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Morning Sun
  • EXTENSION CONNECTION: Do-it-yourself Frozen Dinners

  • Frozen dinners can be a convenient alternative to a homemade meal on busy days when there isn’t time to cook from scratch. But processed frozen dinners from the grocery store can be expensive and are usually high in fat and sodium.

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  • Frozen dinners can be a convenient alternative to a homemade meal on busy days when there isn’t time to cook from scratch. But processed frozen dinners from the grocery store can be expensive and are usually high in fat and sodium.
    Is there a better alternative? Yes! And it’s not the fast food or carry-out restaurant down the street! Prepare homemade frozen dinners. Isn’t this difficult? No way! All you need is a freezer.
    When you are preparing a main dish, it takes only a little more effort and time to make enough for several meals. You can either freeze all of the prepared food in meal size packages, or you can serve part of the food immediately and freeze the rest for later use. Read on to learn more helpful tips to make homemade frozen meals work at  your home.
    Hints for Freezing Made-Ahead Meals
    • Select only fresh, high quality ingredients. Freezing, thawing and reheating will somewhat decrease product quality.
    • Some food ingredients do not freeze well. These include: mayonnaise, cream puddings and fillings, custard, gelatin, cheese, the whites of hard cooked eggs, uncooked egg yolks, unbaked biscuits, and fruits and vegetables with a high water content, such as lettuce, watermelon, citrus fruit and cucumbers.
    • Slightly undercook foods you are going to freeze. They will finish cooking when reheated later.
    • Cool foods quickly and freeze them promptly. Place shallow containers of food in a larger pan filled with ice or ice water. Stir often to help cool the food faster.
    • Use containers with wide top openings. Food can then be removed without thawing.
    • Pack food compactly into the freezer container to reduce the amount of air in the package. Allow room in the package for the food to expand as it freezes.
    • Label all packages with the food’s name, date and baking instructions, if any.
    •Avoid overloading your freezer. Foods should be firmly frozen within 24 hours.
    • Most freezers can freeze two to three pounds of food per cubic foot of capacity.
    • Keep a list of foods you freeze and plan to eat them within one or two months.
    There are many great recipes online…just search for “make ahead freezer meals” and you’ll find lots of options. However, my favorite site is http://lancaster.unl.edu/ food/ciq.shtml written by a food safety Extension specialist at the University of Nebraska. On her “Cook it Quick” site, you can sign up for newsletters, browse her vast amount of tips and find recipes.
    For additional information, contact the Wildcat Extension District, Crawford County, 620-724-8233, Labette County, 620-784-5337, Montgomery County, 620-331-2690, Pittsburg Office, Expanded Food and Nutrition Education (EFNEP), 620-232-1930.
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