A Beginner’s Guide to Freezer Cooking

A Beginner's Guide to Freezer Cooking

Think you might be interested in trying your hand at freezer cooking? Here are some suggestions for starting off successfully:

1) Start Small

If you’ve never done any freezer cooking before, I’d recommend starting with no more than two recipes at first. You’re probably capable of much more, but start small and gradually work up from there.

2) Pick Recipes You Already Know You Love

If you want to love the recipes you stick in the freezer, make sure you pick recipes you already know your family loves. There will be time for experimenting later, but wait until you feel really confident with freezer cooking before you branch out and try a bunch of new recipes.

Not sure your favorite recipe will freeze well? Check my list of what freezes well in my free Freezer Cooking ebook.

3) Set Aside at Least an Hour for Cooking

Set aside sometime during the week or on the weekend when you have a free hour and plan to do your cooking then. Make sure that you have a solid hour or more set aside for the cooking so that you’re not in a rush. Rushing around trying to get things done before you have to go somewhere only sets you up for failure.

4) Have a Plan for Your Children

If you have young children, make sure you have a plan for what they’ll be doing while you’re cooking, too. The last thing you need is to have your first freezer cooking experience be an exercise in frustration due to constant interruptions from needy little people.

Afternoon naptime might be the best time to do your freezer cooking. Or, you could do it on the weekends when daddy or grandma can watch the children. If neither one of those are an option, consider putting together some Busy Bags or Day of the Week tubs to be brought out only during freezer cooking times.

Freezer-Friendly Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

5) Wrap Things Well

Want to ruin your yummy food? Don’t let it cool, don’t wrap it well, and don’t package it up in an airtight manner. All three of these things almost guarantee that your foods will develop freezer burn.

6) Make Sure to Use What You Cook in a Timely Manner

It’s wonderful to have food at-the-ready in the freezer, but it does you no good if you don’t actually use it. Make sure to eat it within 2-3 months, if not before.

I always consult my freezer when planning our weekly menu and incorporating some of the meals — especially those that need to be used up soon — into our weekly menu.

Need some tried and true freezer recipes for your first freezer cooking experiment? Here are a few of our most-loved freezer cooking recipes:

::Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
::Banana Bread
::Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
::Brown Bag Burritos
::Ham & Cheese Pockets
::World’s Easiest Marinated Chicken
::And don’t forget to check out all of my posts so far in the 4 Weeks to Fill Your Freezer series.

What advice and tips do you have for someone who is brand-new to freezer cooking?

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Comments

  1. Amanda says

    Ok I hate to ask again, but I’m trying to remember a freezer wrap recipe you posted awhile back. It wasn’t the southwest chicken roll ups, because I know it didn’t have refined beans. The burritos were sprayed with Pam before they went into the oven. I hope you it a reader can help me remember, Crystal! Thanks

      • Amanda says

        Your’s is the only blog I read (and ones that you link to)! I think Brandy has it right (if you link to Mel’s Kitchen?) I’m a happy camper tho!

      • Amanda says

        This has got to be it! I guess i froze my extras since its just me and the little one. Thanks Brandy!

        • Tami says

          Thanks, Amanda and Brandy! I made the Crispy Southwest Chicken Wraps once before when Crystal linked to them. My family loved the meal and my son mentioned it recently, but I could not remember where exactly to find the recipe.

    • amy says

      I don’t even use the spray or butter. They taste great and are better for you.

  2. says

    While I rarely have an opportunity to devote a lot of time to freezer cooking, my freezer is still stocked because I just integrate freezer cooking into my usual dinner routine. If I’m making something I know will save well (soups, taco meat, twice baked potatoes, etc), I will just make a double batch and freeze the remainder. It is not much more time or effort to just double a recipe.

    It also pays to know *when* to freeze a dish for optimal freshness upon thawing. For breads, I freeze before the second rise, and defrost, let rise, and bake. For enchiladas, lasagnas, other casseroles, etc, I assemble, cover with sauce, and freeze. I don’t freeze after cooking, since I have found them to taste very “leftovery” upon thawing if pre-cooked.

  3. says

    I agree to start small with something you know. Cookie dough is the best start I agree. Even dicing up some veggies that are about to go bad and freezing them is a great way to help save you money and have meal prep at least started.

  4. says

    Those are all great pieces of advice. I would add to wear sneakers or comfortable shoes and give yourself small breaks if you are going to be cooking all day. Standing on your feet all day in the kitchen can lend to a very sore and tired mommy at night time. I always make sure to wear sneakers.

    Also, I would add not to over look the concept of meal starters. A lot of times people think you need to cook up these huge meals for freezer cooking. However, many times I will put together bags of shredded chicken, marinated chicken, seasoned ground beef, slow cooker freezer starters, and others meal starters. This helps cut cooking time in half or more when I want to get dinners ready during the week. Most of the time just having prepped meat is half the battle.

    Thanks Crystal for all that you do!!

    • Meredith says

      I agree with the meal starters idea with a different concept. I don’t cook actual freezer “meals” because we don’t like the taste of frozen cooked meat. However, just cutting up peppers and onions for stir fry, beans, rice, noodles, fresh meat etc., and freezing can save you a ton of time!

  5. Kathy says

    I pre-cook many items … par-boiled chicken breasts, chicken strips, potato planks, shake and bake pork chops, grilled chicken breasts w/olive oil and garlic … beef-a-roni, chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy … cornmeal breaded whiting … parmesan and bread crumb coated talapia … potatoe cakes … salmon (or mackeral) patties, meatloaf, baked macaroni and cheese, sauerkraut, etc. There is only the two of us so I am not making tons of food but I am making 3 to 4 times as much as normal to put in the freezer. Making our own convenience food helps me and my husband on the nights I don’t have time or can’t be home to fix a meal. This way he still gets a home cooked meal and can mix and match whatever he wants.

  6. Becky says

    We love to mix up pumpkin chic chip muffin batter & freeze in a ziploc bag. Just thaw, clip the corner & squeeze into muffin pan. SO easy! Love having something ready to bake whenever I need it.

  7. says

    I really do quite a bit of cooking, but I always make large batches and freeze all the leftovers in single serving containers so my husband can take them to work for lunch or pop something in the microwave if I’m not home for dinner. Works great, but you have to have a large inventory of little containers. ( I save every salsa container that comes my way!) Thanks for all the great tips!!

    • Kathy says

      I used to do that too … but I have found if I freeze individual servings on a baking sheet and then place in a ziplock bag it is easier to store and I don’t have to have a ton of containers available … when the bag is empty … I make sure my husband puts the empty bag back in the freezer in the bottom and when I get around to making that particlar food item again I reuse the bag.

  8. says

    You forgot a very important step! Label everything very well. I am paying the price right now for not labeling LOL.

  9. Marcelaine says

    Keep the food visible enough that you won’t forget about it. Before one of my sisters was born, I remember my mom made several dinners and put them in the freezer so she would have some easy meals ready to make after the baby came. They were placed in casserole dishes and carefully stashed at the very bottom of one of the tall freezers. Two babies later, my mom was going through the freezer and I found her sitting on the floor laughing and holding a couple of casserole dishes of four-year-old frozen food.

  10. Brandi says

    I started out by cooking a little extra. Cooking a bit more chicken, make a few more hamburger patties, chopping the rest of the peppers and and tossing them in the freezer; I feel having the ingredients ready to go helps just as much as pulling out full meals. Look for sales on freezable containers. I found a buy one get one sale at Walgreens and capitalized on it (yes, not someplace I would have thought to look at initially). Good containers make a huge difference, labels are really important.

  11. stephanie says

    Another vote for meal starters. Whenever I make stir fry I make a triple batch of my stir fry sauce and I freeze the extra two portions in jars. Pair that with uncooked meat thinly sliced from the freezer and it makes a fresh stir fry so much easier! I like to use fresh veggies but with sauce and meat prep out of the way it goes much faster.

  12. Amy R. says

    With grilling season upon us, the “meal starters” are huge for us right now. Whatever meat I find on sale gets put into a ziploc with any number of our favorite marinades. Then, each day, we just decide what we want to grill the next night, pull it out and put it in the fridge, and it is ready to be grilled when hubby gets home!

  13. Robin says

    I want to start freezer cooking and am wondering what kind of freezer is the best to get — a chest freezer or an upright freezer?

    • says

      I’d start with your over-the-fridge freezer and do what you can with it (we didn’t have a deep freeze for a long time and I just learned to freeze things flat in bags and maximize the space).

    • says

      If you know you’ll use it and are already planning a big freezer purchase anyway, I would HEARTILY recommend an upright freezer! Contents in an upright freezer are much more easily accessible…seriously…imagine emptying out the contents of your entire chest freezer, and then standing on your tippy toes to lean over and try to reach the very bottom of the inside. Not so fun. We got an upright to replace our chest freezer as soon as we could. But, we use our freezer for a lot of stuff (such as freezing some of our garden veggies, etc.)

    • says

      CHEST (deep freeze)… less freezer burnt foods, better use of energy. Just keep it organized and it’s easy to use. I custom made a three section cardboard box on 1/3 of my chest freezer to store ground beef & prepared meatloaf or taco meat, steaks & roasts, & chicken (prepared & unprepared). between that I have a two section box holding veggies & fruits. then the last 1/3 houses frozen loaves of bread & tortillas & bags of shredded cheese. Then I have two baskets that hang up top holding juices, prepared pancakes, baby purees (when I need those), prepared soups, etc. Works really well. I was so glad when I replaced my upright for a chest freezer! :)

        • says

          I know, right! :) that’s why i figured i’d put my two cents too! It really is a matter of preference. I thought i’d hate my chest (freezer) while pregnant because of having to lean in with a big belly, but I didn’t! anyway… hope that helped anyway!

  14. Robin says

    Well, I know I need a bigger freezer and have been wanting to upgrade for a while. I was just wondering if people like chests or upright freezers better.

    • says

      My tip: full on freezer cooking entire meals may not be for everyone. I do not keep entire meals in the freezer, just because I’m personally not a fan. But, you can still use freezer cooking in smaller ways.

      1. When I get hamburger, I buy a huge family pack and brown it all together and freeze in freezer bags. Then, when I need it for spaghetti sauce, chili, tacos, goulash, homemade hamburger helper, etc…all I have to do is thaw what I need and I’m ready to go. I really love not having the mess of frying hamburger all the time, and the convenience it offers of making my meal so much faster.

      2. Chicken. I do the same thing with chicken. I cook a lot of it together. I freeze entire breasts (add some veggies and you have a meal!), I cut some into strips and grill w/ seasoning for salads, quesadillas, chicken wraps, etc, and shred some for chicken & dumplings, soups, etc.

      3. Cookies. I prefer to make homemade cookies, but being on a diet, etc. I don’t like to make an entire batch at a time, so I’ll make about a dozen at a time and freeze the rest.

      I’m sure there is more, but if freezer cooking entire meals is overwhelming to you (or if you’re like me and just don’t want to), know that you can still use the principles to save you time and make meal preparation more convenient.

  15. says

    Excellent article! I especially love that you encouraged readers to start small! I really do think that is key! I have been freezer cooking for a while but failed the first few times because I was too ambitious! I think that is one of the best little bits of advice about freezer cooking! :)

  16. Megan says

    Make a freezer inventory! I have one in my Home Management Binder, but I usually keep a copy on the side of the fridge as well. If I pre-make meals, it’s easier for me to see the contents on a list than by peering into the freezer- this also helps with meal planning for the week. I also put shorthand instructions on my inventory list (e.g. “3: Lasagna Casseroles- Heat at 425 for 30 mins”) in case my not-a-cook-at-all fellow has to do dinner that night. Once we both learned to cross out anything we used, the freezer inventory was a big help!

  17. kimme says

    I’m excited to start freezer cooking. Usually for meals I’d double or triple the batch (instead of cooking for us 2 I cook double or triple the amount) so that I can freeze the rest.