Let’s face it, we’re all busy: Long hours at work, taking kids to practice, keeping up with house work, and if we’re lucky, getting in our 30-60 minutes of exercise. This leaves us feeling very tired at the end of the day. Preparing and freezing meals ahead of time can alleviate the need for time-intensive preparation and cooking on our long days, thus decreasing our urge to eat out and keeping us on our healthy eating plan.
Here are some tips on how to safely and effectively prepare freezer meals.
1. Use ingredients that freeze well.
Not all foods freeze equally. Some foods develop a different consistency and texture after being frozen. Tomatoes, celery and ricotta cheese, for instance, don’t freeze well alone but are OK to freeze if they’re used within a soup or casserole. Here’s a list of foods that do and do not freeze well:
2. Use the right containers.
Knowing what to make is only half the battle. We also need to know what to freeze our prepared meals in and what kind of containers are best suited for freezing and thawing.
We suggest using glass, BPA-free containers, freezer bags and/or aluminum pans and lids. The main thing to remember when choosing what to freeze your meals in is ensuring no air reaches the food while freezing. Air can make your food spoil or become damaged in your freezer, so wrapping meals in saran wrap along with an air tight container is key. Don’t forget to label them too, no one wants a fish dinner when they expect a turkey casserole!
3. Thaw your foods safely.
Thawing food correctly is vital to keeping you and your family safe. Many households leave food out on the counter to thaw, which allows bacteria to grow and possibly cause a food borne illness. The three best ways to thaw food are in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave.
Cassandra Rivard is a dietetic student at Eastern Michigan University and an intern with ProMedica.