Every time I blog about a Baking Day or a Freezer Cooking Day, I invariably get a multitude of questions that go like this:
Can you tell me how you package the meals for freezing them? Do you just put them in a metal 9×13 and then cover the top with tin foil? Does this keep out freezer burn for you?
I'm wondering if you use aluminum baking pans? I want to make up a bunch of stuff, but then I'd have to go out and buy a bunch of throw away pans for it…I've done it before. Now that I've cut my budget in half for groceries, I'm wondering if there is a way around this?
It appears that you have frozen many items in the dish that they will ultimately be baked in; do you purchase additional dishes just for freezing? do you use foil pans? do you just own a billion more dishes than I do? I'm just curious as to your freezer storage method – not so much the wrap in foil/use a freezer bag, but do you use all your dishes and how do you fit them all in your freezer along with milk, butter, etc. that you seem to stock up on and freeze throughout the month?
For a number of months, I've just pretty much avoided these questions because I didn't really know what you'd think of me if I answered them. But I decided this Freezer Cooking Day it was high time I come clean on this whole freezing thing and what I do.
Are you ready for this?
I have no idea what I'm doing. Seriously. There really is no precise method to my madness; I just work with what I have and do the best I know how.
I'm not much of a "follow-the-directions" kind of gal (which is one reason I have a very hard time following recipes exactly!) so it's rather comical anyone is coming to me for advice–especially when it comes to cooking. I have a long history of flopped dinners. In fact, growing up, many of my family members were afraid to eat anything I made for fear of what it might taste like or be made of.
Practice has provided much progress in my cooking abilities, but I still have huge room for improvement. And as far as freezing goes, I'm just learning as I go.
So I'm probably not the person to go to if you're looking for specific and detailed instructions on how to freeze food. But I hope that my admission encourages you: it doesn't take much skill or knowledge or know-how to make up food for your freezer. It just takes some energy, some perseverance, and the willingness to make a few mistakes along the way!
Of course, I think it's helpful to check out books from your library on freezer cooking (you can see a few of my favorites here). But I think book-learning is almost always trumped by hands-on learning.
Now that I've confessed I don't know what I'm doing, here are the answers to your questions as far as what I do when it comes to freezing: I usually freeze half of the meals in the pans they'll be cooked in and half the meals in freezer bags laid flat (to conserve space). I usually try to use the meals in pans first as they are more prone to freezer burn. But I've rarely had a problem with this so long as they are sealed well.
I sometimes use a few foil pans–if I have some on hand–but most often, I just use freezer bags and glass or metal pans. I don't have a huge collection of pans (I'm a minimalist, remember?), but since I won't be doing much cooking because most of our meals are already made and frozen, I can tie up most of my pans for a little while without even missing them. I do try to make sure I set aside at least two pans of some sort since I usually have something or other I have to cook each week!
This is what works for me and for our family. It may not work at all for you or yours so please do what works for you. Amy has a post here with a freezing method that works for her. If you're the type who needs to have a detailed freezing tutorial, I'm sure they are out there. I've just never taken the time to look! (I take that back. I just did a quick search and found many different tutorials, including this one which is rather comprehensive.)
Think you're up for some cooking ahead (and I hope this week inspired you to save time and money by doing so!)? Don't be intimidated! Just start small, make a plan, work the plan, and learn as you go. You'll improve a little bit each time until you're soon an accomplished Freezer Cooking Pro!
Who says you have to have a big deep freeze to cook ahead? I don't! You know all the meals I made earlier this week? All 21 dinners plus 14 breakfasts? That's them all stashed in my over-the-fridge freezer along with some frozen veggies and bread. Get creative with your freezer space and you can probably do a lot more with it than you once thought possible! I know that's certainly been the case for me!