This article originally appeared on the Springs "You're Home Blog."
Let's face it: You've thrown together a last-minute dinner more times than you'd care to admit. Afterward, you've probably made a vow to do a better job planning healthy meals, which lasted until the next day that you found yourself scrambling to get things done.
Why not save time and reduce stress by planning, cooking and freezing meals for an entire week? We've put together a handy reference guide with how-to tips along with reasons to cook and freeze, just in case you need more convincing.
Planning and Execution
- Take a good look inside your cabinets and refrigerator to see what you have on hand and plan meals that will use as many of these as possible. Add any remaining items to your shopping list
- Make sure you have the proper supplies for freezing food. Stock up on freezer bags, disposable foil baking pans for casseroles, aluminum foil, plastic wrap and parchment paper. It's a good idea to have several cutting boards to avoid cross-contamination
- Clear out space in your freezer. You don't want that sinking feeling you'll get after cooking for hours and discovering you have no place to put the food!
- Devise a game plan by deciding the order in which you'll cook the meals. Focus on coordinating the timing as much as possible
To Freeze or Not to Freeze?
When it comes to freezing meals, not all foods are created equal.
- Foods that freeze well include: soups, stews and chili; breads and baked goods, including raw dough; beans and rice
- Foods that do not freeze well include: fruits and vegetables, unless they will be used in cooking; milk and dairy products; custards and cream puddings
- Make your own frozen pizza by parbaking the crust and adding toppings before placing it in the freezer raw to avoid overcooking
- Pasta can be frozen as long as it's not cooked past al dente. Fully cooked pasta turns mushy after freezing
- Freeze meals in single portions or small batches to reduce cooking time
Benefits of Cook 'n' Freeze
- At the end of the day you can spend more time doing things you really want to do and less time in the kitchen
- Healthy eating is easier when you plan ahead than it is when you're preparing meals on the fly
- Your kitchen gets truly messy only on the day you cook
- Cook 'n' freeze saves money by using ingredients that might otherwise languish in the refrigerator and cupboards. It also reduces the temptation to grab a quick dinner from a fast-food drive-thru
Do you have a favorite dish that's easy to make ahead of time? Share it with us in the comments!