Freezer Cooking in Less Space

posted by Andrea | 03/19/2013

Yes, today’s post is yet ANOTHER freezer cooking tip!

It’s true, I’m a freezer-cooking fanatic… and I use this time and money saving technique on a daily and weekly basis in my own kitchen {read all my freezer cooking tips here.}

The only downside to freezer cooking (at least in my opinion) is that once my food is in the freezer, I’m forced to live without many of my storage containers and baking pans.

Now, I love having a stocked freezer, but I’m not willing to buy loads of extra pans just so I can fill my freezer. Plus, when we had a smaller freezer, we didn’t have room for so many large pans.

So for the past several years, I’ve been using a really simple technique that allows me to freeze as much food as I want without “wasting” all my pots and pans.

My Space-Saving Freezer Tip:

Step 1. 

Line the bottom your pan(s) with wax paper and make sure the wax paper extends over the ends.

Step 2. 

Make your meal (your casserole, your enchiladas, your lasagna, etc.) and pour/arrange/place it in the pan(s) on top of the wax paper.

The pictures below are of a triple batch of my chicken enchiladas.

Step 3. 

Put pan(s) in the freezer for 2-3 hours or until relatively frozen.

Step 4. 

Remove the pan(s) from the freezer and carefully pull on the ends of the wax paper. The goal is to remove the frozen food in one solid mass with the wax paper on the bottom.

Step 5. 

Completely remove the wax paper from the bottom of the food (make sure no pieces of paper are left behind) and wrap the food in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil OR place in a zip-top freezer bag.

Since it’s usually just Dave and I eating dinner at our house, I portion the food out into smaller 3 or 4-person serving sizes. (For example, whenever I want to make enchiladas, I can pull 4-6 single enchiladas out of the freezer at a time)

Step 6. 

Clearly label the date and contents of your “package” and any preparation / cooking instructions.

Step 7.

Put the food in the freezer, wash your pans, and put the pans back in your cabinet for another meal!

Not only will you save A TON of space in your freezer, you’ll also be able to utilize your pans, and you’ll have the option to put food in disposable containers if you’re bringing the meal to a friend.

 

Cooking Instructions:

When you’re ready to cook one of the meals you have in the freezer, simply pull the frozen “package” out of the freezer, unwrap it while it’s still frozen, and place it an appropriately sized pan/dish.

Let it defrost in your refrigerator overnight or throughout the day, add any extra sauce or toppings, and bake as directed.

A Few More Tips:

1. Freeze single-servings for later.

A similar method can be used to freeze single-servings of foods AFTER the food has been cooked.

For example, after I bake a pan of lasagna, I put the leftover cooked lasagna in the freezer until it’s almost frozen. Then I cut the almost frozen lasagna into single-serving squares and put them in zip top bags. I return the bags back to the freezer until we need a quick lunch or for nights when Dave or I are home alone and don’t feel like cooking for one.

2. Avoid round containers.

If you don’t like the idea of using disposable bags or plastic wrap, you can portion out your food in plastic or glass storage containers instead. You won’t save as much space this way, but you’ll still be able to utilize your baking dishes.

If you DO freeze your food in storage containers, make sure they are square or rectangle containers instead of round or oval. You will be able to fit so much more into your freezer and waste less space.

These are the containers I use (and have used for YEARS) to freeze soup, broth, sauces, individual serving sizes, jam, etc.

These containers are quite inexpensive and “nest” wonderfully in my food storage drawer :) See them on the left side of the drawer below?

3. Label everything!

Labeling frozen food is always important, but even more so when you are freezing smaller portions or many similarly sized “packages” of food. I simply use masking tape and a permanent marker to write the contents, the date, and the cooking instructions.

 

That’s it — pretty simple. 

It takes about 10-15 minutes of extra time to remove your almost frozen food from the pan and wrap it in plastic wrap and foil, but you’ll save a considerable amount of space in your freezer and in the meantime, you’ll be able to use your pans and other baking dishes.

What are your best freezer cooking tips?

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14 comments

  1. Alyssa

    03/19/2013

    I was JUST reading through some of your freezer cooking posts and wondering how on earth you deal with so many extra pans in your freezer! Thank you so much for this post; I can’t wait to go freeze something!!

    [Reply]

  2. Emily K

    03/19/2013

    I so agree with you on the buying xtra pans so u can freeze things. This is a great post

    [Reply]

  3. Lou

    03/19/2013

    Do you put your containers in the dishwasher after use? I was reading the reviews for the freezer containers on Amazon.com. Apparently one reviewer had a problem with that move. Just wondering because your set has obviously seen a lot of use and fared just fine!
    Thanks for sharing your tips and family life with all of us!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, we put almost everything in the dishwasher so our containers have seen LOTS and LOTS of use! They are still holding up fabulously after at least 3-4 years of constant use.

    [Reply]

  4. Megan C

    03/19/2013

    I have a lot of pyrex glass dishes w/lids. When I have a dish that calls for a 9×13 pan, I make it in two smaller pryex dishes. One for dinner/leftovers and another to freeze for another day. I can take the pyrex straight from the freezer to the oven (although it’s recommended to defrost it first). I’m slowly switching from tupperware to glass pyrex and love how well they work for my freezer meals. I also make crock pot meals in bags and make sure to freeze them in such a way that I can dump the bag into the crock-pot and have it fit while frozen.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yeah, I have a growing collection of Pyrex dishes too :)

    [Reply]

  5. Cindy

    03/19/2013

    I have to get better at following through on these great ideas. Thanks!

    [Reply]

  6. Stel

    03/20/2013

    Good ideas. Would be able to fit so much more into the freezer then!
    I also like your cupboard with shallow shelves, now that’s a plan to keep in mind.

    [Reply]

  7. Lauren @ Rustic Honey

    03/21/2013

    Great tips! I absolutely love any freezer meals I can get my hands on! We are so busy traveling all the time and it is comforting to know we always have a home cooked meal ready to go! Thanks for sharing all things to simplify my life! :)

    [Reply]

  8. lynn

    03/24/2013

    I find that the more reasonably priced plastic containers do not keep freezer burn out very well. Is there a particular brand you use that prevents this from happening?

    [Reply]

  9. Kristin

    03/24/2013

    I have found foil pans on ebay in bulk for dirt cheap…pennies each! I bought a lot of 1,000 and paid 4 cents a pan. I used to line my pans with foil and plastic wrap and love the switch to the foil pans. Often times they are even reuseable too.

    [Reply]

  10. Kelekona

    03/26/2013

    I was planning on using oven-safe parchment paper. Don’t have to remove it from the food before baking, and it probably will protect the pan from getting very messy.

    [Reply]

    Lorna Reply:

    I use parchment paper to line my pans. When I make my large batch of enchiladas, I line the cookie sheets with parchment ans bake. They all release from the parchment much better than they do from waxed paper. I freeze them as two packs individually wrapped in foil. That way we can remove as many as we want. I buy my parchment in either rolls from Sam’s Club or in sheets from restaurant supply stores. We live full time in a 40 ft bus. Space is at a premium, therefore I do not have cupboards full of pans. But since we converted the bus ourselves, I do have a “real” 30″ home range. What I use for pans is restaurant grade half sheet cookie pans and 1/3 x 4″ deep stainless steel steam table pans. Since I only have a 12 cf upright freezer, I freeze all our food in ziplock freezer bags. I would like to get a foodsaver vacuum sealer so that I can cook more in the spring and freeze up enough food to get us thru the hot summer months. By using our freezer so heavily, I have been able to cut our grocery bill quite a bit and we no longer eat out. That saves us a lot of money. And I only mega cook two or three days a month. I make three dishes at a time (part is for that nights summer) and break it down to meals for one or two. We also only grocery shop once a month. I do my freezer cooking within the first few days after going grocery shopping as our refrigerator is only 8 cf. I freeze meal size packs of meats, holding out the amounts needed for the freezer meals, the same day as shopping. We use a large cooler for transporting cold/frozen stuff home from the store. It holds the meats until we get them sorted out and stored. That clears the refrigerator to hold the meat set aside for freezer meals and other foods that need the be stored cold.

    [Reply]

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