Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Cooking and Produce
Cook Once, Eat Twice
Regional Nutrition and Health Education Specialist in Harrison County
University of Missouri Extension
Life can be so hectic. Wouldn’t it be nice to have good home-cooked meals ready to eat with little effort? But most folks don’t have a personal chef to take care of this daily task. With a little extra effort now and some freezer space, a person can cook once and eat twice or more.
The secret is to cook up a double or triple batch when cooking some of the family’s favorite meals and to freeze the extras in meal-sized portions for later. This can be done with meat dishes, like stew, spaghetti sauce, or chili and with non-meat dishes like macaroni and cheese or spinach lasagna. Many vegetables from a garden or farmers’ market that are relatively inexpensive these days can also be frozen in meal-sized containers for quick use later.
Casseroles containing meat can be prepared as usual, keeping fat to a minimum. Hold off on the potatoes in stews or other dishes. Potatoes can get mushy and make casseroles watery when thawed and reheated. Also, slightly undercook vegetables so they don’t end up overcooked when heated the second time around. Cool rapidly, package in meal-sized, freezer-to-microwave containers marked with the contents and date, leave headspace and freeze. Be sure meat is covered with sauce so it doesn’t dry out in the freezer. Use within 3 months by partially thawing in the refrigerator. Reheat and enjoy a meal in short order!
When preparing pasta dishes for freezing, slightly undercook the pasta. Otherwise, prepare as usual, cool quickly, package in ready-to-serve containers, label with contents and date, leave headspace and freeze. When a quick meal will be needed, partially thaw in the refrigerator. Then heat uncovered in the oven or in the microwave until hot throughout. These dishes will also last in the freezer for up to three months.
Many dishes freeze well. Directions for freezing meat loaf, leftover or planned over beef, pork, turkey and chicken, soups, baked beans, scalloped potatoes, pies, raw cookie dough and many more items can be found in the guide sheet, Freezing Home-Prepared Foods, GH1505.
1. GH1501 Freezing Basics, MU Extension
2. GH1502 Quality for Keeps -- Freezing Fruits, MU Extension
3. GH1503 Freezing Vegetables, MU Extension
5. GH1506 Quality for Keeps -- Freezer Problem Solver, MU Extension
Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009