For so many, the busiest time of the day is that hour just before dinner, perhaps after a long day at Campus & Co, with bored and hungry families waiting to be fed. But oh, the joy of turning to a freezer full of neat stacks of ready-to-roast vegetables, lasagna or homemade meatballs! But that’s not quite the reality for many of us, and we only find crusty bread and beef roasts much too large for a family dinner.
Luckily, with a bit of pre-planning and some clever hacks, putting extra meals into the freezer doesn’t have to be overwhelming. One approach is to make a day of it and batch-prep abundant quantities of ingredients for multiple dishes. Prep all your protein and chop all your vegetables and herbs at the same time, to be used in a variety of dishes. If this makes you see a tsunami of pots and pans or mixing bowls on every available flat surface, you might like a simpler strategy. Merely double the size of your usual dinner and portion half of it into containers for the freezer.
Whichever plan of attack you prefer, here are some tips to make your freezer forays less fearful and more fruitful.
- Use freezer bags whenever possible and push all the air out of the bags while sealing; the air is not your friend in the freezer. Lay the bags flat on a baking tray, then once frozen, either stack them in a pile or stand them up like books on a shelf.
- Save yourself thinking time later on and label everything with the date and contents, and reheating instructions if necessary.
- If there is a sauce or topping, put it in a smaller bag, and tape it to the main dish. This works perfectly for pizza; freeze the uncooked pizza base together with the toppings in smaller bags, right ready to assemble and cook. We guarantee even your teenage sons will be able to figure that one out!
- Line a casserole dish with freezer paper. Add the ingredients, then freeze. When the whole thing is frozen solid, remove the contents by lifting out the paper. Then toss the paper, rewrap the food and put it back in the freezer. The day before you want to eat it, unwrap the contents and put them in the original dish to thaw in the fridge overnight.
- Think individual servings, which thaw much faster than big blocks; cook an ample quantity of mashed potatoes and spoon into a greased muffin pan. Once frozen, these can be popped out and free frozen. The same works for sauces – just thaw out the number of portions you need and add to noodles or rice.
- Make a large batch of biscuit dough, shape into a log or roll into balls, and freeze. You’ll only ever be 15 minutes away from fresh cookies!
- Leave your frozen meals in the bags and immerse in warm water for a super-quick and even thaw.
Once in the habit, you’ll soon have your freezer well-stocked and be saving yourself time, money and sanity all at once!