3 Space-Saving, Pan-Saving Freezer Cooking Tips

posted by Andrea | 06/24/2014

freezer cooking tips

Whenever I do a post about freezer cooking, I usually get at least a few comments or emails from readers asking one of two questions:

  1. How do I have enough room in my freezer for all the food?
  2. How do I have enough baking pans to keep so much food in the freezer?

Surprisingly, my answers to both questions are exactly the same!

I save a ton of space in my freezer (and rarely have more than 3 baking pans in a freezer at any one time) by freezing my meals in one of three space-saving ways: aluminum foil, gallon size zip-top storage bags, and disposable aluminum pans.

Let me explain a bit more…

Space-Saving Freezer-Cooking Tip #1. Aluminum Foil:

This is my preferred method of freezing for almost any type of casserole, pasta dish, or other meal that will eventually cook in a pan in the oven.

I simply choose the pan I will eventually bake the food in, line it with aluminum foil (so that the foil hangs over the edges) and assemble the dish. Then I put the dish in the freezer for a couple hours.

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After the food is frozen, I pull the food out of the pan using the aluminum foil hanging over the edges. Now my pans are completely empty.

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I usually wrap the “block” of food in plastic wrap or parchment paper first and then re-wrap with the aluminum foil. Then I label the packet with the contents, cooking instructions, and date.

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When it’s time to bake the food, I simply pop the frozen block of food back into the pan I assembled it in and let it defrost in the refrigerator or on the counter. Then bake as directed.

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I’ve never had any issues freezing my food this way — and as you can probably imagine, I save a TON of freezer space. Not to mention I can easily get buy with very few baking dishes (even with all the cooking and baking I do).

BONUS TIP: 

This aluminum foil method works really well with muffin cups too — just freeze individual portions of casseroles, soups, stews, oatmeal, etc. in muffin cups lined with aluminum foil and you’ll always have perfectly-portioned meals ready to go!

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Space-Saving Freezer-Cooking Tip #2. Zip-Top Bags:

Another one of my favorite space-saving freezer cooking tips is to freeze food in zip-top storage bags. I use this method to freeze SOOO many different types of foods.

I almost always freeze individual burritos and enchiladas in bags as I can simply pull the number of wraps I want out of the bags, add any additional sauce, cheese, or other ingredients, and bake.

I also freeze soups, stews, slow cooker meals, and even my chicken pot pie filling in zip-top bags (just be sure to defrost them in a bowl or pan because they can sometimes leak a bit.

Baked goods like cookies, bars, breads, cupcakes and even cakes freeze well in bags too — and they take up SOOOOO much less room than if you freeze them all in individual storage containers. You’ll just want to make sure you let them freeze fully before stacking them so they don’t get smashed.

I’ve even made large batches of pancakes or waffles and stored them in zip-top bags for quick and easy breakfasts throughout the week.

Another favorite thing to freeze in zip-top bags is individual portions of baked casseroles, lasagna, etc. I’ll cut the food into squares, put it in the freezer until it’s just hard enough to handle, then stick individual servings into sandwich size zip-top bags. This is perfect for lunches later in the week (or month).

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Space-Saving Freezer-Cooking Tip #3. Disposable Pans:

Freezing foods in disposable pans might not seem like the most space-saving method around — and it’s not. However, since disposable pans are usually slightly smaller (and definitely lighter) than traditional pans, they do save some space in the freezer — plus, they allow you to keep your favorite baking dishes handy at all times.

The main reason I will often use disposable pans for freezer cooking is because they are hands-down the BEST way to give food gifts to others. Just pull the pan out of the freezer and drop it off. They can either put it back in their freezer for later or let it defrost and eat it that night. They don’t need to worry about using their own dishes, they don’t need to return my dishes, and (best of all) they don’t need to wash dishes when the meal is over.

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I will also sometimes use disposable pans to take food along on vacation (if we’re driving and if we’ll have an oven). This way, I can assemble the meals ahead of time, have them all ready for the oven when we arrive, and toss them before we come back home.

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I’ve used all three of these super simple methods for years — saving me lots and lots of freezer space and allowing me to use all my favorite baking dishes any time I want.

I personally haven’t had any issues with freezer burn… and I’ve kept food in the freezer for many months before. However, I will say that I keep pretty much all of our freezer meals in our deep freezer, which is a manual defrost freezer (meaning the temperature doesn’t fluctuate as much so your food is less likely to get freezer burn.)

Do you use any of these freezer cooking methods?

Do you have any other space-saving methods to add to my list?

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11 comments

  1. Ann

    06/24/2014

    If you (like I) have several similar but not exactly the same size pans, it might be helpful to also label frozen foil-wrapped dishes with which pan to use when baking. For example, my glass square baking dish is slightly larger than my metal one. If I made something in the glass one and tried to bake it in the metal one, I could have problems. Just note this on the tape where you label what it is and what the instructions are. :-)

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes good point. I don’t have too many pans, so it’s pretty easy for me to instantly tell which pan to put the food back into — but this is a great idea. thanks!

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  2. MrsD

    06/24/2014

    Andrea, you are so stinkin’ smart! I love this! :)

    [Reply]

  3. Amy

    06/24/2014

    Do you ever have trouble removing the foil from your frozen food when you line your baking pans? Do you use cooking spray before adding the food? I will often get little foil pieces stuck to the food when trying to remove the foil, especially in the corners. I think I need to use more foil so it really hangs over the edges as seen in your pictures.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Hi Amy, I have had trouble once or twice with certain foods. Sometimes I put wax paper in the pan instead of tinfoil if it’s especially sticky/cheesy foods. And yes, I do think using more foil (so it extends far over the edges) has been helpful for me!

    [Reply]

  4. Heart and Haven

    06/24/2014

    I also commonly use freezer bags for homemade soups, broths, spaghetti sauce, freezer crockpot meals, burritos, etc. and it’s worked great! I like how everything lays flat for storage when frozen this way.
    I like the suggestion of using the disposable pans when giving food as gifts, or would also work well for potlucks, or dinner with extended family & friends etc. so I won’t have to worry about getting my pan back.
    The other suggestion I do is freeze meal “staples” in individual/family size portions. For instance, I usually do once a month shopping in bulk for most of our food. If I buy a 5 lb. package of ground beef, I’ll separate it into 1 lb. sizes in quart sized freezer bags (since most recipes call for 1 lb. of beef for our family size), or when I buy larger packages of chicken breasts/thighs I store them 2 chicken breasts per quart size freezer bag. This method works well to save money on buying in bulk when I don’t always have the time/energy to cook in bulk.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes yes yes… I actually did an entire post about freezing those “staple” meal ingredients (you can read it here). I’ve also mention in previous blog posts that freezing those staple ingredients is one of the main reasons I’m able to quickly get food on the table each night. Usually I can pull at least part of my meal from the freezer for faster cooking!!

    [Reply]

  5. Julie G.

    06/24/2014

    I have used the aluminum foil method for a while and really love it! I put my foil-covered “bricks” in gallon ziplock bags and write any instructions on the outside. I end up using the bags over and over, and everything stacks really nicely in the freezer. I do not, however, remove the foil before baking. I just put the “brick” back in the pan with the foil on, let it defrost, and then bake. It makes cleanup much easier!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Good idea Julie. The one issue I’ve had with keeping the aluminum foil on while baking is that it makes cutting and serving the food more of a pain because the foil gets in with the food. Have you had this problem? Or do you use super heavy-duty foil?

    [Reply]

  6. Aa.

    06/25/2014

    Genius!!!! Great ideas!

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  7. Heather @ My Overflowing Cup

    06/25/2014

    I have had great success using all of these methods. I can’t think of a thing to add except that I have found that sometimes my casseroles (especially pasta) tend to stick to foil. I will sometimes spray or brush oil on the foil before to prevent sticking. Does that ever happen to you?

    [Reply]

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