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Time Saving Tips for Make Ahead Freezer Meals // The Spicy RD

Time Saving Kitchen Tips for Healthy Make Ahead Freezer Meals

Time Saving Tips for Make Ahead Freezer Meals // The Spicy RDBrrrr…..baby it’s cold in here!!!

Can I tell you one of the things that makes me the happiest these days?

When I can pull out a yummy pre-cooked meal from the freezer on a busy weeknight, thaw it, heat it, serve up some easy sides and have a healthy dinner on the table lickety split. Growing up, my parents were the Queen and King of make ahead freezer meals, and even though it’s only the two of them at home these days, they still are cooking big batches of chili, turkey broth, ham & bean soup, beef stew, french onion soup, meatloaf and more. Lucky me, since my parents live close by, I am often the recipient of these yummy freezer meals!

Dad-if you’re reading this, we are all out of turkey stock {delicious served w/ chopped avocado, onions, tortilla chips, shredded cheese & a dollop of cilantro}, and your yummy ham and bean soup!

Up until recently, I hadn’t done much in the way of make ahead freezer meals, but after making this delicious Crockpot BBQ Pulled Chicken from Jeanette’s Healthy Living, then freezing the leftovers for a second dinner a week later, I’m convinced I need to be making and freezing something every week.  Thus, to make the most out of my healthy make ahead freezer meals, I decided to do a little research, and came up with this guide for you, and me 🙂

Here we go…

Why Freeze Meals Ahead…

  • Saves you time on busy nights!!!
  • Helps you eat healthier! Last minute take out or fast food, is WAY less tempting when you have a healthy, delicious meal ready to pull out of the freezer and re-heat for a last minute meal.
  • Save $$$ by cooking in bulk, then freezing meals for later.
  • Reduce food waste! I’m sure many of you, like me, have been guilty of throwing spoiled meals in the trash.  Oh, sure, we all have good intentions to eat those leftovers, but we often don’t. Unless you’re 100% sure you’ll be eating your leftovers in the next day or two, freeze them to enjoy for a meal later on.

What to Freeze Meals In…

Tips for Freezing Meals…

  • Let food cool before freezing it.
  • Keep containers as full as possible while allowing at least 1/2 inch of space at the top, to allow for expansion when your food freezes.
  • Label all storage containers with the name of the food, and the date.
  • Although frozen food should be safe for an indefinite amount of time, it will loose its flavor if it is stored too long.  Use the following guidelines for using up your frozen food by: 6 months {tomato and vegetable sauces, meatloaf, poultry and meat casseroles, meatballs in sauce}, 2-3 months {soups and stews, cooked poultry without sauce, muffins and quick breads}
  • Keep freshest food in the back of the freezer, and older frozen foods up front to use first.

Tips for Thawing and Re-Heating Meals…

  • If you are thawing food first {recommended for more even cooking}, thaw it in the refrigerator, in cold water {in a leak-proof bag}, or in the microwave on the defrost setting. Do not thaw food at room temperature, as that may lead to the development of bacteria on your food.
  • Do not re-heat food in plastic containers.  Instead, remove the food from the container, and place it in an oven or microwave safe dish before heating.
  • Heat food, in an oven or microwave to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

What to Freeze & What Not to Freeze…

  • Dishes made w/ grains, meats, and/ or veggies.
  • Soups, stews, and casseroles.
  • Muffins, waffles, pancakes, and quick breads.
  • Dishes made with milk and certain dairy products such as sour cream don’t freeze well, so skip those, or freeze them without the milk and add it in after you have reheated the meal.
  • Salad greens don’t freeze well, so skip those too.

Freezer Friendly Recipes…

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