How to Prepare Freezer Meals

Cook once and eat many times by stockpiling pre-prepared main meals and side dishes in the freezer.

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Fresh Chilled Food in Refrigerator

Your family loves home-cooked meals, but with a busy life, who has time to cook a full dinner every night? Enter freezer cooking: an organized method to cook once and eat many times by stockpiling pre-prepared main meals and side dishes in the freezer.

Also known as once-a-month cooking or investment cooking, the concept of freezer cooking is simple. When you do cook, cook multiple portions and freeze extra servings.

Problem is, this method is a bit haphazard. Who hasn’t known the virtuous feeling of cooking up a big pot of baked beans and tucking a container or two deep in the bowels of Moby Dick, the great white freezer? Where, sad to say, it remains. Months later, a freezer clean-out yields an icy mountain of anonymous dribs and drabs of pre-cooked food. Without labels, planning or portion control, the cook-ahead effort goes to waste.

Use the following tips to fine-tune your freezer cooking skills and avoid mystery meals.

Plan Multiple Meals

Ground beef and Italian sausage on sale this week? By all means, buy extra for freezer meals but make it a plan. Two pounds of beef and a pound of sausage will make four meals for your family? Great! That’s what you buy, not a smidgen more. Too often, a weak “I’ll freeze the extra” leads to overbuying and waste.

Package the Freezer Meals First

Back to our hungry family, faced with a huge kettle of spaghetti sauce. Before you know it, a meat-loving teen has gutted the pot and put a serious dent in your meal forward-planning. To avoid this hazard, fill freezer containers before you serve the evening’s meal. You’ll have a tighter handle on portion control and there will be no more scant cups of sauce marooned inside the freezer.

Freeze Casseroles Before Cooking

A twice-cooked casserole is nobody’s friend. After dinner, who wants to scoop the leavings into freezer bags? Efficient freezer cooks build their lasagna in three single-meal containers and freeze two while the current evening’s dinner is in the oven.

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Excerpted from Houseworks, by Cynthia Townley Ewer

Text Copyright © 2006, 2010, Cynthia Townley Ewer, extracts from Houseworks, reproduced with permission from Dorling Kindersley Limited

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