Out of the kitchen and into the freezer
Did you know that an almost empty freezer is more expensive to run then a full freezer?
In a full freezer, frozen foods help keep each other frozen. Practically speaking, let’s face it, we have a very short summer, and sometimes cooking is the last thing on your mind when you’re enjoying some family fun in the sun. Having a stash of freezer meals on hand is a great way to save money on food costs and enjoy home cooked meals when you’re just simply having too much fun to be in the kitchen. This is also a great option for a healthy supper in a time crunch after a long day of work. Keeping a well-stocked freezer saves both time and money!
There is no fancy equipment required, don’t go invest in some costly containers, just grab your ingredients and a box of freezer bags and you’re set to begin.
You have a few options when prepping freezer meals. The most common is to prep in multiples. First, choose a recipe that you can easily make multiple batches of that freeze well. Shop for the ingredients (picking up triple or quadruple) then prep your meals in assembly line fashion. One goes on the table for supper, and the extra three can be frozen for another day. This method works well as you’re already in the kitchen, you might as well make a few meals to get ahead. It’s easy to make a larger batch of chilli, or layer four lasagnas instead of just one. If you do this method once/week you’ll build up a good variety of meal options in your freezer.
Another option is to plan your menus ahead and spend a few hours prepping a variety of meals. Shop for seven days worth of suppers, then take a couple hours to prep them all. Pampered chef does freezer meal workshops this way. Getting some friends together to prep meals is always more fun then prepping alone. In two hours we prep seven family-sized meals, or in four hours prep 14 meals. Think how far ahead you’d be if you had meals prepped and ready!
My favourite summer meals to get prepped are meats for grilling. Make your favourite marinades and freeze your meats in them. This way, when you pull the meal out to thaw in the fridge it gets lots of time to marinate before throwing it on the barbecue. We love camping in the summer so to have barbecue chicken, burgers, pork chops, or pork tenderloin all ready to go, to just thaw then grill makes the cooking at the trailer a breeze, and yet so delicious we crave the freezer meals instead of dreading them.
Some helpful tips: Choose ingredients that freeze well, invest in good freezer bags and double bag your meals to protect your food from freezer burn. Squeeze out any air before sealing the bag and flatten the contents so your meal is flat instead of bulky. This will help it thaw more consistently and help your freezer be more organized as your meals can nicely stack on top of each other. Label the bags with the meal name (frozen chilli looks very similar to spaghetti sauce) and always include the date so you can pay attention to how long you’ve had it and prioritize which meals to eat first. If you’re cooking the meal first, be sure to cool it to room temperature first before putting it into the freezer. For best flavour and texture, home frozen foods should be used within six months. Put your newest meals in the back or bottom of the freezer and use the meals on top or front first. This will help you use the meals in the right order for optimal freshness.
Keep an inventory on your freezer door so you know what’s available and when you take out a meal cross it off the list so you know which meals to add in your next prep session.
Give some thought to what you are freezing. There is a variety of recipes for freezer meal prepping online, on Pinterest and at your local library. Use caution when freezing multiple meals you’ve never tried. It’s a colossal waste if you don’t like the meals you’ve prepped. As a rule of thumb, I only freeze meals I know my family will enjoy.
There are some foods that don’t freeze well. Avoid these in your meal prep to avoid disappointment. Salad greens, eggs in the shell, sour cream, cottage cheese, and potatoes. These foods separate, go soft, or change texture after frozen so aren’t an ideal option. These ingredients are easy to add after or as a side dish or condiment. Before you freeze, put all the ingredients together for your prepped meal. If you plan to melt cheese on top when cooking, freeze the cheese in a separate Ziploc bagged together with the meal. If you are adding a crushed taco topping, bag that separate and add it with the bagged meal. If all ingredients are together you won’t be short on ingredients when it comes time to cook.
When you know you’ve got a busy day ahead, or you’re planning meals for camping or a weekend getaway, pull out your prepped meal and put it into the fridge overnight to thaw so it’ll be ready to cook or reheat for supper. Add some fresh veggies, a salad, or side dish and supper is ready.
Planning ahead will save you a lot of time in the kitchen and will help you avoid the fast food line on those busy days of summer activities or long days at the office.
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