Eating healthy can be a lot of work! Make plant-based mealtime easy and cut back on food waste by keeping your freezer well stocked. No, we’re not talking about sodium-packed freezer meals from the grocery store. Simply freezing a few ready-to-go ingredients ahead of time can ensure you get that healthy dinner quick on those busy weeknights.
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1. Pre-Cooked Grains
Rice is a staple in the plant-based diet and for good reason...it's chock full of heart healthy fiber and is a great way to bulk up meals and stretch leftovers. But if you're using whole grain varieties, it can take upwards of 50 minutes to prep! Not gonna work when you need a healthy dinner quick! And sure, you can buy pre-cooked frozen rice but doing it yourself is way cheaper and super easy.
Next time you cook rice, simply double the amount and freeze half. The best way to freeze grains like rice is to spread out the cooked rice on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and let it cool. Then portion it out and freeze in freezer baggies and stack them flat in the freezer.
When it’s time to reheat, simply take your rice out of the freezer, break it up into chunks and pop in a microwave safe bowl and cook covered on high for 2-3 minutes. Don’t have a microwave? No worries. It’s super easy to reheat on the stove top. Break it up and toss in a skillet or saucepan and add a little bit of water then stir often over low heat until heated through and water is evaporated.
Save your summer garden bounty or stock up on in-season produce at the farmer’s market and freeze it to enjoy healthy plant-based dinners all winter long.
3. Herbs & Garlic
Cut down on prep time by making easy plant-based dinner recipe starters for your freezer! Fill ice cub trays a quarter full with fresh water or veggie broth then add minced garlic and/or fresh herbs to the tray. Top off with more fresh water/veggie broth and freeze overnight. Once frozen solid, crack your herb cubes into freezer baggies, label and date. Pull out individual cubes as needed to give any plant-based recipe more flavor!
4. Pancakes and French Toast
One of our favorite weeknight dinner ideas? Breakfast!
Make your weeknight meals a breeze by freezing already cooked vegan pancakes and egg-free french toast. Planning a Sunday Brunch? Make a double batch of either pancakes or french toast and save half for the freezer.
Let your pancakes or french toast cool then layer them on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and stash in the freezer for a few hours until frozen solid (overnight is fine!). This makes sure they don't stick together! Once they're frozen solid, toss them in a labeled and dated freezer bag.
To reheat just pop them in the toaster or in your air fryer at 350 degrees for 4-5 minutes.
5. Cooked Beans
Beans are a plant-based eater's best friend. They're packed with plant-based protein, fiber, and they're so dang versatile. Toss them in classic rice and beans, vegan tacos, breakfast scrambles, hearty salads...and the freezer!
While canned beans are convenient, the healthiest way to enjoy beans is by cooking your own dried beans (less sodium and no BPA). But that isn't always feasible. You're busy! This is where batch cooking and freezing comes in handy, big time. Next time you prepare dried beans, let them cool after cooking then drain them. Scoop 2-cup portions into freezer bags, label and date, and toss those beans in the freezer to pull out and thaw when needed for a weeknight plant-based dinner.
6. Soups and Broth
The best types of soups to freeze are bean soups (think hearty vegan chili and dhal), creamy pureed soups, rice soups, and broth-based soups (just keep noodles out and add once you thaw and heat). Avoid freezing soups with potatoes because the texture will become mushy upon thawing and reheating.
1. Let It Cool Before You Freeze It
This is both for food safety and to safeguard any glass containers from bursting in your freezer! Cooled off foods also freeze more uniformly.
2. Portion it Out
Most foods should only be thawed once so portioning out your prepped ingredients or freezer meals in individual serving sizes is a great way to prevent food waste down the line.
3. Press Out All the Air First
Freezer burn is not super appetizing but it can be avoided by simply not letting air touch the food in the freezer in the first place. If you’re using freezer bags, put a straw in the corner of the bag and gently suck out the air as you close it up.
4. Always Label and Date Your Food
Sure, you think you’ll be able to tell the difference between carrots and sweet potatoes and even remember that you froze them in November but six months later you might be singing a different tune. And since different foods have different expiration dates in the freezer, you’ll be doing yourself a big favor if you simply label and date food before you stow it away.
5. Don’t OverLoad or Underload your Freezer
Too much food in the freezer can prevent air circulation and too little food can make your freezer work overtime and ramp up your energy usage and bill.
- Make your plant-based dinner meal prep go much faster on those busy weeknights by freezing already cooked ingredients for later use.
- Items to always keep in your freezer : cooked rice, fresh produce, chopped herbs and minced garlic, vegan pancakes and french toast, cooked beans, and soups and broths.
- Always let your cooked food cool off before you freeze it, portion out your food before freezing, press out all the air in your freezer baggies, label and date your food, and try not to overload or underload your freezer!
By Ali Brown
Ali is a mom, wife, and nutrition and lifestyle writer and editor. She has her Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.