If deciding what to make for dinner is one decision too many, or you want to avoid food waste, want to streamline cooking, and save some cash, then listen up — freezer meals are the answers to many of your problems.
I love freezer meals because they are a stress-free way to have a healthy, home cooked meal on the table in the shortest amount of time (and effort) possible after a long day. By prepping freezer meals in advance, you can avoid having a fridge full of wilted produce at the end of the week, and sidestep the dreaded “what should we make for dinner?” conversation. We all know how that ends (ahem, takeout).
Speaking of produce, freezer meals are a killer way to take advantage of the glorious, seasonal produce that’s available at your local farmer’s market (hello, seasonal fruits!).
If you want to dive into the world of freezer meals (trust me, there are a million ways to do this and they're hard to mess up), I recommend doing a big meal prep for a few hours on the weekend (even once or twice a month could go a long way!) to stock up your freezer for the days you just don’t want to think about it, or don’t have time to cook something from scratch.
We previously looked at some useful principles in creating freezer meals, so let’s dive a bit deeper into the nitty gritty details that you may have wanted to ask, as well as some inspiration for your own freezer meal recipes.
What dishes freeze well?
There are lots of meals you can freeze, and seemingly thousands of recipes across the internet all designed to be frozen! Some of the best options to throw in the freezer are soups of all kinds, one-pan dishes like lasagna, pot pies, meatloaf, or chili, and meat dishes like brisket, baked chicken, and more. One pot, pan, or one bag dishes can go straight into the freezer and then straight back into the oven to be reheated and are great if you are looking to serve a family or multiple people with leftovers.
Did you know Stasher bags can go straight from the freezer to the oven? If you don't know now you know.
Breakfast dishes can also freeze well. Consider freezing baked french toast, frittatas, muffins, or banana bread, and thawing in a Stasher bag on the way to work. Bonus: you can safely put a Stasher bag in the microwave to reheat your frozen food (it's food-grade silicone, not plastic!), which actually helps lock in juices and keeps things like french toast super moist. Just keep your Stasher bag vented open to allow proper cooking.
If you don’t want to cook a whole meal and freeze it, you can also freeze components — beans freeze very well, for example, as do chicken breasts, sauces such as pestos or tomato sauce, meatballs, tortillas and bread, veggie and chicken stock, and veggie burgers. That way you can defrost what you’d like and construct your own plate, combining with some fresh greens or produce you have on hand (i.e., a slice of tomato on top of your veggie burger).
Another way to approach freezer meals is to freeze individual servings. For example, burritos generally freeze very well — wrap up all your favorite ingredients in a burrito shell and freeze each one separately so you can bring it to work or heat it up after a long day.
What foods do not freeze well?
While many dishes freeze beautifully, others don’t fare as well. Fried foods will turn soggy if you freeze and thaw them. Mayo-based and dairy-based dishes can often get a little funky in their consistency. And you should avoid freezing fruits and vegetables that are high in water content like cucumbers, tomatoes, or watermelon as they will not thaw well on their own but will work perfectly in a soup or in a smoothie!
How do you freeze and reheat meals?
Freezing the meals themselves is pretty easy (as you may imagine). Pro tip: always let your cooked foods cool down before you pack and throw it in the freezer.
How you decide to freeze your meals will be based on how you think you'll be eating them — if you want to heat up a big batch of something in your Instant Pot for a family dinner, freezing it all together in one container will be easiest.
If you are generally eating for one, parse out your meal in individual servings for easy reheating. The Stasher sandwich bag is great for this, because let's face it — it’s pretty hard to cut a serving of an already-frozen lasagna. Trust me, I've done the legwork.
As for reheating, that really depends on the dish. If it’s a baked dish, you can most likely throw it directly back in the oven. Others you may want to heat in the microwave, or thaw in the fridge overnight before cooking the next day which is ideal for cooked meat. A broth or soup should be thawed and reheated in a pot on the stove. I know what you're wondering and the answer is yes — you can throw a Stasher bag into a pot of boiling water straight from the freezer.
Raw meat should be carefully thawed in cold water before cooking. And as a rule of thumb, never thaw something and refreeze it. That can lead to health concerns.
What are the best ways to store freezer meals?
You can freeze dishes like lasagna whole in a glass container, or portion them out into single servings and put them in Stasher bags. Frozen components can also go in Stasher bags — the Half-Gallon Stasher and Stand-Up Stasher will be your freezer’s BFF, or the Sandwich Stasher for something smaller like an individual serving of soup or frozen beans.
It’s important to label the dish with what it is and the date so you have a sense of what’s your in freezer and how long it’s good for. Fun fact: you can use a dry-erase marker on Stasher bags to label them!
How long do freezer meals last?
This answer has a lot to do with what you're freezing. But don’t worry, most frozen foods won't spoil but you do risk freezer burn if left in the ice box for too long. As a rule of thumb, most food remains in tip top shape in the freezer for 3 - 6 months. Many can last longer, like fruits and veggies. I found this chart to be helpful in breaking down different food items and how long they can be stored for. Happy freezing!
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