When it comes to meal prep, you're probably spending most of your time chopping at the counter, stirring on the stove, and placing packed meals in the fridge. But there's one big thing, or should we say, one big box you're missing—the freezer. Freezing large batches of food, preserving herbs, storing smoothie ingredients, and housing wrapped grab-and-go freezer breakfasts are just some of the genius ways the freezer can be your best bud for meal prep.
Knowing how and when to use it, though, is important. No one wants to come home from a long day thinking they have a dinner waiting for them, only to find it's rock solid still in the freezer. That's where Alyssa Gagarin, healthy foodie and creator of the 30-Day Meal-Prep Challenge, comes in. Here, she shares some of her favorite ways to use the freezer that will make your healthy eating so much easier.
Photo: Michael Marquand
Do freeze: Sauces, soups, chili, beans, meatballs, and casseroles. These items can hold up in the freezer and will still taste great when reheated. You'll want to store them in a few smaller containers so you aren't forced to reheat an entire dish of, say, a homemade enchilada sauce if you only need enough for two servings.
Don't freeze: Potatoes, cucumbers, pasta, lettuce, onions, and dairy (i.e., anything with milk or cheese in it). Cooked potatoes and pasta can get mealy if frozen and reheated, and that's just plain unappetizing. Dairy products such as yogurt, milk, and sour cream can separate in the freezer and go from creamy to lumpy. The freezer will dry out water-dense fruits and vegetables, such as cucumbers.
How to freeze soup or sauce: While doubling a recipe (think oatmeal, pasta sauce, and soups) is a smart move when meal prepping, how you store it all is important. You'll want to separate the dish into individual serving-size containers for freezing so you aren't stuck thawing a meal that serves 12. (Discover these healthy mash-up sauce recipes you'll want to put on everything.)
How to freeze fresh herbs: We've all been there. You really want to make this one recipe that calls for half a teaspoon of fresh dill, but you don’t really know what to do with all that leftover herb (and you can't just live on tzatziki for a week). Solution: Chop the leftovers and store them in a ziplock freezer bag. Then you'll have dill on hand next time instead of needing to buy (and waste) more herbs.
How to freeze smoothies: Freezer smoothie packs probably aren't a new concept to you, but there's a solid chance you're doing it wrong. You want to only chop and freeze the solid ingredients (blueberries, raspberries, and spinach, for example). Leave the yogurt, almond milk, and chia seeds for when you're ready to dump and blend. (Jump on the green smoothie train with these recipes that anyone will love.)
For more meal-prep tips, tricks, hacks, recipes, and more, join the 30-Day Meal-Prep Challenge. It's perfect for beginners or anyone who wants to recharge their healthy eating habits.