I’m not sure what it’s like in your house, but around these parts we are all pretty busy and sometimes the lure of a takeaway dinner gets us. It’s easy, it’s quick, and there’s no washing up which is always a win. But, do you know what else fits that criteria? Freezer meals.
Recently I’ve come to realise just how genius freezing meals is. The organised cooks have been telling us to do it for years. They cook up a big batch of meals on a weekend, portion them, put them in the freezer and they’ve got almost instant dinners for the week ahead. Great if you work late as it stops you being tempted by take away menus. Or if you have a hubby like Mr. FoodBook, he’ll never have to go hungry when you’re out on a girls night.
So, to help you on your way to being the most organised of cooks, here are some freezer hints and tips, plus a few recipe ideas to try from the great collection of freezer friendly meals on myfoodbook.
Freeze Fresh Seasonal Veg
Most fruit and veg we eat all year round whether it’s in season or not, as supermarkets either import or cold store vegetables. Why not do a big farmers market shop up and freeze seasonal autumn veg now while they are at their nutritional peak?
Most vegetables should be blanched (briefly cooked in boiling water) before freezing (this stops icicles forming on your food). Autumn veggies that freeze well include green beans, broccoli, broccolini, carrots, cauliflower, leek, eggplant, onion, potato, pumpkin, sweet corn and tomatoes. You can also freeze chillies, kaffir limes leaves and ginger, which make great flavour additions to curries and the like.
Top Tip: When freezing vegetables (and meat) you’ve just bought, place it in freezer bags to maintain quality and avoid cross-contamination in your kitchen.
Have a Big Cook Up
To use some of those fresh Autumn vegetables now, give these recipes a go, batch them up and freeze them to enjoy later.
Top Tip: If you are freezing cooked food or leftovers, the most important thing is to cool it quickly. Cool food on the bench only until it stops steaming. Then place the hot food directly into a container, cover with a lid and put it in the freezer. When it’s time to defrost, thaw cooked or ready-to-eat foods in the fridge or microwave – not on the bench-top.
Mini Chicken and Leek Pies
Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry
Get Portion and Label Savvy
When freezing food, it’s best to avoid freezing large amounts at a time. It’s better to split it into smaller quantities in separate containers. This also means you can defrost only the quantity you need.
Label everything that goes into your freezer, name it, date it and forget about it until you need dinner after a late night at work. At least once, I’ve re-used a plastic ice-cream container to freeze a meal and forgotten to label it. It’s a bit of a disappointment to think you’ve got icecream in the freezer, to then find out it’s actually last week’s chicken curry. You can use sticky labels or some plastic containers now come with label plates you can write on with a pencil.
To get your portion and labelling skills into gear, whip up a few of these recipes and get freezing.
Coconut Beef Curry
Steamed Chicken & Mushroom Dumplings
Classic Beef Lasagne
Make a frozen dinner kit
The art and craft of frozen dinner kits is something I have been wanting to master for a long time. It goes a little something like this – prep, slice, dice, chop and shred what you can now, bag the ingredients individually then together in one larger ‘meal kit’ bag. You’ll then have everything ready to go with one quick reach into the freezer. Think tacos, stir fries, even pizzas. There’s really no end to the possibilities. Consider stocking these prepped recipe ingredients in your freezer for a huge time saver.
Top Top: When thawing frozen meat, thaw right to the centre before cooking.
Slow Cooked Pork, Pineapple and Sour Cream Tacos
Sesame Chicken Stir Fry
DON Chorizo Skewers
You know what else freezes well? Chocolate. We all know it tastes better at room temperature, but melt it down, put it in a dessert and you’d never know its been frozen.
Popping Candy Hedgehog
Salted Caramel Tarts
Breakfast in a Flash
You may not know you can freeze peeled bananas – they make for great smoothies on the go without the need for ice. Plus frozen bananas also work well in cakes and muffins. Wait till the bananas are really ripe, and simply peel and chop into small pieces and freeze in a zip lock bag or container.
Or if you’d prefer to pre-prepare, make a batch of these bacon, feta and zucchini muffins to keep in the freezer for those mornings you’d rather get the extra sleep. A minute in the microwave should be all it takes for a tasty brekky on the go.
Bacon, Fetta and Zucchini Muffins
Freezing is such a great way to stop food going to waste, but these foods just don’t freeze well:
- Cooked pasta – reheated pasta is shapeless, mushy and quite frankly, not good. The exception to this rule is lasagne.
- Uncooked fruits or veg with a high water content – as soon as they defrost, the only thing you can taste is water. However, the exception to this is fresh berries. Rinse and pat dry before freezing.
- Sauces and gravy – love to separate when frozen.
- Dairy products – just like sauces, the water and whey content of dairy separate when frozen. However, harder cheeses like parmesan or cheddar are fine to freeze grated if you’re using them in cooking.
For more freezer inspiration check out our freezer friendly recipe collection.
Here’s a great idea – make your own cookbook full of freezer friendly meals to have at the ready, and get cooking over the weekend!
Note: while due care has been taken to check if the food safety information in this post is accurate, we do not claim to be an authority on frozen food safety. We recommend visiting the Food Safety Information Council of Australia for more information.