A freezer is a wonderful tool that can save you time – and money! Freezer cooking is one of my favorite ways to save time and money.
I love knowing I can stock up on sales and have the space to freeze food as I plan ahead. A freezer is a great tool and a frugal cook’s best friend. If you don’t have an extra freezer, you can certainly follow these principles in your regular freezer. A freezer, in my humble opinion, is certainly worth the initial investment.
When you are getting started with freezer cooking, I know it can be overwhelming so here is a quick introduction to freezer cooking.
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What foods can you freeze?
This list is almost endless. Some of the freezer highlights include the following.
- Chocolate Chips
- Baked Goods
- Meat (Raw and Cooked)
- Shredded Cheese
What foods can’t you freeze?
In my experience, there are very few things you can’t freeze. Here are a couple foods I would not recommend freezing.
- Eggs in shells
- Soft cheeses
But when in doubt? Give your freezer a chance! Some things do separate (like sour cream) when freezing, but if you are using it for cooking, there is not a problem with it.
You never know until you try how well things will freeze so give it a try!
When you are getting starting with freezer cooking, there are four simple rules to remember.
1. Label foods clearly.
There is nothing worse than pulling out a package from your freezer and trying to guess if it is tomato sauce or tomato soup. You don’t want to have to guess when looking at your freezer.
Always label the food you are freezing.
I use a sharpie and write directly on bags when I am prepping food for the freezer.
If it is meat, I write the amount – such as 4 cups diced chicken. If it is a cooked casserole or complete freezer meal, I write the name on top of the foil or bag as well as any cooking directions I need to know. This is a quick time saving trick as well.
You can also tape a label on top of a metal or glass container, if you don’t want to ruin your container.
However you do it, label the food in your freezer.
2. Package freezer foods in disposable containers and Ziploc bags.
There are very few incidents when I use my good glass Pyrex pans for freezer cooking. The reason? I don’t know when I will be cooking that meal and I don’t want to tie up a pan for who knows how long.
Instead, I rely on Ziploc bags of all sizes and other disposable containers when I am freezer cooking.
I use sandwich and quart size Ziploc bags for meats. The sandwich size is perfect for holding one pound of hamburger. I can put 4 sandwich bags inside a gallon size bag for an extra layer of freezer protection. It also keeps my cooked meats organized, as I tend to cook 1o to 20 pounds of meat in any given freezer cooking session.
Gallon size Ziploc bags are perfect for complete slow cooker dump and go meals.
I also like to use the disposable foil pans for freezer cooking. They are perfect for taking a meal straight from the freezer to the fridge to the oven. When I am taking a meal to a family, I always put it in disposable containers so they don’t have to worry about dishes or returning pans.
You can find disposable pans anywhere. Obviously, your grocery store is a logical place to start watching for sales on disposable pans. I bought a large box at Gordon’s of the 8 by 14 casserole size that came with lids. Sam’s and Costco also carry this size. My pie pans and smaller pans, I find the best deals at the dollar store where I can often get 3 pie pans for a $1. Amazon also runs good deals if you are serious about stocking up on freezer cooking supplies.
3. Stock your freezer when you find a good sale.
Having a freezer with food bought on sale is one of the absolute best ways to save on your grocery bill! Butter on sale at Christmas? Stock your freezer. Find a good deal on meat? Buy as much as your budget allows.
I try to rarely buy meat when it is full price. When I find a good sale, I buy more than what we will use just that week. I buy as much as my budget allows and freeze some for future meals. Not only does this save me money, but it allows me to open the freezer and have my choice of meats for dinner.
4. Take your time.
Learning to freezer cook doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t fully stock your freezer in one day. Take your time and you will be successful.
Yes, there are freezer cooking methods that encourage you to set aside a whole day to freezer cooking. You can do that – but I know most of us don’t have the time or energy to do so.
You can also adopt the more practical approach of cooking once and eating twice. This is my favorite freezer cooking strategy. With this method, you double your evening meal recipe – eating half now and freezing the other portion for a later meal.
If you start doubling your meals, you will slowly but surely fill your freezer with foods your family loves to eat. You aren’t making any more mess than normal because you are already preparing one meal. It just involves a little extra bit of time – that will save you time in the future.
Then, as time allows, set aside on hour or two on occasion to cook a bunch of hamburger for the freezer or prep some other ingredients you use regularly. By combining these two methods, I keep my freezer filled with minimal time and effort.