All the Best Freezer Cooking Hacks You Didn’t Know You Needed in Your Life
If you’re going to take the time for freezer cooking, may as well do it right, am I right? After spending an hour in the kitchen preparing a stack of delicious freezer meals, you need to feel confident as you carry out the other half of this freezer meal strategy. So, here we’ve pulled out all the hacks you need for freezer cooking success. Or maybe address some of the reasons why you don’t like freezer cooking, or why it hasn’t worked for you in the past.
This will be like an episode of Mythbusters – for freezer cooking excuses!? 😉
- “But I don’t have enough freezer space”
- “All those meals just become a jumbled mess in the freezer.”
- “I don’t plan ahead enough and uh…frozen dinners aren’t helpful if they are still frozen at 5pm.”
- “Eww. Last time I tried freezer meals, I had chili all over my freezer, floor, and counter tops.”
If you’ve ever muttered or thought any of those phrases, then you are in the right place my friend! Keep scrolling down to find the best freezer cooking hacks!
Flat Freezing to Save Freezer Space
Freezer space is prime real estate in my kitchen! If you are looking to save some freezer space, I recommend “flat freezing” your freezer baggies.
After putting all your ingredients in the freezer bag, remove as much as you can by pressing air bubbles out of the bag. Then, stack baggie meals together and place in your freezer.
If you’re worried about the bags sticking together (this has only happened to me in my deep freezer, never in the fridge freezer!), then you can add a small piece of wax or parchment paper in between the bags.
This set of ten MyFreezEasy meals takes up less than 1/2 of the bottom shelf in my fridge freezer.
So start making all the pizza you’ve been secretly hoarding in your freezer and make room for some healthful, delicious homemade freezer meals!
How to Organize Freezer Meals in a Deep Freezer
Basically, you want to Konmari your freezer!!!
Let me just tell you…digging around in your deep freezer, trying to find freezer meals that you stacked nicely to freeze isn’t always easy. They easily get buried by other meals, bags of ingredients and other items you have in the freezer. When it comes time to fish one out, I just dreaded it. You start digging. Pulling things out, one at a time.
Then you think about calling off your deep freezer search for the freezer meal you want…because your fingers are about to freeze off. So instead of digging farther, you just grab the meal that’s on top and go with that for dinner instead of the meal you set out to find.
I knew I needed a better system for these stacked freezer meals.
In the past, I’ve tried to fit a box from Costco…but it was too large. So when this perfectly size box showed up from Amazon, I took action, wrapped the folding tops in duct tape and made a “taller box” to hold our freezer meals upright. So they are easier to find and grab!!!
See – Konmari-ed – where everything is easy to see and pull from the box!
And no more frozen fingertips from digging through the freezer!
Here’s the step-by-step for setting up your freezer with boxes…
- Flat freeze your meals. Use small pieces of parchment or wax paper in between the bags to keep them from freezing together.
- Once frozen, lift out the bags and place them into the box.
- If need be, rearrange so the box will fit and the top will close.
- Place box into deep freezer.
- Easily pull meals out as you need them.
And digging to the depths. If I need to get to the green beans, or pineapple or other food that’s below the box, just lift out the box…then put it back in. No taking meals and bags out one by one, looking for what I need for dinner…or smoothies…or whatever.
If you really want to be organized, then you need to be like Susanne. She shared this on my Facebook page and it’s genius!
“Laughing because my chest freezer has Costco boxes stacked the exact same way. I got tired of digging for the stuff on the bottom! So hubby had the idea to make “layers” of food…we eat about a layer a week. Each layer has some shredded cheese, yogurt box, some chicken meals, some ground beef and or meatballs, and chicken nuggets or strips for lunch. Veggies are in a separate box on the side on top of my bulk sausage boxes.” – Suzanne
When you do bulk shopping or freezer meal prep, set up your meals and ingredients you need for a week into a layer.
I adore this “layers a week” concept…what a smart way to be organized with your freezer meals & frozen ingredients!
How to Quickly and Safely Thaw Freezer Meals
The best method for thawing frozen meals is putting the meal in the refrigerator overnight, or sometimes up to 2 days.
I prefer to thaw them this way, but I’m also a busy mom with four boys and I often forget to pull them out on time…even when it’s written on my calendar or to-do list. It happens, but dinner can still go on!
Pro Tip: set an alarm on your phone as a reminder for thawing meats!
If you do forget, you can take them out that same day and thaw in a bowl of lukewarm water. It will quickly thaw this way, the time dependent on the thickness of the baggie or container. When I ‘quick-thaw’ things, it can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour.
Important Note: If utilizing the quick thaw method for raw meats, please don’t leave raw meat out on the counter in a bowl of warm water. Always let raw meat thaw in the refrigerator to keep it at proper cold temperatures. You can thaw raw meat in a bowl of warm water in the refrigerator if you need it to thaw out quickly.
How to Stop Freezer Meal Bags from Sticking Together
Imagine you’ve made a set of fantastic freezer meals.
All the ingredients were carefully loaded into their bags. The labels were printed and stuck on the bags. You happily stacked your meals into the freezer with a smile.
You go to pull out your favorite meal a few days later and… all the bags are STUCK.
As you try to pull the bags apart, they tear.
Now you’ve got a big mess. So much for stress free dinner, huh?
Nope. This isn’t your story.
After you prepped the meals, you stacked them into the freezer with a sheet of parchment of paper between each one.
Or wax paper.
Or a piece of foil.
Yes, it’s that simple!
Also, don’t forget to stand up your meals in a box once they are frozen, so you’ll be able to easily grab them from your freezer!
General Freezer Cooking Tips
- Let the food cool down completely to reduce risk of freezer burn!
- Package up and remove as much as air possible if using a plastic baggie. If using a plastic container and freezing liquid, be sure to leave enough head space at the top, as the liquid will expand as it freezes.
- “Flat freeze” by pressing the food as flat as possible in the baggie. Then you can stack meals and save space in your freezer.
- Thaw completely in the fridge overnight or for up to two days if it is ‘thick.’ If you need the food that day, or within thirty minutes, you can let it soak in a warm bowl of water and it will quickly thaw. The thickness of the baggie or container will determine how long it will take to thaw. When I ‘quick-thaw’ things, it can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour.
- My recommended “stay in the freezer times” are: up to 6 months for regular fridge freezer, or up to 12 months in deep freezer.
Freezer Meal Hacks for MyFreezEasy Freezer Meals
- Do not (I repeat, do NOT!) shop and prep on the same day. Find a time in your schedule that will allow you to shop the morning/afternoon/evening before, then prep the meals the following day.
- When the meat is on sale at your store, prepare the meals in that particular meats plan and you’ll kill two birds with 1 stone.
• You’ve saved a ton by stocking up on meat that is on sale.
• You’ve saved a ton of time and sanity by prepping it all for dinner at once.
- Use the “Prep Day Shopping List by Recipe” when in the checkout lane (or even as you are loading and unloading your cart!) to organize ingredients into specific bags so that when you get home, the ingredients are already grouped together by recipe. The bagger might look at you like you’ve lost your mind, but you’ll be smiling when
you get home and it’s already organized for your prep & assembly!
- Drop produce and meats into the fridge in their bags so they are easy to pull out the next day when it’s prep time.
- Leave shelf stable ingredients on the counter, ideally organized in their bags, to make prep set up a cinch.
- A Random Note about Side Dishes: I leave these very much open and flexible to allow your family to decide which veggies and/or starches are best for your preferences. Make the most of sales and deals on produce and bulk rice or pasta to save big on side dishes too.
Freezer Cooking Methods & Strategies to Save Money and Time
A number of different concepts and methods for making freezer meals exist and I thought it prudent to take a moment to discuss each one.
- Bulk or Batch Cooking – Bulk or batch cooking is doubling or tripling favorite recipes and freezing what you don’t eat that meal. These are easy to incorporate into your weekly meal plan, as you’re already in the kitchen working on the meal so why not double it up.
- Weekly Freezer Cooking Sessions – Once a week, you can prepare 5-6 meals for dinner and another meal or two for breakfast or lunch. These cooking sessions can take between 2-3 hours to complete, depending on what you are cooking.
- Monthly Freezer Cooking Sessions – These power-cooking sessions can produce 20-40 meals in 4-8 hours time. Cooking meals for a month can come in handy for everyday living, or for when life throws you curve balls or babies! After surgery or having a baby, having food stashed in the freezer is crucial…both for time and sanity saving reasons.
- 1 Hour Power Freezer Cooking Sessions – If you want a little more focused cooking session, then plan an hour to get 4-5 meals or prepared ingredients into the freezer. Brown some ground beef, mix up some meatballs, bake some muffins and cook a double batch of pancakes to freeze as well. Set the timer and get to work!
- Slow Cooker Freezer Packs – These packs are ‘dump and run’ packs that you prepare ahead of time and in batches to keep in the freezer. They can be thawed and then cooked all together in the slow cooker. I use gallon size freezer baggies and load them up with everything you need for that meal and then freeze. I let them thaw partially or completely before adding them to the slow cooker and cooking as directed. These are a great way quickly prepare your favorite slow cooker, freezer friendly meals.
Money Saving Freezer Strategies
I would challenge you to utilize the freezer as a money saving tactic. As you watch the sales and prices at the grocery store, please start stocking up on the meats and veggies when you see them on sale. When you see boneless skinless chicken breast on sale for $1.99/lb., I beg of you to please buy enough packages to last until the next sale (usually 6-8 weeks later!) While every grocery store’s sales cycle differ slightly, if you watch your stores closely, you’ll start to notice a pattern of when they offer best prices on meats.
As you slowly begin to fill your freezer with meats and veggies, you’ll discover a shift in the way that you grocery shop and plan your meals. Instead of planning then shopping, you’ll find yourself shopping, filling your pantry and freezer, and THEN planning your meals based on what you purchased at rock bottom prices and what you have in your house! While both options, meal planning then shopping & shopping then meal planning, are great money saving strategies, I have found that shopping the sales and stocking up, then planning around what you have on hand is the best way to save more money in the long run. Here’s a peek of what that looks like…
Week 1 – chuck roasts and split chicken breasts are on sale. Organic baby carrots are on sale, as are yellow onions and sweet potatoes.
- Shopping Plan: Purchase 3-4 roasts, 3-4 packages of split chicken breasts, 3-4 bags of baby carrots, an extra bag of yellow onions, and triple the amount of sweet potatoes you would normally purchase.
- Freeze Plan: Marinate the beef roasts & chicken pieces, or just freeze them and marinate later. Freeze the baby carrots to use in soups or stews. Chop up or slice and freeze the extra bag of onions to use in soups, stews, sauces and fajitas. Make a triple batch of mashed sweet potatoes and freeze what you don’t eat for dinner that night.
Week 2 – Pork chops are on sale, as are celery and the last of the strawberries for the season.
- Shopping Plan: Purchase 3-4 packs of pork chops, and extra stalk of celery, and as many strawberries as you can fit into your budget.
- Freeze Plan: Marinate the pork chops, or just freeze them and marinate later. Chop up the celery and freeze in 2 cup portions to use for soups, stews and casseroles. Remove the stems from the strawberries and flash freeze (details in Freezing Tutorials section) to use in smoothies later.
Week 3…it goes on and on.
After a few weeks, you’ll have all kinds of food in your freezer and pantry to start making up meals. Eventually your shopping list will be just fresh produce, dairy and bread. Then, you’ll need to purchase more meat when it goes on sale again and keep the rotation going. Just remember to keep enough on hand for what your family needs. Over time, you’ll fall into a nice rhythm and will enjoy all kinds of savings, too!
Time Saving Freezing & Make-Ahead Strategies
Set aside a few minutes on the weekend or when you have the energy on a weekday evening and package up what you would normally add to the blender in a quart size freezer baggie. Pour some milk or yogurt into an ice cube tray, then freeze.
To each make ahead smoothie baggie, add a few cubes of frozen milk or yogurt in with your favorite fruits and freeze it all up! When you’re ready to make your smoothie, just dump it all in, add a little water or juice so it will blend well and puree away! You’ll find some great smoothie recipes at the end of the recipe section of the guide. Use those or your favorite smoothie combinations to make 10-20 packages of Make Ahead Smoothie Mixes at a time.
This is a great way to take advantage of sales on produce. You can buy a few extra pineapples when they go on sale for 98¢. Cut them all up and freeze with some bananas and apples or bananas and oranges and there’ll be cheap smoothies ahead for you!
If you ever purchase larger amounts of flour, sugar and other baking ingredients from a warehouse store, then it helps to set aside some time to make some baggies with the mixes pre-measured out. Then you just dump and add the egg, oil, milk and other liquid ingredients for baked goods like pancakes, waffles, muffins, etc. While it takes a few minutes to measure everything out, it sure makes a huge difference on those busy afternoons to have everything pre-mixed and ready to dump. Because when you have little ones under foot or work full time or are going through a tough time in life, every minute in the kitchen counts!
These baking mixes can be stored in the pantry if they are sealed well, but when I make a huge batch of them I prefer to store them in the freezer. I roll up the labeled bags and place them in a plastic container that fits in my deep freezer with the label facing up. Then I can quickly grab what I need and get to making it. I don’t usually worry about the flour being cold when I prepare foods, as it warms up quickly in the stand mixer when I’m making the batter. You can always pull it out early to let it warm up to room temperature, but if you forget it’s okay. (I forget all the time!)
Put an end to dinnertime stress with MyFreezEasy
It’s more than freezer meal plans…
You choose the recipes your family likes, then MyFreezEasy pulls them together and gives you a customized meal plan with:
- complete recipes plus doubled version to freeze so you can easily prepare and cook your meals
- shopping lists so you can get in and out of the store
- streamlined assembly instructions so you can spend as little time as possible on the freezer meal prep
- downloadable labels with directions for cooking so you know what to do when its time to cook/reheat the meal!
You can create your customized meal plan from your computer, or even from your phone while you are at the grocery store!
And happy Freezer Cooking!!
New to freezer cooking? I have the perfect workshop for you – just fill out the form below!