Many of you have mentioned that it can be hard to keep up on cooking healthy meals for your family. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen. I am with you there and freely admit that my own tiredness, circumstances, or disorganization has at times prevented us from eating as well as I would have liked. However, we do not need to be a slave to circumstances!
There are certain practices that will greatly help a busy cook keep up on a busy life while still preparing nourishing meals for her family. Today, I would like to concentrate on utilizing your freezer. Because I cook so many dishes with fresh veggies that won’t freeze well, I find that I often don’t use my freezer for meals. But there are certain things I find it absolutely necessary for.
What Type of Freezer?
First things first, how much room do you have? This will decide how many plans you can have for it. We have the half freezer above our refrigerator, as well as a medium size chest freezer (which I actually do fill for the three of us at times). If you have only a small space, that’s fine. It can still serve you. But if you have the money and space, getting an extra freezer will open up a lot of opportunities for you.
What’s in my Freezer
When berry picking season is at hand, I either pick berries myself, or buy them for a good price from a pesticide free local farmer. I bag them up, and freeze them, and we have delicious organic, local berries all winter long. We use them in smoothies, ice creams, pancake toppings, and put them in baked goods.
Broth’s are a cinch to make and really stretch your dollar while giving you very valuable nutrients (like calcium and other important minerals). I like to portion out 8 and 4 cups and freeze them. I can easy defrost it to make a simple soup.
Lard and Beef Tallow
Since I render my own fat (and yes, I will do a post on this sometime), they are preservative free. I freeze it to make it last longer. That way I always have high quality fat at my disposal.
A Quarter of a Grass Fed Cow and Half of a Grass Fed Lamb
This is a huge money saver. I buy from a farmer who butchers his 100 percent grass fed cows at certain times of the year and sells them by the quarter. Not only is it much cheaper per pound than any organic meat that you could buy in the store, it’s much better for you as well. I also love that I am supporting a local farmer. And by the way, a quarter of a cow, will take up a large portion of a smaller freezer! We also bought half of a grass fed lamb at a huge cost cut from what’s at the store. I split it with my mother, and we’ve both had delicious, nutritious lamb to eat. It’s really worth scouting out a direct source for meat, so I encourage you to look into some local sources.
When I buy my beef, I will also pick up a box of bones to make beef broth with. Some will just give it to you for free! Once made into a broth, this will nourish your family very cheaply.
I don’t actually always have room for them, but I also like to buy pastured chickens directly from a farmer. They are large and flavorful, and very high quality.
When in season, I also roast and puree pumpkins and freeze small portions of them. I am able to use this for muffins, and to add to other baked goods.
If you peel bananas and stick in a freezer bag, they will freeze wonderfully and give a sweet taste and great texture to smoothies. You can also defrost and mash to use in baked goods.
When making pancakes or waffles, make extra because they freeze very well. They make an easy breakfast in a hurry, just pop them in the toaster. If you are making a favorite recipe of muffins, double it and freeze the extras. I bought an extra set of muffin tins, just for this purpose. Bread also freezes very well. Make four loaves and freeze some of them. You can freeze them whole, or sliced.
I will also try to double recipes, so that I can freeze half of it for later (or to give away). Good choices include beef stews (will share a recipe soon) and bean soups. Leave out cream and noodles, if you plan on freezing a soup (you can add them in when you are reheating it). I also like to make up curries, and other sauce like toppings for rice and freezing them. Then all you need to do is make up some rice and heat up your sauce, and dinner is made.
If you have just a single serving of a meal that would freeze well, then take out a little Corningware container, fill it up, and pop it in the freezer for an easy freezer meal for a lunch. Works great when packing lunches for a spouse.
What to Freeze In
Finally, what should you freeze it in? Your choices include glass jars, plastic freezer baggies or plastic containers, or stainless steel containers. Obviously, plastic is not the best choice health wise, but definitely the most accessible. I will be honest and say that we still use a lot of freezer bags in our freezer. Someday I hope to move all things to stainless steel, but that will be a slow process, since the stainless steel containers are not that cheap. If you do have to use plastic, then make sure that everything is completely cool before packing it up. Also make sure that you freeze it flat so that it’s easy to move around in the freeze, if using baggies.
Glass is cheaper, but can be quite frustrating to use in the freezer. Yes, it can break! If you do use mason jars or other glass containers in the freezer, make sure you do the following. Leave plenty of headroom, so that as it freezes and expands it doesn’t break the glass. Put it in a spot in the freezer where it won’t be knocked around. When defrosting, avoid sudden temperature changes (so that means no running hot water over it!). You may even want to defrost it in the refrigerator to play it save.
If you are interested in stainless steel containers, The Tickle Trunk has some for a good price. If making freezer meals, of course, glass casserole dishes work well.
So that’s how I utilize my freezer at this point. I would love to hear how you use yours! This post is part of Lindsay’s Nutritious Freezer Meal Carnival (check it out for more meal ideas!) and Kitchen Tip Tuesday, and works for me wednesday
Latest posts by KimiHarris (see all)
- 2 Ingredient Peppermint Bark - December 21, 2022
- Herbal Hibiscus Lemonade (Keto, THM) - March 16, 2022
- Creamy Curry Red Lentil Soup - December 8, 2021
lizzykristine @ Uplifted Eyes
Since we’ve only had our small chest freezer about a year, I’m still at the tail-end of the learning curve on using it. 🙂
Summer is a terrific time to stock up on fruit & veggies and freeze for winter use, though I also buy and freeze anything at a good price, year-round. For instance last week I picked up 35 bell peppers for $7 — on clearance because they were just starting to soften. I sat down with a movie and washed, chopped, and froze the peppers into strips for stir-frys and diced for casseroles, soups, and omelets.
But generally, the freezer is starting to have more room again in December, just as many meats go on sale for Christmas & Thanksgiving. We have over 100 pounds of turkey, chicken, and beef in the freezer right now — it should last for a while! I’ve figured out when our local grocery store puts meat on clearance (due to the sell-by date), and by shopping at those times, I can frequently get all-natural meat for about the cost of regular meat. It goes in the freezer as soon as I get home, restocking the freezer year-round, once again.
Honestly, my freezer is a bit of a hodge-podge. I freeze whatever I can find at a good deal and use later, as the Lord provides! But having a small chest freezer has definitely enabled us to choose healthier, whole foods without making the budget much more painful. I’m very thankful to have it. 🙂
This post is near and dear since we just bought a big freezer. I’ve been filling it with broth, chickens from “my” farmer, pork fat to be rendered (I’d love some direction on that 😉 ), and prepped veggies. I really like to have already chopped onion, bell pepper, and celery in the freezer to sautee as a soup base…veggies + broth + leftover meat = yummy, nourishing soup. Huge time saver for soups! Any possible loss of nutrients due to freezing is still better than us eating out. 🙂
Another thing you can do is freeze things in the dish you’ll cook them in when you re-heat, BUT take it back out once frozen and bag it so you can use that casserole dish in the meantime. This reduces scraping out of the corners of the baggie, makes the baggie easier to wash and reuse and it will freeze and defrost in the glass/ceramic (for those worried about temperature changes in plastic).
Also, it’s a little more work, but I really like to freeze my broth in ice cube trays (at least some of it). Each ice cube is about 2 Tbs so I can throw some in to deglaze a pan/make gravy or use it to cook rice, etc. It thaws really fast in a hot pan. 🙂
Hope these tips help,
Now, wait! The picture changed while I was commenting…lol. The new one is more colorful, but your beef broth picture was making me drool. 🙂
Do you have any recipes for these freezer meals that need NO pre- cooking. These are the ones I am after, they are easier and a couple of us are getting together next week to make some. Any tips, recipes would be grand. Thanx, Carey
We were able to pick up a chest freezer this summer – finally. It’s been great. I think there’s a quarter cow, several chickens, two turkeys, tons of peaches and plenty of squash puree too. Next summer, I plan to use the freezer more and give canning a rest.
It’s so helpful to have, isn’t it! I have loved having more freezer space.
Those are great tips. 🙂 I also like to do the ice cube broths. So helpful to have on hand. I love your idea of freezing in the dish you cooked it in, and then bagging it. Very creative. LOL, and yes, the photo did change. I liked the beef broth photo, it was just so mono toned that I decided to add a little color (this post is also every expanding and I keep coming back and adding more things!)
No cooking before hand? Meats work well. Put chicken breasts in a marinade and then freeze. Meatloaf is perfect for freezing raw. You could probably also freeze patties of sausage (like the chicken apple sausage recipe on this site) on a sheet pan, and then take them off and put them in a baggie for meals as well. Those are just a few ideas off the top of my head.
That’s great! Good for you. It’s so nice knowing that there is food in the cupboards (or in the freezer, as it may be).
I am loving the new blog design, Kimi. Hope the year has started off well for you!
We use our chest freezer for homegrown beef and chickens. I also like to freeze shredded zucchini from the garden, chop up peppers, too-ripe bananas, berries and various meals. It is always nice to have spaghetti sauce in the freezer for a night that I’m not feeling like spending a lot of time on dinner. Thanks for the ideas!
jen@Balancing Beauty and Bedlam
Loved this post, since this is exactly how I cook/ utilize my freezer as well.
You would appreciate my quandary. I always split the cow with some friends and she mentioned that they were ordering again and asked if I wanted to go in with them. I said sure, just let me know when you’re ordering, so I know when to expect it. Well, she left out that very important detail and called late on a Friday night and said the cow was ready and she was picking it up in the morning. WHAT? My freezer was virtually packed already. Needless to say, I was force feeding our children steak, chicken, and hamburger for the whole week. 🙂
I freeze homemade chicken broth, cut up veggies like carrots, beets, bell peppers, etc Also greenchillies, chopped coconut, curry leaves, etc… I also make a big batch of sprouts and freeze half of them for a later meal. What else? Oh, I roast chicken in the crockpot and shred the meat and flash freeze it on a cookie sheet and then bag it for freezing. The bones go into a gallon sized bag for making broth later. This goes into burritos, stirfries, soups, fried rice etc.. Then there’s cut up raw chicken breasts, cubed and stored in baggies..another bag for chicken wings, drumsticks, 1 lb sized ground turkey packets, etc.. then there’s baggies of nuts too.. beside the frozen berries. We don’t store much of meat because we have a nearby source for fresh harmone free meat. Sometimes I make a big batch of beans and freeze half of it too.
It was nice reading about the stuff in your freezer. I didn’t know that I could freeze in stainless steel containers.. I’m going to try the pumpkin puree, baked goods and some meals like soups, chili etc. Thanks for sharing all the ideas..
Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home
Did you come and raid my freezers to write that post? LOL! Honestly, we have almost the exact same stash of food in our freezers. I could have written this myself. Too funny!
And you’re not alone in using ziplocs still. I try to use glass when I can, but I have also had experiences with it breaking and so I am much more cautious. Thick canning jars do work much better than other jars (like the ones you get from store-bought sauce or jam or pickles). I am trying to move more towards glass as well, though I’m not quite sure how to do that with all my frozen fruit. Literally, it takes half of the space in my large freezer, and I’m not sure how I could practically do it with glass or stainless… hmmm. Any ideas?
This is great post! We have two and a half freezers but the half being the freezer side of our side by side refridgerator. The other two are an upright in the house and a medium/large chest freezer outside. We only have one plugged in at a time as it gets so cold outside during the winter that we have to unplug it to keep the motor from working too hard. We live out in the country so during the summer we pick wild blueberries, raspberries, nagoonberries, salmonberries, high bush cranberries, rosehips, and lingonberries (aka high bush cranberries). We freeze these to make muffins, jams, jellies, and drinks. Our freezer also contains shredded zucchini, carrots, diced bell peppers, celery, leeks, brocolli, and peas (about 3/4 grown locally or our garden.) I love to freeze any herbs I manage to grow or can get my hands on. We make up pesto and also freeze all the greens still in the garden at the end of the summer. This means we may have a mix of spinach, kale, swiss chard, asian greens, or mustard greens in the freezer at any point in time. Since it is such a long drive to town I like to make up batches of homemade ravioli, pasta, rice (brown to be reheated when in a rush), broths, and soups! I love the idea of freezing broth in ice cube trays. We do the same with pesto but what a wonderful way to deglaze a pan.
Yes, we still primarily use plastic but try to flash freeze as much as possible before bagging. I am looking forward to all the other comments and great ideas!!!
I agree with everyone else — what a great post. I love all the additional tips everyone was giving from flash freezing the chicken, to store all the bones in one bag for later use to freezing brown rice for a quick meal (must try that one very soon). After losing more than a quarter of a grass fed cow along with veggies and fruits, I am much more mindful of what is in my freezer at all times. I still need to make up a “freezer” list to know exactly how many packages of hamburger I still have left — a good weekend project. But here’s my tip: I’m part of a produce co-op and there are times when I have a lot of sweet potatoes. Of course my family will eat them, but they would prefer pasta over potatoes. So I boil them to remove the skin, let them cool, mash them, then put them into muffin tins. After they have frozen I set them out for about 5-10 mns just to soften a bit. Then I pop them into freezer bags. Usually 4 of the “muffins” will feed my family. I invest the time and reap the rewards for a quick side dish. By the way I’m so glad I found your site. Keep up the good work!!!!
I moved from a townhome to a condominium in the last couple of years and was really missing having a freezer. We were able to find just enough space in a laundry “closet” for a very small upright freezer. My favorite freezing “tool” is a FoodSaver. The bags are expensive, but I write the contents and date on the edge between the end of the bag and the seal. That part is cut off to open the bag and I just wash and save the bags until they are too small to use. I also line small (individual-size) bread pans with Saran Wrap and add soup or stew to pre-freeze before popping in a bag and sealing. The FoodSaver is well worth the investment. Frozen items really do last a couple of years.
Thanks so much for all of the tips and ideas!
I love this post, and all the great comments! I’m really jealous of all of you with chest freezers, that’s on my wish list for 2009 some time. But I’ve been trying to make the most of my little freezer on the fridge, and I just wanted to chime in with a second on the brown rice! This is sooooo helpful on nights when I only have time to whip up a quick stirfry or curry, but not enough time to cook the rice. It defrosts great!
And one other thing that I’ve been loving……if there’s just enough of a left over for one or two more servings, I put it into a little tin pie plate and wrap with foil and label. Then on days when the kids have had a quick lunch and are down for a nap, I pop one in the oven and luxuriously enjoy a little single serving of shepherd’s pie, or chicken pot pie, or enchiladas, or even beans over rice! Yum!
Alison @ Wholesome Goodness
Oh man, I’ve been pining for a deep freezer for a while. I just love all the useful things you can do with it! I would buy one now, except that my husband and I are planning on moving into the heart of the city, which means we’ll have to rent instead of own (too expensive to buy). I wonder if it’s possible to have a freezer in a rental duplex, townhome, or house. Do you know? What about apartments? That would be the best thing ever! Also, do you find the chest style inconvenient? I was looking at Consumer Reports, and they almost seemed to recommend against chest freezers. They said that the manual defrosting is a major pain. What’s your experience?
I can also add something to the list. Recently, when I prepared taco salads, I doubled the meat and beans mixture and froze half of it. One night a few weeks later, I was SO tired and was on the very, very edge of going out for dinner, but I opened my freezer and voila! I put the meat in a pan with a bit of water and covered it, then chopped some veggies for the salad (I had the basics on hand). It was so rewarding. I would love to do more of that kind of thing. It really can save your health and budget to have some (almost) ready-to-eat stuff hanging out in the freezer for nights like those.
By the way, I LOVE your new look! It’s very professional and classy looking. 🙂
I forgot to mention spaghetti sauce. That’s a great one to freeze. Thanks for adding that suggestion!
Oh my! Well, at least you knew they were getting high quality meat, lol!
Thanks for sharing how you use your freezer! It’s been so helpful to hear how everyone else uses their freezer. Thanks everyone!
That’s so funny! But I guess it’s not surprising since we eat very similar food. 🙂 Hey, I just remembered something, my sister just loves your homemade chili recipe that’s on this site and she freezes it. Thanks again for sharing it! 🙂
I think that if I start using stainless steel to freeze in, I am going to have to be very careful in filling every container very full, otherwise it will just take up way to much room! I think it’s almost one of those things that you just have to try out, to see how it will work for you (at least, that’s what I am telling myself!;-) )
Way to go! I am so jealous of all the beautiful berries you pick! 😉 It sounds like you use your freezer very well and way to go for gardening too! That’s so great.
I’ve considered getting one because I have heard that it’s a great investment. Thanks for sharing!
Great idea! I usually send my single servings with my husband to work or school, but if I had a few extra it would be nice for a little meal for myself as well. 😉
I have really liked my freezer, as it does keep is very cold and I also know that if the power goes out, it will stay frozen for longer than an upright. You have to be a little more organized however, as things can get buried (I hate organizing my freezer, it’s so cold!). I haven’t tried defrosting mine yet, but my mother’s upright freezer is a royal pain to defrost (but maybe that’s because it’s older). Overall, I have been really happy with it. 🙂
I would LOVE to see some info on how to render lard at home. My husband and I would love knowing how to do that.
I recently posted about a windfall of bananas I received from my boss. (She is Hindu and they use fruits and flowers in a religious ceremony. She had so many bananas she gave me five bunches!) What I do is to take 3 bananas at a time, peel them and put them in a plastic freezer bag. I mash them right inside the bag, then label it. Those are for banana bread or muffins. For my smoothies, I cut some bananas into chunks, flash-froze them, then put the semi-hardened pieces in a baggie.
BTW, I also recently learned you can freeze avocado! They are so expensive that, when they are on sale, I like to ‘stock up.’ What has worked for me is to peel and mash them, then add a little lemon or lime juice (keeps them from browning) and freeze one or two in a baggie. You just have to thaw it out to make your guacamole.
Boy, oh, boy, I wish I could get hold of some farm-fresh meat, LOL!
I have learned so much reading this entry and all the comments. One thing I am wondering: I recently gave up my microwave and am wondering what the best ways are to reheat some of these frozen meals-one in particular is brown rice. The few times I have reheated leftovers- it turned out very dry. Does anyone know the best ways to reheat various leftovers?
I also have already soaked beans frozen. I soaked a huge batch of them and went ahead and did the recommended boil (about 10 min?) and then drained them and bagged them (using some for my recipe). I just filled up a gallon freezer bag and didn’t flash freeze…they only stuck together a little and can be broken apart. Now they are ready to add to a soup or crockpot meal that will cook them the rest of the way…similar to canned beans, I guess. I was already soaking and boiling beans…why not triple the amount?
I also have soaked, steamed quinoa in the freezer. It’s really easy to break some off the chunk, put it in a pan with butter and sea salt, and warm it through in the toaster oven. YUM I can also just toss it into soup this way (I’m on a huge soup kick 🙂 ). Soaked brown rice works similarly.
We don’t drink much juice, but we do buy a veggie/fruit juice sometimes. If it’s in the fridge, the boys will ask for it constantly. Sometimes I stretch it by freezing some in ice cube trays and keeping it bagged in the freezer. Kombucha is yummy *and* beautiful poured over purple ice cubes. 🙂
Oh, mom2fur! I love to freeze avocados! I forgot about that. I cut them into chunks and flash freeze then bag. They ‘re great to thicken smoothies, make faux ice cream with the kids (a few chunks in the food processor with frozen strawberries, etc and a few Tbs of milk) or anytime when you don’t want to cut open a whole one for just a slice or two…not that any of us mind finishing an avocado, but still…
I have some more in the freezer waiting to be rendered, so next time I make it I will take pictures of it to share. 🙂
I had forgotten about avocado’s. Great tip!
I personally like to fry it up with a little bit of olive or coconut oil, sometimes with a bit of water or broth to moisten it. (That’s leftover rice, not frozen).
I know that my Japanese Grandmother (in-law) will steam her leftover rice to reheat it too.
My biggest shortcoming is breakfast- I am a nocturnal creature at heart and thinking and cooking in the morning is not fun or easy for me. The best trick for using my freezer to solve that problem is muffin batter. I’ll make it up at night in massive quantities, all except the egg, and let it sit until the next day. Then I add the egg in, mix well and portion the batter into silicone muffin pans and flash freeze without baking. As soon as they are frozen, I pop them out of the pans and put them into ziplocs for storage. Back before silicon pans I would do this using the paper muffin liners but the new way has so much less waste. The kids can then take out some frozen muffin batter pieces in the morning, put them back into the proper pan and bake about twice as long as normal. Its so nice to have hot fresh muffins without any work early in the day and the frozen batter pieces take up far less freezer space than fully baked muffins.
I have a large family so it takes about 18 muffins to cover breakfast for us. I have done as many as 50 dozen at once. When I do huge batches, I make up a basic batter and then either add other ingredients to smaller bowls taken from the big batch or directly into the muffins as they go into the freezer (like berries).
I also like to use the rice cooker with timer for porridge and oatmeal in the morning. If you load it at night, it soaks and then cooks itself on schedule in the morning. I wake up to breakfast made and still a clean kitchen.
Swedish meatballs can be made ahead (from scratch!) and frozen on cookie sheets before being bagged. A stirfry of meat and veggies can be spread on a cookie sheet, frozen, bagged and then cooked in the rice cooker with the rice. Just dump it still frozen in the rice cooker, add your dry rice and use boiling water or stock instead of cold or room temp.
Cool, frozen avocados. I’ll have to remember that, I just had four rot on me because I was out of town and my other half didn’t bother eating at home while I was away.
Beware, frozen potatoes go all squishy!
I freeze lots of herbs. I can get them in catering size bunches fairly cheaply at the local market. So what I don’t use right away I rinse, spin dry and chop up and freeze as they are. I don’t bother with putting them in ice cube trays or adding water. Can’t see the point. If you don’t chop them too finely, the flaky pieces won’t stick together too much and you can easily extract what you need. Not as nice as fresh, but when it’s the middle of winter, it’s a pretty good substitute.
I just discovered your website and it is great! Here is a tip I picked up:
When I need to reorganize or get to the bottom of my freezer I wear my winter gloves.
It makes it a lot less uncomfortable digging around.
I’m pretty much using it like you do. I have a 1/4 of a cow in there (well, most of it is gone) from a local farmer. I also freeze tomatoes from the garden, sometimes beans, pumpkin, zucchini, peppers, applesauce (I can some, and freeze some), jams, meals, baking, bread, tortillas etc. I try to freeze leftovers if I can, just becuase I hate wasting them. Our family is larger (6 going on 7 people) so I wait until I have 4-5 leftovers, then make them into one meal.
I use my freezer quite similarly as you-homemade bread, applesauce, apple slices, refried beans, cooked squash, frozen canning jars with chilli or speghetti leftovers. We also store all our grains in the freezer.
Most importantly for me, I have allergies to gluten grains, egg, dairy & garlic. Often I need a quick meal different from my family or to take somewhere. So I have lentil brown rice casserole, refried beans, chicken rice soup and other easy to warm up dishes handy in my freezer. So healthy, quick and affordable instant meals.
For warming, I take the plastic freezer bags and let thaw for a little while, then when the bag is easily removed from the food, transfer to a pan to warm.
Thanks so much for giving of your time to bless others through this site. Time is so precious . . . may the Lord multiply it for you and continue to give you wisdom to share.
Great post, especially in this economic climate! We are fortunate enough to have a dedicated freezer in our garage (much of which holds our dog’s raw food stash.) I am thrilled to learn about avocados. Another food I freeze is carrot pulp after juicing. Then I use it in muffins as a fat substitute or in any recipe that calls for applesauce.
Sorry for commenting on an old post… I freeze my leftovers in little silicone baking cups! These are really convenient since I pack lunch for both my husband and I during the week. That way we can have a tiny buffet in our lunches! And the cups are reusable and awesome! Just 20 minutes in the freezer on a baking sheet and then they go into freezer bags. Nothing ever goes to waste and we don’t burn out on certain foods because we’re having them over and over (since it’s such a small amount).
Love your blog! I’m new to it and am reading it backwards!