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How to Create Garden-Fresh Freezer Meals

Life is busy; we are constantly inundated with hectic schedules and are pulled in a number of directions by daily demands. Freezing meals ahead of time can be a great time saver for a busy family, all while preserving a healthy option free of preservatives. If you are expecting a new baby or know a big deadline is approaching at work, you can freeze meals and still serve your family healthy food every night rather than ordering take-out or stopping at the nearest drive-thru window. What I love about this method of preserving your garden goods is that it can be tailored to fit any diet or special nutritional requirement. Plus it is a perfect option for storing away the last of your harvest for a winter full of nutritious meals or using items you have gotten on sale at the grocery store.

Before delving into some of fantastic ideas on creating meals from your garden or local farmer’s market goodies, there are a few important basics when it comes to freezing food safely and efficiently. If properly executed, freezing will not diminish the nutritional value of your dish.

Following basic freezing guidelines will help maintain the integrity of your ingredients while giving you a great way to make those delicious fruits and vegetables last through the cold winter months. With those worries out of the way, it’s time to get creative and cook!

Organization is Your Name, Efficiency is Your Game!

Once you have harvested (or purchased) your vegetables of the season, it’s helpful to take some time to organize. One of my biggest pet peeves is getting into the middle of a large cooking/freezing extravaganza, only to stop mid-stream because I hadn’t accounted for everything I needed. Taking the extra time prior to starting will save you time and headaches.

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Great Dishes That Showcase Your Tasty Produce

There’s a world of opportunity in the dishes you can create, and your choices will most likely be those that utilize your veggies in the best way. The infinite supply of recipes online makes this process so easy.  I personally love visiting blogs that specialize in frozen meal recipes, such as Freezer Meals for Us [4]. These can be a fantastic resource. There are also many big name sites, such as Martha Stewart [5], that also have great recipes and tips for freezing meals. Here are some dishes with a plethora of recipe opportunities that you can customize with your own fresh ingredients.

Before You Freeze

Once you have prepared your meal and are ready to move it to the freezer, first ensure that it has completely cooled. Seal your meal in an airtight container, foil pan, or baggy, and if using plastic jars, leave an inch of head space for expansion. Be sure to label your item with the name of the dish and the date it was baked. I also always include the expiration date for quick and easy reference.

The USDA guidelines for freezing food are a great resource for establishing your meal’s expiration date. The freezer life of your dishes should be established as follows:

Preserve Your Garden Goodies Through The Winter

Freezing allows you to capture the tasty nutrition of your garden fruits and veggies and make them available to your family throughout those cold winter months. There are literally hundreds of online resources at your disposal to make this process fun and unique to your family’s needs. It’s also a great way to incorporate some family time, so harvest that garden, visit your local farmer’s market, and plan some time to make some amazing meals for your family that will last all winter long.

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