Filling your freezer with healthy homemade family meals for the busy times ahead can give you some much needed peace of mind. Knowing you can have a healthy meal on the table in minutes just by defrosting a meal and combining it with a few fresh ingredients will give you one less thing to worry about on those crazy, busy afternoons. Freezing meals in advance can also save you A LOT of money by avoiding expensive takeaway meals that are often loaded with too much fat, salt and even sugar.
So if you are heading back to work after maternity leave, school holidays, have a new baby on the way, need to feed hungry toddlers or are just trying to get organised or save money, getting into the routine of regularly cooking big batches of nutritious food is the thing for you!
Here are our top tips for big-batch cooking and filling your freezer:
- Choose a mix of healthy finger foods, family meals and sweet treats to maximise variety and nutrition. Plus baby purees if you have a young bub.
- Make a list of the recipes you want to prepare and freeze and a shopping list of all the ingredients you need.
- Schedule some time during the week to cook and freeze.
- If you don’t have time for big-batch cooking simply make double of your favourite meals when you are cooking them to eat and put a portion aside for the freezer. If you do this regularly you will have a freezer full in no time!
- Wrap all your food well, double wrapping with plastic wrap and then aluminium foil to prevent freezer burn.
- Invest in some good-quality BPA-free plastic airtight containers that suit the size of your freezer. These are great for freezing liquids or mini meals.
- Label your food with the meal name, date it was frozen and the date it should be used by.
- Keep your freezer relatively full to help keep the temperature stable and to save energy.
- The fridge is the best place to thaw food as bacteria can grow in frozen food while it is thawing.
- You can defrost foods in your microwave using the defrost setting however only use this method if you intend to immediately cook and eat the food.
- Defrost frozen meat, fish and poultry thoroughly before cooking to ensure all areas of the food are adequately cooked through.
Re-freezing thawed food:
- Food Standards Australia New Zealand states we should avoid re-freezing thawed food. Food that is frozen a second time is likely to have higher levels of bacteria posing a greater risk of food poisoning. The higher risk will depend on the condition of the food when frozen, how the food was handled and if it was cooked between thawing and refreezing.
- Note: raw food should never be frozen once thawed.
Cooking Your Frozen Foods:
- Pre-cooked frozen meals will cook more evenly after they have been thawed, however you can cook them in the oven straight from the freezer.
- Allow around 50% more time to cook a meal from frozen, covering it to prevent the food from burning and removing the cover for the final few minutes.