I have never done a marathon cooking session and then frozen multiple meals, but I still get my freezer working for me. You do not have to own a large freezer to take advantage of these ideas. Having a few of these items in your freezer can save you lots of time, without taking up much space. Here are five ways to use your freezer to save time and money.
1. Freeze cooked/prepped meats – I buy large packs of hamburger, but often only use about half or less of the pack when I brown it out. By storing the rest of the browned meat in the freezer I have meat ready for Nachos, spaghetti sauce, tacos, or Enchiladas all ready to go, saving me time later. Some recipes call for browning an onion with the meat. This can still be frozen, I just mark it that onion is included.
Similarly, I often bake a whole pack of boneless chicken breasts then shred and freeze the meat in casserole size quantities. I’ve done this with whole chickens too, but it’s not as easy as dumping the pack of frozen chicken breasts in a dish and popping it into the oven.
Other meats that can be prepped and frozen include bacon, browned sausage meat, and leftover ham. Seasoned taco meat is also good to freeze for use later in a mexican casserole. Having the meat prepped really decreases the time needed to fix a meal.
2. Freeze part of a meal – Whenever I make meatballs, I have more than I need. Popping them in a ziplock freezer bag makes for a quick meal later. They can dress up a jar of store-bought spaghetti sauce. The same principal applies to Stuffed Shells. If I’m making them for just my family, we don’t need them all. I can freeze half of the shells, to be assembled with sauce and baked another time. Leftover meatloaf can be sliced and frozen, then re-heated with a jar of brown gravy.
3. Freeze whole meals – My article on Vacation Food has some excellent ideas for casseroles that freeze well. Most casseroles and baked pastas can be frozen and baked later in the oven. Meatloaf can also be mixed up and then frozen raw, to be baked later.
4. Cook once, eat twice – Some meals make more than a family can eat or are easily doubled. I like to make big pots of soup and freeze half for later. Taco soup is perfect for this. The second half of the soup is the right amount for heating in the crockpot. Most soups freeze well, but I avoid freezing cream-based soups. Spaghetti Sauce is another recipe that makes more than we can consume in one meal. Again, the crockpot comes in handy for reheating the leftovers.
5. Freeze breads and baked goods – Having extra baked goods in the freezer always makes me happy. Knowing that I have several loaves of Depression Era Bread for breakfast or to round out a meal, is security. I like to make double batches of muffins and freeze them. They can be eaten one at a time out of the freezer, heating them in the microwave for a few seconds. They make a good snack for the kids or a quick breakfast.
Cookies can be frozen in ziplock bags. This keeps us from eating all the cookies at once. I’ve also frozen cake layers, to be frosted later. Even whole, frosted cakes can be frozen if you have the freezer space to do it.
Always label foods with the date and name of the food when you store it. Keeping a sharpie marker in the kitchen for this purpose is helpful. Some people keep a freezer inventory to avoid losing foods in the cold, dark recesses. Lost, unidentifiable and old foods are a waste of time and money.
What are your favorite foods to freeze? What have you found that works for you (or doesn’t work) when it comes to freezing foods?