Dinner in a hurry

Freezing dinners ahead can save time.

We’ve all experienced the need to make dinner in a hurry, so why not freeze a couple complete dinners to use when life becomes a bit much to handle? Without making extra work for yourself, having a precooked dinner for the freezer can be made along with dinner tonight.

Plan ahead when deciding which dinner or casserole you want to freeze for a future meal. Make an extra amount that accommodates portions large enough for another meal. This way you are cooking once. For example, let’s say you are having Chicken Alfredo for dinner - it is just as easy to increase the amount you are making and package it for the freezer as it is to make one meal.

When packaging food for use in the future it is important to cool it properly. That is done by dividing large quantities into smaller portions and cooling in an ice bath. Cool foods down to 70 degrees Fahrenheit within two hours, then cool it to 41 F and below within four hours. You should be able to cool food within a six hour time frame so it is considered safe from harmful bacteria growth. Once the extra dinner is cooled, package it in a freezer safe container or wrap it in freezer paper or a bag designated for use in the freezer. Label the container with its contents and the date you freeze it. Even though you may feel you will remember what is in the package, it is good practice to label all your preserved foods.

Four ways of thawing food out of the freezer:
  • Thaw in the refrigerator
  • Thaw under cool running water
  • Thaw in the microwave – and cook immediately
  • Thaw as part of the cooking process

If you forgot to remove the casserole from the freezer and put into the refrigerator to thaw, you can take it out of the freezer and put it right into the oven to heat if the container is oven proof. This will solve your problem of creating a meal in a hurry.

Michigan State University Extension recommends learning about safe ways to freeze and thaw foods you prepare.

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