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The Method to My Madness: Start Where You Are and Learn As You Go

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?

Or this:

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?

Or 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!

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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!

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74 Comments

  • Holly says:

    I had always shyed away from cooking in bulk due to lack of pans but recently heard of a great idea I tried and it worked great! Just line whatever pan you want to use with foil and put the casserole in and fold the foil over the top. Freeze and once frozen pop out the casserole and keep in your freezer until time to cook. Once you want to cook it you just put it back into the same size pan you froze it in and bake. The other great thing is that the foil keeps your pan from getting dirty!

  • holly says:

    I often (nearly weekly) batch cook and freeze. While I do have quite a few pans I will not tie them up in the freezer.

    Therefore, I line the pans w/ foil, prep and/or completly cook my dish and then freeze. When it is hard I pull it out of the pan, completly cover w/ foil and place in a freezer bag. These are flat and stack easily, plus since food does not “touch” the freezer bag I can reuse the bags.

  • Wednesdays are “meat clearance” days at our local Meijer. So instead of making a super specific plan (this time at least), I went to see what meats were on sale and stocked up. I came home and whipped up about 26 dinners for the freezer and still have enough to cook this week and most of next, without touching a single freezer meal.

    I bought Gallon size bags, although I discovered that quarts would work just fine for a family our size, and put them in the freezer flat so that they would freeze faster and be less likely to freezer burn. This seems like it will be a good system for our family. Bags are pretty cheap, so I think I’ll stick with it until something better, just as cheap, comes along!

  • diane says:

    LOL….Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • stephanie laubach says:

    I just adore you! I love your honesty! One thing that I have done that works great is to freeze the item in the pan I will be cooking it in, then remove it once its frozen & place it in the ziploc bags. That way, the item is in the exact shape of the pan for cooking & I don’t loose a pan to the freezer. If you need the pan before it is frozen solid, I have lined the pan with foil or plastic wrap, then lifted it out & repackaged it. Usually 2-4 hours is all you need for this. Happy cooking!

  • Michelle says:

    If you make something that needs to be baked in a pan, you can prepare the meal, freeze it completely and then *pop* it out of the dish and wrap it up in freezer paper or foil. When you are ready to make it to eat, just unwrap it, and put it back in the pan and bake. In the meantime, you have the pan available for other things.

    I’m always on the lookout at the thrift store for 8×8 and 9×13 pans. I can usually find them for $1.

  • Pamela says:

    Try freezing in freezer paper.
    1st when baking, bake in a parchment paper lined pan. let item(s) cool, then transfer over to a sheet of freezer paper,then bag in a freezer bag.
    I don’t normally cook in bulk, but this is how I do some of my make a head dishes, especially around the holidays.
    It allows you to have your pans back,lets you cook in the same parchment lined paper as the 1st time around,and with freezer paper, it cuts back on freezer burn.

  • Sara says:

    Wow! I am really inspired now! I always wanted to try freezer cooking, but thought it wasn’t possible since I don’t have a deep freeze. I don’t have any excuses now, after seeing all of the meals you crammed into your freezer! Thanks for all you do!

  • christine waltz says:

    Thank you for this post! It’s nice to know that the person I’m reading is a mere mortal like I am and I don’t have to feel bad if I am not able to 100% incorporate everything from all the blogs I read into my life. Thank you for reminding people about trial and error(and Thank you for showing that freezer which looks an awfully lot like mine). I didn’t try a baking day this month. I want to give my family and chance to try Chicken tettrazinni before making more than 1 batch. I remember purchasing a menu plan from a dietician that offered frugal healthy meals(along with planned out grocery lists) and over half of the meals were greeted as “too bland. It was a live and learn moment.

  • brittany says:

    I am so happy you wrote this. I have long aspired to start officialy baking days with you and feel my family as nutritionally. I think you’re wonderful and love your blog in general. So….I got an purchase everything I need to make my family’s favorite meal. Heck, i am even going to go above and beyone and make homemade whoel wheat tortillas and buns….They turned out terrible. I was so ashamed. What aws I thinking, I am no betty crocker but you inspired me to try to be.

    Needless to say, I am still going to try OAMC and love the idea, but i am going to stick to cooking things I can and buying the tortillas from the store!!

    It’s nice to know we all aren’t perfect cooks and planners!

  • charity says:

    Awesome post thanks for shareing.

  • Heather Y. says:

    I have done quite a bit of freezer cooking in the past, primarily right before our second son was born, and I have two pans. Yup, that’s it! So what I found to work really, really well was to line my glass 9×13 pan with foil, fill it with the food, then cover it with foil. Once it was mostly frozen, I could literally just lift out the meal and take my dish, leaving the meal well wrapped and all stacked nicely in the freezer. I did splurge for the heavy duty foil but this and a Sharpie were all I needed to keep my freezer organized! Because of only having two pans it took a little longer to finish up cooking day because of having to wait for some things to freeze but I also did use the freezer bag method and lay those flat as well. Hope this helps someone!

  • karey says:

    Quote: “I have no idea what I’m doing. Seriously.”

    I knew I liked you! I think we’d be real life friends 🙂

  • Bekah Brooks says:

    I really enjoy your blog – I went from a single lady to an “instant mother of 8” when I got married just over a year ago, and have definitely been soaking up as many cooking tips, recipes and shortcuts that I can find.

    One thing that I have tried that worked well, was to line the 9×13 pan (or loaf pan, whatever), with foil prior to making the recipe. Then, after the recipe is made, fold the foil over top to make a “package”, then put it in the freezer. After freezing it overnight, you can pull the frozen loaf out of the pan, and store it independently in the freezer. When you’re ready to bake it, pull it out of the freezer, remove the foil, and pop it into the pan you shaped it in originally. I tried this when I wanted to take a meal to someone, didn’t have any disposable pans on hand, and didn’t want to part with my pan for weeks. However, if you’re doing once a month cooking, it may be a little difficult to freeze everything this way the same night…

  • Bekah Brooks says:

    Oops, sorry – another thought. I used the foil method for lasagna in a loaf pan, but used a gallon ziploc freezer bag, placed in a loaf pan with cheesey chicken casserole inside it – then freezed both recipes. Both ways seemed to work well.

  • JessicaC says:

    Hi Crystal. I’m planning a mini OAMC day next week. I went through onceamonthmom’s recipes and came up with so many I wanted to try that it just wasn’t possible to do them all at once, so I picked out all the breakfasts and desserts. Once I have them done, then I’ll start on some dinners. For this go-around, I did buy some disposable 8x8s for coffee cakes, because they were dirt cheap and on sale buy 2 get one this past week. But I was thinking, if I decide this is something I want to do often, I will probably stop in at Goodwill once or twice a month and pick up some baking dishes especially for this. I’ll keep them in the basement or pantry or somewhere when I’m not using them, because I don’t need them in my pan cupboard. But that’s just a though for others wondering how to do it without many pans. I’m sure I’ll be able to find them for just 2 or 3 dollars, and if I’m only getting 2-3 a months, it won’t seem expensive, and certainly cheaper than buying disposable pans every time!
    JessicaC

  • Christy says:

    I do a monthly session at a local dinner done (although I am realy inspired to do it all at home now) and make large size of everything. The first month I sucked it up and got several sizes of glad and ziploc containers (with coupons of course) and immediately repackage the 6 servings into two or three meals. Takes up much less room and I think they stay fresher than in the aluminum pans which transmit cold too well. Then I would rather use my pampered chef stones to cook on. Anything I can put in a ziploc I do too, since I can cram those in after everything else is stacked. A little initial investment, but I don’t have to throw them away and start over.

  • Mary says:

    I do alot of freezing ahead too. I cannot commit one day to it but I try to make a double or triple batch so I can freeze a meal or two. I too, freeze what I can in a plastic bag.I also have a stash of spare pans which I bought at rummage or resale shops for the dishes I feel I need to keep in a pan (chicken pot pie is one I prefer to have ready to pop in the oven, rather than having to make crust day of serving). I just store these spare dishes in the basement to declutter my kitchen!
    I will use foil pans on occasion but cringe at having to purchase them. I try to reuse. They hold up real well in the dishwasher!

  • Jenna says:

    If folks are very watchful free foil pans have a way of showing up in your lap. I wasn’t planning on any freezer cooking and then I decided I would start watching for the pans in case I decided to start taking part / I have had the opportunity just thru my everyday life to bring home free from events more foil pans than I alone could ever use. Keep your eyes open and you can receive!

  • Kriket says:

    Freeze them in the pan, then when they are frozen, pop them out and put them in freezer bags and stack them 🙂 The hubby calls them dinner-cubes. I too only have one decent 9×13 and one 8×8 pan so I can’t let it sit there with stuff frozen in it! What would I make impules brownies in?

  • Chrys says:

    Thanks for the brave admission! Now I’m wondering if your family just doesn’t use ice, or whether it’s on the door.

  • Brenda says:

    I am impressed and inspired! Personally, I am glad that you are on the “use what you’ve got” approach. Too many times we think we have to have “special” equipment or supplies to do things “right”. Improvise and go for it is what I’m hearing! I like it!

  • Lori Lemberger says:

    This is what works best for me. When I am making lasagna for example, I take out all my glass pans that I would cook it in and I line them with tinfoil, put in my food, make sure it is covered in tinfoil. I put it back in the freezer until it is frozen. I pop the whole tinfoil meal out of my container, write the item and date in perm marker and put it back in the freezer (without my pan) until I am ready to eat it. I usually stick the tinfoil item in an additional freezer bag just to be sure I’m not getting freezer burn, but it isn’t necessary. When I am ready to eat it, I take it out of the freezer, unwrap the tinfoil and it fits nicely back in the pan I originally froze it in. I don’t have a lot of pans and this way I don’t have them sitting in my freezer for months. Hope this helps.

  • Olathe mom says:

    My husband and I have conversations like this ALL THE TIME…we feel like we are continually learning “on the job” in this life! I think the more we “come clean” about our non-expertise in a host of arenas, the more we find loving, Christian fellowship and true friendship.

    Thank you for your humility. I’m wonderfully delighted that you don’t have all the answers– it means we are likely undiscovered friends :). Kudos to you for using what you have, learning as you go, and admitting to others that you are just a regular (albeit clearly super-energy and super-disciplined!) woman.

  • Alison Armstrong says:

    I have bought a case of glad ovenware at Amazon. They work great. They stack really good and the lids are really nice- much better than tin foil pans. Also, the freezer books will tell you to watch tomato sauces in foil pans they have some sort of chemical reaction or something.

    But if you don’t want to spend any money and don’t have Amazon gift cards the next best thing is freezer bags like you said or freezing the meal in your pan lined w/ foil. THen when it is frozen pop it out into a freezer bag and put it back in the freezer. Then when you go to cook it you just put it in the pan you froze it in. You can leave the foil on and then you don’t have a messy pan to wash either. It is great!

  • Kathryn says:

    Yes, there are many helpful websites out there, just google once a month cooking or freezer cooking and you will find a ton of info. Freezer cooking has been such a time-saver for me and also saves me $$, since we don’t waste as much food.
    Personally, since 2007, I have done my freezer day once every 3 months and make between 40 – 50 entrees for my family.
    After trying many different ways, this is how I ended up storing my freezer meals. I use 9×9 metal pans that will fit in a gallon size ziploc bag. (Didn’t get them all at one time, though) I wrap the top in foil, write directions on the foil, and then slip into a ziploc. That works best for me, since we have a smaller size family, and also since my entrees will be in the freezer up to 3 months. They stack really nice, and if we have guests I can take out an extra pan or two very easily. I can then save freezer space, and reuse my pans and the ziploc bags. Some things such as meatballs, hamburger patties, and marinated pork chops go into quart ziplocs, and those I do throw away if they have been in contact with raw meat.
    Also, when I make meals for a larger family as a gift, I use the 9x 13 deep foil pans from Sam’s Club (pack of 30 for $9)–those fit into a 2 gallon size freezer bag from Aldi.

  • Sarah says:

    I’ve recently learned that our Dollar Tree has a LARGE selection of foil pans, and most are in packages of 3 and come with the foil/cardboard lids. I was very happy to find them since I’m often making meals to give away. Obviously, it’s still cheaper to use “real” pans and dishes but this might be an option for some who need/want the foil option.

  • One if the easiest ways to ease into bulk cooking is to make the same things you usually feed your family, and just double the recipe. Freeze one, eat one. Do that once or twice a week when you’re making something that’s easy to double and easy to freeze–spaghetti sauce or chili; a pan of brownies or half a batch of cookies, etc. Don’t start with new, untried recipes, make what you normally make for your family, just make a little extra, or make the regular amount and freeze half– intead of having leftovers the next night, save it for the next week. Start small, then you’ll feel more comfortable doing a lot of different things at once. :0)

    Lining your pans with foil, then removing it once frozen, as mentioned by previous posters, is a great way to utilize your pans if you don’t have many.

  • chels says:

    hey just wanted to add that i bought the 30 day gourmet cook book for 30 days of meals and freezing. in the book there is a website http://www.30daygourmet.com and go to the top where it says Members then when it asks for user name type in “recipes” and the password of “macaroni”. you can get in there and ask questions or see what her tips are as well. Looks like a great website and they have recipes and such as well.
    I wondered all those ? as well and i appreciate your answers and honesty. I worry about freezer burn myself and i had heard that if you use pyrex you shouldnt freeze in them cuz they can shatter.
    take care and thx for the tips!

  • Courtney says:

    I do not have many pans at all so I am never able to freeze in the pan. I like to use freezer bags. The name brand ones work best and are worth the extra few cents. Once the air is pressed out and food is laid flat I have rows of food stacked in the freezer. It takes less room in the freezer and in the fridge when thawing. This topic has me wanting to get in the kitchen and stock up again!

  • We do lots of freezer cooking. You can see more about it, along with detailed instructions and recipe photos at http://www.bulkfreezercooking.com/

  • We do lots of freezer cooking. You can see more about it, along with detailed instructions and recipe photos at http://www.bulkfreezercooking.com/

  • Carol says:

    Thank you for sharing. Your example is inspiring. There are so many areas of life that we can be successful by just digging in and giving a good idea a try. Here is the link to the DuPage County Health Dept which has some good info on food safety http://www.dupagehealth.org/safefood/

  • Denise Vaughan says:

    One thing I learned when I froze meals before I had my last child, was to do individual servings. I made soups and stews (as it was winter) and froze them in styrofoam bowls, then popped them out of the bowls and put them in freezer bags (at the time, I had and could afford food saver bags and used my sealer). They were perfect for those nights when nobody wanted the same thing and I was too tied up with the baby to care if anyone got fed or not. LOL I even did plates of spaghetti this way, froze them on the plate, then popped them into bags – reheat and eat, so quick! I will probably have to revisit freezer cooking again really soon if I indeed get a job!

  • LaceyLady says:

    Ok, I thought I couldnt do this because I dont have a big freezer or may dishes, but after seeing what you are able to fit in your freezer. I’m going to try it. So this month is all about fixing meals w/ what I currently have in the freezer to make room for a freezer cooking day next month. I’m actually excited to start collecting recipes and ingredients.
    Thank you MSM and everyone else that left comments for all the inspiration!!

  • Kat says:

    I too use a standard freezer over frige, but with a twist. I took a wire shelf meant for the cabinet to increase space and put it in the freezer and made a shelf in my freezer. Wonderful way to increase storage ability! I can stack better and also have a place to put ice trays. A plastic basket or container will also stack well with items in them so you dont have to worry about your toes being amputated with a block of frozen casserole! I too appreciate you honesty and enjoy the blog.

  • Meghan says:

    If you are in the market for foil pans and tops, I found a great website that has them very inexpensively–www.kitchendance.com. They have a ton of different sizes, and the prices are way below what I’ve ever seen in the store. I bought a bunch of pans before my second child was born in May, and I’m still using them to make freezer meals.

  • There was an article a few months ago (maybe in Woman’s Day) that was about freezer storage,

    One of the best ideas was about storing casseroles. What they did is line the bottom of the pan with parchment (or I’m sure you could use tin foil), put the casserole in the freezer for a few hours and then popped it out of the pan. You can either put in in a bag or wrap it in foil.

    Then when you cook it you can just put in back in the pan you froze it in- without losing your pan to the freezer for a month (and you can leave the foil or parchment on the bottom so you don’t have to scrub the pan).

  • A thought about freezing meals I was having the other day after reading your post was instead of a whole day of cooking was simply to double or triple recipes every time you cook as usual. Then freeze the extra.

    Sure this method won’t keep you out of the kitchen for a month- but it will save you time and kind of ease you into the idea of “cooking in advance”.

  • Maria145 says:

    Thank you for your honesty! It is exactly what I needed to hear today. Sometimes I feel inadequate as a mother/wife because I don’t have “set plans” or “schedules” like most do.

    I just go with what I have and do what needs to be done that day. I am trying to get better–your site always inspires me! THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!!

  • Lauren says:

    I am impressed with your freezer usage…but where is the ice cream?? (and ice?)

  • Rachel says:

    Thanks so much for being real Crystal! You’re a breath of fresh air to all the rest of us who are up to our necks as well! 🙂 (I’d never trade my job though!)

  • Wow, you don’t have alot in your freezer besides your food you just made. Do you only have enough food for then? You don’t have any stock in your freezer? I only have a fridge freezer, but mine is packed full of pumpkin, raspberries, cherries, meat bought on sale, peaches etc.

  • Jillian says:

    We do the foil in the pan, pop it out trick, too! Another perk is that it keeps the clean up easy after dinner.

  • Kelleigh says:

    You are awesome! I am SO inspired to try a Freezer Cooking Day. I love that you share all of your experiences with us, and that you are HONEST in your approach!! I was going to suggest the pop-out method, but it looks like a bajillion others already mentioned it!

  • Amber says:

    I’m glad that you gave up your fears of “what we’d think of you” and decided just to lay it out straight. I had asked you similar questions several months ago and when you never replied, I got a little frustrated. No one expects you to be perfect. We just want to know what works for you and see if it might work for us. We’re all in it together, learning as we go, thank you for sharing ! : D

  • My answer would probably be exactly like yours. I do whatever works too!

    Also, I sometimes buy chafing dishes with similar dimensions in bulk at Costco or Sams. If I remember correctly they cost about 6.00 for 30. I like using these when I bring friends meals, so they don’t have to worry about returning a dish. I have used them for freezer meals too. I cover it with plastic wrap and then foil. That keeps it from getting freezer burn. You just have to remember to take off the plastic wrap before baking. When I use the aluminum chafing dishes for freezer meals, I wash them and reuse them.

    Oh, and on the subject of freezer meals… A few of my friends and I make multiples of freezer meals and then trade. It is awesome! For example, I made chicken chili X6, another friend made tater-tot casserole X6, another friend made creamy chicken taquitos X6, another friend made apples, sweet potatoes and pork X6, another friend made cheesy meatloaf X6, and the last friend made kabobs X6. We just brought our coolers and loaded them up- with one of each! 6 meals for each of us! Our families like the variety too! It is fun to say “This dinner is from your friend Jackson’s mom!” We don’t do this all the time, but every couple months we say, lets do it again!

  • Thankful says:

    We registered for silicone baking pans and muffin pans when we got married, and they work really well for preparing freezer meals. Once the item is mostly frozen, it’s REALLY easy to pull off the pan and vacuum seal or place in a freezer bag, then stack in the freezer. The silicone pans are the same size as our pyrex, so it fits right in the pan to bake. We mostly use the silicone muffin pan (only the cups are silicone) for chicken stock. It helps to place either item on a cookie sheet for structure during the initial freeze. We also use ice cube trays to freeze stock. Having the stock in small amounts makes it easy to add nutrition and flavor to almost any dish!

  • Dina-Marie says:

    Thanks for being transparent and real! I blog at http://dimes2vines.blogspot.com/ and have posted on freezing pumpkin. You have inspired me to try cooking meals ahead with you previous posts. We have a large family and so far I like gallon bags to freeze casseroles/muffins/bread in and line pans with foil that I cook lasagna in as Brenda described above. Thanks again!

  • Ashley says:

    I can tell you what I’ve learned already – don’t try to take on too many new frugal (whether money or time) ideas at once! I’m so motivated (Thanks Moneysavingmom!) but found that trying to go through all of the local sale flyers, print out internet coupons, find new recipes, plan a meal cooking bonanza day, and inventory the pantry and freezer – all in 2 days – with kids – is WAY TOO MUCH!! 🙂 I’ve scaled back my overzealous planning and will try to do one thing at a time. What’s funny is we ended up ordering pizza last night because I wasn’t prepared for dinner!!

  • Rochelle P says:

    Thanks for all the tips! I’m planning to get some meals in the freezer before my baby comes! I’m due in 27 days!

  • Crazy quilt says:

    Love your honesty. I pictured everything in alphabetical order! Thank you for sharing with us. It’s great to see you are no different than the rest of us homemakers!

  • Mrs. Pear says:

    Grin – this is how I started!

    If you pick up a freezer cookbook at the library like Super Suppers, Dream Dinners, Don’t Panic Dinner’s in the Freezer, etc they usually have good sections that explain the logistics and how to for you.

    By the way, C&H Icing Sugar is on at my Target for $1.44 a 2lb bag, so with coupons it is around $1. Best price so far out here in CA.

  • I think Amy’s idea of freezing in foil in a pan and then putting into a freezer bag was GENIUS. I’ve never done that, but think it’s a great idea. I usually use freezer bags, and sometimes just freeze in big plastic Ziploc containers, but I am going to try Amy’s method at least some of the time.

  • Rhiannon says:

    This month, when I did my OAMC, I just bought a 2 boxes of ziplocks( gallon and quart) and a stack of loaf pans at the dollar store. They worked great! I made my bread first in the loaf pans and then used them for lasagna. Double duty! I also rarely make my own pie shells so I save those pans for things like Tortilla pie. But for almost everything else I use freezer bags because they freeze flat and I can “file” them in a box in my freezer in the order I plan on using them. A amazing space saver trick I learned from my sister, and no more fear of a block of frozen Chicken noodle soup landing on your foot when you open the door!

    Doing these couple of things I was able to get 5 weeks of meals plus, lots of fruit and veggies, in my small apartment size freezer! It can be done!

    Good luck to you all on your cooking adventures!

  • Sarah says:

    Wow! So I have been wondering for a while where you stored all that food and I figured you had an extra freezer! Good to know i could make that fit in my little freezer!

  • Lynn says:

    I have learned a lot from your posting on your baking days and have started to do my own smaller baking days. I used your Chicken Tetrazini recipe (my husband loved it) and I kept an old 8×8 pan out that I was going to throw away. I try to make a double batch of it when I do cook it up – put 1/2 in my good 8×8 pan and bake for dinner and then put a larger freezer bag into the older, beat up metal pan I kept. I fill the freezer bag with the casserole and conform it in the 8×8 pan. I then pull out as much of the air as possible by using the straw method! Put the pan with the freezer bag of casserole into the freezer; let it freeze and then take out the pan. The casserole is now conformed to an 8×8 pan shape so that I can slip it into my good pan to thaw when I am ready to bake it. In addition, I always write in ink on the top the oven temp and length of time to bake!

  • Candi says:

    You are one of my very favorite bloggers and I feel the same way. I wing everything and sometimes it takes me a while to figure out the best way to do something but I usually do figure it out!

    Thanks so much for all you do!

  • Tupperware containers with tight snapping lids work great for freezing things in. Fruit, sides, veggies or even entire meals. If it is already cooked you can unthaw and microwave or unthaw and transer it to a baking dish and bake.

  • Mary says:

    Had to laugh at your description of your family not wanting to eat your cooking when you were younger. I’ve lived through that myself! I’ve taken the ring off several cheesecakes only to have them flow off the plate they are on. And the lemon meringue that my dad sucked through a straw, that was nasty! But my successes have far outweighed my failures, so I keep trying! Like the no-fat pumpkin cheesecake that was devoured a few Thanksgivings ago – I didn’t tell anyone til it was gone that it was low-cal and fat free. Or the crab-stuffed mushrooms that I just improvised on (and it made about 500 mushrooms, next time I’ll make a smaller batch!) that everyone loved one Christmas. Part of the fun of cooking is finding out what you can change and what you can’t, and still have people want to eat it!

  • Marcia says:

    I’ve been doing OAMC for a few years now. A few months ago I finally bit the bullet and bought some nice Pyrex freezer to oven dishes with lids. They stack perfectly… no more enchiladas oozing out the sides when I stack unfrozen meals in the freezer! One tip… I cover the food in plastic wrap to keep the air off of it before I put the lid on.

  • I am so glad to read your post. Last week was my first time freezer cooking and I was so nervous that it was going to turn out awful. This week we had the first of the meals that I froze and it turned out great. I am so glad that I tried freezing meals, and I definitely learned so much more from actually freezing meals than from all of the times I had read about it.

  • Patricia M Evans says:

    Thank you for sharing your cooking day with us! You made me laugh — thanks for being so humble and honest! I can’t wait to try some of your items.
    Thanks again!

  • Laura says:

    I wrote a post a while back about how I freeze things very, very cost effectively. It works great!
    http://www.tenthingsfarm.blogspot.com/2008/12/save-money-wrapping-frozen-foods.html

  • Kacie says:

    Here’s what I sometimes do:

    I line a baking pan with heavy-duty foil. I put whatever I’m going to freeze in it (say, a meatloaf) and put it in the freezer for a few hours while it firms up. I do cover it with foil and sometimes an extra wrap to keep out air.

    A few hours later, I take it out of the pan and wrap it tightly in foil/freezer wrap and put it inside a ziplock.

    The item retains the shape of the pan, but I no longer need to keep my pan in the freezer.

    When it’s time to bake the item, I unwrap it and plop it in my original pan. It perfectly fits, of course!

  • love it says:

    Ok, i love all of these posts and never thought about doing this. I just have one question… some of the posts talk about cooking the meal after you pull it out of the freezer and others talk about reheating it.

    So my question is which one is better? Are u saying that you make up the tator tot casserole, for example, then freeze it and in a week or so, take it out and pop it in the oven to bake? Or are u assembling, baking, freezing and then reheating?

  • shawn says:

    I have been freezer cooking for quite a while. You sound like you’re doing great as is – but you might like a cookbook that I use. (I am NOT affiliated in any way!) It’s called Fix, Freeze, Feast. The recipes focus on healthfulness, and they won’t even use canned cream-of soups, they make it from scratch. The method is based on purchasing ‘tray packs’ from warehouse stores, but I never do. I get it in smaller quantities on sale, then just cut back the recipe accordingly. In addition to meat based recipes, there are breakfast burritos that my family loves, vegetarian, granola, sauces, etc., all suitable for freezing.

  • Tifani Wells says:

    One thing that can be suggested to those who are not ready for a full out “baking day” is to have them make lots of things in double for a while. When making dinner just make two of the casserole you are making and then freeze the other. Do this for a few days and you will have a nice way to get started having meals in the freezer!

  • Elizabeth says:

    A deep freeze is a very worthwhile investment. Without mine I wouldn’t be able to freeze all our produce from the summer or buy meat “off the hoof” from local farmers. They aren’t expensive at scratch and dent or off of Craig’s list and are INVALUABLE for convenience/thrifty living.

  • Phebe says:

    Oh my, you make me laugh, Crystal!! Mostly because I am the exact same way!! Somehow, I always get a reputation for being a great cook. I think that’s because when people see the way I cook (a dash of that, a scoop of this), they think I must have some sort of amazing skill. If they ask for a recipe, I usually have to admit that I made the dish up, or mostly made it up. They are in awe! What they don’t see are the countless “yuck dishes” that my family has sat down to! With a smile, I might add… 🙂

    Thanks for being honest! Sometimes I feel so “behind” some super women online, but then I realize that I DID make meals for the freezer, tried pureeing my own pumpkin, switched to coconut oil, etc. It just doesn’t seem as impressive when I’m not reading about it on someone else’s blog! 🙂 You are a blast because you seem so “real”–very encouraging for us moms who have a long way to go!! 🙂 –phebe

  • Angie says:

    I just wanted to say I did OAMC for the first time this last week. My dad just gave us a deep freezer and I had bought some chicken breast and ground chuck for dirt cheap in October and thought I would just pull it out and make a meal every night. But almost everything else I have tried to save $ has worked so I thought hey lets give it a shot whats the worst that could happen. It was a ton of work but now my freezer is full of meals for the whole month and this month I spent $150 to do it. Here’s what I made….
    pumpkin muffins
    pumpkin cupcakes
    banana muffins
    breakfast burritos
    taquitos
    5 pork roast
    5 pork chops
    4 mexican cornbread
    4 shepards pie
    4 chicken tortellini
    I have the ingredients to make chicken caciatori but I ran out of room so that will have to wait a week or two. I have been writing down where all our $ goes and I am so glad that I have adapted this frugal lifestyle because it was 1 year ago in October that I stumbled upon couponing and I have never before then had name brand stuff in our house. We were always the ones that had to stretch our shampoo or deoderant. I can still remember my husband using my deoderant because he ran out and we had no $. Well those days are so long gone thanks to frugal living….

  • Arlene says:

    I have a food saver. When I cook to freeze I will line the pan I need with a foodsaver bag that has one end sealed. I then put in the bag what ever food I am freezing. When I seal it the food is conformed to the pan that I will be cooking it in and I can just lift the bag out and freeze the labeled bag. When I am ready to use the food I let it thaw enough to release it from the bag and then put the frozen food in the container I first used and cook it. I finish thawing it in the fridge and then cook. No need to freeze the baking dish.

  • Jennifer says:

    I love this idea and I will be definitely giving this a try. Just one question: Do all the cooked frozen meals taste like your eating leftovers all the time?

  • Christina says:

    Love your posts on this cooking ahead. I try to do this every night before I head to bed. I make one dish for the next night since I’m at work all day. But once I get a stand-up freezer I plan to cook on weekends non-stop. My freezer is packed with assorted meats, frozen vegs and waffles. We had farmhouse chicken last night and it was a hit. Now do you make your own stuffing or buy stove top? Would like some tips on this because stuffing is hard to find coupons for. Thanks Christina

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