Written by monthly contributor, Natalie Didlake.
I love having frozen food to pull out in a pinch!
But how and when to get it in the freezer, in the first place?
With a little planning ahead, it’s easy to make a little extra here and there, and stick the extra in the freezer. Soon enough, the freezer will be full of homemade meals! (Or at least meal starters.)
The best thing I did when I got started was to sit down and brainstorm. I thought about all the meals we typically ate, and wrote down what steps I could complete in bulk, and freeze ahead…things like chopping veggies and pre-cooking meat or beans. Now, I can open the freezer nearly any night, and find at least some of my meal prep there, ready to go!
Here are some of my favorite things to keep in the freezer.
Chopping fresh veggies every night for cooking is time consuming! I love having them in my freezer, ready to throw in the pan.
I’ve had success with carrots, celery, green pepper, and onions (double-bag onions so that your ice doesn’t taste oniony!)
Someday, I might even make my own custom, frozen “mixed veggie” bags, for standard dishes in our house.
What to do:
- Buy in bulk, and plan to freeze, when a veggie is on SALE! I bought green peppers recently for $.35 each! A perfect opportunity to buy and freeze!
- Peel/chop vegetables in large quantities.
- Put them in zipper bags and freeze! Break off a chunk when you’re ready to cook.
Having frozen, pre-cooked meat really cuts down on dinner prep time ! Getting it into the freezer doesn’t even require much extra planning or time…just a little extra money up front. I wait to buy extra until I can get it on SALE! Sometimes I can diffuse the cost of the extra meat, by planning other, cheaper meals, like bean dishes or pancakes.
The great part is, once you have a stocked freezer, you won’t have to buy and cook multiple meats in one week…because you will have already have them frozen! You will then only need to buy and cook what needs replenishing.
- Begin by planning a meal into your weekly menu that uses beef. Buy several extra pounds (like 5 lbs. of ground beef, instead of 1 lb.)
- Cook, divide, and freeze in zipper bags.
But don’t just cook a bunch of plain ground beef! Think meal prep. Some of my favorite beef meal starters are:
- Taco-flavored meat
- Italian sausage
- Turkey burgers -make and freeze patties
- Meatballs – separate into 1-meal portions and freeze separately
- Meatloaf – mix, form, wrap, and freeze. Thaw in fridge 24 hours
- Stroganoff meat -brown ground beef with onions/mushrooms
We all have our different ways of buying/cooking/serving chicken…but I can’t resist mentioning my new fave way to do chicken. I have started cooking 10-15 lbs of bone-in breast at once, at the beginning of the month! Sometimes I’ll take a bit out to freeze raw, for cooking later. But the rest, I cook, bones and all. From that, I fill my freezer with LOTS of chicken stock, and tons of cooked, shredded chicken. Chicken for the month, done!
Here’s a link to a great how-to if you want more details.
- Muffins – Making a double batch, and freezing the extra, is a painless way to stock the freezer. I like to make mini-muffins for breakfast-on-the-go or trips.
- Pancakes -My husband doesn’t care for thawed, reheated pancakes, but the smaller members of my household could care less! (Especially when they contain chocolate chips.)
- Yogurt – freeze yogurt in small cups. Thaw for an hour or so, toss in fresh fruit and granola.
Other Meal Starters
- Pizza – make multiple pizza crusts, wrap extras well, freeze. It might be fun to put the toppings on first…homemade frozen pizza!
- Quiche – One of my fave freezer meals! Making multiples is so easy! Mix all ingredients of your best quiche recipe together, freeze, one quiche per zipper bag.
- Beans – Canned beans are easier, but dried beans cooked at home are cheaper and healthier. I cook large quantities and freeze for later use. Be sure to label, or you’ll end up with “unidentified frozen objects”!
- “Leftover Soup” – Throw any extra cooked veggies in a med/large container. Put in the freezer. Once it starts to fill up, throw it all in the crock pot with some seasoning, a little tomato sauce, and you’ve got veggie soup! Cook on low all day. Or, even better, add leftovers from a beef roast, and have veggie beef soup. Yum!
What are you going to freeze? Can’t wait to hear your ideas!