Guest Post by Jessica from LifeasMOM
“I’d love to do freezer cooking, but I don’t have a freezer.”
Sound familiar? Well, today we’re going to dispel the myth. You can practice bulk cooking even if you have small storage space. Really and truly. Want to see how?
For the record, that is a 10 cubic foot freezer into which I placed 20+ meals and still had extra space. The meals were varied, from casseroles to sauces to chili to marinated meats. Let me explain in more detail how you can make this work for you.
The first time I attempted once-a-month cooking, I was pregnant with our first child. We lived in a 250-sq ft studio apartment and were learning a lot about making the most of small storage space. How we fit three of us in that one room is a testimony to God’s grace and creative thinking. My freezer cooking experience was no different. Our refrigerator was the smallest they made that still had an independent freezer. It was one (small) step up from a dorm fridge. Yet, I was regularly able to store 30-40 meals in the freezer. Granted, I was only feeding two adults, but if we do the math, even that small freezer would hold 15 – 20 meals for a family of 4.
How is this possible?
- Start with a mostly empty freezer. You are probably not going to be able to store several weeks’ worth of meals in your refrigerator/freezer if it already has multiple boxes of ice cream, loaves of bread, and packages of hamburger. Consider “eating from your pantry” so that you can reduce what is already there. If you have a stockpile of frozen meats and poultry, those are going to be the building blocks of your freezer meals. Research meals that you can make ahead using those proteins. You don’t need much extra space for these meals. You’re simply going to take the frozen hamburger out, thaw it, cook it up, give it a makeover and put it back where it was.
- Use freezer bags. Ziptop freezer bags, designed for cold temperatures and durability are able to hold many different kinds of frozen foods. These are especially useful for meats in marinades, taco fillings, pizza dough, and even thicker stews and chilis. As you cool, label and freeze the food in these bags, seal them tightly and lay them flat in your freezer. Once they are frozen, you will be able to stand them on end and line them up like books on a shelf, making the best use of your storage space. Make sure that you remove as much excess air as possible to avoid freezer burn.
- Use like-shaped plastic containers. For more liquid meals, like pasta sauce, use containers that are all the same shape and size. These will stack the best and make the best use of your space. Square boxes are more efficient than round, but use what you have and look for other complements on sale in future months.
- Stack like with like. This is probably obvious, but bears repeating. If you have three 9×13 pans, stack those one on top of each other. Not only will those meals be easy to find, but you’ll make the most of your space.
- Consider freezing meals in components. You might not have room for 15-20 casseroles to fit in your freezer, but you don’t have to freeze it all together. You can freeze some meal components separately. For instance, when Crystal made my Slab Apple Pies, she froze each layer in a separate ziptop bag. This enabled her to have much more flexibility with her storage space; she could move the separate bags around and fit them where there was space, rather than have to find a way for a 9×13 pan to fit.
You don’t have to have a free-standing freezer to make Freezer Cooking work for you. Sure, it helps. But, you can make the most of what you have and still enjoy homemade convenience foods.
– Jessica Fisher, also known as FishMama, regularly feeds her freezer so that she can feed the hungry masses who call her “Mom.” She posts daily about life’s joys and challenges at LifeasMOM and shares delicious ways to act your wage at Good Cheap Eats.