Freezing meals ahead of time is an easy way to put dinner on the table when you're running from the office to the soccer field. You can opt to cook in batches or double up when you prepare a freezer-friendly meal. Smart freezing strategies will let you pack your freezer efficiently, whether you have a chest freezer or just the one in your kitchen, and keep your meals fresh and delicious.
You can freeze many casserole-type dishes in a small space. Opt for disposable foil pans or save money by lining your usual baking pans with two layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Freeze baked or unbaked dishes in the pan, then remove from the pan and wrap in an additional layer of foil to prevent freezer burn. Removing the pans saves space in your freezer and frees up your cookware for other dishes. When you're ready to bake your frozen casseroles, remove the outer layer of foil, place in the pan to thaw and bake.
Skip the containers when you're freezing soups and stews. Ladle cooled soups and stews into freezer bags. Squeeze out the air and freeze flat. Once the soups are completely frozen through, you may find you save space by storing them on end, rather than flat. Use the same freezing strategy for meal components, like chicken or meat with sauce.
If you've prepared cooked chicken breasts, chicken nuggets, burgers or other individual servings of foods, freeze them separately by placing them on a cookie sheet. Once they're frozen, bag them and remove the excess air from the bag. You can also wrap each item in aluminum foil, then place into freezer bags to prevent freezer burn.
Remember to label everything in your freezer with the dish and the date. If other household members, such as older children, will be helping to thaw and cook meals, consider writing basic instructions on the label. You can also make an instruction list and post it on the refrigerator to make it easy for the whole family to pitch in with dinner prep. Use older foods first, then move toward more recently prepared foods. While freezing will keep food safe indefinitely, you may lose quality and flavor over time.
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