By Karen Hanson on August 24, 2016
Plan ahead for great nutrition
Fall is here and Kansas families are heading back to school after a lazy summer. If you’re looking for a way to save time while putting healthy, nutritious food on the table, consider freezer meals.
“Preparing freezer meals means you don’t have to cook every night to have your favorite delicious and nutritious meals,” says registered dietician Karen Hanson. “It really is just as easy to prepare two or three batches as it is one batch.”
Hanson notes that some foods are better suited to freezing and reheating than others. Casseroles, soups, chilis and meatloaf all stand up to the freezer well, and most cooked dishes will keep for two to three months. She also advises clients to pick foods that maintain their integrity once frozen.
“Freshness and quality of the food at the time of freezing affect the condition of frozen foods,” Hanson says. “If foods are frozen at the peak of their quality, they will taste better than foods frozen near the end of their freshness. Store all foods at 0° or lower in order to retain vitamin content, color, flavor and texture.”
Mini pork meatloaves, slow cooker beef short ribs and spaghetti pizza showcase foods that are ideal for freezer meals, Hanson says.
“Uncooked pork, beef and other proteins — and all cooked or uncooked pastas — freeze well, as do fresh carrots, root vegetables, zucchini, squash, onions and celery,” Hanson says. What a great way to use up all those vegetables from your summer garden!
Some cooks like to double or triple up on their favorite recipes so they can eat one dinner and freeze the rest. Another popular method of freezer meal preparation is to plan a cooking day once a week, or even once a month. This is especially fun to do in groups of family or friends, and can be a great way to involve children in meal prep.
Another approach is to freeze similar ingredients. For example, brown large quantities of ground beef that can be frozen in recipe-size batches and used in soups, quesadillas, wraps or casseroles. “Whichever method you prefer for making freezer meals, plan ahead by having the ingredients on hand; then simply assemble the ingredients step by step,” Hanson advises.
“With a little planning and some dedicated prep time, freezer meals are a wonderful way to ensure your family eats well and nutritiously, even in the busy fall months.”