“What’s for dinner tonight?”
How many times have you asked yourself this question? Sometimes it seems easier to snag something from a restaurant because you don’t feel you have time to plan. Sometimes you’d like to make something healthy for a friend in need, but you don’t have the energy to cook for them. Sometimes you have a couple of teenagers (like I do) who need to eat healthy, well-rounded meals to fuel their growth. In this blog, I’ll be sharing why freezer meals can help you eat healthy while ensuring you have meals set aside for the days when cooking isn’t in the cards.
What Is a Freezer Meal?
Freezer meals are meals made ahead of time for later use in a freezer.
While these may take some planning upfront, it’s well worth it in the end. All you need to get started making a freezer meal is the proper (healthy) ingredients, a plan, a storage method, and a freezer. Prepare your meal as you normally would.
I suggest making a bit more food than usual so you can eat on your freezer meal for those spontaneous needs, like a quick, healthy lunch. After you prepare your meal, you can store it in your freezer. Safe storage is important. We want to avoid plastics wherever possible as plastic can leach harmful chemicals into our food. You can safely store your food items in a glass container or a baking-grade silicone baggy and savor them later! I’ll dive into that a bit later in the blog. You can also double or triple your recipes regularly and freeze the rest.
HOT TAKE: Making extra food is a great way to ensure you always have something to share. I always make a little extra soup, which I enjoy sharing with my friends.
What Is Batch Cooking?
Batch cooking is when you set aside time to make many meals that you freeze.
Some folks call this “meal prepping.” When you’re batch cooking, your kitchen can become an ingredient-filled, bustling space. With sauces simmering and pots of stock or rice boiling, it may seem a bit chaotic. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, remember why you are taking the time to prepare. The time you spend meal planning now will ensure you and your family have ready-made healthy meals to reach for.
The Freezer Meal: 5-Step Method
Batch cooking meals and freezing them can make your life a little easier. In just 5 steps, you can have a healthy meal on the table. It takes a bit of planning, but it is worth it!
Step 1) Plan & prepare your meal: First, choose from 100's of amazing recipes to determine what you'd like to make. In winter, you might choose a thick, savory curry, while in summer, you might the warm sizzle of a delicious fajita.
Step 2) Freeze your meal: Don’t store your meal in a sub-par container. Use a Mason jar, a BPA-free bag, or a food-safe silicone bag. It’s easy to avoid freezer burn and chemical leaching when you use the correct storage. Read more about how I label my freezer meals below.
Step 3) Place the meal in the fridge to let it thaw: Thawing a frozen meal takes about 24 hours. It may take up to 48 hours for some meals to thaw. It’s totally dependent on the size of the meal. Generally, it takes about 5 hours to thaw a pound of food. If your meal is meatless, you can toss it right into your pressure cooker and skip this step!
Step 4) Choose what meal you'd like to eat: Open your frozen meal container and empty its contents into your pressure cooker.
Step 5) Enjoy your homemade, healthy meal in about 10 minutes: Wait for your meal to cook in your Insta-pot. Make sure to check any meat to ensure it is cooked thoroughly with a meat thermometer.
What Are The Benefits of Batch Cooking & Freezing?
With a bit of planning and a system in place, batch cooking and meal freezing can be so simple. Make a date with a friend or your family and have a little fun cooking in a community.
Batch cooking is:
Cost-Effective- You won't be wasting as many ingredients, and no more guessing what you need while you're at the grocery store, as you'll already have a plan.
Healthy- You can avoid eating out when you have healthy, delicious, ready-to-go meals.
A Time-Saver- I have found that I can batch cook five recipes in about 2 hours!
What Is The Best Way to Freeze Food?
As I mentioned above, it's important to freeze your meals in safe storage containers. While storing and freezing your meals, consider:
Freezer burn is the enemy when it comes to storage in the freezer. Making sure containers have a good seal is essential.
Quality is important, and creating a healthy kitchen while simplifying it can be difficult in our culture. Letting go of unhealthy plastic storage containers can be overwhelming—one step at a time. Finding safe freezer bags is the first step.
Label your food before you freeze it. I love using a label maker or permanent marker. If you put a label on silicone or BPA-free bags, make sure it stays. You might want to put some packing tape over the title. on your label, include the date prepared, meal, and any preparation instructions.
It's been years but still love Mason Jars. I use these jars for soups, stock, smoothie packs, and simple (smaller) meals. These jars are great for storing and sustaining food in the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. I put all my nuts and seeds in mason in the freezer with the label on top to see it.
HOT TAKE: Before you put your Mason jar in the freezer, make sure that it has cooled down on the counter or in your refrigerator. This will ensure that it does not shatter. Make sure that you leave about an inch from the top of the lid to the food contents to ensure there is room for expansion.
Don't forget that you can use a vacuum sealer to store your freezer meals. Good quality and BPA Free Freezer bags that are suitable for vacuum seal. There are so many affordable vacuum sealers on the market. You can also use vacuum-sealed silicone bags to store your meal. Put your food in your silicone bag, and then put the silicone bag in a vacuum seal bag and seal it.
HOT TAKE: Sometimes liquid items are hard to vacuum seal. Liquid wants to come out of the top of the bag. Click the links below to learn more about pouring and sealing methods I trust:
If you need guidance in the kitchen, please don't hesitate to reach out.
I would love to talk with you and find out how I can support you.
Brandy Lane Hickman, NBHWC
2B Well Integrative Health Collaborative, Owner Inspired Nutrition, National Board Certified Health Coach, Kitchen Therapy
Board President, Missouri Nutrition Alliance Non-Profit