How to Stock Your Freezer With Easy, Delicious Meals

It's the calm before the storm over here.  We're appreciating a few quiet moments before the arrival of our second baby and doing lots of things to get ready for the nights and days ahead.  Before I sign off and enter the daze of newborn-ville for a little while, I thought I'd share a few tips for freezing meals.  Whether a baby is on the way, or just a busy week, it never hurts to have a few meals frozen so you don't have to turn to takeout when you're rushed, tired, or too overwhelmed to think.  

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1. Choose recipes that still taste delicious when defrosted.  I know, it sounds obvious but it's easier said than done.  Typically items that are cooked in liquid hold up the best.  Think soups, stews, sauces, and casseroles.

2. Cook once, eat twice.  Choose a recipe, double the batch, eat half for dinner and freeze the rest.  This way you're stocking your freezer without doing any more cooking than you would do on a normal night.

3. Make a lot of similar meals in one week.  For example, I made lentil soup, sausage and bean soup, and split pea soup all in one week because they all share similar ingredients (carrots, celery, onions, herbs, broth).  This makes grocery shopping much easier, allows you to prep ingredients for multiple meals at once, and ensures you don't waste any food. 

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4. Choose storage that works well in your freezer and is easy to defrost.   We have a freezer drawer on the bottom of our refrigerator so the best way to optimize space is to use large ziploc bags.  For example, if I'm freezing a stew I'll let it cool, add it to the bag, lay it flat to freeze, and then turn it on it's side to file it away.  When it's time to defrost, just soak the bag in a large bowl of warm water until you can remove the stew and add it to a pot or a pan.  

5. Label everything.  I use masking tape and a permanent marker to add the name of the dish and the date it was frozen.  I also sometimes add notes about whether or not it's too spicy for a toddler, or whether or not it contains any meat.  

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