Thursday, July 28, 2011

Freezer Cooking Tips

So, in an effort to cut down on preservatives and to take full advantage of my coupon deals and "market special" meats, I've decided to venture into Freezer Cooking. You know, that totally intimidating idea of cooking mass quantities of food and freezing them for use at a later day? Well, I started off small and have managed to fill an entire full-sized upright deep freezer with a beautiful array of chicken, beef, turkey, pasta dinners, and stews. Not to mention the breakfast burritos, homemade breads, muffins, waffles, bacon, and vegetables.



First a few tips and tricks I've learned along the way.

Think to some of your favorite recipes. Is there a common thread among them? For instance, down here in Louisiana, most dinners need sauteed onions. So, if you use a lot of chopped onions, buy a bag when they go on sale, bring them home and torture yourself for one hour and chop them all (keep tissues handy *tear*) or be a ninja and just throw them in a food processor with a chopping blade. Separate them into 1 cup servings, put them in little Ziploc sandwich bags, put those bags in a freezer bag and if they were potent onions like mine usually are, go ahead and put THAT bag into another freezer bag. And freeze. Then, when a recipe calls for 1 medium onion or 1 cup chopped onion, you can grab one and throw it in!

If you catch a great deal on chicken (my Kroger had their chicken leg quarters on sale for 49 cents a pound, so I bought three 10-lb bags of chicken that day for 15 dollars) buy in bulk, salt and pepper the chicken and bake. Then cube or shred (or both) the cooked meat and separate into Ziploc bags, and freeze. A lot of  recipes can be made even faster if the chicken is already cooked!

If you have a casserole dish you like preparing but you only ever eat half of it at dinner and the rest gets put in the fridge (and then sometimes gets forgotten or passed up for something else) then separate your recipe into two smaller dishes. Bake one, freeze one.

If you decide to freeze one half of your recipes, line the dish with tinfoil, and then saran wrap. Assemble the casserole, let cool, and freeze. Once frozen, you can pop the casserole ice-cube out of the dish, wrap with tinfoil, label and stack in the freezer. Then when your ready to thaw and bake it later, just unwrap the tinfoil and saran wrap, and place the casserole back into the dish you froze it in. That way you don't have all your glass dishes tied up in the freezer. Then thaw and bake as normal when your ready to eat it!

The easiest things to freeze are baked goods. Muffins, pancakes, waffles, bread. If you are making pancakes or waffles for you family one morning, instead of throwing out that extra batter you have leftover, go ahead and make extra of whatever it is and once they are cooled, put them on a baking sheet and put in the freezer. Once frozen, put them in a labeled Ziploc bag. Then anytime you want one, just microwave or throw in the toaster for a quick breakfast. Got some muffins leftover or a loaf of Zucchini bread you want to save for later? After the breads are cooled, wrap tightly in saran wrap and put in labeled bags and freeze (muffins are wrapped individually). When your ready to eat, simply microwave the unwrapped muffin for 30 seconds, or let it thaw on the counter. Allow whole loaves of bread to thaw to room temp, and voila! Bread!

It's also a great idea to buy bacon when it's on sale. Bake it all on baking sheets, drain on paper towels, let cool, and put them on a clean baking sheet and freeze. Once frozen, put in a labeled bag. Then if a recipe calls for bacon, or you just want some for breakfast, you have fully cooked bacon that just gets nuked in the microwave for a few seconds to reheat! I use turkey bacon and it works great!


So, those are a few of my favorite Freezer Cooking tips. I hope it doesn't sound as intimidating now!

14 comments:

Brittany said...

I am wondering i have always love the idea of preparing meals for my fast paced family we eat here all the time so i am ready to tackle this but my questions are this .. i was always told that with the veggies they are not good when you pull them out like they turn muchy and watery and just not any good.. ?? I am ready to start this as we speak i am writting a BIG OLE list.. ANy extra advise or help would be wonderfull and greatly apreciated :) Have a great day
Britt

The Virtuous Wife said...

Well, I have a 3 year old and a 1 year old, so the mushy vegetable thing works for us. And really, the texture is no different than canned veggies. But I cook mine COMPLETELY before freezing. If you wanted to retain some crunchiness with your veggies, you might try blanching them (boiling the veggies for 3-4 minutes then scoop them out and put in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking) then freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet. That would be the equivalent of bagged frozen veggies you'd buy at the store. It would just take a bit longer to reheat.

laura jo said...

I found you on pinterest. Thanks for the tip about making casserole ice cubes and reusing the glass dish! It worked perfectly! I now have 20 meals in my freezer (which is about all I can fit right now). Thanks!

Liz said...

I love the casserole ice cube idea! I am undertaking my first "big" freezer cooking session this weekend, and I'll definitely be using that one. Thanks!

Wolfie said...

U got this busy working mom interested. Will be trying this this week

Anonymous said...

I've been doing freezer meals for quite some time. Mine are usually large batches of soup, ie, chicken noodle, bean and ham, or spagehtti. I freeze these in individual servings so that if someone need something hot to eat, they can pop one in the microwave without having a bunch left over. If your real hungry pop in two...thanks

Anonymous said...

You are amazing! I am a college student and am planning on freezing a bunch of meals at home and bringing them to college. I will be feeding myself (don't eat a lot) and another (he eats an average plateful). Would you recommend that I cut each recipe in half, or leave it since you have two young children and they don't eat much? Thanks!

The Virtuous Wife said...

I'd recommend cutting them in half if it's just you four, and you don't eat much. You might have leftovers for lunch the next day! :)

Anonymous said...

Are there any recipes that you have for a crockpot or stove top, my poor oven is out of commision right now :(

Kasey Burg said...

Any recommendation for freezer meals with pasta? Like lasagna, mac and cheese, tuna casserole, etc...do you cook the noodles before freezing? I have made frozen lasagna w/out cooking noodles and it's perfect when I cook it, but does it work w/ mac and cheese, etc?

Chelsea said...

Thank you for your tips and recipes, they are great. My question is are you able to make any meal a freezer meal? How do I know if I can turn a favorite recipe into a freezer meal or not?

Thanks, chelsea

Anonymous said...

How long can you leave meals in freezer before they get freezer burned? Would it be best to invest in one of those machines that seal your food?

Alyssa said...

I have never EVER thought of freezing a meal in a pan with tin foil and saran wrap! Genius idea. I often will make alot of one type of meal and freeze it just in the pan. Then get frustrated when I can't find that pan and its because it is in the freezer. I will make things I can put in ziplock bags but for casseroles I was always at a loss. Thanks for that tip made my week!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the pointers and breaking this down for all the mothers who are pressed for time :) I was wondering what the shelf life was for these items? Is it best to use within a week, month, 6 months?