Busy folk like us need freezer meals in the house and I’m going to tell you why. Just tell me if this scenario sounds familiar. You’ve made a new years resolution to eat better (we all do it) and eat more meals at home. So naturally, you go to the extreme, planning healthy dinners for all 7 nights of the week, and then picking up the ingredients the weekend before. Well, as we jump back into work and school routines following a relaxing and lazy holiday, things can get a wee-bit hairy. By the time 6 PM rolls along and it’s time to start cooking, you’re still running around like a headless chicken and know you won’t be getting in until late. Oh, yah, that home-cooked 3-course organic sustainable meal you were planning for on Sunday? Yah, probably not tonight. So naturally, you’re only option is to call in for take-out and let the fresh dinner ingredients sit in the fridge untouched. Well, after a few days of this routine, you’re going to be letting a lot of food go bad and obviously wasting a ton of money by both throwing out healthy fresh ingredients AND ordering restaurant food in.
Image: My Foray Into Food Storage
My tip? Scale back your expectations just a bit- at least until you’re settled back in after the holidays and you know realistically how many nights of the week you can cook and how freezer meals can fill the gap. How do you know what’s realistic? Well let’s say last week you were only able to cook twice. That’s okay! Now you have a baseline and can set your sights on adding one more home-cooked meal the next week. That doesn’t mean you automatically go from 2 to 3 and 3 to 4 each week. You need a little buffer meal to safeguard against the unexpected. You need a well stocked freezer for your freezer meals. When you go grocery shopping, pick up fresh ingredients for those two nights you feel confident you can make. Then, pick up some frozen ingredients for you to whip up one more meal in the hopeful situation you can actually make it work.
Freezer Meals Staples
1) Shrimp – These are super fast to thaw and are great in a quickie fried rice, thrown onto the BBQ, or stirred into an Asian themed soup.
2) Broccoli – I love broccoli steamed as a quick healthy side dish, pureed for a green soup, or thrown into a colourful stir-fry.
3) Corn Tortillas- Corn tortillas thaw out in a snap, and are great for tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas and homemade nachos. You can even make a simple wrap for lunch in a pinch.
4) Smoked Turkey Sausages – These are already cooked so you just have to thaw and slice them up, then add them to pasta, soup or serve over sauteed greens and polenta.
5) Spinach- Defrost a box and drain well, then mix into omelets, scatter onto pizza, stuff into lasagna or puree into a pesto sauce.
6) Sliced Whole Grain Bread- Hello, grilled cheese? Thawed out frozen bread is also great for making croutons, fresh panzanella salad, or thickening tomato-based soups.
7) Shelled Edamame- A perfect snack all on its own, I also love edamame pureed with olive oil as a quick dip or thrown into rice for a protein-rich side.
8) Berries – Obviously these are ideal for adding to oatmeal or smoothies, but I also sometimes puree the fruit and use it as a base for a low fat vinaigrette.
9) Brown Rice- Yep, you can get rice that’s actually in the freezer nowadays. This cooks in the microwave in a few minutes and makes an easy base for stir-fries and grain-based salads.
10) Chicken Tenders – Slim and small so they thaw out and cook very fast-chicken tenders are my raw meat of choice. Thaw them out, throw them on skewers and grill them for easy satays.
If you’re feeling the back-to-work stress compounded by your new healthy eating goals, then give my meal planning trick a try.
What are some of your favourite go-to freezer meals staples for creating healthy easy dinners?
Abbey Sharp is a Registered Dietitian, an avid food writer and blogger, a cookbook author and the founder of Abbey’s Kitchen Inc.