Being prepared food-wise for sudden change in the family: freezer meals

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Sometimes we know when sudden changes will occur in our family – for example, you’re pregnant and your due date is past – your change is not far away!¬† Sometimes those changes are somewhat expected but still strike us with an element of surprise – we know a family member will pass away soon, but we’re not a hundred percent sure how long they will hang in there for first.¬† And sometimes that change happens overnight, and we’re thrust into a different circumstance without any warning, like in the instance of a natural disaster.¬† Assuming your freezer doesn’t get washed away in a torrential flood, I want to share with you how easy it can be to prepare meals for your freezer so that a change in your family doesn’t mean you have to suddenly blow the budget or eat takeaways for a week or more.

Many people cook extra so they can freeze a meal or two here and there.¬† But have you considered how much faster and easier it is to prepare meals without cooking them?¬† You can double, triple, quadruple a recipe and divide it into ziplock bags and make many family meals in only an hour or two this way.¬† They don’t take a lot of space to store, they are easy to defrost and the method is simple.

You probably already have some frequently used recipes that would suit this method of cooking.  The things you need to consider are:

  • If you’re using meat, has it already been frozen?¬† Food safety best-practice would suggest that you should not refreeze meat once it has been defrosted.
  • Does the recipe contain fresh leafy greens that don’t freeze well?¬† If so, just leave those out and use a permanent marker on the ziploc bag exterior to remind you to add them before cooking.
  • Potatoes also don’t freeze well, and many fresh vegetables should be blanched before freezing to maintain their integrity. ¬†This is not difficult – blanching involves boiling or steaming vegetables very quickly for 1‚Äď10 minutes at temperatures between 75¬įC and 95¬įC, depending on the type, followed by chilling them rapidly.¬† When it comes to making my meals for the freezer, I generally don’t add fresh vegetables at all.¬† I put together meat and sauce, and I add frozen veggies to the ziploc bags and pour the meat/sauce overtop before freezing.
  • To avoid a potential freezer disaster, double bag very saucy dishes or soups – or freeze in ice cream containers.
  • Always date your frozen goods and try to use them within a 6-12 month timeframe
  • Thaw your food using a safe method.

How well a recipe will work in this method of putting the meal together, freezing, defrosting and then cooking will be a journey of trial and error, but many recipes will perform excellently if you use the guidelines above.

Online recipes abound for this type of cooking.¬† Here is a site which labels many healthy recipes suitable for freezing uncooked.¬† 50 freezer meals in one day and a detailed analysis of what’s involved is shown on this site.¬† One hour = eight meals as demonstrated here.

There are also books dedicated to this style of cooking and/or cooking ahead and freezing, here are a couple:4

Whether you’re anticipating a change or not, it can be useful to have nutricious meals on-hand for nights when cooking is out of the question.¬† I highly recommend this quick and easy method of stocking your freezer – whether it’s a little compartment at the top of your fridge or a large deep freeze in your basement.¬† You’ll be surprised how many ziploc bags can fit in a small space – and you’re sure to be glad of your time spent in preparation later.

Sally Mangai

Sally is the Community Manager here at Kiwi Families. She fills her time with her handsome, busy boys and her handsome, busy husband; trying out new recipes and researching and writing about family life in Aotearoa.

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Categorised: Grown Ups
Please note that this article represents the views of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Kiwi Family Media Ltd.

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