Thursday, April 25, 2013

Freezer Meals

I've learned so much in my first years of parenting. One of the most easy to remember is particularly easy because it's still a frequent reality - the need to prepare food and eat.

When my husband and I were still dating I remember once, when he reached his newest duty station that I prepared a lot of his favourite foods and then froze them. Overall it went pretty well. He ate just fine while I wasn't around and it probably saved him a bit of money.

I'd forgotten about freezer meals until I came across a pin about them on Pintrest. The moment I saw the pin I knew that was what I was going to need in preparation for our newest little bundle of joy - especially with a two year-old and a puppy in the house as well.

Ready to and eager to begin making and freezing meals I had to wait until when I thought would be the best time to make them. Although you should be able to safely eat a freezer meal a year later - you run the very high likelihood of the dish losing a lot of its best flavor in that time.

Nearly mid-February I was so ready to plunge in, but not due until April I knew it was best to hold off. I was fortunate enough to be able to spend some of my puppy money on a 17 dish set of glassware from Amazon,
they are freezer, microwave, and top-rack dishwasher safe. I was still going to need something oven safe in my arsenal. I still had my online baby shower so I decided to wait and hope that people would order the other, smaller glassware sets that I'd added to the list for use in freezer meals.

I kept looking around online for a solution to my oven safe issue and found Sanctus Mundo airtight containers with stainless steel lids. Unfortunately they are super duper pricey so I had to think about if there were any other options or if I was really going to have to spend the last of what I had on those containers and once again forgo other things I needed as well.
I had to decide against them :(

There were Pyrex containers that were comparably more affordable, but only one of the sets I saw said that the lids were BPA free.
My parents vacuum seal and freeze food but I didn't have a vacuum sealer and preferred to avoid that sort of excess, possibly toxic plastic touching our food and feeding our landfill.

Before you begin freezing make sure that your freezer is set at the proper temperature and that all of the vents are not blocked. You will need for vents to still be accessible when you put food in otherwise your freezer will not maintain its proper temperature. Ideal temperature for your freezer is  0 Fahrenheit (-18 Celsius) for storing food. And -10 Fahrenheit (-23 Celsius) is recommended when freezing food. Make sure it's properly set at least 24 hours in advance.

Generally it seemed that freezer meals last 3 - 6 months. I put together a chart of collective info I saw on how long things should remain frozen:

Fruits and Vegetables – 6-12 months
Fruit pies, unbaked: 8 months
Poultry, uncooked – 9-12 months
Poultry, cooked – 4-6 months
Fish – 3-6 months
Lean fish: 6 months
Fatty fish: 2-3 months
Shellfish, uncooked: 3-6 months
Ham, cooked: 1-2 months
Bacon: 1 month
Chops, uncooked: 4-6 months
Meat, Roasts, Steaks, etc; uncooked – 4-12 months
Steaks, uncooked: 6-12 months
Ground Meat, uncooked – 3-4 months
Meat, cooked – 4 months
Cured or Processed Meats – 1-2 months
Casseroles – 2-3 months
Soups and stews – 2-3 months
Butter: 6-9 months
Bread and cake: 3 months
Cookies, baked or dough: 3 months
Ice cream and sorbet: 2 months

There was one other thing standing in the way of making freezer meals right that second. I still had frozen food waste in our large freezer. Thankfully, I had a plan for that.

Related Reading:
Getting Started: How Long Do Meals Last?
How Long Will Food Last in the Freezer? 
Issue #18: Safe Containers for Freezer Meals Five Best Containers for Frozen Food Storage
Plastic-Free Freezer Storage
Ideal Freezer Temperature 

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