Filling Up My Freezer – Freezer Cooking Basics

There is an entire corner of the Internet devoted to freezer cooking – good chance you’ve been lost in that rabbit hole more than once. So I’ve knocked it down into a few easy steps for you here:

Prep

  • First step, clean out your freezer. Any freezer will work for freezer prep, but the more organized it is, the better. Make yourself some space.
  • Make yourself a list. What will your family eat nearly any time with no complaints? Figure out how to freeze that!
  • Decide the night before what you are going to eat – simply take it out of the freezer and leave in the fridge to defrost a bit overnight.

Materials

  • Buy the good freezer bags – they are less likely to leak. You’ll want to have gallon and quart size on hand, and only use those.
  • Buy cheap plastic containers – anything from a dollar store will do. You will probably only use these once or twice, and it’s better not to waste your money.
  • Find some cookie sheets you can spare, and a Sharpie or two (those suckers are good for so.many.things.)

Pro Tips

  • Almost all of the meat will go straight from frozen, either onto the grill or into a crockpot.
  • When you are freezing items, lay the baggies on the cookie sheets before you put them in the freezer. This will allow everything to freeze “flat” and make stacking meals in your freezer easier.
  • Label EVERYTHING. Also make sure to include basic cooking instructions to yourself.
  • If you are going to use a crockpot, make sure the plastic container you use to freeze will fit in your crockpot insert. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a frozen block of food that you can’t put in the crockpot!
  • If you have a friend that could benefit from a home-cooked meal for whatever reason, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to grab a meal out of the freezer and bless them with it.

Double Up

  • Anytime you are cooking a meal, ask yourself: Will this freeze? If it will, DO IT. Some of my favorites to double are muffins, homemade spaghetti sauce, macaroni and cheese, taco meat, grilled chicken breast, chili and any soup I make.

Meat

  • This is the biggest time saver. I buy meat in bulk – either for a two-week or full month period. If you’ve got meat prepped, and a grill or crockpot, you can get a hot dinner on the table in under 30 minutes.

Chicken

  • I buy it, then cut it up three ways and drop into plastic containers in the freezer
  • Full breasts: I cut breasts into two thinner pieces. I freeze them with either salt and pepper, BBQ sauce or “wing” sauce. These are great for grilling.
  • Thin slices: these are easy to cook up for stir fry or toss on a salad by simply sautéing in olive oil or soy sauce.
  • Chunks: these are great for making “chicken nuggets” or adding some protein to basically anything. I season them with salt and pepper and cook them in a skillet with a little olive oil. Add some ketchup and the kids are happy, or serve them with BBQ sauce if you’re feeling fancy.

Pork

  • Pork chops freeze SUPER easily with any seasoning or marinade on them. Toss them in the crockpot with BBQ sauce to make BBQ sandwiches.
  • Pork Tenderloin: go ahead and remove from any packaging, season and stick in a baggie with seasoning and a little olive oil. Put frozen in a crockpot with ¼ cup of water, and you’ll come home to tender meat, ready to serve with rice and vegetables.

Hamburger

  • We use patty hamburgers and season with salt and pepper; these are great for a last minute cookout.
  • I cook hamburgers and season them with taco seasoning to keep frozen; grab some tortillas and you can make tacos in under five minutes.
  • You can also add already cooked hamburger meat to macaroni and cheese and toddlers are more than likely to eat it.

Fruit

  • My husband loves smoothies, but they require frozen fruit. Anytime we have leftover bananas or strawberries, I cut them up, freeze on a cookie sheet (to keep the pieces separated) and we have a plastic container of “smoothie fruit” ready to go in the freezer.

Easy Recipes

If you’ve got time to fully prep a few meals, here are some of my favorite easy ones:

Breakfast Burritos – two-dozen eggs, one pound breakfast sausage, ½ jar salsa, one bag shredded cheese. Cook sausage, drain, scramble with the eggs. Stir in salsa and cheese, wrap 2-3 spoonfuls in large tortillas as a burrito. Wrap in foil and freeze. Reheat in microwave three minutes. I generally get 12 – 14 out of two-dozen eggs.

Meatballs – two pounds ground beef, 1/2 cup bread crumbs, one egg, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, three tablespoons Italian seasoning, one teaspoon garlic salt. Mix it all together, roll out balls, put in glass baking dish. Bake at 350F until cooked through (roughly 30 minutes). Freeze on cookie sheet. These reheat in spaghetti sauce while it’s heating up on the stove.

Chili – one pound ground beef, browned. One onion, chopped – cook it with the ground beef. Toss in a crockpot with two large cans of tomato sauce and two cans of chili beans. Season with three tablespoons chili powder, one teaspoon salt, one teaspoon pepper. Cook on low in crockpot for 6-8 hours, or on stovetop, bring it to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes. If you’re from the North, you won’t think it’s weird that we serve it over spaghetti. Chili freezes really well and goes right back in the crockpot to reheat.

Chicken Tacos/Nachos/Burritos – four chicken breasts, one can drained black beans, one can Rotel and two tablespoons taco seasoning. You can put this in a baggie in the freezer, and toss in crockpot when you’re ready OR crockpot on low for eight hours. Shred the mixture and use it for tacos, nachos or burritos. Leftovers freeze great.

Macaroni – I use this super easy recipe and get three dinners out of it. It freezes well, and I reheat it covered at 450F for about 30 minutes. Just use packaged cheese to save a step.


Resources

Two of my favorite resources (and where I’ve learned just about everything above) are Once a Month Meals and A Year of Slow Cooking.

What is your favorite freezer meal?

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