Tuesday, April 7, 2009

WFMW-How To Freeze Meals

On busy days when I just haven't had time to put together my planned meal, there's nothing better than to be able to walk out to my freezer and grab a meal that's all ready to go. I try and make a habit of doubling a few of my recipes each month so I can tuck one away for just such an occasion. It really doesn't take much more of my time to double what I'm already cooking and then put one of them in my freezer. But, what it DOES take is freezer space and some creative storage techniques.

I don't know about you, but I don't have a gazillion casserole dishes laying around my kitchen waiting to be used. I have a few and if I started filling them all and storing them in my freezer I wouldn't have anything left to cook with. So this is what I do when I'm storing my meals.

First I line the casserole dish with foil. This was a meal I froze last week called Baked Rice and Artichoke Hearts.



Then I put the food in and let it freeze until it's hard. As soon as it's hardened I slip the frozen meal, still in the foil, out of my casserole dish.
Then I wrap it up tight (sometimes just in foil, other times in a Ziploc bag if it fits) tuck the cooking directions into the wrapping and store it in my freezer.




When it's time to cook it I unwrap it, pop it back into the pan foil and all, and cook it. This not only keeps my dishes free to use for other things but I also don't have to wash my dish because the tin foil liner keeps it from getting dirty.



If I'm freezing soups, stews or chili's I let them cool completely and pour them into gallon size freezer bags. I squeeze out the air and seal them up tight. Then lay them on their sides so they will freeze in a flat square that can be stacked in minimal space. When ready to use I run the bag under warm water until the food seperates from the bag enough that it can be squeezed out into a pot to reheat. Sometimes I also freeze soups in plastic containers in portion sizes to be pulled out for a quick one-man lunch or easily transportable meal.

So next time you find yourself with enough ingredients to double a recipe, make sure you put one in the freezer for a busy day. You'll be so happy that you did.

For more Works For Me Wednesday tips go here.
***I had so many questions to this post that I wrote part two HERE.

34 comments:

mommustwrite said...

Thanks so much for this! I have limited freezer space and only 1 casserole dish, so I NEVER freeze anything. I will have to try this!

Chicken Herder from Westville said...

I do this too. I cook a meal and make it double in size and then a day we are too busy to cook we eat fast and easy, pulling it from the freezer. Good tip on the foiling the food and then in plastic, I also do not have an over abundance of plastic containers.

Jen@Balancing Beauty and Bedlam said...

I love freezer meals. It has changed meal planning for my kids. :)

Amy@ MomsToolbox said...

Okay now THAT's brilliant! Thanks for an excellent tip! I was struggling with the same dish question myself-- PERFECT!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for these tips.

mub said...

This is such a good tip! I don't have enough space in my freezer to store casserole dishes, so I love this!

~*Michelle*~ said...

Excellent idea! I have limited space in my freezer as well so this will work great for me!

Peace~
*~Michelle~*

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering how much longer you need to cook the frozen casseroles or do you unthaw first?

Thanks!
Missy

Jennifer said...

Thank you so much for this tip! I too love to have meals in the freezer, but only have a few casserole dishes. I never even thought of doing it this way! You are so amazingly helpful!

Meshellyn said...

Now that's a great idea! I've purchased a number of foil containers, but hate wasting those on myself when they work well for taking meals to friends when in need. I must try this! Thanks :)

Rebekah said...

Here is my question about freezer meals. Do you cook the meal and let it cool before you freeze it? Or do you assemble it and freeze it before cooking? And do put it straight in the oven from the freezer?

Dawn said...

Are there certain foods or recipes that you find freeze better than others? I am sometimes weary of freezing certain things because I am unsure of how they will turn out and I don't want to waste the food if its a dud.

Wisconsin Frugal Frenzy said...

I just made my first double batch of lasagna. Your tip about lining the pan with foil & popping the frozen meal out of the dish, foil & all is brilliant!

Your blog is a valuable resource to me. Thank you for all your tips & tricks.

Julie Bagamary said...

This method works great for me also however I use freezer paper which comes off very easily instead of aluminum foil.

It Feels Like Chaos said...

I love freezer meals, too. My problem is using them up more quickly than I restock them!!

JenLen said...

did you freeze the food BEFORE the final cooking (and that's why you put the recipe with the frozen food) or did you freeze AFTER?

If you freeze completely cooked casseroles, how do you reheat it?

Tracy said...

AWESOME idea for freezing casseroles. I never thought of that!

Britt said...

A good way to freeze crock-pot meals is to put a gallon baggie into a large coffee can (sort of like how you would line your garbage can), pour the ingredients in, zip closed then freeze (in the can). After it freezes you can take the can out of the freezer and you are left with a round, crockpot sized freezer meal. When you are ready to cook it, just dunk the can-shaped frozen mass in some warm water (to loosen it from the bag) and put it in your crock pot like you normally would. You may need a little more cook time than you would for a fresh meal, but hey, that's the beauty of a crock pot -- just put stuff in, close the lid and let it do all the cooking :)

Tiffany said...

Thank you for sharing this tip. I have been thinking about doing freezer meals, but one thing keeps stopping me. The cooking directions when ready to use it.

Do you thaw before cooking? How do you know how long to cook?

Also, do you cook the meals before freezing or just assemble?

Thanks again for sharing!

Angela said...

love it! i have recently started trying to freeze more meals, and don't have that many pans as well as that much freezer space, and I think this helps with both issues! thanks!

km said...

My Mexican Lasagna uses refried beans. I used to get the larger can on sale 2 for $3. I just realized that the giant can is only $3.59 for 7#. I had to make 3 casseroles 9x13, but I'm so glad to have 2 in the freezer. That's how I do it too. How do you freeze your muffins? Mine don't always come out good.

Katie said...

Wow, what a FABULOUS idea! I've never thought of it. I'll definitely be trying this one:)

Hoosier Homemade said...

Great tips! I need to work on freezing meals more.
Thanks for sharing!
~Liz

Cate said...

That's a great idea! I don't usually freeze meals except for soups (which I freeze in single-portion freezer-safe plastic containers), but I might try this sometime soon, as I'm expecting a baby in June and it would be great to have some kind of casserole dish (or several!) socked away in the freezer.

Vicki said...

Fabulous!

mamaredhead said...

Gayle,

I do SO love your blog - you have helped my family in many ways!

I, too, freeze some meals here and there, but have the same questions as everyone else: do you thaw your casseroles before you cook them or stick them straight into the oven? How much extra time do you allow? Have you found anything that does NOT freeze well?

Thanks, Gayle, I appreciate you!

Anne said...

Excellent post! I always wondered how people could freeze multiple meals and not have lots of extra dishes. Thanks!!

~~tonya~~ said...

These are some great ideas. I already to the ziploc bags one. But will definitely use the foil method too. Thanks for sharing them.

{THE BOHANS} said...

i think you should share this with your class at the rec center! awesome! the pictures REALLLLYY HELP!!! THANKS!

{THE BOHANS} said...

On a similar note, I like to make a huge tupperware of chicken pasta salad or a pan of enchiladas and me & the kids eat it throughout the week. Saves me from running through those drive-throughs because I know I have something already made at home.

flowerpot said...

Good stuff! Love the reminder about lining the baking dish. Thanks!

Cindy in Ferndale said...

Gayle, do you worry about the foil leaching, could you use plastic wrap and just pull it off when re-heating?

Gayle said...

I've never worried about the foil leaching. I use food grade foil. But I'm sure you could use plastic wrap and then just run warm water over it to remove before putting it in your dish. Although then you might have to worry about the plastic leaching. There's just so much to think about.

Owlhaven said...

Good tips-- I have a cupboard full of casserole dishes that only sometimes end up in the freezer with a noble purpose!

Mary, mom to many