Learn how to make freezer meals that taste as delicious as freshly made.
It’s true. Freezer meals can be delicious. I mean, doesn’t this lasagna look good?
But it goes beyond lasagna. You can make all kinds of meals for the freezer. For instance, here’s a real menu that I served to my family for Christmas dinner:
- Easy Butternut Soup
- Greens with Dried Fruit, Candied Walnuts, and Blue Cheese
- Citrus-Glazed Cornish Game Hens
- Rosemary Garlic Roasted Potatoes
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts
I didn’t lose my mind. I sat and enjoyed the food with them. We laughed and drank and there wasn’t even that much clean up. How did I pull it off? Everything, but the salad, was made ahead of time and in my freezer.
Entertaining friends, sitting down with your loved ones for a regular meal or simply cooking for yourself after a long day of working hard – all of these occasions deserve real, delicious food. Thankfully, your freezer can make this a reality. With a little planning and some freezer prep secrets, you’ll be dining in the comfort of your home and without the restaurant price tag.
Choose Quality Ingredients
Anyone who has studied cooking knows that good food starts with the best ingredients you can get your hands on. The same is true when freezer cooking, if not more important and advantageous.
Freezer cooking is the perfect way to eat peak-of-season produce at every meal. No more throwing out those beets that rotted in the bottom of the refrigerator drawer because you didn’t know what to do with them. There are very few veggies that absolutely can’t be frozen (think those with high water content). Go to farms that let you pick and purchase, buy from local farms or even grow your own crops, and make a list of freezer-friendly recipes using what you have. Stir fry bags, smoothies, soups, pies and even side dishes are all great ways to preserve freshness.
You can follow the same plan for quality meats. Often you can save a bundle when you buy locally or in bulk. Ever wanted to purchase a cow (or part of one) but didn’t know if it was worth it? If you take a day to prepare and freeze some full meals, then you never have to wonder what to do with it all. Use your own favorite recipes or a site like Once a Month Meals to search for freezer-friendly recipes and create custom menu planning and instructional documents.
Package Meals to Maintain Quality
The most common concern with freezer cooking is that the quality of of ingredients or the finished dish will lessen. But if a few simple steps are followed when packaging and thawing, I doubt anyone will know the food was ever in the freezer.
- Consider purchasing a separate freezer for your freezer meals. Frequent opening and closing of your regular refrigerator freezer can cause freezer burn. Manual defrosting chest freezers are actually best as they maintain temperature better and they do not remove humidity, which causes frozen foods to dry out.
- Opt for high-quality freezer containers so you don’t experiences leaks, tears or freezer burn. Use disposable or reusable containers that are designed specifically for the freezer.
- Allow food to completely cool before you place it in the freezer. Cool one-pot dishes on the counter or flash freeze individual servings. Placing warm or hot foods into the freezer causes freezer burn or mushy baked goods because of steam build-up in the containers.
- Wrap foods appropriately. Make use of freezer paper, plastic wrap and aluminum foil to seal your foods.
- Eat your food within 3-6 months of freezing. Most foods will last longer, especially in a deep freezer. However, the sooner you eat the foods, the better the quality will be. Keep an inventory sheet and plan to eat your older meals first.
- Thaw your freezer meals gradually in the refrigerator or in cold water. Avoid the microwave or other quick thawing methods as these can result in separation, changes in texture or breaking of ingredients that are supposed to remain whole.
Package the Appropriate Serving Size
Freezer cooking is adaptable. You can cook a slow cooker full of soup for entertaining or you can freeze individual servings to take to the office. You can create on-the-go breakfasts or even side dishes to share at a potluck.
Remember how I cooked my Christmas dinner ahead of time? My guests were in for a few days. So ahead of time, I made some casseroles and baked goods for Christmas breakfast and pre-cooked some simple meals and holiday treats.
I often use freezer cooking to feed my family of four or to prepare single-serving meals when following special diets. Adapting freezer meals is as simple as doing a little bit of elementary school math or using a site, such as Once a Month Meals, which allows you to choose your serving size and adjusts all of your recipes and resources accordingly.
With these tips, you can make the most of flavor from your freezer. I can’t wait for you to try it and let me know how delicious your freezer meals turned out!