Friday, January 15, 2010

Freezer Cooking 101

A friend asked today for advice on prepping food for the freezer to make getting a meal on the table faster.  This is something I have a ton of practice doing!  Since I already typed all of this out once tonight, I am going to do a little friendly copy/paste of the email for you.  Please excuse the lack of pictures and general cuteness of this post.  We're going for informational tonight!  
Just a little note: 
I'm assuming most of you know what "flash freezing" is, but in case you don't..... it's when you put a layer of food on a cookie sheet or something and put in the freezer until frozen. After it's semi-frozen, you bag it up into freezer bags. It's so you can reach into the bag and grab however much you need, instead of dealing with a big hunk of frozen food. Think frozen veggies in the bags at the store.... those are flash frozen.



  • Rice freezes beautifully! just sprinkle a little water over it before reheating in the microwave.
  • Brown Rice --- I freeze in individual servings in snack size baggies, then put all of the little baggies into one gallon sized freezer one. That way if it's just me for lunch, I can take out one and not have to worry about using a whole batch.
  • Fried Rice

Breakfast Foods

  • Pancakes -- a hell of a lot cheaper than buying the aunt jemima ones
  • Muffins
  • French Toast Sticks
  • Biscuits
  • Breakfast Sandwiches --- I always have a couple dozen in different variations on hand. Usually Sausage Cheese biscuits for the kids and English Muffin / Egg White / Turkey Sausage for me.
Convenience Foods

  • Taquitos - (recipe coming soon!) - great for the guys to heat up themselves!
  • Cookie Dough - I make dough, use a scoop to portion out the dough balls, flash freeze and bag up. That way if I am craving cookies, I can make 3 or 4 and not eat a whole batch! Or just grab a frozen dough ball out of the freezer --- soooooo good!
  • Any baked goods that I am too tempted to have a whole batch of - banana bread/brownies/cupcakes/etc. They all freeze good. I just pre-portion and freeze so I can grab one serving. Great for lunches!
  • Tuna Salad / Chicken Salad / Crab Salad -- You just need to make sure to use Salad Dressing, not Mayo. They freeze and thaw great and save a ton of time.
  • Sandwiches -- these can totally be made ahead of time and my family never can tell when I do! So please don't tell them! I make the sandwhiches (remember salad dressing, not mayo - mustard is fine), wrap them up in plastic wrap and put them back in the bread bag. Throw the whole bread bag in the freezer. It makes throwing together lunches for me and Telly a cinch! He would never eat them if he knew, but they obviously taste fine, b/c he's never complained! Just make sure to put a thin layer of some condiment on both sides of the bread, so it doesn't get soggy.  

Crock-pot / Casseroles / Soups / Stews -


  • Soups/Stews - I freeze these in quart bags. Fill, lay flat to freeze. Then you can stack them up really easily like books in the freezer to save space.
  • Casseroles - I don't make them much, but when I do I assemble and freeze. Thaw the night before using and then bake the day I want to eat it. *** See lasagna below if you want it to be done when you get home! ***
  • Crock-pot -- I make kits! I take a gallon sized bag and sharpie the name of the recipe on the outside. Then I take all of the ingredients I need for the meal and put them in that bag. (Meats/Veggies in a bag, Sauce in a bag - put both into big bag) If it calls for something shelf stable or refrigerated, I write it on the outside of the bag so I know what to grab. I'm usually in a hurry in the morning, so I need all the help I can get!

Pasta Dishes -

  • Stuffed Shells -- I have a KILLER recipe, but I don't make it much b/c it's time consuming as hell and it is loaded with fat. When I do make it, I make a quadruple batch and freeze them.
  • Lasagna - assemble, freeze, bake that day. You can do this in the crockpot by the way. Just line your crockpot insert with foil or one of those crockpot liner bags. Assemble your lasagna in the crockpot, put the crockpot in the freezer until frozen. Once it's frozen, pop the frozen block of lasagna out of the crockpot, wrap it really well and throw it in the freezer. The day you want to eat it, you unwrap it and throw it back into the crockpot. Cook on low all day and it's ready for dinner. The trick is assembling and freezing in your crockpot so it will be the right shape. You can do this will almost all casseroles. 

Ground Beef/Ground Turkey/Ground Chicken


I keep a few pounds frozen raw in the freezer (1 lb per bag) in case we want to do burgers or something

  • Basic Ground Beef Mix -- I cook ground beef, garlic & onions and bag in 1 lb bags. 1 lb = about 2 cups after cooking. I use this for quickie dinners -- tacos, sloppy joes, pastas, etc. I ALWAYS have at least 10 lbs in my freezer of this.
  • Meatballs
  • Meatloaf -- I make a big batch of it, but cook it in muffin tins for easy portion control. It's really easy to just take out however mini muffin size portions I need for that meal and microwave for a few minutes. Great for the guys when they come home hungry after work too! I cook these until they are just shy of being done and then flash freeze and bag.


I approach chicken in 2 different ways: whole chickens and boneless skinless breasts. Here's what I do when I get whichever type on sale...


Boneless Skinless Breasts -

  • Bag 1 per bag and pour in a marinade, just enough to cover it. Either a bottled, homemade, whatever. Make sure you sharpie on the bag what flavor it is! I then freeze them flat until they are mostly frozen and then corrall all of the little bags into a big bag a couple of hours later. Great for when you only need to feed one of you, or if you want one flavor and J wants a different one.
  • Strips - I cut some of the breasts up into strips to use for stir frys, fajitas, thai chicken satay (yum!!!), etc. I always marinate these too.
  • Roast, then dice to use for chicken salad. Roasted makes better tasting chicken salad and having it precooked saves a ton of time.
  • Every once in a while I will freeze some (1 per bag) with no marinade, in case I want to try a new recipe or something.
  • If you really want to save time, you can pre-cook the breasts. I do these for lunches a LOT. I usually will grill up a whole grill full and then freeze individually. The trick is to freeze them as a whole breast, and put a splash of chicken broth in the freezer bag so that they don't dry out as easily. These taste a whole lot better if you let them thaw versus trying to quick thaw them in the microwave. They don't take long to thaw though. I can take them out in the morning and put in my lunch box and they are ready to microwave by lunch time with no problem.

Whole Chickens -


When they go on sale for $0.69/lb or less, I buy around 24 chickens and do a MAJOR chicken session. It is messy and I HATE chicken by the time I am through, but it is SOOOO worth it! Now, I am not a fan of dark meat - except wings from restaurants - but Telly and Taylor are. And it's cheaper, so I give it a shot and try not to think about it!


I clear everything off of the counters to avoid the chicken juice touching anything, get out a bunch of bowls, kitchen shears and knives and form an assembly line. I will freeze 1 or 2 whole, but cut up the rest. I cut apart each bird one at a time and throw the parts into the different bowls, so that when I'm done, I have a bowl of breasts, bowl of backs, thighs, etc.


The very first thing before you start cutting is get your giant stock pot ready for the bones/backs/etc. You want to get your broth going so that you don't have to stay up all night waiting for it to finish.


Here's what I do with each of the parts:


  • Breasts - I use to do the above items
  • Drumsticks - Marinate and freeze in meal sized packs
  • Wings - seperate, marinate, freeze
  • Thighs - Roast, pull meat off the bones and freeze in 1 cup portions (snack sized baggies) to use in casseroles, tacos, etc.
  • Backs/Wing Tips / Bones / etc --- I use to make chicken stock. LOTS of chicken stock! Let me know if you need my method. I then pull the meat from the bones and freeze like I do the thigh meat. The chicken stock I freeze in 1 to 2 cup portions. I also freeze some in ice cube trays and then pop them into a gallon bag. They are great for when you are doing a stir fry or something and want some extra flavor, but not the fat of using oil.

Basically, when I am done, every single part of the chicken has been used --- except the nasty organs and stuff in the little paper bag. I don't mess with that! I don't care how good someone tells me chicken livers are... that's just gross. I love doing chicken sessions, because for a few hours of work you have a ton of chicken in a bunch of different types/flavors ready to go.

I think those are the main things. If you want any specific recipes, let me know. I have frozen just about anything and everything at least once to see if it will work. If you are ever unsure about a recipe's freezability send me an email. Chances are I've tried to freeze it before! The main thing is to only freeze things you know you guys already like. Don't make a triple batch of a new recipe for the freezer. It really sucks having 3 meals of something you hate staring at you everytime you open the freezer door!
If you have read this all the way to the end, then woo hoo! 


  1. Holy Cow Donna! I am a surprised a publisher has not contacted you yet! You should totally write a book about all this stuff. You really have a great system. I wish I was that motivated and organized to cook like you. Maybe some of your skills will rub off on me.

  2. Hey I read the entire thing! I really need to work on my freezer foods right now. Anybody who doesn't do the pre-marinated or pre-cooked meats for meals now, you should really try it. Saves a ton of time at meal prep time, and less dishes to wash since you do it all in one session.

    The only thing I do differently is chicken. I don't do as many as you, so I just throw the whole chicken or two in my big stockpot and cook all the parts together then pull it off the bone, cut it up into pieces and baggie it all mixed up since Jay isn't a big chicken eater.

    I use 2 cups of ground beef for spaghetti or casseroles, but we need 3 cups for sloppy joe's, tacos or anything where meat is the main ingredient. I think I am switching to 3 cups for most of our stuff now though since pint freezer bags are almost extinct. Maybe I could use sandwich baggies and then put them all in a gallon freezer bag like you suggested.


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