The Preventable Mistake We All Make With Big Batch Frozen Foods

If you don't already have a full freezer (and no, we're not just talking about ice cream!), then it's time to consider the many benefits of meal planning and batch freezing. Making food ahead of time saves money and not only because of reduced waste: It will give you no excuse for ordering take out even when you're starving after a busy work day. 

From a health standpoint, planning, cooking, and batch-freezing meals can help with portion control, obviating overeating. Lastly, heating up a delicious home-cooked meal during the week is loads faster than cooking a bespoke dinner. So really, meal planning and freezing should become a weekly ritual — the perfect excuse to spend a day in the kitchen.

Once you're sold on the idea of making, portioning, and freezing cookie dough or meatballs there is one mistake to avoid: freezing them in one big bag. There's nothing quite as dismaying as seeing an undifferentiated lump of cookie dough balls that then have to be prized apart before baking. The freezer is a less forgiving environment than the refrigerator, but in this instance, all it requires is that you follow a simple storage rule.

Line your food on a pan and freeze them individually first

Once a prepared food is frozen, its form is set and it becomes monolithic. This is great if you're having guests and need all 8 cups of chicken soup, but it is a problem if you just want breakfast and have to defrost an entire batch of pancake batter. (Apart from needlessly eating up time, defrosting comes with its own potential health risks — keeping foods at room temperature for too long invites contamination.) 

There is a more prosaic way of keeping small food portions individuated, and that's by pre-freezing them: Place the meatballs or what have you on a lined baking sheet, uncovered, in the freezer until they're sufficiently frozen to be stored together in a large plastic bag. Needless to say, this strategy will keep your foods separated and applies equally well to things like cookie dough balls and slices of cake. Remember to keep your freezer at the proper temperature as well as date the food containers that go in it. Now, a week's worth of home-cooked meals can be waiting for you to simply heat up and enjoy without the hassle.