Beyond meal prep and batch cooking, your freezer is probably the most useful appliance in your kitchen, and freezer cooking is the best tool you can add to your healthy eating toolkit. In fact, whether you live alone, are cooking for an entire family, trying to save on groceries, or simply want to get a little more prepared in the kitchen, your freezer is an incredible asset when it comes to eating well. So here are my best tips on how to make your freezer work for you so you can save time, save money, set yourself up for success, and ensure you can pull together healthy meals any night of the week.
Frozen Food is Still Healthy Food
First things first, I need to dispel the myth that all frozen foods are not good for you. Yes, of course, frozen pizzas and microwave dinners are a less than ideal choice, but when you are talking about whole foods there is absolutely nothing wrong with frozen foods. Freezing food is considered a method of preservation, used to help keep food for longer periods of time. Freezing whole foods does not diminish their nutritional value, in fact, it’s quite the opposite, it helps to preserve it. Gone are the days where we need to ferment or jar all of our fresh meats, fruits and vegetables thanks to the freezer. Consider the abundance of fresh garden vegetables in the summer, freezing peas and carrots is simply a way to help keep them for longer periods of time so you don’t need to eat them all at once. The same thing goes for frozen meats or fish, it would be nearly impossible to eat all of the food at one time, so freezing it allows us to preserve these foods until they are needed.
You can Freeze More than you Think
When it comes to frozen foods, there are two ways you can look at it; 1) the things you can buy frozen, and 2) the things you add to the freezer yourself. I personally think using a combination of both options is really where the magic happens.
Although the frozen section at the grocery store does have a lot of dodgy stuff, it also has a lot of good options as well. Items like frozen vegetables, vegetable mixes, frozen fruit, frozen potatoes, frozen fish and frozen meat are all easy to find and can help cut down on prep time as many of them are already peeled, chopped or prepared.
When it comes to home-cooked dishes, you can actually freeze a lot more than you think. Most people are aware that things like soups and stews freeze well, but so do so many other common day-to-day recipes and meals. In fact, the list of foods that freeze well is much longer than the list of foods that don’t; anything from cooked meats to steamed rice to stir-fries and baked potatoes all freeze incredibly well, as do sauces, marinades, and snack foods like energy bites or granola. The list of foods that don’t freeze well is short and is limited to items like fruits and vegetables with high moisture content (because they will come out extra soggy once thawed) so items such as cucumbers, leafy greens and citrus fruits are best only eaten when fresh.
Tips for Freezing Meals
Aside from buying frozen foods, here some 5 simple tips on how to make your freezer work for you.
1. Make Double Batches
I can’t stress this one enough. If you are cooking something, just double the batch and you will save yourself a ton of time in the long run. If you are making soup or stew, rice or meatballs, just make double the amount required and freeze the rest for later. I think sometimes people don’t want to make a double batch because they are afraid they will need to eat the same thing for the next 5 days, but that’s the beauty of the freezer, you can save meals for weeks and months to come. Once they are frozen you can use them at your leisure and pull them out of the freezer on those nights you don’t want to cook and just want to order takeout. Consider them your own form of healthy take-out, you’re just taking it out of the freezer.
2. Don’t Wait to Freeze Leftovers
One thing I see people do too often is waiting too long to freeze their leftovers. Once you’ve made something, allow it to cool, portion it up and add it to the freezer right away. If you leave something in the fridge a day or two too long it can easily go off and you’ve lost that extra serving or two. Instead, add it to the freezer immediately, this way you know for certain it will last and you can either use it 2 days from now or 2 months from now, so you don’t have to worry about any food spoiling or wasted money.
3. Freeze in Single Portions
This is a mistake that I used to make all of the time myself; I would make a batch of soup or stew and add the entire recipe to a container and pop it in the freezer. All was fine until I only needed one single portion of it and was stuck trying to chip off a corner of a huge batch of frozen soup. Instead, freeze batch cooked meals or leftovers in single-portion containers. When things are frozen in a single serving it makes it so much easier to grab-and-go for weekday lunches or a quick and easy dinner idea for one.
4. Thaw Before Cooking if Time Permits
If you have the time to do a little forward planning, allowing the meal to thaw before cooking can help cut down on reheating time when it’s finally time to eat. I will often pull things out of the freezer and leave them in the fridge or sink overnight to allow them to thaw completely. That way when it comes time to cook all I need to do it reheat and eat.
5. Reheat Food Where It Was Originally Cooked
One of the things that turns people off of frozen food is the texture – I hear ya. Most people will thaw or reheat food in the microwave and although this might be convenient, it doesn’t do much for the food itself. Instead, reheat the food with the same cooking method it was originally made. Soups and stews are best reheated on the stovetop, casseroles are best reheated in the oven, and meats are best reheated under the broiler or grill. The more you can stick with the original cooking method the better the flavour and texture will be.
Favourite Frozen Meals
There are so many different ways to help make your freezer work for you, so here are some of my favourite recipes that freeze incredibly well so you can ensure you have healthy meals for weeks to come.
- Vanilla Almond Granola
- Blueberry Oatmeal Bars
- Slow Cooker Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
- Summer Squash Frittata
- Carrot Cake Breakfast Cookies
- Almond Banana Pancakes
- Pumpkin Pancakes
- Spinach Breakfast Casserole
Soups & Stews
- Morrocan Carrot Soup
- Chili Con Carne
- Roasted Tomato & White Bean Soup
- Green Lentil & Spinach Curry
- Chickpea Chana Masala
- Hungarian Beef Stew
- Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken
- Spicy Black Bean Soup
- Oven-Baked Chicken & Rice Pilaf
- Butternut Squash & Sage Risotto
- Thai Salmon Fish Cakes
- Oven-Baked Chicken Fingers
- Greek Lamb Meatballs
- Jalapeno Lime Chicken Burgers
- Skillet Cottage Pie
- Slow Cooker Meatballs
- Spice Rubbed Pork Tenderloin
- Carrot Cake Energy Bites
- Chocolate Caramel Fudge
- No-Bake Granola Bars
- Homemade Turtles
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
- Trail Mix Bites
- Banana Bread Bites
- Chocolate Zucchini Bread
- Raspberry Yogurt Muffins
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