With a little planning and meal preparation, you can have some healthful meals on hand for time crunches and drop in guests. The concept of “freezer meals” is taking hold for some families in an effort to reduce the amount of money spent on food, and to have meals on hand which are healthy and wholesome. With freezer meals on hand, when it comes to a meal time, all you need to do is thaw the entrée, add a fresh salad or fruit and pour a glass of milk to complete your meal.
What Are Freezer Meals?
Freezer meals refers to preparing an entrée from fresh foods and then freezing it in family portions which can easily be pulled from the freezer and re-heated at a later date. The cost of meals prepared at home is generally less than the cost of prepared ready-to-eat frozen entrées, deli foods and eating out. With home prepared meals you have the ability to control the amount of sodium and calories and limit the amount of preservatives.
Preparing freezer meals can be a social gathering opportunity. Groups of friends can get together and make multiple recipes and exchange dishes. For example, in a group of 3, 1 makes 3 pans of lasagna, 1 makes 3 batches of beef soup, and 1 makes 3 batches of chicken pot pie. In the end, each member gets a pan of lasagna, a batch of soup, and chicken pot pie ready for freezing and later use.
Tips to Consider
- Prepare multiple batches of main ingredients, such as beef, pork or chicken. If you are cooking up ground beef, cut down on time by browning two pounds instead of one, then freeze the extra pound for future meals like tacos. Cutting out the most time consuming portion of meal preparation!
- Ease into it! When preparing a meal for your family, make two and place the second one in the freezer.
- Look at weekly grocery store ads to determine if there are good sales. Based off the sales, choose meals you can now prepare and freeze at a lower cost.
- Line casseroles and pans so that the dish prepared may be taken out of the container once frozen. Once frozen, remove it from the container wrap it and return it to the freezer. This prevents having to have a large number of pans/dishes.
- Date and label the items frozen. Provide directions for re-heating within the package as well as packaging extras in the wrapped item, i.e. a package of shredded cheese with the frozen package of lasagna so when you are ready to take it out, you have the topping available.
- If an item is going to be baked, generally you will need to thaw the item in the refrigerator 24 hours before cooking.
- Keep a list of items in the freezer so they can be eaten in a reasonable time. Generally, it is best to consume frozen foods within one year of freezing them.
- Keep food safety in mind. When freezing, have the items cooled before they are put in the freezer. Never stack packages in the freezer. Instead, spread them out until they are completely frozen, then stack.