Can You Freeze Meal Prep? Tips for Storing Prepped Meals

Written By: Paul

Can You Freeze Meal Prep

Meal prepping refers to the planning and preparing of meals ahead of time, typically for several days or more. But what if you make a few meals, and before you have a chance to eat these meals, your plans change?

 Can your previously prepared meal preps be frozen to extend their potential shelf life?

The answer, like most things in life, is it depends. Freezing meal prep is possible but contingent on a number of factors that mostly have to do with the food items you chose when initially prepping/storing the meal.

Understanding Meal Prep and Freezing Basics

Understanding Meal Prep

Meal prepping refers to a process that consists of –

  • Menu planning.
  • Shopping for the ingredients.
  • The cooking processes.
  • Portioning and storing these meals until they’re ready to be eaten.

Meal prepping saves time and money but is also incredibly convenient at the end of a long day when cooking a complete and healthy meal seems out of reach. Additionally, meal prepping helps curb the patterns of over-eating and impulse buying and may help re-establish more beneficial portion sizes moving forward.

The meals you prep ahead of time, if stored properly, have a shelf life of several days to a week – depending on the ingredients in the meal. However, freezing prepared meals is an option to consider – if you understand food safety basics.

Storing prepped meals in the freezer is an option that allows for temperatures to be kept so low that biological and chemical processes contributing to the growth of microorganisms and other spoilage potentials are halted. The Department of Energy suggests that freezer temperatures should be at/below 0°F (-18°C) to keep food safe. Note that exact freezer temperatures may require adjustments to reflect factors that include humidity, location, etc.

But not all foods freeze well. Some lose their nutritional content, while other foods cannot survive the plummeting temperatures and will lose their original texture and flavor.

Which Meals Freeze Well?

Which Meals Freeze Well

Well-balanced meals consist of varying components to meet the daily recommended intake of nutrients required to stay healthy and fit.

Consider how these food items freeze when appropriately stored –

  • Proteins – most proteins/meat – like beef, pork, fish, and chicken typically freeze well if properly sealed to prevent freezer burn.
  • Vegetables – Many vegetables – like corn, green beans, peas, etc. – freeze well; however, some experience a texture change once frozen and then thawed.  
  • Bread/Tortillas – Many types of bread products freeze well if wrapped tightly and stored properly to avoid freezer burn.
  • Rice/Quinoa/Grains – Cooked grains like rice and quinoa can be successfully frozen.
  • Sauces/Soups – Sauces and soups typically freeze well, except those that consist of cream may separate or experience a textural change when thawed.  

Some ingredients or meal components do not freeze well. If frozen, the quality of these types of ingredients is compromised when thawed – think dairy products (i.e., sour cream, etc. ), cucumbers, lettuce, etc. These are best left to be added before the meal is finished.

Step-by-Step Guide to Freezing Meal Preps

Freezing Meal Preps

Freezing meal prep is best when you keep it simple and separate and store the components of the meal appropriately – because each ingredient’s capacity to survive the deep freeze differs.

Storing prepped meals and their components should be done in airtight freezer-friendly bags/containers that are labeled with the contents and the date frozen. Divide each component into individual or meal-sized portions so you can thaw only what you need, and consider these meal prep storage tips –

  • Proteins – Freezing protein for meal prep requires proper handling and packaging to maintain quality and prevent freezer burn. Wrap the protein tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil to minimize exposure to air. Air is the main culprit for freezer burn, which can impact the protein’s quality.
  • Vegetables – Freezing vegetables is a great way to preserve their freshness and nutritional value. Most vegetables will benefit by blanching them before freezing. Blanching preserves the vegetable’s color, texture, and nutritional content prior to freezing. Drain and dry before storing prepped meals with vegetables.
  • Bread/Tortillas – Bread can be sliced. Ensure you tightly wrap the bread (in tin foil or plastic wrap) and remove as much air as possible to maintain moisture and prevent freezer burn.
  • Rice/Quinoa/Grains – Cooked grains like rice and quinoa, if cooled, can be successfully frozen without clumping or changing texture.
  • Sauces/Soups – Sauces and soups typically freeze well; however, cream-based sauces should be avoided as they do not freeze well.  
  • Herbs – Most chefs know the trick to freeze fresh herbs – before they go bad – in ice cube trays with water or oil. While the herbs may lose their original texture, these frozen herbs can add flavor to your meal with simplicity before cooking.

Tips for Maintaining Flavor and Nutritional Value

To maintain a consistent flavor and nutritional value when freezing meal prep, consider these meal prep storage tips –

  • Start with fresh, high-quality ingredients, as these have the best chance of retaining their flavor and nutrients while frozen.
  • Allow cooked foods to cool entirely because cooling too fast creates ice crystals that can affect the food’s texture.
  • Use airtight containers that are properly labeled to maintain freshness and avoid freezer burn.
  • Reduce food waste by proportioning meals in individual/family-sized portions so you only thaw what you need.
  • Label and date frozen meals and components to keep track of freshness.  
  • When freezing proteins like meats or fish, protect them from the air by wrapping them tightly in plastic wrap aluminum foil or using vacuum-sealed bags.
  • When ready to use, thaw the protein in the refrigerator, as this helps to ensure the thawing process is safe and gradual.

Common Freezing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

While freezing is a great way to extend the shelf life of food, it is important to follow some simple guidelines to avoid common freezing mistakes –

  • Keep your freezer at/below 0°F (-18°C) because the wrong temperature can impact the safety/quality of frozen food.
  • Avoid Un-friendly Freezer Ingredients – Some ingredients, like dairy-based sauces or veggies with extremely high water content, will not freeze well. Add these to the meal after reheating the frozen meal components.  
  • Do not freeze hot/warm food, which can cause condensation and uneven freezing. Cool completely, and use shallow containers to speed up the process.
  • First, blanch vegetables so they don’t lose texture and color.
  • Use airtight containers or wrap proteins properly. Not doing so will likely cause freezer burn – which impacts the food’s texture and flavor. Remove as much air as possible.
  • Freezing large quantities of food in a single container may cause uneven freezing and doesn’t help with portion control.
  • Don’t overload the freezer, which may cause uneven freezing due to poor air circulation.
  • Clearly label each item and include the date of preparation. Use markers that are freezer-safe.

Final Words

Freezing is a convenient method for extending the shelf life of your meal prep, as it can retain much of its flavor and nutritional value. However, while freezing can effectively preserve many nutrients, some loss may occur, particularly with water-soluble vitamins.

You can still benefit from meal prepping if you focus on freezing the main components and add the elements of the meal that are not suitable for freezing to the meal before you serve.

Hi, I'm Paul. Welcome to my website! I, along with my cronies, are leveraging our years of working in the food industry to review meal and drink delivery services. We review. You eat happily ever after.



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