Preparation of frozen meals ahead of time can simplify breakfast, lunch, or dinner, as well as increase healthy eating habits. Whether you have a busy schedule or are just not in the mood to cook a full meal every night, scheduling a day of the week to prepare meals could be extremely beneficial in supplying your body with nourishing foods. Freezing food specifically, allows for longer lasting meals and prevents food waste! Learn all the do’s and don’ts about preparing freezer meals and how and why you should be!
Benefits of Freezing Food:
To begin, freezing foods can help retain its nutritional value along with color and flavor. Not only is it a quick process, but freezing reduces the number of potentially harmful micro-organisms that are known to cause food poison. Compared to typical meal preparation that lasts 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator depending on the ingredients you use, freezer meal preparation can last up to 3 months! Along with its long-lasting properties, you will ultimately save money, reduce food waste, and save time.
It is important to remember that once you prepare these frozen meals, you will eventually be heating them up again. Prevention of overcooking will only ensure optimal taste and texture of your meal!
For food items such as casseroles, assemble it and then freeze it. When you are ready to eat it, you can cook the item fresh. Ensure that you freeze the casserole in an oven safe dish, to increase convenience even more! Prevent freezing items such as eggs, heavy cream, pastries, cooked pasta, and fried foods as those will provide you with the most difficulty in reheating.
Freezing things in glass will be the most efficient way in storing your meals as it is odor and stain resistant. Glass containers do a great job at protecting food as it is dishwasher and microwave safe! If you are limited on glass containers, plastic, sealable bags are also a great way to seal sauces, soups, and meats.
For even greater convenience, use silicone or plastic ice cube trays to store chilies, soups, and sauces. For reference, a pot of soup can fit into about 4 ice cube trays. When you are ready to eat, pop out however many “soup cubes” you want and reheat in a pot over low heat.
If you are preparing food in large amounts in a rush, it may be tempting to skip the cooling time. After cooking a meal and preparing it for freezing, make sure that it is completely cooled. Hot meals can cause the temperature of the freezer to increase, putting other freezer foods at risk and cause freezer burn buildup.
Defrost and Reheat
The most ideal method for defrosting freezer meals would be to defrost them in the refrigerator so that they maintain a constant and safe temperature (40 F or below). This method requires preparation as larger frozen items can take up to 24 hours to thaw. Another method to heat your meal preparation would be to thaw in cold water. For successful thawing using this method, ensure that the item is in a leak proof bag or container as if the bag leaks, it will be exposed to surrounding bacteria. The meal should be submerged in cold water and can ultimately thaw in less than 3 hours. Lastly, if time is not on your side, microwave thawing could be beneficial with the correct precautions. Plan to cook the food immediately after thawing in the microwave as it may enter the temperature danger zone, causing microorganisms to grow.
Freezing prepared meals can not only increase convenience, but it can improve healthy eating habits. Freezer meals can last for long periods of time ultimately preventing food waste, and saving your time! Although this is a great option to add into your routine, it is important to follow correct reheating measures for your own safety!
Try some of these easy-to-freeze recipe ideas to make healthy eating easier for your routine!
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Article written by Sammy Bran, nutrition intern. Fact checked by Allison Tallman RD.