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Freezer Cooking Tips and Recipes for Busy Families

Tired of scrambling to prep dinner? Take heart, mom and dad: The pre-made batch cooking technique has matured. Get advice and ideas here!

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Years ago, freezer meals meant canned cream soups, strange mystery meats and other suspect ingredients that struck fear in the hearts of kids. And, if mom did "once-a-month-cooking," she'd spend days at a time shopping, prepping and running around the kitchen. Then, she was plain exhausted.

Well, dear parents, that's no longer the case. The "make-ahead and freeze" method has matured. You can now fill up your freezer with a bevy of frozen meals that are not only easy to create – but darn tasty, too.

Here are four things you should know about the modern age of freezer cooking – and a couple of recipes from my book Not Your Mother's Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook, featured below with permission from The Harvard Common Press, to get you started.

1. Saves you time, money and sanity

By making several meals in advance and storing them in the freezer, you're providing for future nights when life is hectic and you just don't have time to cook. You'll avoid takeout, since you know there's a home-cooked meal ready to go. And you'll spend less effort puzzling out what's for dinner. Just grab some homemade soup or burritos from the freezer and have a feast!

2. Deep freeze not required

Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to have a ginormous freezer to make batch cooking work for you. With careful packaging and organizing, you can store at least a week's worth of meals in the smallest refrigerator/freezer – even more if your fridge is a big one.

3. Way more than casseroles

Some people think that you can only "freezer cook" if you're making tons of casseroles. This is so not the case. Marinate chicken breast to throw on the grill. Precook and season taco meat in order to make quick work of a taco bar later in the month. Mix up a stew or soup to reheat on another night.

There's no end to the possibilities. Think about what part of a meal you can make ahead and prep that.

4. Premade meals can taste great!

You may be worried about freezer burn or freezer taste, remembering those Mystery Meat Casseroles of yore. Honestly, we are food snobs at my house; those situations would not fly with my people! Correct packaging and freezing is key. Cool foods completely, wrap them well and eat them up within a month or two for best taste and texture.

Don't believe me? Try one of these recipes on for size.

Versatile Slow-Cooked Carnitas

Carnita ("little meats" in Spanish) is a seasoned, shredded pork filling used for tacos, tostadas, and tamales. Traditionally, the pork shoulder is boiled and then roasted. Here, it is prepared in a slow cooker for a simpler yet equally delicious result. The moist and juicy carnitas freeze and reheat quite well, making it a perfect addition to your freezer cooking arsenal. Instead of a shoulder roast, you can use country-style pork strips, which often go on sale.

Basics

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Packaging: quart-sized zip-top freezer bags or plastic containers with lids

Ingredients

  • One 3- to 4-lb. pork shoulder roast
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium-size onion, chopped
  • 1⁄2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1⁄4 cup water

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