Monday, September 24, 2012

Freezer Meals

I have lots of friends that ask how to freeze meals. I have been doing this for about 4 years, when I was getting ready to deliver my first baby. I knew that friends, family and people from my church would bring some meals over, and I could send my husband out to pick up take out. But I thought, I'd better have some food in the freezer that I can just pop in the oven so I won't have to worry about cooking post-labor. Even my husband could do that for me!

When I browsed the freezer section at the store, I couldn't believe how much a frozen lasagna was! Not only is it known that cooking meals at home is good for the budget, but it's also good for you! That's when I decided to make meals and freeze a family dinner portion of it.

At the time, I was cooking for just my husband and me. Most recipes feed 4-8 servings. I typically would half a recipe, so I wouldn't have a huge amount of left overs. When I started freezing meals, I would make the entire recipe, keep half of it to eat that evening, and then freeze the other half. Even with 2 young children, about a half a recipe still feeds us pretty well. Of course, we've changed our eating habits over the years. More veggie sides, less entree.

Most recipes that I freeze are able to be warmed in the oven or on the stove. I make a lot of casseroles, pastas, soups, mashed potatoes, and lasagna. Some recipes found here.

I like to freeze food in Ziploc gallon size freezer bags. I personally choose Ziploc brand because they don't have any plasticizers. I get them at Sams (or Costco) and they're a better price in bulk. If you like to coupon, you may be able to get them cheap! I have a pretty good idea of the amount our family eats for a meal, so I load the bag up with enough food for our family for one meal. Most recipes, I am able to freeze half of it. Larger recipes I can get about 3 or even 4 dinners. One family dinner portion goes into the dish and in the oven (or onto the table) and I portion the rest of the meal into bags. I like to freeze them flat, because they thaw quicker! I pull them out of the freezer the night before, place on a plate and keep in the fridge to thaw. Warm in the oven (or for soups, warm on the stove) and dinner is ready! And you didn't even have to cook!

I also make/freeze things that I use often but can spoil if not used quickly, such as; ground turkey, turkey sausage, steak, cooked beans, cheese, sauces and homemade chicken stock. Some of these items I buy in bulk and can't possible use in a timely manner. Like 5 pounds of ground turkey! Buying in bulk can be economical, so I try to portion things into sizes that I typically use.

Ground meats, I measure (on a food weight or scale) a half a pound (8 ounces) and put into a sandwich size Ziploc bag. I like these bags because they won't leak, and they're easy to pop the meat in. I flatten it slightly so it lays easily on a plate when I go to thaw it. You can also put into freezer paper (this is too much work for me, though I do use it with steaks and turkey sausage links), or you can wrap it in plastic wrap.

Glad makes cling wrap that doesn't have plasticizers. I use this for wrapping cheese! I buy a 2.5 pound block, cut into usable size chunks, wrap in cling wrap and freeze in a gallon bag marked with the type of cheese it is. I freeze gouda, cheddar and parmesan this way. My Sams club doesn't sell mozzarella in blocks anymore, only shredded. Which I don't like as much, because they have that powder on them... but it works. I measure 2 cups of shredded cheese in a sandwich bag and freeze.

Freezer meals have become a huge part of my meal planning. I make many meals with intent to freeze some of it, and use freezer meals through the month. Freezing meals is easy and convenient!

My husband is Serv-Safe certified, and informed me that some of the ways I buy, cook and freeze may not follow the rules of food safety. For example, you shouldn't re-freeze food that's already been thawed. I don't do that with raw meat. And sometimes meat from the store is in the raw meat section, but it was frozen when it came to the store. You may have to check with the store about whether it's arrived fresh or frozen. Or if it was prepare fresh at the store.
Sometimes I will use thawed meat in a recipe, cook it and then freeze the meal. I think I may be breaking the rules here! We've never gotten sick, but I think it's possible that if food hasn't been handled properly in these processes, that food borne illnesses are possible. So cook and prepare with care!

No comments:

Post a Comment