10 Things in My Freezer

Posted 11 August, 2012 by Trish in In the Kitchen / 37 Comments

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About six months ago I wrote about wanting to start making freezer meals. You all provided me with wonderful tips on how you keep your own freezer stocked as well as provided some cookbook suggestions for make-ahead meals. Six months later I still have so much to learn, but we all have to start somewhere, right?

I’m always asking what people make ahead and keep in their freezer so I thought I’d share 10 things that I typically have in my freezer.

1. Waffles/Pancakes – These are so great for the weekdays–just pop one or two in the microwave for 30 seconds and you’re ready to rock and roll.

2. Spaghetti Sauce – This has become an absolute favorite in our house. I make a huge batch of Betty Crocker’s Meat Sauce and freezer in Ball Pint and a Half Jars (picture upper left)

3. Shredded Chicken – I keep these in several different portion sizes–small baggies within bigger baggies for lunches, bigger portions for casseroles, portions for soups or other quick meals.

4. Chicken Stock – I save in one and two cup sizes. I also have a baggie for chicken bones and odd ends of veggies to make more stock in the future.

5. Meatballs – Alton Brown to the rescue! Bake the meatballs in cupcake papers and then freeze on a cookie sheet until solid and then toss into a large freezer bag.

6. Stew/Soup – Any kind! We’ve had great luck with everything we’ve tried but if the recipe calls for pasta we only add when the soup is reheated otherwise it turns to mush. Potatoes are hit or miss but if initially undercooked they’re fine when reheated. Put in freezer bags and freeze flat to stack (picture lower right)

7. Shredded Cheese – We go through a lot of cheese. Buy the big blocks, run through a food processor, and bag up in two cup serving sizes.

8. Baby Food/Snacks – Upper right picture is orzo with carrots, broccoli, zucchini, and a touch of cheese. Elle loves it and I don’t mind nibbling off it either.

9. Meats (variety of raw cuts) – Take the time to portion out the meats and take out as much air as possible. A vacuum-sealer is great for this. Chicken, pork chops, hamburger, pork tenderloin, turkey breast, steak–we may eat a lot of meat at our house…

10. Fruits/Vegetables (either bought frozen or flash frozen from fresh) – Bottom middle picture–I had half a dozen peaches that were about to overripe before I could eat them so I cut them up and froze on a baking sheet until solid and put in baggie. Great snacking and they don’t seem to be as mushy when thawed as fruit bought frozen. We do buy a lot of frozen veggies. From all that I’ve read they’re just as nutritious as fresh vegetables. Peas and Corn are our favorites and so easy to toss into stews, rice, and other dishes.

Other random things that I keep in my freezer include tablespoon measurements of tomato paste from the can (put into ice cube trays until frozen and then bag up), a pastry crust, jars of chicken pot pie filling, homemade frozen dinners (right now stuffed chicken and manicotti), bananas that were too ripe to eat.

And then there are things that I want to try to freeze: beans (as in dried beans), pie crusts, more frozen dinners, cookie dough, small portions of wine for cooking, milk?!

You told me that freezing food would be addicting and it is. We have a spare freezer in the garage and are thinking about getting a chest freezer in addition. There’s just something great about having nothing planned for dinner and being able to pull something out that you’ve already made. With big batches of soup I’ve also been portioning single servings to take to work. Though we still have a long way to go!!

What do you love to keep in your freezer? What freezer tips do you have to share?

Every weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  “Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.”  Hope you’ll join the fun!

37 Responses to “10 Things in My Freezer”

  1. I’m impressed by how much you’ve managed to freeze! All of this sounds like a great idea and much healthier than buying pre-made frozen foods. Now I just need a bigger freezer – although freezing cheese in the right size portions sounds like a great idea and one that I do have space for. I never can use the whole block of cheese before it goes moldy.

  2. When I get my own place I’m going to have to remember a bunch of these, it will definitely help in the long run! Especially the waffles/pancakes! Our freezer right now is kind of small, so mostly meat and homemade pasta sauce in there.

  3. I never thought of freezing in a canning jar. I’m not good about using food out of my freezer so I don’t freeze much. We have an extra refrigerator in our garage and the freezer side is absolutely empty.

  4. These are all great ideas. I’ve never done much freezing of my own prepared stuff, except the baby food. I really appreciate the tomato paste idea- I’m always opening a can and then just using a little bit and don’t know how to keep the rest well. Going to try it this way, now!

  5. Freezing tomato paste is a great idea! I never seem to use up those tiny cans. My freezer is mostly filled with meat, chicken, and seafood. When I cook, I’ll often make enough for leftovers, but never enough to freeze. Should try and get in the habit…

  6. MJ

    I just moved into a new apartment, and the freezer is tiny! I try to have individual baggies of frozen fruit to make smoothies, my homemade pasta sauce, and whatever cuts of meat were on sale.

  7. Freezing is addictive! I also keep ground meat: I cook it with onions and garlic and freeze in 1.5-cup portions. Some people boil the meat, others bake it. I tend to just saute in large batches. Use for spaghetti sauce, tacos, chili, sloppy joes, anything at all that calls for cooked ground meat. Our meat is almost always lamb but works well for any red meat or poultry. Oh, and citrus zest freezes well. And citrus juice in tablespoon batches (in ice cube trays). Meat balls. Soon you’ll be buying a Food Saver machine. I have an older model and use it often. Vacuum sealing is key to good preservation.

  8. You are so organized! I’m not that good. I love the idea of the tomato paste. I’ll add a little something to your stuff, I do really well with frozen parsley and dill. They work beautifully and when I’m making something that calls for a tbsp. or something they snap off and retain their flavour.

  9. I never thought of tomato paste. Fab idea! Like Irene, fresh herbs freeze well. I will buy a bunch of cilantro, use half in a large pot of soup, then cut up the rest, put in a ziplock and throw in the freezer for the next time. Works great!

  10. my freezer is pretty empty at the moment.
    the whole area lost our electric for a week in July, so everything went in the trash, including several gallons of homemade stock in freezer bags. that one hurt.

  11. Fresh ginger root! It grates as well from frozen as from fresh, and it doesn’t get moldy.

    And tomatoes from our garden last year that we just diced and measured out in 2-cup portions and froze flat in bags — which are almost gone, sob! And aren’t likely to be replaced by ones from this year’s garden, which has suffered greatly in this drought.

    I’m really missing having a second freezer (or a real freezer, depending on how you look at it). Maybe we’ll get one in the next year?

  12. Wonderful ideas for freezing :) Unfortunately, my apartment’s fridge/freezer combination is teeny, I can hardly fit anything into my small freezer :( As soon as we move and upgrade I’m going to stuff it full with frozen soups, sauces, cooked beans and… my ice cream maker!

  13. I’m really impressed with how organized you are and that you know what everything is and where. I don’t. My freezer is so packed. And when I do get it organized it doesn’t take long for chaos to set back in! I keep fresh jalapeno’s, lemons, limes, all sorts of cooking ingredients in the freezer as well as the same make aheads like you.

  14. *Meghan – Space does become an issue and we definitely need to reorganize our freezers as we’re running out of space (I blame the ice cream). Chicken and cheese both freeze great in individual servings!

    *Kelsey – I learned the waffles/pancakes tip from another blogger. They’re not as great as fresh ones off the grill, but they work in a pinch (and with syrup no one can tell the difference).

    *Bermuda/Kathy – As long as the jar doesn’t have shoulders then it can go in the freezer! At least the Ball freezer jars I got do. And I admit that I sometimes forget what we have on hand (or get stingy and don’t like to use it all up!)

    *Jeane – Think I learned the tomato paste idea from Real Simple magazine. They do sell tubes of paste but I’ve never been able to find it. It freezes great in the ice cube trays and easy to just pull out what you need!

    *JoAnn – Real Simple Magazine to thank for the tomato paste. I think you’ve mentioned buying it in tubes but I can never seem to find them! Freezing whole meals is still something I’m working on…think it takes lots of practice (and planning).

    *Softdrink – LOL!! Throw it out and get some new stuff. But ya–that’s how my freezer used to be. Just old crystalized ice cream. ;)

    *MJ – Having a small freezer makes a big difference–we’re lucky to have the space and even still are running out of room. Fruit for smoothies is a great idea! What do you use for your smoothie base?

    *Beth F – To the rescue!! ;) Next time I buy hamburger meat I’m going to try cooking it in a big batch and freezing. We usually eat our hamburger sauteed–I’ve never had it boiled (admittedly sounds icky). Also great idea for zest and juice!

    *Irene – Great idea for herbs! I only use dried because I can never use the fresh stuff fast enough. Do you do any special prepping?

    *Tricia – Tomato paste idea from Real Simple. You just put the herbs in a plastic bag? I don’t use fresh herbs fast enough so I’m going to have to try this!

    *Caite – I was thinking about you guys when that storm hit. The first thing I thought of was FREEZER FOOD!! Such a bummer. I remember when my mom’s chest freezer went out–I think it was actually covered under her home warranty and they reimbursed her for the food. Was years ago, though.

    *Word Lily – Great idea for the ginger root! Another thing I rarely buy fresh because I can’t use it fast enough. I didn’t plan anything this year because of our drought last year. I’m so wishing that we had some tomatoes, though. I’ve never thought about dicing them and freezing–that’s a wonderful idea.

    *Chinoiseries – Cooked beans is definitely something that I want to try to freeze–we need to eat more beans at our house. And yes–ice cream is taking up too much space in my freezer right now! ;)

    *Rhapsody – The cheese is something I hadn’t thought of until Candace and Christine A mentioned it to me. Duh! (and I hear you on the ice cream!)

    *Carol – It’s not quite as organized as I make it out to be. I still have to DIG quite a bit to find anything in the full freezer. Just like the pantry. ;) But it is nice knowing it’s in there…somewhere!

  15. Great tips!!! I’ve made my own stock to freeze, buy frozen veggies (and freeze my own sometimes) regularly, recently froze a crock pot batch of spaghetti sauce, and this very weekend I’m getting ready to freeze a batch of oatmeal pancakes and Yamberry muffins for Greyson’s (and my) breakfast this week. I just have my freezer atop my tiny rental house fridge, but boy I can cram that thing full! My mom is talking about passing her chest freezer along to me and I would seriously be in heaven.

    Thinking of mixing up some soups or pasta dishes to freeze in individual portions for my lunches. Would be SO much easier and cheaper!

  16. Anonymous

    I wanna know what orz ois? andh ow to cook it.

    I always have chicken breasts, deer burger, frozen veggies in my freezer and usually a few already made meals vaccum sealed such as things that are best made in big batches,(halupki, spagetti, chilli,

    • Anon – Kerin? – Orzo is a type of pasta but it looks just like rice. I cook it according to the box. The picture above is from a book called Top 100 Baby Purees–love it. I cooked the orzo according to the directions and in a separate pot steamed carrots and broccoli–sometimes zucchini and cauliflower. I ran it through the food processor and and then added to the orzo with a little bit of butter and cheese. Elle still loves it and it’s an easy way to get in the veggies.

  17. Trish, I usually have bought by parsley or dill for a dish and then have a whole lot left over, I hate to waste. I wash it and stick in a salad spinner and then pop it into the freezer, I use a tupperware container, because I can then just open it and take what I need and re-freeze the rest. When my niece was getting married she had a multitude of Tupperware parties so I have a couple that I’ve designated for just herb storage. I love it. I also freeze my nuts for bakeing in a container in the freezer, just because nut such as almonds are so expensive, and they do spoil. I like to have baking ingredients on hand in case I NEED a cookie or dozen or so.

    • *Irene – a cookie or two, huh? ;) Nuts is one of those things that I always mean to freeze rather than keep in the pantry but always forget. And actually all my nuts are sitting on my desk at work–probably the worst place about them. I’m going to try the herbs!

  18. Boy, you must have a big freezer. I only keep frozen peas, fish fillets and flat breads in there (for pizza bases) – and then any soups etc I have made.

    Have a great week.

  19. Looking back, I think my mother survived raising children by having a lot of freezer space. Unfortunately, I share the freezer with two roommates, and we’re mostly limited to meat, ice cream and the occasional extra/leftover soup. I would LOVE more room for ‘make ahead’ projects!

  20. *Andi – I can’t wait to hear how the muffins turn out for you! I’ve always wondered how well baked goods thaw after they’ve been frozen but haven’t tried it yet (requires baking which I don’t do often). A chest freezer would be great!! You can actually buy smallish ones at Sam’s for a little over $100 and we’ve thought about saving and investing in one. And like you I definitely want to try to freeze more individual portions for lunch!

    *Bookchickdi – LOL! Keep in mind that this didn’t happen over night!! Just kind of work on it a little here and there when I have the chance…

    *Linda – We also keep shredded cheese in the fridge but tonight used a bag of frozen for a casserole–makes it easy. Curious about the herbs in water and oil! How do you do that?

    *Carole – Yes–we have a freezer in the house and one in the garage (two fridges). Great idea to store flat bread!!

    *Cecelia – LOL! I remember those days of sharing a freezer with roommates. ;) But when you do get a freezer don’t do what I do and wait so long to use it!

  21. I have to admit the sad truth, which is that we have no freezer. Technically, we had a two foot by one foot box, but that’s it, so I basically can’t freeze anything. I have to be pretty creative to make only dishes that produce no leftovers, and it means I have to cook fresh everyday. Oh, well.

  22. I have been talking about getting a freezer for years. One of these days I will get onto it, but I don’t imagine that I will ever be as well organised as you seem to be!

  23. We have a HUGE freezer downstairs and its mostly filled with meat. This means we have to remember to take stuff out of the freezer a couple of days ahead of time for dinner…but we’ve saved a TON of money grocery shopping by buying meat on sale and portioning and freezing.

  24. Our fridge in the garage is getting ready to die on us so we’ve really had to use up stuff and had to reorganize everything. Lo and behold 2 bags of chicken breasts (time to cook and shred some)and marinara sauce that had gotten pushed to the back (and to think that we ate jarred a few times!). Milk? Yes, you can freeze milk. You do need to open it and pour off a bit first or it bulges and can leak. Also, I use 2% because it waters down when you thaw it.

  25. This just in! The frozen muffins were GREAT!!! I pulled two frozen ones out of the bag this morning, popped them in a baggy in my lunch bag, drove the hour to work, stuck them in the microwave long enough to heat through, and they tasted like they were freshly baked! No complaints here!

    And I was going to ask you: when you make up your portions for work do you do the same thing…just bring them in frozen and let them thaw in the fridge til microwave time?

    • *Andi – Ok…next time I bake I’ll have to try freezing some of it! That sounds like such a yummy breakfast. And in terms of making portions for work–I haven’t done as much of this as I’d like but I usually try to defrost in the fridge and then heat up in the microwave. I haven’t done a great job of portioning out soups so far so they take longer because they’re bigger but need to work on this. I have started making little baggies of shredded chicken for salads (just roast a couple of breasts and then portion out the meat). This works great and the little baggie defrosts from morning until lunch in the fridge. Just zap for 20 seconds to make it warm.

  26. I use dry beans almost exclusively and here’s what I do: I rinse and pick them over and then put them in a casserole dish with enough water to cover them (or a bowl will do, doesn’t matter) and stick them in the microwave overnight. (Mostly to keep my cat out of them, since he is 1) dumb 2) curious and 3) loves beans). In the morning I drain them, dump them in the crockpot, cover with more water and spices (but not salt, which makes them tough) then cook them on low until they are tender. Then I drain them, portion them in freezer bags, and stick them in the freezer for addition in recipes just like canned.
    Oh, and if you have a giant bag of black beans that are frozen and slightly stuck together, and you drop them on the floor like a bag of ice to break them up, they have a tendency to fly out of the bottom of the split bag and skate across your kitchen floor en masse. Seamus ate quite a few of them while I was sweeping them up.

    • *Shieldmaiden – Thank you so much for the instructions on the beans!! Now can you write a post so I can count it for #PinitDoit? ;) Seriously–I want to do this soon especially as my daughter doesn’t seem to like meat but needs to get her protein in somewhere. Beans seems the logical place to start. Will keep in mind about tossing bags of frozen beans on the floor. LOL!! And great tip for the tomato paste! I’ve just been spooning into ice cube trays and freezing that way.

  27. Also– I used to buy the tomato paste in tubes but it was kind of expensive; now I buy a big can, dump it out onto a piece of parchment paper and shape it into a skinny log, then put that in a freezer bag and just cut a chunk off it with a sharp knife when I need some.

  28. *Beth – I shared your comment with my husband and he was in a state of shock. Not sure if it was more over the freezer or you cooking every day. ;)

    *Marg – “as well organised AS YOU SEEM TO BE” is the key. Ha! When I open up the freezer I fear for an avalanche of goods. Definitely needs a culling this weekend…

    *SarahBeth – I admit that I’m bad with thawing meat and will just throw it in a sink of lukewarm water until it’s done–maybe our fridge is too cold to thaw properly? But absolutely agree with you on hitting up the meat sales and stocking up. Especially now that the prices of meat are going up!

    *Lisa – I had a gallon of milk and pour half of it into freezer containers (four individual containers) to use later. I’m glad to know that it’ll freeze ok! We buy organic whole milk for Elle and she goes through it quickly but just regular milk for our cooking but it’s cheaper to buy a gallon than a half. What kind of sense does that make?!

    *Kailana – The thing that sucks about all this organization is the planning. ;) Takes time!