Jan 25, 2018

Getting Started with Freezer Cooking

You don't need a lot to get started with freezer cooking. In this latest installment in our new freezer meals series, I'll share some ways to quickly build up your stash of freezer meals, as well as supplies that you might find handy. (Note: This post contains some affiliate links that help support this site at no additional cost to you. Thank you for using them! You can read CFO's full disclosure here.)

Getting Started with Freezer Cooking

How to Build a Stockpile of Freezer Meals

The easiest, fastest way to put some meals away in the freezer is to double or triple what you're already making. For example, I find assembling lasagna time-consuming and laborious, so I never make one at a time. I always make at least two, and if I have enough ingredients and pans, I'll make three. I'll bake one to eat right away, and freeze the other(s).

Another easy way to add to your freezer stash is to turn leftovers into a new meal, such as enchiladas. I always have some meat leftover when I make beef or chicken tacos, so I pull out some frozen tortillas, a can of refried beans, a pouch of enchilada sauce (this brand is our favorite), and some shredded cheese - all ingredients I almost always have on hand - and make a pan of enchiladas that I freeze for a future meal. I've heard some people have a "catch-all" container for leftovers in their freezer and when it's full, they make a pot of soup with the contents.

One way of acquiring meals that requires a little more work and planning, but also can be lots of fun, is to do a meal swap with friends. Everyone makes enough meals for everyone else to take home, so if there are five of you, you each get four meals plus the one you made yourself. I have been wanting to do this for a while now, and this series has inspired me to finally corral my friends into it!

Finally, the way I most often stockpile meals is a freezer meal prep session that lasts anywhere from a half hour to three hours, depending on what I'm making. This usually happens when I've bought a lot of meat at once, either from Costco or discounted at Ralphs or Target. For instance, I recently picked up four pounds of ground turkey at a great price, and made a meatloaf, bolognese sauce, turkey burgers, and chili, all of which went into the freezer. It's a little more time-consuming than the other ways discussed, but still faster than making each meal separately, since I'm chopping, cooking, and so on, all in one go.

Supplies to Help Make Freezer Meals

You don't need anything fancy to make freezer meals, but you do need some basic supplies so you can freeze the meals. Here are some things that will make it easy:
  • Baking pans - I have multiple ceramic and glass baking pans, but if that's too much of an investment for you, you could always go with foil pans. If you opt for foil, check out how Andrea Dekker stacks her pans in the freezer.

  • Plastic wrap - Stretch-tite is apparently the premier brand, and I get the giant rolls at Costco, which last me many months, if not a year or two. Good plastic wrap is important to prevent freezer burn and properly preserve your meals.

  • Aluminum foil - Foil is also important for properly storing your meals in the freezer. Heavy duty foil is nice (I order the large roll from Amazon), but not a requirement. FYI, I cover my pans with one layer of plastic wrap, then with a layer of foil.

  • Zip top bags - I'm not picky about brands, although I would go with name-brand bags since they tend to be thicker and therefore less likely to tear. I've actually been really impressed with the quality of the bags from IKEA.

  • Food storage bag holders - These are absolutely not a requirement but I have this Joakri set and love them. If you're freezing meals in zip top bags, the holders will definitely make your life easier.

  • Mason jars - These are great if you're freezing liquids, like soup, pasta sauce, or milk that's about to go bad. I highly recommend straight-sided jars like these because the liquid will slide out more easily if it's still partially frozen.

  • Sharpie - You need a good marker to write on the plastic bag, foil or container. Always list the contents and the date. You'd be surprised how hard it is to remember what something is after a month!

  • Masking tape - I like to put a piece of masking tape on my containers to write on so I don't write directly on the container itself. Masking tape always comes right off, and lasts forever. I've been doing this since I started making baby food almost 13 years ago, and I'm only on roll #2!
What have I forgotten, and what tips do you have for easily adding to your freezer meal stash?

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