Freezing food helps you save money, but one of the main reasons to embrace it is so that you can save precious time. You can get home after a long day, whip something out of the freezer, stick it in the microwave or oven and soon relax over a hearty, healthy meal. Make ahead meals are the convenient solution for modern living but you do need the right recipes for home-frozen dishes.
The best style of food for home freezing is the stew or casserole, but preferably without potatoes, rice and other starchy vegetables included, because they go mushy when defrosted. It won’t take long to cook some potatoes while you defrost your frozen food.
Avoid dishes in creamy and cheesy sauces in your make ahead meals, because they tend to separate or curdle. A good old-fashioned meat casserole in flavorful gravy, whether it’s chicken, beef or lamb, is a top freezer standby. Tofu in a vegetarian dish also freezes well, although the texture becomes firmer – but some people prefer it this way. Curries and other spicy dishes can be frozen successfully, but freezing can significantly alter the balance of flavors.
I like to make two meatloaves at a time and freeze one for the next time. Just cook it about 3/4 of the time necessary and let it cool completely. If you made it in one of your regular pans, just dump it out onto aluminum foil and wrap it up! Allow it to defrost and cook it about 10 minutes longer than you have left. YUM!
Pies, quiches and other pastry dishes also freeze brilliantly. With quiches, the problem of freezing cheesy and creamy foods isn’t an issue, because the filling is set and won’t separate. All sorts of sweet pastries will also freeze well, so you can stock up on apple and cherry pies for desserts. Cakes and cake-based desserts (including cheesecakes) can also be frozen easily, but if you’re freezing cakes, do it without the icing.
One of the best make ahead meals is tomato-based pasta sauce, which will be just as good when defrosted as when it was freshly cooked. A typical basic sauce consists of tomatoes, onion, garlic and herbs, especially basil. From here you can add your favorite ingredients. Include olives, anchovies and chilies for a bit of extra oomph. For a Bolognese sauce, use ground beef or soy mince. All you’ll need to do for a satisfying meal is cook the pasta.
Buy a family sized ground beef, bring it home and start cooking it and seasoning it. Then, when a recipe calls for ground beef, that part is already done! Just freeze it in 1 pound packages. I also make my own seasoning blend in HUGE packages and freeze it in muffin sized tins to use in my recipes.
Pizza is another great freezer favorite. If you want to make your own pizza dough, you can freeze it in portion-sized balls or disks and roll out later, or you can pre-bake the make ahead meals. It is also possible to freeze the bases with your margarita topping, and suitable other ingredients already on, but some topping elements freeze better than others. Adding things like peppers and pineapple fresh when you cook your pizza can be a better idea.
Cooking a big pot of casserole, pasta sauce or any other suitable favorite food may take a bit of time to start with, but you’ll reap the benefits when you have a perfect homemade meal in minutes down the line.