Imagine a frozen TV dinner consisting of seasonal vegetables, a hearty soup and a homemade entrée ready in 5 minutes —that you made!
Convenient food? Check.
Fresh food? Check.
Healthy and Budget-Conscious Food? Of course.
Cooking and freezing foods in bulk allows for easy, inexpensive, and healthy eating throughout a hectic workweek. Try these following tips and meal ideas instead of wasting money on store-bought prepared foods, other convenient foods with questionable ingredients, or soon-to-spoil foods in your fridge.
#1: Base your cooking around seasonal foods.
Buy fresh vegetables and fruits during their natural harvest season for optimal taste, texture, and nutrient levels. I, myself, am learning which foods are best during which season. For seasonal food lists, try online sources or visit your local farmer’s market to see what’s seasonally available.
Taste Test: Try sweet corn on the cob during July and December; it is like night and day! Freeze seasonal summer corn and enjoy its taste throughout the year.
#2: Practice front-loading weekly cooking:
Allot several hours (and recipes) during one time period for large-batch front-load cooking. I usually cook and freeze two to three recipes on Sunday evenings for multiple meal options. You may not cut down on the amount of time you spend cooking for the week but front-load cooking allows for more free time during the rest of the week. Nothing is better than pre-prepared homemade food on a Monday post-work night!
#3: Buy and use portion-sized “freezer” containers:
Cooking for 1, 2, or 6 people? Pack your foods into appropriate-sized containers for easy de-frosting and serving. Make sure containers and/or plastic bags are designed for freezer storage; they will better protect food’s flavor, color, moisture, and nutritional value.
Try: Freeze an assortment of fresh seasonal fruits in individual plastic baggies as “smoothie kits.”
#4: Not all foods are created freezer-equal:
Some foods do not freeze well. Here is a list of foods to embrace or to steer clear from the freezer.
Bad freezer foods: cream-based sauces, cheese, cooked egg whites, mayonnaise, heavily spiced foods (too well-seasoned foods may turn bitter), fried foods, cooked rice and pasta.
Good, freezer-friendly foods: meat /vegetable stocks, pizza dough, soups, stews, lasagna, casseroles, fresh herbs.
#5: De-Frost in enclosed spaces:
Do not defrost on the counter top as there is a chance for bacteria to find it’s way into your food.
The microwave or the refrigerator is the best options. You can also speed up de-frosting by submerging your plastic baggies or containers in a sink full of cold water.
Buy. Cook. Freeze. Eat. And be merry! Enjoy.