One of the great things about freezer cooking is that you get to control the whole process. Here are a few ideas, tips, and suggestions to make it a little easier.

Organizing

  • Plan on under cooking casseroles before freezing. Otherwise they will over cook when you are re-heating them.
  • Make a cooking plan complete with recipes, menus, and a shopping list.
  • Don’t forget to consider adding side dishes or bread to your list.
  • freezer-tipsDouble check the shopping list against what you currently have in your pantry.
  • Make multiples of one recipe if it’s a family favorite and you’ll eat it several times a month.
  • Make a common ingredient list. This is so you can easily see the total amount of onion that needs chopped, or garlic that needs to be minced. You’ll be surprised at the amount of time it will save. You can also use the printable form from Mom’s Budget.
  • Make sure to put long cooking items at the top of the cooking list, so you can start with them. That way they can easily cook in the time you’ve allotted.
  • Shop one day and cook the next. Make sure to give yourself enough time so you aren’t rushed. This is an intensive cooking day and it’s important not to be exhausted before you begin.
  • Plan a meal break into your cooking day. It’s easier to get frustrated if you are hungry.
  • Make a prep area in a corner of your kitchen with a large cutting board. Empty the sink, and clear the area of any unnecessary clutter. You want enough room to work and clean as you go.

Freezer Tips

  • Clean out, defrost, and/or organize your freezer before you put all your new dishes in. That way it will be easier to find things later on.
  • Thoroughly cool recipes before putting in the freezer.
  • Keep an inventory sheet on the outside of your freezer. Print out a form from Organized Home. You’ll never have to throw away a pre-made dish because you forgot about it for a year.
  • Always label your container with what it contains and the date. It all starts to look the same in a few weeks. Print out Martha Stewart’s freezer labels to make it even easier and prettier!
  • Make sure to wipe off any moisture the outside of the Ziploc before you put them in the freezer. It will keep them from freezing together. You also won’t add to condensation in the freezer.
  • Rotate older containers to the front or to the top. When you add new items to the freezer.
  • My Recipes has a great list of items to freeze and states how long each item can be in the freezer.
  • If you have a small freezer use re-closeable freezer bags to freeze in. You’ll lay them flat (after they’re sealed of course) and stack them on top of each other. It’s amazing how many you can store in a small freezer. Check out the photo over at Southern Living’s website and you’ll see just how it’s done.

How to Defrost

  • It’s always safe to thaw overnight in the fridge.
  • Most recipes that are written specifically to freeze also give details on the best way to store and defrost.
  • It’s important that the meat in a dish comes up to temperature, so defrosting over night is even more important for meat dishes.
  • When in doubt, defrost overnight in the fridge. (Do you detect a trend?)
  • These foods do not require defrosting and can be cooked straight from the freezer: bread, muffins, waffles, pies, cookie dough, and frozen vegetables.

Food to Avoid Freezing

  • Creamy sauces, sour cream, or mayo as they tend to separate during freezing.
  • Don’t freeze pasta in with soups, or you’ll have mush in your soup. Instead freeze pasta in a separate bag, or cook the pasta right before serving.
  • Potatoes don’t freeze well in soups, but you can freeze mashed potatoes and baked potatoes.
  • Fried foods get soggy.
  • Cooked egg whites get rubbery, so don’t freeze icing that contains them.
  • Cream cheese changes to a texture that’s not pleasant.
  • Custard, cream pies, and meringues don’t survive freezing well.

If the Power Goes Out

  • Leave the freezer door closed. Opening it will cause the temperature to rise quicker.
  • Prepare by keeping your freezer 3/4 full. It will take longer for the temperature to rise.

More Resources

For other great recipe ideas checkout the EverythingMom article Make Ahead Meal Inspiration, which contains 80 great freezer meal recipes or take a peek at our Freezer Meal Series to view all posts.