Meal planning and prep is a breeze when you have a well-stocked freezer and pantry. Creating a variety of tasty, healthy homecooked meals is a snap when you take the time to keep the basics in your freezer. Here’s a guide to help you build a freezer that makes your mealtimes flexible and easy:

Raw Meats

Keeping your favorite meats in the freezer gives you lots of options. What you choose is totally based on your family’s preferences. Consider keeping the following on hand:

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs
  • Ground beef
  • Steaks
  • Pork chops
  • Ground turkey
  • Ham
  • Shrimp
  • Fish fillets

When freezing meat, it’s best to create packages that are sized according to what you need for a meal. For example, if you buy ground beef or turkey in bulk, take the time to break it down into 1 pound portions and then freeze them individually. Smaller portions will thaw more quickly and are easier to use. Wrap your meats carefully to protect against freezer burn, and always mark them with the date you froze them.

Fruits and Veggies

Frozen veggies are a great way to help you include healthy foods in your meals. There is no reason to shy away from frozen veggies; in fact, many studies say that frozen veggies are as nutritious or even more so than fresh as they’re flash-frozen at their peak. When you haven’t been to the market, or you need a fast option, a good supply of frozen vegetables guarantees you’ll always have the option of putting the good stuff on the table.

Frozen fruits are a highly versatile freezer staple. Throw them in smoothies or use them in pies and cobblers. Cook them down to make syrups. The possibilities are endless.

Prepared Foods

A handful of prepared foods in your freezer is truly a boon on busy nights. Buy frozen meatballs, mozzarella sticks, French fries, and other items, including the following:

  • Pizzas
  • Lasagna
  • Bread
  • Ravioli
  • Potatoes

These items don’t have to be full-on meals. For example, a bag of frozen meatballs can be turned into literally dozens of different meals depending on your mood and the other ingredients you have on hand. Asian, BBQ, or Greek, spicy or sweet, one bag of frozen meatballs has unlimited potential. Frozen cooked shrimp, chicken strips, and other similar items can go from freezer to table in a flash.

Be Prepared

Go shopping in your well-stocked freezer tonight and every night for the ingredients you need for healthy, creative family meals.