With a little planning, but very little extra effort, you can stock healthy meals in your freezer. This stash will save you time and money. If your day gets derailed, reach into the freezer instead of heading for carryout.
Once you get your freezer cooking groove on, you can reduce the number of days you actually have to “cook” each week. The best part is that your family will still be eating healthful meals prepared at home. Sounds good, right?
There are many different ways to stock your freezer with meals. This post addresses one of the easiest and least time consuming methods.
Freezer Cooking Supplies
- Gallon size freezer ziplock bags
- Extra ingredients of what you are already cooking (see below)
Tips to Freeze By
- Never put hot food in the freezer. Cool on the counter or in the refrigerator if you have to.
- Air is the enemy. It is very important to try to get all of the air out of the freezer bag. You can even suck it out with a straw (yes, you can).
While meal planning, you will know which items are on sale from consulting the store flyers and/or Couponmom.com. While basing your meals around the sales, buy extra of the sale items so you can double or triple the recipes you are making.
Make Extra of the Meal You are Already Cooking
Make a double or triple batch of the meal you are cooking to put in the freezer. Here is how it might look:
Your grocery sale flyer indicates that lean ground beef or ground turkey is on sale (or even soy crumbles!). You are planning to use 1 lb to make tacos for Tuesday night.
- Buy 3 lbs and prepare all 3 lbs as you would for Tuesday night’s meal (brown it, drain the fat, add onions, seasoning, etc.).
- Remove the portion you will use for Tuesday’s dinner.
- Cool the remaining 2 portions.
- Use the Sharpie to label 2 freezer bags with the date, quantity, and recipe and divide the taco mixture into the freezer bags.
- Flatten the bags on the counter and remove all of the air from the bags. Flat bags can easily be stacked in the freezer and they take up less space than containers. Removing the air prevents freezer burn.
Now you have the start of two home cooked meals in the freezer.
Freeze Cooked Poultry
If a whole roaster or chicken parts are on sale, buy extra and cook as you normally would. Cool the “extra” chicken, remove it from the bones and portion it into the freezer bags. I would suggest freezing 2 – 4 cup portions in each bag.
You can use this chicken in a chicken pot pie, pasta dish, hearty soup, cheesy quesadillas, a one dish casserole, etc. If you cooked a whole chicken and you don’t have time to process the carcass into stock (I know it sounds gross), try to fit it into a freezer bag and freeze it so you can make stock another time.
Hamburgers, Meatballs, and Meatloaf
- Hamburger Patties – It is easy to make a few extra hamburgers, right? Just stack a few seasoned uncooked hamburgers separated by a small piece of wax paper. Then I usually wrap them in foil and store them in a freezer bag. Be sure to note the number of hamburgers on the bag.
- Meatballs – Mix up your favorite meatball recipe and bake the meatballs in the oven at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes or so. Drain the fat from the pan and cool the meatballs and the pan to room temperature. Flash freeze the meatballs by putting the tray in the freezer until they are frozen (probably about an hour depending on size). Store them in a freezer bag. Now you can pop out the desired amount. These meatballs are healthier than store bought because they don’t have MSG, soy meal, added texture and color, etc.
- Meatloaf – You can freeze a cooked or raw meatloaf. If you are already cooking a meatloaf for your meal, I suggest throwing the second meatloaf in the oven, too. Cool it to room temperature, wrap tightly in foil, and put in a freezer bag.
Lasagna and Stuffed Shells
If you are making a lasagna, just double the recipe, make two trays, and freeze one. You can use a disposable aluminum pan for the frozen lasagna or you can freeze the lasagna in the baking pan, without having to lose the pan to the freezer, using the following trick:
- Put foil at the bottom of your pan before you begin.
- Make and cool the lasagna.
- Put the lasagna in the freezer (in the pan in which it was baked).
- A few hours later, pop the frozen lasagna out of the pan (the reason for the aluminum foil at the bottom). It will keep its form.
- Wrap tightly in foil and place in a freezer bag.
- When you take the lasagna out of the freezer to defrost, put it back in the original pan. This way, you don’t lose your pan to the freezer or have to remember to buy aluminum pans.
Chili, Stew and Soup
Chili, stew and soup all freeze well. These meals are easy to portion individually and then take with you for lunch. If making individual portions, use glass containers or plastic containers made for freezing.
How can you use freezer cooking to help you save time?