I rarely make only one casserole; it's just as easy to double ingredients. Preparation time isn't usually that much longer, especially with a food processor.

Plenty of freezer space is essential, but cooking this way makes meal preparation so easy.

What freezes well: Most pasta, rice, grains and vegetables freeze well; vegetables must be blanched or cooked first.

On the other hand, potatoes become soft and grainy, hard-cooked egg whites become rubbery, custard-type dishes become watery. Sauces thickened with flour or cornstarch break down and become thin.

Freezing casseroles: For best eating quality, shorten the initial cooking time 10 to 15 minutes to compensate for the food cooking further during reheating. Omit part of the liquid and add it during reheating if the food will be heated on top of the range. Because some seasonings get stronger and others fade when frozen, adjust when you reheat. Freeze in meal-size portions, which will reheat faster.

Cool cooked food as rapidly as possible and then freeze it at once; food at room temperature is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria that can cause food-borne illness.

Packaging for freezing: To avoid tying up all your baking dishes in the freezer, line the dish with heavy duty freezer foil first; add casserole ingredients and bake. Cool in refrigerator, then freeze uncovered. When it's frozen, lift casserole and foil out in one piece; place in a freezer bag, making sure to squeeze out the air before sealing it. Reheat the casserole by taking it out of the bag, removing the foil and returning it to the original casserole dish.

Reheating casseroles: Thaw first for best eating quality. This may take more than a day in your refrigerator, especially for a dense casserole such as lasagna. Do NOT thaw it at room temperature. If you want to defrost in the microwave, follow manufacturer's instructions. Individual ovens may vary, recommending from 30 percent to 50 percent power, for defrosting. Thawing foods in a microwave will generally take six to eight minutes per pound of food. Once it is defrosted, reheat food on a higher power.

If you need to reheat frozen food in the conventional oven without first thawing it, bake at 300 to 350 degrees.