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The Ultimate Guide to Making Your Freezer Work for You (without a batch cooking day)

The Ultimate Guide to making your freezer work for you

I tried a “cook for a month” sort of cooking day once, and it was EXHAUSTING. 3 days’ work. Not my thing – but I do love my freezer to make healthy, real food meals possible and quick!!!

Once I start cooking, it’s a whirlwind from start to finish. As a mother of young children, it’s important to save steps as much as possible. I want dinner on the table quickly…but I don’t want to rely on fast food or packaged dinners. I like to think outside the box. What works for me?

Call me the freezer queen.

One of my favorite strategies is to utilize my freezer space to the utmost (almost to abuse, probably). I have a LOT of wonderful real food in there, a mix of ingredients, whole foods convenience foods, and homemade food, frozen for later.

Here are the items you’ll always find ready to go in my freezer that make dinner prep go MUCH faster.

Real Food in the Freezer to Save Time

1. Peppers:

I buy peppers by the bushel basket from the farmers market in the summer for cheap and slice or dice them for the freezer. I use them all year long in soups, chili, stir fry, fajitas, etc. Peppers do not need to be blanched. Just don’t eat them raw after freezing – yuck.

This is so important! Don’t expect to put diced peppers from the freezer on your salad. They are going to come out mushy, so they’re really only for cooked applications.

2. Onions:

Chopped and in a bag, ready to throw in anything. I can chop extra onions while prepping an easy meal or even after the kids are asleep. I use my easy food chopper, one of my favorite kitchen gadgets ever! Onions need no blanching.

If you try this, make sure to get the chopped onions in the freezer quickly so they don’t start to get watery. Freeze the bag as flat (thin) as possible at first, even if you are going to store it in the door like I do for easy access. Also double bag for odor protection. You might have to bang them around on the counter to break up a big clump, but it’s a good way to take out some aggression! I love that this also saves tears, because you only have to cut onions once for 5 meals or so.

My kids have been able to help me keep those stocked a little bit too, although I admit that we eat so much these days that it’s almost easier to just cut onions as needed. When we really get going using this onion cutting trick for no tears, we might get a half a quart bag in the freezer. But when my kids were younger and I was able to prep ahead more – because meals were smaller and had more pasta and fewer veggies – frozen diced onions were an integral part of my sanity!

How to Select Onions: Look for crisp, dry outer skin.  Avoid mushy, moist, dark patches, sprouts, and mold. If it takes you a while to get around to chopping and freezing them, they’ll last longest if you store them in a cool or room temp place that is dark, well-ventilated (i.e. not in a plastic bag, best scenario is wire basket so air can move all around), and not near potatoes.

How to Cut Onions: I generally chop off both ends, slice down the middle to get the peels off easier (learned that from Rachel Ray), and then knock both halves around with my food chopper. Gosh, I love that thing! If you don’t have one, here are some how-to descriptions:

A tear-less note:  Chill the onions for an hour or more to take some of the sting and tears out of the process, and here’s the trick that my son loves to use when he cuts onions.

The best way to get any residual oniony smells off your hands is to wash your hands in cool water and run them with stainless steel. I usually use a spoon or the side of a stainless steel sink. Somehow a chemical reaction happens and the smell is removed!

The Ultimate Guide to making your freezer work for you

3. Celery:

We don’t eat a lot of raw celery, so that’s definitely something at risk of turning to mush in the fridge if I didn’t freeze it. I have one bag of diced and one of big chunks. The latter mostly goes into homemade stock, or gets cut up when I run out of dices! No need to blanch.

4. Spicy peppers:

For $1/quart instead of $1 apiece. I simply wash and halve jalapenos and more from the market in the summer, and then I use them for cooking recipes like this awesome dip ,  this dressing, or these jalepeno poppers all winter long. I’ve never run out!

5. Other frozen veggies:

I don’t bother cleaning and blanching veggies myself, because there would be zero cost savings to buying my own (and possibly a cost loss on top of a definite expenditure of time!). I love Costco again for this, as well as ALDI. Frozen veggies allow me not only to grab a side veg at any given moment and have it ready in 5-10 minutes, but also to make beautiful side/main dishes like this one, from the Kids Cook Real Food eCourse:

Easy Egg Fried Rice

6. Cubes of chicken broth:

I make my own perpetual bone broth and freeze some of it in can-sized portions and some in ice cube trays. This is ideal for those doggone recipes that call for 1 cup of chicken broth. What are you supposed to do with the rest of the can? If you don’t make your own broth, freeze “the rest of the can” in ice cube trays for next time. I also freeze stock in glass and have learned how to freeze in glass jars without breaking any too many, ever. You can also freeze stock flat in zippered bags, but cool it first.

Bonus: Find freezable “cream of” casserole recipes here plus freezable homemade cream of chicken soup.

7. Bones:

If you’re a real food cook, you probably know what I mean. Beef bones that came with our portion of cow purchase, chicken bones that didn’t get made into stock quite yet, and turkey bones from Thanksgiving that my neighbor brought over. ‘Cause I attract weird offers like, “Hey, do you want my turkey bones!?”

8. Stock veggie bag:

When I’m cutting veggies I’ll save onion, carrot, garlic and celery ends, leaves, skins, etc. in a big bag in my main freezer (so it’s close to the cutting board and quick!). Whenever I make stock, the first and second batch usually require no additional veggies, saving me time and also money. Win-win!

9. Shredded cheese:

We shred our own, most of the time, because it tastes better and avoids some random ingredients in processed shredded cheese. That way when Paul gets a hankering to make cheesy taco dip on a Sunday afternoon, we’re ready for him:

Paul made his own cheesy taco dip by learning a cheese sauce and adding Mexican ingredients


He learned to make a basic roux/bechamel during the kids cooking class, and then he was inspired to add new ingredients – salsa and leftover taco meat – to make it his own thing. Love it!

10. Home-cooked beans:

When I cook dry beans, I cook as much as my pot will fit, and then I freeze them in two or four-cup portions for super easy meals later. I’ll use cottage cheese or sour cream containers which equal about “one can” worth, or use quart bags for 4 cups (2 cans) OR go for space saving and use 4 cups in a quart bag. Helpful tip: always label how many cups of something right on the container, and then you can often use them in a recipe without measuring again. 

11. Cooked Bacon:

Every time we have bacon, I fry up the whole pound and freeze the leftovers. It can be crumbled into recipes that call for cooked bacon, plus it’s my favorite topping for homemade pizza. I also freeze pepperoni as soon as we open it.

12. Lemon and Lime Juice:

I try to find these on reduced produce, or at least a whole bag on sale. I juice them all and freeze in ice cube trays in 1 Tbs portions. They can be popped right into recipes like White Chicken Chili, or thawed and used for Homemade Guacamole. You can also freeze the zest to use in future recipes even when you don’t have a fresh lemon on hand.

13. Strawberries:

Sliced and sugared. Mmmm, nothing beats June strawberries in the dead of winter. We use a lot of frozen fruit in yogurt (click here for my easy homemade no dishes yogurt instructions!), so this is essential to have on hand, plus much less expensive to buy in season. We freeze whole berries, green parts included (yes really!!), to throw into green smoothies.

Another way I love to use summer berries is to blend and dehydrate homemade fruit rolls.

14. Frozen blueberries:

U-pick. 6 people picking = 47 pounds or so? ‘Nuf said.

We can’t u-pick enough to fill our homemade yogurt and smoothies all year long, so we do have bags of mixed berries, pineapple, and sometimes strawberries once June’s bounty runs out. Costco is my friend on that. Smile

The Ultimate Guide to Making Your Freezer Work for You

15. Leftover smoothies:

Frozen in Squooshi pouches for lunches or quick toddler snacks! You have no idea what a lifesaver not only the fill-your-own Squooshi pouches but the sip’n top has been. Toddlers can’t squeeze the puree out all over themselves! Love it!

16. Meatballs and Chicken Nuggets:

Easy meals! I make at least 4-5 pounds of meatloaf mix every time I make it and just make a few meatloaves and a bunch of meatballs. I can just toss a dozen into a pot with a jar of sauce, and dinner is ready in 10 minutes. Homemade chicken nuggets are a tiny bit time consuming, and I love being able to do the dishes once for three meals or so. The nuggets freeze individually and can be popped out and warmed in the toaster oven in 10 minutes or less.

17. Cooked meat:

When we have roasted chicken, anything with homemade sausage, or anything with browned ground beef, I always make double or quadruple what we need. I’ll thaw four pounds of ground meat, cook it up all at once, use 1/2-1 pound of it for dinner and freeze the rest in half to three-quarter pound packages. Then it’s ready for any soup, casserole, or to throw into jarred spaghetti sauce for a super quick meal.

I love to be able to pull out cooked meat for dinner or even just a half cup to add to eggs or something like Paul’s cheese sauce (see above) or this crustless quiche.

18. Shredded zucchini:

Another summer bounty item. I always buy four humongous ones for a dollar at the Farmer’s Market, shred them all at once in the blender (or food processor) – notice doing less dishes is a theme here! – and freeze in Ziplocs in 2-cup portions for zucchini bread in the winter. You can also freeze cubed zucchini without blanching or shredded in ice cube trays to add to recipes. Sneak it into soups and casseroles, even jarred spaghetti sauce, to boost the veggie content of the meal. You can also do this with carrots.

When we were working through the Kids Cook Real Food eCourse and zukes were high in season, and I bought some humongous ones for super cheap and enlisted my 10-year-old’s help to stock the freezer. He got to use both his sharp knife skills and food processor skills (guess which one he likes better) and we put many 8-cup bags of shredded zucchini in the freezer. We’ll add that to soups, randomly, as well as make recipes with it throughout the winter.

19. Walnuts:

You can’t beat the sales on walnuts (use the code STEWARDSHIP for 10% off at that site!) just before Christmas when everyone is thinking about baking. I try to buy enough to last the whole year and just toss the thick bags in the freezer. I also chop a whole pound at a time in my blender and store that bag in the door of the freezer to add to quick breads and cookies.

Nuts are shelf stable, sort of. Walnuts especially, but others too, have oils that can go rancid. I prefer to freeze them to be safe, especially once they’re made into crispy nuts, which are primo delicious but not if they get stale.

20. Easy homemade yogurt starter:

This is like an insurance policy for my homemade yogurt – I have a quarter cup of plain yogurt, frozen, plus a little jar of a special countertop culture that I got from a friend in there, in case I ever mess up my batch! I don’t ever want to lose the countertop culture.

21. Home-ground flours:

Since I have a Mockmill grain mill, even flour is “something to do.” I’d much rather grind once and use twice and store extras in the freezer than have to get out the grinder for every cup of flour I need. All the bags are labels and crammed in there! John loved helping to make this healthy pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving; he was so proud to tell everyone about “his” pie!

Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving

22. Homemade breads and pancakes:

Less and less these days, but when we have enough rolls or pancakes leftover at breakfast I love to freeze them for emergencies later! I was able to stock my freezer with homemade tortillas for the first time in years after Leah learned how to roll and fry them up. It’s a super time-consuming process, but she does amazing:

Leah and her homemade tortillas she rolled them all by herself

23. Homemade muffins:

When I make these grain-free coconut flour muffins, I always do at least a double batch. They thaw SO nicely, and they are a great emergency addition to a lunchbox or for an afternoon snack.

24. Extra soup:

Soup is my favorite. Can I marry soup? Oh right…I’m already married. I love to make soup because a huge batch appears and feeds us for many meals without me having to do crazy things like juggle 3 casserole dishes! When I can free 6 cups or more, I know that will make an acceptable emergency meal for us!

25. Other pre-made meals:

I haven’t made time for freezer cooking in a long time, but when I can sneak in an extra meal as I’m making dinner, I love myself later. My favorites is when I can make 2-3 meals using similar ingredients, freeze some and have one for dinner that day. I did that in under an hour with these freezer-to-slow-cooker beauties and these freezer-friendly casseroles.

Bonus:

A bag of leftover cooked veggies for soup. See this post for details.

The Ultimate Guide to making your freezer work for you

Phew!

Was that an exhaustive list?

Not quite, but I’m not going to tell you about the ice cream that fills some remaining space…

I remember being particularly grateful to have food in the freezer as we worked to build the Kids Cook Real Food eCourse one summer.

I hardly had to buy anything at the store other than lettuce, cucumbers, and bananas, because everything was in my freezer. And I’m even more grateful that my kids are old enough and skilled enough to help me keep up on the constant flow of food needed to feed them all! There are some borrowed extra children in the photo below; I have 4 that are rightfully mine. 😉

Cast of Kids Cook Real Food eCourse, day one

We worked really hard over the summer to add skills to their repertoire (over 30 of them!), and now I’d love to teach your kids, too.

 

The holidays are a tough time for healthy eating, especially when kids really just want to bake fun foods!

(If they want to get into the kitchen at all!) 

Maybe…just this once…we should do something I don’t normally recommend. 

What if we give them what they want?

If you’re ready for your kids to gain baking independence without sacrificing all the healthy standards you value, join the Holiday Baking Challenge! Now on sale for just $19, you get professionally filmed videos of me and my kids teaching you to make baking favorites with healthier ingredients.

Holiday Baking Challenge

Foods that aren’t worth freezing:

If the veggies do require blanching, it’s obviously a ton more work, and I’d personally rather just buy them in frozen bags or fresh on demand (although if I grew my own garden, I’d take the time to preserve in the freezer):

  • green beans
  • broccoli
  • carrots
  • cauliflower
  • peas
  • asparagus

Pasta and eggs are two more very good examples of things that do NOT freeze well. (Saucy pasta dishes do okay, but plain pasta isn’t very nice).

Potatoes can also be hit and miss, usually depending on how much sauce is in the dish. For example, cream of potato soup freezes acceptably (be ready for the taters themselves to be mushy), but mashed potatoes lose a lot of moisture and many people don’t like the result. I don’t mind it, but you definitely sacrifice some quality.

Know when to lower your standards just slightly for the reheated finished product (and freeze in portions that you’ll use!) and you’ll be all good…

How to Freeze Extra Meals without Spending a Day Batch Cooking

I’m a huge fan of cooking a double batch of whatever I’m making for dinner on a given night and freezing the extras. It’s like giving yourself a Christmas gift when you get to serve an easy meal that is totally ready to go from your freezer.

There are a lot of websites and books out there devoted entirely to making freezer meals. I find that I don’t trust new recipes if I’m going to be making multiple meals out of them – it stinks to make a gi-normous batch of something that your family ends up disliking. I think it’s far better to look at your own favorite meals (or test drive the freezer cookbook recipes first) and figure out what can be frozen well. Use those website resources for ideas on how to freeze and store or how to manage your time for batch cooking.

Meals I Often Freeze…
  • Soup in quart or spaghetti sauce jars (sometimes plastic if I run out). Don’t forget to leave at least an inch of space for expansion. Broken jars are no fun.
  • Casseroles in glass casserole dishes with lids. Try to shoot for as little head room as possible so you don’t waste freezer space, and cover with a layer of tinfoil or freezer paper between the food and the lid to prevent freezer burn.
    • You can freeze soups and even casseroles in freezer bags, which is very space economical. Try to freeze them really flat for easier storage, and thaw in the fridge with something under the bag (a plate or bowl) in case there’s a small hole in the bag. Nobody likes a puddle of goop in the fridge!
  • Quick breads and muffins in freezer paper.
  • Dough just goes in plastic bags. When you make pizza dough just make a double batch and freeze half of it. You just saved yourself 20 minutes next time you make homemade pizza!
  • If I was freezing something like veggie bean burritos or a casserole with tortillas (enchiladas, for example), I would freeze the filling(s) (refried beans freeze well) separately and assemble them into the tortillas the night I bake it. Filled tortillas (at least with sauce) always get really soggy in the freezer.

There are very few things that don’t work in the freezer, although potatoes not in a casserole are one that comes to mind. There aren’t really a lot of rules for freezer containers, either. Just experiment with what you already have, and remember that the more freezer approved layers you have between the food and the air, the better.

Learn how to reheat frozen meals withOUT using the microwave.

Staying Organized

My freezer list organization - at my fingertips

This might be THE most important tip!!!

With three freezers in the house used extensively, if I didn’t have lists of what’s in there, I’d be creating a landing pad for garbage instead of food storage and wasting a lot of my own money and time.

I personally think that freezer lists are vital and can’t imagine living without them. The photo above is an older one but shows how I keep it accessible – on the side of my fridge, with a pen for writing on the list and a permanent marker for writing on the food, all right there.

free printable

My newer system is seriously 3-4 pages, but it’s all organized by category: broth/stock, cooked beans, nuts, chicken, beef, pork, fruits, vegetables, baked goods, ready-to-eat meals, and miscellaneous. I use the printables that come as a bonus item with the purchase of my eBook Better Than a Box, and I’m more organized than ever!

Some of my family members who visit often will marvel at the fact that I can keep up with it and often say, “I could never do that; I’d forget to update it and it would be obsolete within weeks and not helpful anyway…”

I’m totally the opposite; I could never not do it. It’s not always easy to remember to update it, but after this many years, it’s totally second nature. I get something from the freezer, and it’s like not washing my hands after using the restroom until I’ve marked it off on my sheet. Usually, I’ve already just looked at my list to see what I needed to go get anyway, so it’s sitting on the counter anyway.

It’s the same putting things in the freezer – if I set something in there and haven’t written it down, I have a foreboding feeling like “I’m going to forget all about that!” until it’s documented.

I don’t think there’s one perfect way, probably hundreds of methods that will work, but I do think you have to keep a list if you’ve got more freezer space than just what’s attached to your fridge.

Shape Matters If Space Matters in the Freezer

Best way to freeze in glass jars

Choosing the right container can make the difference between loving your freezer or crying every time you try to manage it.

If you have limited space, you need to take that into consideration. Round containers waste a ton more space than square containers, and plastic zippered bags take the least space of all, no matter what you’re freezing. If you’re super anti-plastic, you’re stuck with freezing in glass jars or buying containers just for freezing – if you do have to do that, get square shapes to save space.

If you don’t believe me that plastic bags take less space, try putting four cups of cooked beans into a quart jar and then into a quart bag. There’s no comparison, and you can stack bags super flat to maximize every square inch even more.

Why I Have Empty Ziplocs in My Freezer

Call me frugal, efficient, or lazy – I’ll acknowledge them all. Any way you look at it, you may wonder why I have empty Ziplocs in my freezer. It’s all about doing fewer dishes and being prepared for healthy eating, my friend.

Some of my shortcuts when preparing a meal using real food involve doing some prep at other times as I mentioned above. If I’m cutting onions, I ask myself:  “Do I have time today to cut extra?”  If I do, I throw some in that freezer bag that is always in my freezer.

I mean always. If I’m out, I still leave the empty bag in there. It’s frozen, so I can then reuse it without problem, plus if I find it empty I know I’m out of cut onions, so I don’t keep looking “just in case”. It’s not like I could wash away the scent of raw onion and reuse that bag anyway!

Similarly in my fridge, sometimes you’ll find an empty plastic container in my meat and cheese drawer. It’s just waiting to be filled with sliced cheese.

When I’m slicing cheese, I slice enough to fill the box. This way, when my little ones say, “Can I have cheese and crackers for a snack?” and I can say, “Sure, help yourself.”  I don’t have to wash the cheese slicer or box every day, and we often are as ready to make sandwiches as the folks who shell out extra cash for pre-sliced cheese.

I store the box empty because I hate dishes, and if I put it out on the counter to wait for more, it might get stinky.

I also try to shred my own cheese instead of paying Kraft or Meijer to do it for me. They add weird stuff to keep it from caking. I hear it’s made of trees.

But I do hate washing the cheese grater or food processor. So I shred a box full at a time…and I leave the box in the fridge if it’s empty!

Other items that fill the empty containers:
  • baby carrots for packed lunches
  • soup-bound leftover cooked veggies
  • salad lettuce that I haven’t washed, spun and chopped yet
  • homemade applesauce
  • dried out bread to be made into bread crumbs
  • on my counter: if I have something dry like biscuits, I often reuse the container after just knocking out the crumbs in the garbage.
  • …and my lunchbag often has a used sandwich baggie in it. If it’s something dry like crackers, I figure I can reuse the bag and save the Earth a little while I’m at it!

So if you visit my kitchen and open my freezer, your first thought will be: “Whoa. That’s a full freezer.”  And then you’ll start to wonder why there are empty Ziplocs in there.

Hope you can benefit from my oh-so-lazy kitchen timesaver!

Set Realistic Thawing Expectations

peaches to freeze

Like any appliance, you can’t expect more out of your freezer than it’s designed for.

You wouldn’t be mad at your refrigerator if you pulled out month-old leftovers and they were totally nasty, but many people think it’s the freezer’s fault (or something other than themselves!) when they’re not happy with frozen food once they try to use it.

The key is to know what you’re going to end up with and set realistic thawing expectations.

  • Frozen veggies can’t be used raw, only cooked.
  • Frozen fruit is awesome eaten frozen, great in cooked recipes, but will be mushy if you let it thaw naturally. Sometimes that’s ok (blueberries in yogurt), sometimes it’s not (apple slices maybe?). Sliced peaches (photo above) are amazing if you eat them still half frozen, like ice cream without the ice cream! Winking smile
  • Some breads will need to be toasted or heated in order to be enjoyable because they’re likely to be a bit dry or crumbly otherwise (homemade tortillas, English muffins, pitas and flatbreads, cornbread, biscuits).
Pumpkin Muffins Freeze Well
  • A whole loaf of yeast bread or quick bread freezes really well and can thaw to regular room-temp eating beauty. Very moist muffins (like the ones pictured above or these grain-free muffins) also do awesome and can be eaten without heating once completely thawed. Muffins on the dry side are another story.
  • Most cookies, if frozen right away when they’re fresh, thaw excellently and can be eaten without heating.
  • Be sure to follow the best practices for freezing, like getting all the air out of your bags, leaving headroom in glass jars, and freezing meals that will thaw nicely, and you’ll be happier with the results.

Bonus tip: If whatever you’re thawing might possibly leak – raw fruit, meat, leftovers in a zippered bag – please be smarter than me and put it in a bowl to thaw in the fridge. I’ve cleaned up too many raw meat juice messes to count, and I still don’t always learn my lesson!

Now let’s dish on YOUR freezer! Please tell me sometimes it’s hard to find things?

What fills your real food freezer?
 

The holidays are a tough time for healthy eating, especially when kids really just want to bake fun foods!

(If they want to get into the kitchen at all!) 

Maybe…just this once…we should do something I don’t normally recommend. 

What if we give them what they want?

If you’re ready for your kids to gain baking independence without sacrificing all the healthy standards you value, join the Holiday Baking Challenge! Now on sale for just $19, you get professionally filmed videos of me and my kids teaching you to make baking favorites with healthier ingredients.

Holiday Baking Challenge
Freezing food
Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

51 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Making Your Freezer Work for You (without a batch cooking day)”

  1. Great ideas! I mainly do “freezer meals” to take with us on vacation to give us homemade meals in a way that I still get a break. 🙂 The tip I have on that is that we’ve found most dishes taste better if the veggies haven’t been pre-cooked. I’ll usually cook the meat, then add the seasonings/sauce and the uncooked sliced veggies. It seems like if I go ahead and cook the whole thing before freezing it, the veggies get mushy.

  2. When we make beef stroganoff, spaghetti sauce, chili, tomato soup, and bone broth, the extra goes in quart-size wide-mouth Mason jars (minus the pasta for stroganoff and spaghetti) for those nights when cooking is impossible.

  3. Great list. In Canada, we freeze everything as growing seasons are short and shopping in winter is cold! Here’s some other great time savers that freeze well, make triple batches, use 1 and freeze 2 in bags – pancakes, waffles and scones; prepared stuffing unbaked packed back into the bread bags; lemon lime orange zest; bread crumbs; peeled garlic and ginger slices; cherry tomatoes and herbs for pasta; cottage or ricotta cheese; shredded coconuts, oats; shredded pork, beef, chicken. Plus eggs do freeze ok, I’ve only tried separated whites, and whisked yolks w added sugar or salt, see https://www.momables.com/how-to-freeze-eggs/

  4. Wait! You have left over bacon!?! Please tell me how that works. LOL!

    Seriously, thanks for the tips. I didn’t know I could freeze celery for soups, etc.

    I’ve been freezing whole tomatillos from my garden like you do strawberries: washed, freeze whole on a baking sheet, and then dump them into a freezer bag.

    1. I was thinking the same thing… who the heck has leftover bacon?? Lol. We eat an entire pound in one meal around here. I don’t have enough pans or oven space to bake more than a pound at a time or else I would!

  5. I didn’t even know having “leftover” bacon was possible! 🙂 Great list! I will be adding these to my freezer.

  6. Heather @ My Overflowing Cup

    The cooked bacon is a great idea! I usually separate and freeze it in different portions, but I think cooking it all is a much better idea. Thanks for the tip!

  7. When I freeze celery it always turns brown. How do you keep it from turning brown. I do wash it before I freeze it. Is that my mistake

  8. Wow, you have some great ideas listed here. I am repinning and I am a new follower. Thanks so much for sharing.

  9. Wondering about the whole refreezing thing?? I buy my beef and chicken from the farm, so all my meat is already frozen. When I take it out, make something (cook it–such as meatballs) and then refreeze, my flavor just plunges. Does anyone else have this problem, and is there a solution?

    1. Claudia,
      I don’t think it’s frowned upon to thaw, then cook, then freeze. I wonder if you just don’t like the flavor of food that’s been frozen, period, and it’s nothing to do with the previously frozen raw meat. ?? Be sure to wrap things really tightly and get all the air out; that will help keep freezer flavor out.
      🙂 Katie

  10. Annie MommyO3cherubs

    Thank you for such grate tips. I’m just now building my frezer menus & this post was a huge help. Some things I like to keep on hand are: cubes of lemonade to drop in a tall glass of cold water during the summer, coffee drink cubes ((simple syrup with instant coffee & even flavor of choice mixed in) make ice coffee readily available for unexpected guests or whatever, & sandwich bases (chicken salad, ham & cheese we add mayo & things later, & of course PB&J). But seeing what you posted here just opened a whole new set of options for me & my family. Thank you again. God bless.

  11. I know this post is a couple years old but I’m curious about freezer zip bags. I’ve been trying to reduce the amount of plastic in my home( storage containers, food containers, etc) mainly for health reasons. My husband gets on me for using so many plastic baggies and it bothers me too. Should it not?

    1. Cortney,
      Plastic zip bags are safer plastic, but who knows what we don’t know yet, you know? I tend not to store or freeze anything liquid in them, but there are just times I can’t figure out any other way. ??? Outside the freezer, I try to avoid them when possible – there are some neat cloth bags available for lunches and such (http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2010/09/13/back-to-school-bonanza-a-greener-option-for-your-sandwiches-review/). Hope that sheds some light!
      🙂 Katie

      1. Thanks Katie! I agree, you gotta do what you gotta do! I suppose it makes me feel better to know that other health conscious mom’s are using them, hoping they’re safe enough ….BTW, I love, love, love your site. I’ve been working on the baby steps for a while now. Now that I’ve found you and all your insight, it’s hard not to want to do it all at once. My husband’s all for it but I think he’s overwhelmed!

  12. I do some of these as well (bread crumbs, onions, walnuts) and will definitely be adding the rest. I also slice up over ripe bananas for smoothies and banana nut bread muffins. I also lay raw bacon on wax paper on cookie sheets, freez and snap off and store in a bag ao I can pull put a slice or two at a time. I cook it on my George and it tastes great. Otherwise, I would throw half the package away.

    1. Amanda, you can save even more time (which you’ll need now that you’re committed to doing so much from scratch) by just tossing bananas into a bag, maybe broken in half. Both smoothies and bread don’t need any special treatment! 😉 Katie

  13. Pingback: Homemade Frozen Shredded Vegetables « The Earthling's Handbook

  14. A nice tip for keeping celery fresher longer is when you get it home, take it out of the plastic bag you get it in at the grocery store and completely wrap it in aluminum foil. Works every time and makes it last 3x+ as long! 🙂

  15. Great tips!!! Love it! I am going to start freezing onions starting tonight. I have a little suggestion for freezing the onion or anything, really and not have to beat it to death to break it apart before use. I do this with grapes, bananas, and sausages. I lay them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet and freeze them a bit before I put them in the freezer bags. Then they don’t stick together in the bag and you can pull them out one at a time. Thanks again!

  16. We also keep bacon in the freezer at all times. We buy in bulk and bake it all up in the oven. You can see how at http://mealsanddealsmom.blogspot.com/2010/11/oven-baked-bacon.html.
    I also never thought of freezing celery. It seems to fall into the never-freeze-lettuce category. I will try this because I often have wilty celery in my fridge.

  17. Peeled ginger – if the grater is reeeeally sharp, ginger grates more cleanly frozen than raw. Lime leaves and sliced lemongrass. Chopped garlic – my hands stink often enough, thank you very much! And finally: a big tub of the week’s peelings to toss into whichever stock I’m making that weekend.
    The “sometimes” list: Raw pureed liver frozen in an ice cube tray, for upping the nutrition in ground beef meals. Raw breakfast sausage patties, veggie patties – anything in patty form is a hit at snacktime. Grated celeriac, since we don’t always want the whole bulb at once and they go smooshy once cut open; works great as a “primal” soup thickener.
    Freezers rock 🙂

  18. LOVE this post. As a working mom I’ve found freezer cooking is the only way to provide a nutritious home cooked meal in as little as time possible. Thank you for some great tips!

    I’d like to add the garlic also freezes well. I don’t like to chop garlic and I often only need a clove or two and then end up throwing the rest of the bulb away. To save time and waste I purchase a large bag of peeled whole garlic cloves at Costco and puree them in my food processor with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. I then press this mixture into 1T sized ice cube trays. Once frozen I put all cubes into freezer bag. If I need less than 1T I simply cut the cube in half and save the rest for later. These method works great for me since I don’t like the flavor of the already minced garlic sold in jars.

  19. I do most of them already, but I never thought to freeze onions before. What a great idea! Hubby and I are not at all fond of onions unless they are very well cooked, so we only use onions once a week or so. This will keep them from going to waste. 🙂

  20. What a lot of great ideas you’ve posted. I also love using my freezer, but reading your post has inspired me to use it even more!
    Here are my tips to add to the mix:
    If a recipe only calls for the juice of a lemon, zest the skin into a baggie and freeze it for later. It’s so handy when a recipe calls for a Tablespoon of lemon zest/rind.
    Also, when I buy a whole celery, I cut the base and leaves off, give them a rinse and chuck them in a bag in the freezer for making chicken stock later. Because the stock gets strained, nobody will know you used the inedible bits to get extra flavour. (I store the celery stalks in a Tupperware Fridgesmart container in the fridge and they stay crisp for weeks in there.)
    When I cut the head off an onion, I sometimes also chuck it in a freezer bag for making stocks.
    And sometimes I’ll really thoroughly scrub my carrots before peeling them, so I can save the skin for going into stock.
    It’s all about making stock in my household!

  21. I know this is a bit late to be replying, but I just wanted to say that I am really inspired by this post. I constantly feel like I am the worst homemaker ever and really regret not asking my mom to “teach me” when I was younger. I really struggle desperately with meals in the kitchen….mainly just being able to be healthy at the same time as being quick and simple. We moved recently (two days after my son was born to be exact!) and replaced my fridge, and my old one is in the garage and has been for a while. Needless to say, it is totally nasty, but I am very motivated to clean it out now and follow your suggestions! Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Robin,
      Welcome! You’re not alone in our generation, wishing we could have learned more from our moms. You’re in a huge time of transition,, with a new house and a new baby, so you definitely need to cut yourself some slack for a little while. Then you can take baby steps to get back on track. Hopefully you can find some good ideas here and stay motivated!
      🙂 Katie

  22. I completely love this post. I’m definitely with you on the homemade chicken stock but I’m going to try out some of your others too! Found you on Tip Junkie. Can’t wait to check out the rest of your blog.
    : )
    jackie.
    .-= jackie´s last blog ..Meatloaf Muffins =-.

  23. My freezer must have list (even before I got my fancy chest freezer) would be
    broth
    mashed pumpkin (from fresh)
    beans (from dry)
    a few brown/black bananas (for bread or smoothies)
    .-= Jimmie´s last blog ..How to Learn Chinese =-.

  24. Pingback: Spotlight: Posts That Caught My Eye « The Road We Travel

  25. I never would have thought of this, and what a great way to save time and money! Especially the onions; I hate chopping them!

  26. Great tips. I already have local peppers and fruits in the freezer awaiting my first long winter without my beloved farmers market. But I did not think about the onions. That was another local item I was going to miss this winter. The farmers market is today so I think I will buy quite a few of them. Also in learning to cook I have begun to learn about lemons and how good they are for you and how you can use them in so much. Great idea for the lemon juice.
    I finally got up the nerve to try Chicken broth a few weeks ago. My freezer is getting full quick now. It is time to get that deep freeze.

  27. I love the lemon/lime juice tip!

    Here is my favorite freezer treasure: browned ground beef. When it is on sale, I will buy 5-10 pounds and brown in it batches. I then divide it into 1 or 2 pound portions and freeze it in zipper bags. I use the meat in my crockpot for chili or taco soup or sloppy joes…it makes the prep quick and easy in the morning if the meat is browned and ready to go!

    1. Very smart! I should do this more often myself. Thanks for stopping by, Elizabeth – I hope you’ll be a regular!

  28. Great post Katie!

    I too keep celery, onion and peppers in my freezer! I’ve also frozen a mixed batch of the three that I know will be the right amount for one of my favorite meals, jambalaya! (But I’ve learned to not do too many bags of it – or else when I go to make another variety of soup that doesn’t call for peppers, I’m stuck! 🙂

    I’m hoping to make a big batch of meatballs this week (you’ll see me detail it on my blog in the next few days) – wish me luck!

    Best,
    Sarah

  29. Donna @ WayMoreHomemade

    I do much of this as well, but some of these ideas were new to me.
    I posted on freezing leftover egg whites today. 🙂

    Good tips all… thanks.

  30. This is a wonderful post. It looks like I’m not the only one who has a problem with dying celery because I never use the whole thing fast enough!

  31. You have some great ideas! I never thought about grabbing lemons or limes from the discount rack and freezing the juice. Definitely gonna try that one!

  32. Hi! I just stumbled across through WFMW and was wondering about freezing strawberries. Do you flash freeze them first? Are they mushy upon thawing?

    1. Sarah, Ooooo, how big? I’m interested to see your recipe — I feel like I’m always doing something different with mine and then not writing it down, so I have no consistency. I read about some ladies who make such a big batch that they mix it in a Rubbermaid storage tub! That sounds like fun, eh? 😉

  33. Great tips! I never thought about freezing celery before. I always buy a bunch for a recipe then the rest ends up going bad in the fridge.

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