Wouldn’t it just be ideal if all meals could be cooked ahead of time, be freezable, and not lose any of the freshness or quality? Yes, that would be a perfect world but unfortunately, it isn’t the case. With pre-cooked freezer meals, you will lose a bit of freshness and quality; however, you will gain a huge convenience of ready to go meals.
I will not pretend to be an expert in this section, but I have obtained experience from making multiple meals and testing different recipes. This is how it works for me.
If I have meals that will be cooked in a slow cooker, I will review the time it needs to cook. Most beef recipes are great to cook all day which is perfect to have it sitting in your kitchen while you are away from home. Chicken on the other hand, not the best to cook too long, even on low. I’ve noticed that cooking chicken in the slow cooker for too long changes the texture and can burn. Pork is very similar to beef where it will continue to tenderize and increase in flavor as it cooks longer.
Now that you know the meat you will be working with, if its beef or pork, get a few Ziploc bags and throw all your ingredients together and then freeze. When you are ready to use your ingredients, pull them out of the freezer the day before, and it will be prepared for the slow cooker. If you are doing a chicken meal, cook it ahead of time during the day (usually requires a short amount of time, such as 2 hours) and after it has cooled, freeze it in a Ziploc bag.
Flash freezing is a new concept for me. I had never done it and only seen it on tv while watching How It’s Made. I would see food makers flash freeze their ingredients before packaging. It had never dawned on me that I could do this flash freezing at home until I started to read up on tips and tricks on Pinterest.
What is flash freezing? It’s merely taking an ingredient or food item, separating them on a cookie sheet or pan, place them in the freezer to freeze for a couple of hours. Remove the items and put them in either a freezer bag or container. For soups, the one great trick I read about and I haven’t done it yet is to flash freeze the soups in muffin tins. Flash freeze them for a couple of hours and you will have soup frozen and individually separated. When the soup is frozen, take them out and put them all in a container or bag. When you are ready to take it for lunch, grab 1 or 2 little “soup pucks” and your lunch is ready to go.
Flash freezing is fantastic for cut-up vegetables, cookie dough (make a super large batch, separate them out for flash freezing, then you can cook the number of cookies you need for any day), bananas (instead of freezing the whole banana, cut them up in pieces and flash freeze before storing them which makes them perfect to use in smoothies), other fruit, or even cooked meals that you want to be separated for easy convenience. Take a lasagna, divide it up, flash freeze and store it all in one container instead of having all your meals separated into multiple containers.
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I love having a freezer and looking through it to find pre-made meals. Sometimes when life gets busy, it’s nice to find meals ready to go. I will attempt to freeze any meal I can ahead of time. I will freeze burritos, casseroles, soups, rice, baking, prepped meals and so on. I love it and do it over and over.
To learn more about flash freezing, check the following pages:
- ScaleI use a scale when I am dividing meats. I like to freeze them all about the same size.
- Also, some recipes call for ounces and having the scale removes the need to convert with your measuring cups.
- Measuring cups & spoonsI recommend having more than one set as you will get many dirty and will continually wash them.
- I try to use one set for the dry ingredients and another for the wet
- Gallon-size (4 L) and quart-size (1 L) freezer bags
- Vacuum Sealer & bags
- Multiple cutting boards (coloured ones for specific meats)
- Cookie trays/pans with parchment paper
- trays that will work for flash freezing
- Foil baking pansThese are great for casserole dishes and you can freeze them. Just make sure you don’t leave too much space between your casserole and your cover as you will increase the risk of freezer burn. It’s best not to get really large pans.
- Aluminum foil, plastic wrap and parchment paper
- Permanent marker for labelling
- Large skillet
- Large and medium mixing bowls
- Sharp knives
- Bag Holders (I LOVE mine!)
Avoiding Freezer Burn
The million dollar question am I right? Probably not, but how to prevent freezer burn is a good concept to understand. There is nothing worse than putting all that time into prepping and cooking and then have your food spoil from freezer burn. There are a few pointers you can look to keep your food in excellent condition.
1 – Don’t overfill your freezer. I have done this many times where I have overloaded my fridge freezer as I don’t want to make an effort to go to my large freezer and store my food there. If your freezer is too packed then the air will not correctly circulate and cause the temperatures not to regulate. As a result, you will risk freezer burn on your food.
2 – Having the proper storage containers/wrappers. If you throw your meal into any container it will risk getting freezer burnt. As much as yogurt containers are great for reuse, they are not the best for freezer storage. The plastic does not hold well in freezing temperatures and will not insulate your food correctly. Try using good freezer bags, vacuum seal your food or use proper freezer containers. Double wrap the items if you need to. I use saran wrap on my meat and then combine the meat together in a freezer bag.
3 – Remove as much air as possible. When using a freezer bag, make sure to remove the air before completely sealing it. If you are using tinfoil containers, make sure to cover the meal adequately and not leave too much space. It is best to eat these meals sooner as they will not stay as fresh in the freezer for long.
4 – Don’t freeze hot or warm foods. Let them cool off first. If you put warm or hot food items to freeze, they will cause condensation, and the liquid will freeze and cause freezer burn.
5 – Try to avoid opening and closing your door often. The more you open the door, the more the cold air escapes and makes it harder for your freezer to regulate the proper air temperature. It also helps to keep your freezer about 75% full as the frozen foods will help control the temperatures when the door does open and close, but remember, do not overfill your freezer.
6 – Date your food. Always use older foods/meals first. Remember, some ingredients do not last in the freezer for very long. Here is an excellent storage cheat sheet “Freezer Storage Guidelines.”
7 – As I am not an expert, here is another great guide on how to properly store food in your freezer “The big chill: A Freezer Guide.”