Health Plus

Busy lifestyles leave many of us wanting to find convenient ways to eat healthy foods. Freezer meals are an easy, time-saving, and cost-effective way to eat healthier whether you need a single serving or enough to feed a family. Follow these simple steps to get started freezing your own meals.

1. Plan – Start by planning out what type of meals you want to freeze. You can batch cook, freeze individual recipes, or preserve leftovers. Batch cooking is when you make a large amount of food at one time and then store it for later. Consider doubling a recipe. Eat one recipe now and store one for later. You will end up saving on clean-up time, food waste, and dirty dishes.

2. Gather – Gather materials to help you properly freeze foods. Foods freeze best in freezer-safe plastic bags, mason jars, rigid BPA-free plastic or glass containers, aluminum foil, and freezer paper. Many of these options come in multiple shapes and sizes for your convenience.

3. Prepare – To prevent freezer burn, you will need airtight storage containers. To avoid moisture, be sure the food is completely cool before freezing. Liquids in sauces and soups will expand when freezing, so don’t fill the container all the way to the top. Most non-liquid foods can be wrapped in freezer paper or aluminum foil and then sealed in a plastic bag. To minimize defrosting time and to have more control over the amount you thaw, use small, individual containers for batches of food.

4. Label – Once meals are frozen, they can be difficult to identify. Be sure to label and date everything! Use masking tape and a permanent marker to label each container with the food it contains and the date you froze it. Place the label on the side of the container so it is visible when stacked. Then you won’t have to take everything out of the freezer to find something specific.

5. Preserve – Freezers preserve foods safely because they stop the growth of bacteria. However, the texture and quality can change. Keep that in mind when you are planning your freezer meals. For example, if you freeze roasted potatoes, they will be safe to eat, but they will not have the crisp texture they had before. It would be better to freeze mashed potatoes because the texture will keep better in the freezer. Here are some kitchen hacks for freezing food.

If you are interested in more information about freezing specific foods and their best uses, check out the Guide to Frozen Food Storage from CookSmarts.

6. Defrost – There are different ways to defrost foods, but the safest way is in the refrigerator. It keeps foods out of the temperature danger zone where bacteria can grow and allows them to be refrozen if necessary. If you defrost foods in the microwave, it is important to cook and eat it right after defrosting. Any foods sitting at room temperature for more than two hours cannot be safely refrozen due to the potential for bacteria growth, which would only become dormant in the freezer and would not be killed.

Challenge
Choose a meal to double this weekend – one to eat that evening, and one to put in the freezer for a busy night.

Recipes
Freezable Bowtie Lasagna
Freezable Slow Cooker Enchilada Soup