Second only to the slow cooker, the freezer may just be the busy woman’s next best friend in the kitchen. Sure, when you were younger you may have rolled your eyes as you watched mom or grandma carefully wrap and tie freezer-bound meals. Now, though, you understand the value of having a healthy frozen recipe on hand, ready to pop into the oven or slow cooker. Check out these tips to turn any recipe into a freezer recipe.
1. Know what works best.
Best recipes for freezing include casseroles, roasts, chilis, soups, and stews (non-milk based). Worst recipes for freezing include dairy-based meals, such as those with yogurt, sour cream, etc., raw potato dishes, or meals containing fruits or veggies with high water content, like watermelon, cucumber, or lettuce
Learn more about meal planning in Top Benefits of Planning Your Meals.
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2. Prepare the recipe.
Prep the recipe only until the point at which it goes into the oven or slow cooker. However, if the instructions call for cooking an ingredient, like ground turkey, before putting the meal into the oven or slow cooker, complete that step. Need a tasty, healthy freezer recipe? Try Skinny Lasagna Rolls.
3. Pack it for the freezer.
Oven Recipes – Store the meal in an aluminum pan (disposable is fine) or a glass casserole dish. Too much air in the container will cause freezer burn, so if there’s a lot of empty space at the top of the container, fill it with crumpled freezer paper. Cover the pan or dish first with plastic wrap, and then overlay that with heavyweight aluminum foil.
Slow Cooker Recipes – Use good-quality freezer bags with a zipper to reduce freezer burn and prevent leakage during thawing. Load the freezer bag in reverse order. For example, a crockpot recipe might direct you to place meat on the bottom of the appliance and layer veggies on top. When freezing the meal, fill the bag with veggies first and then layer the meat on top (when it’s time to cook, then, the meat will pour into the bottom of the slow cooker first). Squeeze out as much air as possible, and store the bag flat in the freezer. Freeze yummy Slow Cooker Beef Stew this week!
No matter what kind of freezer meal you’re preparing, if it contains a warm ingredient, like cooked ground turkey, cool the meal in the fridge before freezing it.
4. Label it.
No one likes mystery meals! You invested time preparing recipes for freezing, so one of the most important freezer recipe tips is to label the bag or dish with the recipe name and use-by date. Most meals will keep up to 3 months in a standard freezer. If you’re sharing the meal with a loved one, clearly write cooking instructions on the package, if necessary. Clean-Eating Banana Apple Bread is a super-delicious recipe to share.
RELATED: 24 Delicious Casserole Dishes
5. Thaw it.
Avoid the urge to let the frozen meal sit out on the counter at room temperature. Keep food safe by thawing the dish or bag in the fridge overnight or using the defrost setting on the microwave. Momma’s Roadhouse Chili is a good freezable recipe to try this week.
6. Cook it.
Fully Thawed – Follow the recipe’s instructions for cooking in the oven or slow cooker.
Frozen or Partially Thawed – Expect cooking time to increase. Start checking the recipe at the end of the recommended time to ensure it cooks fully.
Do you have freezer recipe tips? Feel free to share them in the comment section below.