6 meals to batch make and freeze over the week leading up to back-to-school
All the tips and recipes you need to get ahead of the weeknight meal game
Lazy summer days are soon to be replaced by jam-packed weeknight madness. But before you moan and crawl back into your hammock, consider the piece of wisdom your parents tried to instill in you. Preparing for something sets you up for success, and with this back-to-school mania, it's no different.
Invest time this week in cooking and freezing a few meals, and you'll have a selection of healthy options to pull from when the going gets rough. We've got six recipes below that'll work really well for this; crowd-pleasers like meatballs and lasagna, things the kids will love… oh and there are these fast and freezeable marinades in our vault too. So quick, you'll have a well-stocked freezer in no time.
Before you get started, skim these key tips for fighting freezer burn and food spoilage, so you can master this batch-cooking thing like a seasoned pro. It's a skill that comes in handy every September, or any time you see harried times ahead.
Cooked dishes tend to freeze better than raw dishes, since ice crystals can cause damage and moisture loss to raw meat, fish or veggies. After they're cooked they become a little tougher.
Freeze individual things like meatballs or chicken fingers spaced out on a baking sheet, then pop them into a freezer bag or large container. This will prevent them from sticking together. Stack them between layers of parchment paper to maximize space when you do this.
Follow the rules of freezer safety and don't leave your frozen meals in there tooooo long. Here's what Health Canada recommends:
Stews and other cooked meat dishes: use within 2-3 months.
Cooked poultry and fish: use within 4-6 months.
Soups: use within 4 months.
Cool dishes completely before freezing, something you can speed up by putting contained food in an ice bath if you're in a rush… or impatient.
Minimize the risk of freezer burn by using the right-sized containers and filling them up almost to the top, leaving about half an inch. Your goal is to minimize exposing the food to air.
Label frozen meals with a piece of masking tape or painter's tape and permanent marker.
Rotate your freezer items so the oldest stuff is always at the front where you can see it and use it.
Thaw meals in the fridge, not on the counter at a temperature that bacteria likes to grow in.
So pick a few of these recipes, carve out the time to make them now, and you'll be totally prepared for this back-to-school thing.
Spend a day making and cooking a couple of batches of these and your family will reap the rewards. If you don't think you'll eat a whole lasagna in one sitting, simply cook it all, cut it once cooled, and freeze individual portions.
While this instant polenta doesn't take much time, any extra work when time is tight is too much work. So feel free to skip the polenta and mushrooms, and just make and freeze these meatballs. They're as good on salad or beside steamed and buttered broccoli.
As with the meatballs, simply make the chicken fingers and leave out the rest. And while tartar sauce is fast to make, a store-bought one will do the trick when time is tight.
Stock your freezer with sliced buns AND these burgers, so you can throw a meatless dinner together any time.
This fish is great for freezing, and it's healthier than take-out too. Do as suggested above and cook the fish completely before cooling and freezing separately to avoid clumping together. These cook quickly from frozen too: simply place them in a preheated 350F degree oven until heated through.
Here's another reason to keep your freezer stocked with burger buns. Triple the recipe and freeze the sauce in smaller portions so you can use it up on pasta too!