I didn’t even ask my friend Kate to write this guest post. I told her. ;) Aware that Kate does her share of freezer cooking (AND once a month shopping!) with only an above-the-refrigerator freezer, I knew she’d be the perfect source of encouragement for those of you with little freezer space.
I love freezer cooking because it saves me so much time in the kitchen every month. I’d love to have a chest freezer full of meals. However, we do not own a chest freezer, nor would we have room for one if we did own one. So I’ve learned to make the most of our above-the-refrigerator freezer. Surprisingly, I’m able to fit a ton of food in there and take advantage of the freezer cooking that I love so much.
I’ve learned quite a few tricks along the way.
- Plastic Freezer Bags. They are my best resource for freezer cooking. I can fill the bags and freeze them flat. This means I can stack them one on top of the other and fit tons in the freezer. For our freezer, I can usually fit a stack of 5 or 6 bags high on one shelf. They are not very wide, so I usually can get 3 stacks lined up next to each other. That’s easily 15 meals worth.
- Rethink casserole storage. I used to use disposable aluminum pans to freeze casseroles. They stacked nicely, but they took up a lot of room. And they weren’t very sturdy when reheating. Then I learned a great trick from Amy – line a glass casserole dish with foil, make the casserole and freeze. Once frozen, the entire foil package can be removed. To reheat, just place the foil package in its original dish and bake as directed. These packages stack nicely and they take up quite a bit less space than the disposable kind.
- Sauce based meals are smallest. As much as my family enjoys casseroles, I just don’t have space to freeze very many. Instead, most of my freezer cooking revolves around sauce based meals (chili, spaghetti sauce, sloppy joe meat, Mexican chicken and black bean filling, etc.) These meals all work perfectly in plastic freezer bags. (See #1.)
- Skip the frozen treats. We all love ice cream in our house. But ice cream containers take up a lot of valuable real estate. So we do without, at least at the beginning of the month. Once we start to eat through our freezer stock though, I can rearrange things and make more room. Fitting in an ice cream container is pretty easy then.
- Rethink when you cook and have a plan. I do not freezer cook all in one day. If I did, I know I wouldn’t be able to fit as much in the freezer. Instead, I have a plan that fills the freezer in stages and keeps things in a constant state of rotation. For example, I make a big batch of muffins at the beginning of the month. As we eat through that freezer stash, I start adding other breakfast options (like pancakes or biscuits) as room permits.
I hope these tips are helpful. If you’ve avoided freezer cooking because you don’t have an extra freezer, trust me when I say it is absolutely doable!
Told ya she knows her stuff. Kate’s blog, Cooking During Stolen Moments, is one of my favorite resources for new recipes. If you follow my weekly menu plan, you know I link to her often! Kate also runs a personalized menu planning service, Stolen Moments Menu Planning.