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How to meal prep: 6 easy tips to become a batch-cooking pro

Think it’s impossible to make 15 quick and healthy meals at once? Here’s how to create convenient freezer meals for busy weeknights.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Julie Pennell

If you want to make weeknights easier or are just trying to eat healthier, consider mastering the art of meal prepping.

While the idea of preparing so many meals at once may seem a little daunting to some, the amount of time, energy and money you’ll save in the long run more than makes up for time spent in the kitchen.

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Just before I had my baby, my husband and I spent an afternoon creating 15 freezer meals at once — and learned a lot of self-taught cooking lessons along the way. The biggest one? It’s incredibly convenient and it's actually really fun to do.

One major takeaway is that the more often you meal prep, the easier it will become and the more you'll learn about what foods freeze best. If you're new to making several meals at once, use this as a beginner’s guide to creating your own freezer-friendly fare.

1. Organization is key

Planning is an imperative step in this whole process. First, decide what meals you’re going to make. Just search the phrase “freezer meals” on Pinterest for a plethora of eye-catching ideas. Pick ones that sound good to you and create a folder with your favorite recipes.

After you've decided what to cook, create a grocery list. Combine any ingredients that you can; for example, you might only need to buy one large can of tomatoes instead of multiple small ones to use in separate recipes. To really save time at the supermarket, organize your grocery list by the store’s layout. You’ll be in and out quickly, giving you more time to cook at home.

2. Stock up on supplies

A few things to add to your grocery list: aluminum pans (ones with lids are best), cling wrap, freezer-friendly Ziploc bags and heavy duty aluminum foil. These are all necessary for wrapping up your meals and storing them in the freezer. If you don’t wrap them properly, you could lose your meal to freezer burn.

3. Double the recipes

Instead of making 15 totally different meals, one of the things we found really helpful was doubling some of the recipes. It’s faster to make just one meal and divide it up since you're already preparing the ingredients. We doubled three recipes that are great meals to freeze: chili, meatloaf and enchiladas.

4. Wrap everything properly

To prevent freezer burn, get as much air out of each wrapped dish as possible. If you’re using a Ziploc bag, press the air out of the bag before zipping it shut.

5. Know the shelf life of each meal

As a general rule of thumb, food can stay in the freezer for up to three months. However, there are exceptions. For example, bacon and sausage last about a month, while soups and stews can stay in there for about two to three months, depending on what's in them. Check out foodsafety.gov for a complete list of storage times for specific foods.

6. Label each meal clearly

After you wrap each meal carefully, use a permanent marker to clearly write the following on each dish (or use masking tape): name of the recipe (pulled pork and shredded chicken can look pretty similar after a few weeks in the freezer); the date the dish was made; the date the dish should be eaten by and add any specific reheating instructions. If the dish should be thawed before being reheated, that should be noted, too.

Ready to get started? Here are a few freezer-friendly meals to try: