How to Set Up a Healthy Freezer Print

 How to set up a healthy freezer

Imagine a tidy freezer that had single servings or family sized portions of tasty meals you would feel good about or that you could grab in a pinch. Think about how it would feel to have clearly labelled ingredients to toss quickly into a recipe or add to a lunch box. An organized freezer can help you minimize food waste, reduce spending, reduce meal preparation time and lessen weekday stress. If you currently have a freezer but frequently lose or forget things or want to figure out some healthy ingredients and meals to put in your freezer, then this article is for you.

 Andrea Holwegner as published in Calgary Herald Newspaper

As a dietitian for close to 20 years, I’ve noticed our most successful clients achieving the best success don’t necessarily have more time or knowledge, they have clear systems built for speed and repetition. 

One of the systems that can greatly help with meal planning success, especially for time-crunched families, is to understand not just what to put in the freezer, but how to set it up.

I’ve struggled over the years to figure out the best way to organize freezer space. It hasn’t always been pretty but I’ve learned a few practical things along the way. If you currently have a freezer but frequently lose or forget things or want to figure out some healthy ingredients and meals to put in your freezer, then this article is for you.

Begin with the end in mind.

Imagine a tidy freezer that had single servings or family-sized portions of tasty meals you would feel good about or that you could grab in a pinch. Think about how it would feel to have clearly labelled ingredients to toss quickly into a recipe or add to a lunch box. An organized freezer can help you minimize food waste, reduce spending, reduce meal preparation time and lessen weekday stress.

 

Three categories of foods for a freezer stash

Single foods for adding to supper recipes

  • Frozen vegetables (such as peas, corn, spinach and mixed veggies)
  • Purchased frozen diced avocado
  • Purchased frozen edamame or black beans
  • Pre-cooked or leftover canned beans, lentils or chick peas
  • Shredded cheese
  • Chicken breasts, thighs and fish fillets
  • Raw or pre-cooked meatballs, ground meat or poultry
  • Purchased or pre-made veggie burgers, lean beef or bison burgers
  • Pre-sliced and/or marinated meat, poultry or seafood
  • Frozen, peeled shrimp and other seafood
  • Pizza crusts or ready-made dough
  • Fresh pasta, tortellini or perogies
  • Pre-cooked rice, barley, quinoa and other grains
  • Pre-chopped fresh herbs (such as dill, parsley, rosemary and oregano)
  • Pre-chopped minced garlic or whole ginger which can simply be grated
  • Leftover wine and stock
  • Diced fresh or roasted red peppers or canned chipotle peppers

Full ready-to-eat mealshealthy freezer food

  • Options: single servings, full family-sized portions or some of each
  • Soup, chili or stew
  • Casseroles, cabbage rolls, enchiladas, taco meat
  • Pasta sauces such as tomato meat or lentil marinara sauce
  • Pre-cooked protein, cooked grains and blanched vegetables

Single foods for adding to breakfast, lunch and snack meals

  • Frozen fruit (such as berries, mango and pineapple)
  • Freezer smoothie packs
  • Leftover waffles, French toast or pancakes
  • Sliced bread, bagels and buns
  • Muffins, sliced loaves, pre-cut energy bars or cookies
  • Single slices of leftover pizza
  • Pre-cooked steel cut oatmeal or baked muffin tin oatmeal

Storing and organizing tips for your freezer

Here are three tips for storing healthy foods and items you prepare in the freezer:

  1. Store flat to maximize space. Whenever possible, store items such as soups, chili and sauces flat in bags (remove as much air as possible) or reusable containers that stack easily.
  1. Store in something clear to help you see. Ideally store your ingredients and meals in a variety of sizes of clear zipper bags, large glass containers for family meals and mason jars for single serving items.
  1. Clearly label what it is and when you made it. Label the food and date using a permanent marker for zipper bags and freezer labels or freezer tape for glass to make sure it sticks. Attach a list to the outside of the freezer to add and subtract items from your list to keep track of your inventory.

Starting slow

Looking at a long list of items you could stash in your freezer can be daunting. Start small by placing one or two single items in the freezer this week. 

  • If you are making rice, cook double and freeze the extra for another meal.
  • If you are making chili, double the batch since it takes the same amount of time to cook two batches as one.
  • If grated cheese is on sale, purchase extra and toss a bag in the freezer for your next pizza making night.

Article originally appeared in the Calgary Herald: http://calgaryherald.com/health/diet-fitness/holwegner-how-to-set-up-a-healthy-freezer

Calgary dietitian Andrea Holwegner, “the chocoholic nutritionist,” is a corporate wellness expert and motivational speaker specializing in workplace health, stress and productivity. www.healthstandnutrition.com  or 403-262-3466

About Andrea Holwegner

CEO, Registered Dietitian, Counseling Practice Director & Professional Speaker

Andrea the «Chocoholic Nutritionist» is founder and CEO of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. since 2000. She is an online nutrition course creator, professional speaker and regular guest in the media. Andrea is the recipient of an award by the Dietitians of Canada: The Speaking of Food & Healthy Living Award for Excellence in Consumer Education....Read more

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