H-E-B Meal Simple dinners are a quick and easy way to have a fresh meal on a budget. However, plans can change pretty quickly. So what can you do if you can’t eat your H-E-B Meal Simple by the use-by date?
H-E-B does not recommend freezing your Meal Simple in its original packaging. Instead, bag it in at least two freezer bags. When cooking, do not thaw. Bake at the recommended temperature for five extra minutes.
A Meal Simple dinner tastes best when eaten within 1-3 days, but it can still taste delicious if frozen properly. Read on to learn more!
Freezing H-E-B Meals Reduces Quality
Meal Simple dinners come in a variety of different recipes, but the consensus is that freezing your Meal Simple is risky.
The disposable pan and the plastic covering are not designed to withstand rigid freezer temperatures. If you freeze your Meal Simple in its original packaging, you may experience issues such as freezer burn, which would ruin the color, texture, and flavor of your meal.
If you must freeze your Meal Simple, it’s best to use a set of freezer-safe bags such as Ziplock. These can be reused, so it’s worth the investment. Simply double-bag your meal and do your best to squeeze all air out.
According to the University of Minnesota, there are three ways freezing could reduce the quality of your H-E-B Meal Simple:
- Chemical Changes
- Texture Changes
- Microbiology Growth
Vegetables contain enzymes that, when frozen, affect their color and texture. To freeze these effectively, frozen food companies blanche them in hot water for several seconds and then cool them quickly in ice water. After removing any moisture, they then freeze the vegetables.
Since H-E-B Meal Simple dishes are stored together in a single package, this is not ideal for freezing, so I would not recommend choosing any dishes with vegetables.
Changes in Tissue
Changes in tissue could also affect the quality of your meal in a big way. Plant cells hold lots of water. As a result, when you freeze your vegetables, the tissues break down. The vegetables turn mushy as they thaw out because the tissue structure of the plant has been compromised.
Microbiology growth is one of the primary reasons that could make your food unsafe. For this reason, H-E-B meals have such a short use-by date. The longer your food stays in the refrigerator, the higher the chances of microbiology growth taking place.
However, freezing doesn’t kill these microorganisms, so it’s unwise to thaw your meal before cooking.
Some H-E-B Meals Freeze Better Than Others
Some meals freeze better than others. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to tell which kind of H-E-B meals are freezer-friendly, and that’s to look at the ingredients. Most (if not all) H-E-B meals contain ingredients from each food group. Hence:
It’s Okay To Freeze Meat or Fish
Meat and fish look and taste the same after freezing, so there won’t be a problem if you go ahead and freeze them. That said, before you proceed to freeze your meal, you may want to have a look at the other ingredients listed on the package list. This way, you can tell if your Meal Simple has any red flags.
It’s Okay To Freeze Bread, Rice, and Pasta
If you purchased a little extra bread, rice or pasta H-E-B meals on your last shopping trip, you can freeze these too. Any H-E-B Meal Simple that contains bread, rice, or pasta will freeze without any issue. Besides, fresh pasta and rice keep better when stored in the freezer anyways!
It’s Okay To Freeze Some Dairy
Freezing cheese is okay, but you might experience a difference in texture. Harder cheeses like cheddar tend to become more crumbly, but they will melt just fine.
Some cheeses should be avoided, however. Avoid freezing any Meal Simple that contains yogurt, cream cheese, or mayonnaise.
Don’t Freeze Anything With Fruits and Vegetables
Don’t freeze delicate herbs, fruits, or vegetables with high water content. As such, avoid freezing any H-E-B meals with:
- Salad greens
- Whole tomatoes
- Fresh herbs
However, you can freeze fruits with small seeds, such as berries and bananas.
How To Cook a Frozen H-E-B Meal Simple
Cooking a frozen H-E-B meal won’t be that different from cooking it fresh. Simply follow the directions on the package, but add about 5 minutes to the baking time.
It’s important to note that frozen H-E-B meals should not be thawed beforehand because this could cause microorganisms to grow. Put your Meal Simple straight into the preheated oven and babysit it while it cooks.
H-E-B meals are a cost-effective way to eat a home cooked meal without having to spend time making it. However, freezing them can be unsafe if it’s done improperly.
Double-bagging your meals in freezer-safe bags and removing extra air, can help you avoid freezer burn, which could ruin your dinner’s taste, color, and texture.
It’s also important to confirm the ingredients in your Meal Simple before freezing it. It’s alright to freeze meats, fish, bread, pasta, and hard or crumbly cheeses, but avoid freezing fruits and vegetables with high water content.