It's all about how you pack your food.
By clicking one of our links you're supporting our labs and our independence, as we may earn a small share of revenue. Recommendations are separate from any business incentives.
Meal prepping can be a great way to save time and money—if you do it the right way, that is. Do it the wrong way, and you could end up ruining hundreds of dollars of food, which is what one man found out the hard way.
According to a Reddit user, he packed 400 (!!) portions of food in glass jars for his family, only to open the freezer in a couple of months and find that nearly 100 of them had exploded. What did he do wrong? Below is the major meal-prep mistake this man made and how to avoid it for yourself, plus some of our favorite products to make the process easier.
The secret to not ending up with exploded jars and ruined meals in your freezer? Don't overfill your containers. In his Reddit post, the man explained that he filled his jars just below the rim, which didn't allow the food enough room to expand as it froze. Instead, you should fill your jars only to the "shoulder," which is where it begins to curve upwards to the top. A good rule of thumb for other containers is to leave at least half an inch of headspace at the top.
Make sure you have a plan before you begin so you don't end up with too much (or too little). List out exactly what you'll be making and check that you have all the ingredients on hand. Tip: Stick to meals that freeze well, our kitchen & cooking editor, Valerie Li, recommends. "I've found that roasted veggies often times don't freeze or thaw well and I've had to toss out the mushy veggies in my lunchbox," she says. "My suggestion is to make a list of meal prep items that can stay in a fridge/freezer, such as stir-fry, soups/stews, fried rice/quinoa, curries."
How you store your finished meals matters, too. Rather than flimsy plastic containers or a haphazard foil wrapping, opt for containers that seal tightly to prevent freezer burn or spoiling. And don't forget to label and date said containers so in six months, you know exactly what's thawing for dinner.
First things first: Choose your containers wisely. That means pick glass over plastic if possible, since it's safer and won't leach potentially harmful chemicals into your food. "I swear by the Prep Naturals Glass Meal Prep Containers because they keep my dishes fresh and I can see exactly what is in there when I stack them up in my fridge," Valerie explains.
And as for the actual process of cooking and preparing all your meals, Valerie loves to use her Le Creuset 5.5-quart Dutch oven. "It does a great job keeping my food evenly cooked and it cooks delicious stews," she says. Other good options for big-batch cooking include a slow cooker (like our favorite, the Cuisinart 3-in-1 Multi-Cooker) or the wildly popular Instant Pot.
Sign up for our newsletter to get real advice from real experts.