Get ahead for the week by freezing your meal prep
11 June, 2021
Prep and freeze
Is it just us or do weeknights feel even more hectic during the winter months? And even if you aren’t actually busier, when it’s darker earlier and there’s a chill in the air, more than ever you want something warming and satisfying on the table for dinner, ready and waiting for you.
Well, we might not all have a household kitchen elf who can have a steaming hot plate of food on the table as soon as you walk in the door. But you know what you do have? A freezer and that’s nearly as good.
Yes, with a bit of planning ahead, your freezer can be your new best friend for streamlining your meals throughout the week. Here’s some of our favourite ways to embrace freezing as part of your meal prepping and planning.
Double or nothing
Why cook one night’s worth of Bolognese sauce or a curry when it’s really no more effort to cook twice the amount or more? Soups, stews, trays of lasagne, pies and more all lend themselves to the ‘cook once, eat twice’ philosophy. Yes, there’s plenty of recipes where scaling up isn’t increasing your work and you can fill up a bunch of containers for your freezer ready for those nights when you come in tired, wet and cold. Because as much as we love a takeaway, sometimes you’ve got to go with a more budget-friendly option!
Frozen dinner experts, The Dinner Ladies, have some tips for batch cooking and freezing in their cookbook:
- Keep it safe: Avoid the amount of time your food is in the ‘danger zone’ for pathogens by chilling quickly before freezing (a good idea is cooling in smaller batches, using a small stainless steel bowl nested inside a larger bowl containing an ice slurry), and making sure food is piping hot (70°C or steaming throughout) when you reheat it.
- Keep it labelled: Avoid ‘mystery stew’ for dinner by labelling your containers of frozen meals – it’s a good idea to date them too as while the freezer will technically stay safe indefinitely, the quality will decrease from around the 3 month mark.
- Scaling strategies: Not all recipes will scale in a linear way, particularly for the amount of liquid and seasoning. Avoid a thin sauce by only using enough liquid to cover meat, and it’s a good idea to initially reduce the seasoning as you scale up a dish and adjust to taste towards the end of the cooking time.
Freezing your way to sides and salads
It’s not just stodge-fest foods that are a prime target for the freezing treatment. You can prep your way to ‘heat and eat’ sides as well as healthy, satisfying salads too.
For example, cook up a batch of a grain like quinoa or pearl barley, or some pulses like lentils, chickpeas or kidney beans. Chill it quickly and freeze in single portion ziplock bags that you can stack in the freezer. Defrost in the fridge then combine with leaves, freshly chopped vegies and herbs, and douse in your favourite dressing for a health-packed salad for lunch or dinner.
If you need to stock up on kitchen supplies, you can get everything you need from various retailers at Chatswood Interchange. From Woolworths, Asian City, Horn of Plenty and even Zap Variety, you can get all the ingredients you need and the containers to safely portion and freeze them in one convenient location.