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Freezing meal prep is an excellent way to save time and money by batching cooking, and grocery shopping!
It’s possible to make a fortnight of meal prep at once with the proper organization and recipes. It’s why I love freezer-friendly meal prep, especially around the busier times of the year.
But it’s crucial to know how to freeze meal prep properly, or you can risk health hazards. There are a couple of rules, tips, and tricks you should know before freezing meal prep.
- How to Freeze Meal Prep: 11 Tips
- 1. Use the right storage container
- 2. Label your meals
- 3. Don’t freeze too much together
- 4. Leave some room in the container
- 5. Let meals cool before freezing
- 6. Avoid Certain Foods
- 7. Bag your broths
- 8. Freeze fresh produce at its peak
- 9. Casseroles are the Perfect Freezer-Friendly Meal
- 10. Always thaw food in the refrigerator
- 11. Don’t toss leftover herbs
- How to Reheat Your Frozen Meals
How to Freeze Meal Prep: 11 Tips
1. Use the right storage container
It’s essential to use the right storage containers for different recipes and foods. There are particular storage packing like aluminum foil that can react with specific recipes; for example, a higher acidity can course the aluminum foil to leach into the food.
The safety bet and my favorites are glass containers; they are the best well-rounded meal prep containers and suitable for every recipe I know!
You can also use plastic containers; just make sure they are BPA-Free. The plastic meal prep containers don’t tend to work well with heavily spiced foods or tomatoes which can stain the containers.
Have a look at my best meal prep containers for freezing for a bunch more information!
2. Label your meals
Labeling is important. By labeling, you can see what it is and when it was made.
While labeling your freezer bags or containers with a permanent marker is a good idea, make sure you don’t just write ‘beef stew’ or something generic like that.
Label the food with the date it was made, what the food is, best by date, serving, and heating instructions. If there are other ingredients in the meal that are not direct add-ins, be sure to label those extra ingredients as well.
3. Don’t freeze too much together
Freezing too much food together isn’t a good idea because it takes too long to thaw, and the food may get freezer burnt.
So, try not to freeze more than 2-3 servings of a meal for one person in a single bag or container. Instead, set up another bag or container for an additional meal that can be frozen together during the next session.
This way, you don’t have to thaw the entire bag of food every time you are ready for a second serving.
4. Leave some room in the container
This tip is very important if you want your freezer meal to prevent freezer burn or thaw evenly. Always leave some room in the container so that there is space between the food and the lid.
Freezer burn happens when air comes into contact with the surface of foods, such as frozen vegetables and meats, after being stored for a long time. You can find more storage tips in my meal prep storage guide.
5. Let meals cool before freezing
Do not put freshly cooked foods in the freezer immediately after cooking. It may be tempting, but it’s important to wait for a few reasons:
- The hot dish can raise temperatures around other dishes and thaw them out
- Cooling helps preserve food texture by helping prevent ice chunks or freezer burn from forming
If your meal is extremely hot, you should allow it to sit at room temperature for a few minutes before putting it in a storage container and storing it in the fridge to cool.
6. Avoid Certain Foods
Foods with a high-water content like cucumbers, lettuce and watermelons don’t tend to freeze well! The water in the food turns into ice crystals which partly leave the food when being thawed. This causes the texture of the food to be incredibly mushy!
I also don’t recommend freezing egg-based products like mayo and cream-based products like sour cream and yogurt because they are prone to splitting while thawing. I suggest having a look at how long meal prep lasts for more storage and expiration information!
7. Bag your broths
If you make a lot of homemade broth, store the leftovers in freezer bags to have on hand for future soups or braising. This is because broth expands when frozen, and it may end up spilling out of the container or even busting through the lid if it’s not stored separately.
Also, freezer bags are surprisingly airtight and take up far less room in your freezer than plastic or glass containers. They’ll also allow you to store broth in small batches for regular usage.
8. Freeze fresh produce at its peak
The best time to freeze fresh produce such as vegetables or fruits that you find in farmer’s markets is when it’s at its peak freshness. This way, you can preserve the nutrient content of the food and the color and flavor.
To tell if fruit or vegetables are at their freshest state, look for these characteristics:
- Firmness indicates that food isn’t overly ripe or too mature to freeze
- Vibrant color and shiny skin suggest that the food hasn’t been sitting out for too long and is still perfectly fresh
Stocking up seasonal items in freeze will also let you enjoy them when they are hard to find in off-seasons.
9. Casseroles are the Perfect Freezer-Friendly Meal
Casseroles are a true friend during busy weeks or when you can’t decide what your dinner should be. Plus, casserole meals tend to keep their shape and flavor after heating them, so they make great freezer-friendly meal-prep options.
Baking different vegetables alongside grains means healthier options without sacrificing any flavor; plus, all the food will taste as good as before after reheating.
Make sure to slice up your casserole and package it into separate and smaller portions before freezing. This way, you can use one portion at a time and reheat it using smaller baking pans.
I have a ton of freezer-friendly meal prep ideas for you!
10. Always thaw food in the refrigerator
Remember not to let your food sit on the counter when thawing as that can cause bacteria to grow and make you sick.
Refrigerators are the safest way to ensure your food stays at 40F or below while it defrosts. However, since they are slow and take quite a lot of time, make sure to plan ahead when thawing foods in the fridge.
Ground meat or chicken breasts can take around 12 hours, whereas bigger cuts like frozen turkey require 24 hours for every 5 pounds. Lastly, use the bottom shelf for raw meats, so nothing leaks down onto other foods in there too.
11. Don’t toss leftover herbs
I’ve all been there: You want to make this one dish that calls for half a teaspoon of fresh rosemary, but you don’t know what to do with all those leftover herbs.
What’s the solution? Chop them up and store them in ziplock freezer bags. Or, if it’s not too much trouble on your part, freeze as instant flavor cubes by adding them to an ice tray and covering them with foil to freeze.
Either way, they’ll be ready when needed next time instead of wasting money at the grocery store (and giving away good food).
How to Reheat Your Frozen Meals
Once your food is thawed in the fridge, as mentioned, you can use a stove or oven to reheat it.
The recommended choice should be the same which was used for cooking the food. So, if you used the oven to prepare meal prep, use an oven to reheat.
I’ve already discussed different ways to reheat meal prep, so make sure to read that next.
How long can I freeze meal prep?
If meal prep is stored properly at the right temperature, most meal prep meals will be good for up to six months when frozen. After that, meals will start losing texture and quality.
What foods can you freeze for meal prep?
Almost every food item can be frozen, but some work better than others. Meals like lasagna and casseroles are the most popular choices for foods that you can freeze.
Richmond Howard started Meal Prepify in 2019 and has helped over a million people learn how to meal prep, get better at meal planning, and create a kitchen they love to use. He’s an avid home chef and loves to bbq, grill out, and make awesome food for family and friends. He’s been featured on MSN, Renaissance Periodization, and Good Financial Cents.