Freezing Friday

If you read this blog, you know that I love to freeze things for those nights when cooking is just not going to happen.

So allow me to have the pleasure of introducing you to my freezer...

Freezing is not only convenient, it's economical. When meat is on sale, you can buy it up and either freeze extra or make things to freeze. When you are going through the trouble of baking one banana bread, why not make two and freeze one? Make a huge pot of soup and freeze it in portion sizes. Make a huge batch of rice and freeze it in portions according to how much you need for a meal. I was hesitant to freeze things at first, because I thought they wouldn't taste as good when they thawed. Silly me. When food is packaged correctly, it tastes perfectly wonderful after it thaws.

There is LOTS of info out there on freezing. I thought I would begin by posting a list of ten freezing tips:

10 Freezer Friendly Tips*

1. When possible, always use high quality freezer safe bags over plastic containers. Containers take up a lot of space and bags allow you to squeeze as much air as possible out so that the food stays fresher. Bags work great for liquids (soup, chili, stew) and semi-solid food items that do not need to hold a particular shape (marinades, herbs, shredded pork or beef). Make space in your freezer to freeze the bags flat. They will stack nicely on top of each other and you can fit several meals in a reasonably small space.

2. Flash freezing is the thing to do if you want to put something in a freezer bag, but it needs to hold it's shape. I do this with cookie dough, enchiladas, stuffed and rolled chicken cutlets, etc. You put the item(s) in the freezer on a cookie sheet (or other flat surface) and allow it to freeze for a short period of time (1/2 hour or an hour). Then you can put the item(s) into a freezer bag. For example, you could make a big batch of cookie dough and then scoop balls of dough onto a baking sheet. Flash freeze them and then drop them into a freezer bag. You can bake them anytime you want, directly from freezer to oven!

3. The foil and plastic wrap method works great for things that need to hold their shape (like casseroles, lasagna, meatloaf, etc.). Begin by fully preparing your meal. For example, if you are making baked ziti...make two of them. Bake them side by side, serving one for dinner and saving one for freezing. Allow the food you intend to freeze to cool slightly (you don't want it to be really hot or it will melt the plastic wrap). Line a baking dish with aluminum foil first and then a layer of plastic wrap second. Make sure they both fully cover the bottom and sides of the dish and that there's enough over hang to cover the top of the dish. Place the food into the dish (for baked ziti, I would use a large spoon or spatula to transfer it to the baking dish).

Allow food to cool completely and then cover it tightly with the plastic wrap and then the foil. Keep the meal in the pan and flash freeze it. Once it's frozen and solid, remove it from the pan and into a freezer bag. It should stack nicely into your freezer until you are ready to eat it.

When you are ready to eat the meal, thaw it slightly and then remove the foil and plastic wrap. Place back in the original dish for baking. If you have trouble getting the plastic wrap off, dip it in warm water and it should come off easily.

This method is great because baking dishes are tied up in the freezer, the food stores compactly and easily, and the meal fits right in the original pan again for baking or cooking after a quick thaw.

4. Date and label your meals. You swear you'll know what it is after it's frozen...but you won't. Don't become a victim of mystery meals...label and date them! Use a permanant marker directly on the bags or foil. It's also helpful to put the cooking time and temperature so you don't even have to look up the recipe (also add special instructions like "add parmesan cheese before baking".

5. Always double wrap baked items. Wrap the item in plastic wrap and then in a freezer bag. Baked goods (such as muffins, breads, rolls, cookies, etc) freeze wonderfully and thaw quickly at room temperature or in the microwave.

6. Fresh ginger freezes wonderfully. Peel it, wrap it in plastic wrap, and put it in a freezer bag. Just grab it out of the freezer when you need it for a recipe...it's grates easily and tastes great! You will be amazed how much flavor fresh ginger adds to a recipe.

7. Sometimes, freezer bags can be reused. Obviously, you do not reuse bags that have had uncooked meats and marinades in them. But when bags are used for baked goods or as the outer-layer wrap, reuse them!

8. Pizza dough is super easy to make from scratch (I'll post a recipe for it soon). You can also buy it from some grocery stores and local pizza places. Roll out individual sized pizza crusts and stack them with pieces of parchment paper between then. Place the stack in a freezer bag and freeze on a flat surface. You can pull out one or two of them and bake them directly from the freezer.

9. How long will it keep? There are different opinions about this. My own opinion is that 3-6 months is best. I don't think it will hurt you to eat the meals after that, but I think the flavor and freshness goes downhill over time. When I make something and freeze it, I put it in the back of the freezer and bring the older things to the front. You want to keep the meals rotating so that things aren't stuck in there for ever.

10. Don't thaw on the counter. I know that a lot of people do this. But everything I've read says that harmful bacteria can grow when most foods thaw at room temperature (baked goods are an exception). The wisest thing to do is to think about what you want to make for the week and allow things to thaw in the refrigerator. In a pinch, you can microwave most things easily. Sometimes I thaw soups, chilis, and stews by dipping the freezer bag in and out of warm water until it's thawed enough to be removed from the bag.

*Many of these tips have been taken directly from Don't Panic: Dinner's in the Freezer! by Susie Martinez, Vanda Howell, and Bonnie Garcia. I highly recommend it as a great resource on freezing and prepping ahead.


  1. I AM IN LOVE WITH THIS POST. I am either going to take copious notes or print it out. I'm going to become...da da daaaa...a FREEZER! Thanks for posting it! Question - when you say "baked goods" (breads, muffins, rolls), do you freeze the DOUGH or the finished baked product? I guess both? Bread really freezes ok? Even french or italian bread?

    Also - this weekend/early this week I am going to try out the Strawberry Bar things. If they are even a fraction as good as I think they will be, can I use it as my Tasty Treat Thursday? I'll link it back to you.


  2. Also - found this awesome new website - challenging me to cook/eat/bake healthier! www.theeducatedplate.com

  3. My friend just sent me a link to "30 Days of Meals," which looks like several meals that are made at once, divided into portions and then frozen. I think it makes about 23 home-cooked, natural ingredient meals at a time in all different genres of food - Italian, beef, chicken, crab, ethnic. There's an accompanying spreadsheet that tells the ingredients by total portion you'll need and also the # of meals each item makes. It looks great! I am going to try it with 2 friends and possibly for a family in need at our church so I will let you know how it goes and forward it over if you are interested in it. I am very intrigued. And BTW - the lime chicken was a huge hit last night!! :)

  4. Steph,
    I'm so glad you like this post :) By baked goods, I was thinking more of things that are already made. Like muffins, baked breads, and rolls. However, I'm sure there are ways to freeze the dough...at least for the rolls. I don't think you can freeze batter for muffins (but not sure). French and Italian Bread freeze great. In fact, when I had a Christmas party this past December, I bought all my bread the day before, stuck it in the freezer, and then took it out before the party (for bruschetta and such). It worked perfectly.
    Please let me know how you like the strawberry dessert..I loved it!

  5. Liz,
    I am very interested to see how the meals for a month thing works for you. I've considered doing it myself once we buy an extra freezer for the garage. How awesome would it be to have so many meals ready at a moment's notice?? Please fill me in after you try it and forward me the info. I'm so glad you liked the lime chicken...I made it for Aimee and she thought it was great! :)

  6. Oh yeah, Steph, I forgot to say that of course you can use the recipe in your Tasty Treat Thursday! And thanks for the website!

  7. You're so organized, geez. Also, I think I need flow charts for some of this, especially the instructions on how to freeze lasagna, etc.

  8. Oh also, I added you to my blogroll, so I can more effectively blog-stalk you now :)

  9. ha! I'll have to think about the flow chart ;) Maybe the next time I try it, I'll take some pictures to make it a little less complicated to understand. I don't use that method as much because you need more freezer space than I usually have.

    I blog-stalk you as well...you're on my "Blogs I follow" list.

  10. Ali -

    I've come back to this post 1,000 times. Newest question - I have a friend who just had a baby, and I want to make a few meals to freeze for her. What are some of your favorite freezer meals/recipes? Maybe you can tag them if they are already on the blog under Freezer/Freezing? I plan on doing Ziti....but that's all I got...

  11. Steph,
    I think it's a great idea for me to tag the posts where I have freezer friendly recipes...I'll have to do that. But here's some ideas to get you started:

    - Turkey Bolognese Sauce (Feb. under "Few Hours of Cooking" post) Include a box of pasta so she can thaw the sauce and put it on the pasta.

    - Chicken Enchilades (Feb. under "BRAT" post)You can use Press'n'Seal to individually wrap them so she can pull out however many she wants.

    - Chicken Gumbo (under "BRAT" too) This is really delicious and freezes great.

    -I'm obsessed with freezing soups (any of the ones under my label "Soup" will work.

    -Turkey Chili is my all time favorite...it's delicious with tortilla chips (Jan. under "Morph it")

    And if you want to include a treat:
    - Any kind of quick bread like Banana (Feb. under "Something Sweet" or Zucchini freezes great.

    - Cookie dough (April under "Random Things") Roll them into balls and freeze them so she can bake as many as she wants

    I hope that gives you at least a couple of ideas! Baked Ziti is great frozen as is most other cheesy Italian dishes (stuffed shells, lasagna, etc)