I have three freezers (one fridge freezer and two deep freezes), and they are all filled!
When I shared my plan to makeover my freezer earlier this month, a few people commented that either they don’t have a deep freeze at all, or they just recently started using one. I was like, “whaaaaat???” I couldn’t even wrap my mind around that. I have three freezers (one fridge freezer and two deep freezes), and they are all filled! I would be lost without them!
So why do I love my freezers so much and what do I put in them? Keep reading to find out!
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Why Do I Freeze?
A deep freeze allows you to take advantage of rock-bottom sale prices. When you see a great price, you can stock up and freeze what you won’t use right away.
You can also save money on higher-quality meat by buying part of a cow or pig. Send it to a butcher to be cut up and wrapped, and store the parts in your freezer.
The third reason a freezer saves you money is that it allows you to eat at home more often. When you have a well-stocked freezer with meals (or meal parts) on hand, you won’t need to go out to eat when unexpected things happen. This is better for your wallet and your body!
Feed our bodies well
Freezing produce preserves more nutrients than canning, as long as it is quick-frozen, stored in airtight containers, and eaten within an appropriate time-frame. And, believe it or not, frozen produce can actually be more nutritious than fresh produce from the store because it is picked when at peak ripening and frozen on-site, versus being picked when still “green” and artificially ripened en route to the store.
In addition, frozen fruits and veggies are much healthier than the typical store-bought canned counterparts, which are often high in sodium, sugar, and other additives.
Support My Real Food Goals
My freezers allow me to make almost everything from scratch because I can prepare foods ahead of time in bulk and put them in the freezer for when I need them.
Save Time and Energy
Usually, there’s very little difference in time or energy between making a small batch of something and making a large batch, so I can be efficient with my time by making big batches of food and freezing it for later. (I’ll give a few examples of this below.)
Having a well-stocked freezer means I am prepared for the unexpected – for illness, bringing meals to people, the postpartum period, when plans change, when I forget to plan (or screw up the plan…), etc. As someone who thrives on planning and preparation, this is a good thing for me!
What I Put In My Freezer
- Beef – ground beef, steak, roasts, assorted cow parts from 1/2 a cow
- Chicken – breasts, thighs (my favorite!), drumsticks
- Pork – loins, shoulders, chops, ham, bacon, ground pork, sausage
- Venison (my husband is a hunter, and we butcher our own deer) – ground, loins, and tenderized loins
- Seafood – shrimp, salmon, tilapia
Tips For Freezing Raw Meat
- Pay attention to meat sales, and learn what’s a good price
- When you see a great price, stock up!
- Divide into portion sizes before freezing (by the pound, # family members, etc.)
- Freeze in good quality freezer containers or freezer bags! You won’t save any money if all your meat gets freezer burned. In fact, I highly recommend getting a high-quality vacuum sealer (we use this LEM brand one) and vacuum packing your meat. It’s a bit pricey, but well worth the investment! Your food will last MUCH longer in the freezer, and you won’t have to worry about freezer burn.
Cooked Meat, Ready to Use
- Browned hamburger meat
- Seasoned taco meat
- Chopped chicken
- Smoked meat – Smoking takes a lot of time and a bit of work. Anytime we’re going to fire up the smoker, we take advantage of it by cooking extra and freezing!
- Grilled meat – Same as with the smoker. If we’re going to fire up the grill, we might as well make extra and freeze some for a rainy day.
Tips for Freezing Cooked Meat
- Portion into meal-ready amounts. Don’t freeze it all in one big clump. Once it’s frozen, it won’t be easy to divide, and you’ll have to thaw it all.
- Chill the cooked meat in the fridge for a while before freezing to reduce the risk of freezer burn.
- But again, a good quality vacuum sealer is a must for a long lifespan in the freezer without freezer burn!
Prepped Dishes (Uncooked)
- Meatloaf – One of Levon’s favorite freezer meals!
- Grill packs
- Crockpot dump meals
- Baked oatmeal
- Raw cookie dough
- Pizza dough
Tips for Freezing Prepped Dishes
- I love these foil 9×13 pans and lids for freezer meals!
- Use a Sharpie marker to write a) the name of the dish, b) the date, c) any additional ingredients needed, and d) cooking instructions. You want to make easy as possible to pop the meal in the oven, slow cooker, or grill, and you won’t want to have to hunt down the directions.
- Use your time efficiently by taking advantage of the “Cook one, freeze one” method. When making a casserole for dinner, double the recipe and prepare two instead of one. Cook one of them for dinner that night, and stick the other one in the freezer for later!
- For the cookie dough: scoop dough into cookie-sized balls onto a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and flash freeze in the freezer for a bit. Then remove from the pan and store in a Ziploc freezer bag, labeling your bag with baking instructions. Need cookies in a hurry? No problem! Simply dump the cookies out onto a cookie sheet and bake!
- For the pizza dough: Make a big batch of dough in your bread machine (this is the one I have), divide into fourths, wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze (the sooner the better, as it will continue to rise until frozen). To thaw, remove the dough from the bag onto a greased cookie sheet. Allow the dough to rise 6-8 hours in the fridge or 3 hours at room temperature. Then use as you regularly would. (I learned this trick from Jessica Fisher’s Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead & Freeze Cookbook, a cookbook I would HIGHLY recommend if you’re interested in freezer cooking.)
Ingredients (I can’t think of a better name, haha!)
- Cooked beans
- Shredded cheese (I know some people say not to freeze cheese, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out why. I never have a problem with mine!
- Shredded zucchini from our garden
- Shredded carrots
- Chopped jalapeños
- Chicken/Vegetable stock
- Homemade and leftover sauces
- Smoothie Packs
- Overripe bananas for baking
- Leftovers of food I’ve opened but don’t use all of, such as applesauce, pumpkin, sauces, etc.
Tips for Freezing Ingredients
- Portion into common amounts used in your favorite recipes before freezing.
- Here are some of the portions I use:
- Beans: 2 cups cooked beans ~ 1 can beans
- Shredded cheese/zucchini: an assortment of 1 cup and 2 cup
- Shredded carrots: 1/2 cup or 1 cup
- Stock: 1 cup or 2 cups
- Bananas: anywhere from 1/2 a banana to 3 bananas
- For the bananas, remove the peel before freezing – trust me! It’s so tempting to just toss them into your freezer, but don’t. You will regret it later when you want to use the bananas and you’re trying to peel them frozen (really difficult) or thawed (really messy). Also, when freezing bananas for smoothie packs, I freeze them intact, but for baking, I go ahead and squish them up in the freezer bags before freezing. It makes adding them to my batter that much easier later.
- For the beans, add some of your cooking liquid to the bags before freezing.
- Freeze the individual portions in snack size, sandwich size, or quart size Ziploc bags. Keep them all together in one (or two) gallon-sized Ziploc freezer bag.
- If you want to make homemade chicken/vegetable stock to freeze, make sure you freeze it in freezer-safe containers! (Speaking from experience here! I love using mason jars for this, but I found out the hard way that not all mason jars are freezer-safe.)
- Leftovers that we can’t eat up soon enough (those days are quickly coming to a close!)
- Breakfast foods – waffles, pancakes, egg muffins
- Baked Goods – Muffins, Cookies, Breads
Tips for Freezing Cooked Dishes
- Line pyrex dishes (or other freezer-safe containers) with foil, parchment, or freezer paper, using enough to also cover the top of the food. Once frozen, remove the food from the dish, wrap with the extra foil or paper, and store in a Ziploc bag. This preserves a convenient shape for storing and reheating, but doesn’t tie up your containers in the freezer!
- Anytime I make waffles, pancakes, muffins, cookies, or breads, I always make extra to freeze for later. As I keep saying, it’s barely any extra time or effort to make double when you’re already going to the work of making one, so you might as well make the most of it!
Bulk Dry Goods
- Dry beans (my favorites are pinto, garbanzo, and black)
- Oatmeal (old-fashioned, quick, and steel cut)
- Masa Harina (for corn tortillas)
- Corn meal
- Brown sugar (I’ve read not to do this, but it has worked well for me, and we don’t use it quickly enough.)
- Nuts (my favorites are cashews, walnuts, and pecans)
- Other miscellaneous grains
Tips for Freezing Bulk Dry Goods
- I stick my bulk dry goods in the freezer for two reasons:
- It significantly lengthens their shelf-life and keeps them fresher
- It kills any bugs or insect eggs that may be in it (It’s a gross thought, I know, but they won’t hurt you, and it happens occasionally with bulk dry goods. I’ve had to throw away bags of flour that were suddenly filled with bugs because there were eggs present when I bought them. I don’t make that mistake anymore!)
- Produce from our garden – corn, beans, zucchini, carrots, rhubarb, and asparagus are the big ones
- Peaches – sliced
- Homemade peach pie filling
- Bags of store-bought veggies – always good to have on hand for a quick & easy side dish!
- Fruit for smoothies
- Peppers – raw & roasted
- Tomatoes – I actually have not ever tried this yet, but several people have told me that it works great, so I’m going to try it this year!
Tips for Freezing Produce
- Flash freeze your produce to prevent it all from freezing in one giant clump. Peel and slice your produce as necessary and spread in a single layer on cookie sheets. Stick them in the freezer until frozen, then dump into freezer bags.
- Use a vacuum sealer for produce you won’t use within a month or two.
- Chicken bones for stock
- Beef bones for stock
- Vegetable scraps for stock
- Breastmilk when I’m nursing
Tips for Freezing Miscellaneous
- For tips on freezing herbs, read my Abundant Herbs post.
- I buy coffee when it’s on sale and stick it in my freezer to preserve freshness.
- I keep a “Chicken bones,” “Beef bones,” and “Vegetable scraps” gallon Ziploc bag in the freezer and add to it whenever I have something to add. When the bag is full, I make some stock! I simply dump the contents (frozen) in my Instant Pot, add water, garlic, and spices, and set the timer. It’s that simple!
Tools I Use For Freezer Cooking
- Ziploc freezer bags, in a variety of sizes
- Disposable 9×13 pans & lids
- Aluminum Foil
- Parchment paper
- Freezer paper
- Ball Storage Caps
- An assortment of Pyrex dishes
- Vacuum sealer & bags
I cannot recommend this highly enough if you want to fill your freezer without worrying about losing a bunch of your food to freezer burn. They pay for themselves in prevention of wasted food. There are lots of different brands and models to choose from, but I will caution you that it doesn’t pay to go cheap. You will be wasting your money. Our first vacuum sealer was a FoodSaver, and it was terrible. It was difficult to get a good seal, and it didn’t stand up to our heavy use at all. We had to let it cool off for several minutes between each bag, which was incredibly annoying. It might be fine for very light and occasional use, but if you will be doing a lot of freezing, I do NOT recommend it. The one we have now is a LEM brand, and it seals circles around the FoodSaver. It is a much heavier-duty machine, and stands up to our heavy use. We do occasionally have to redo a seal, but for the most part it does a great job. We received ours as a gift from my in-laws, but even if we hadn’t, I would buy this model again in a heartbeat.
That gives you a pretty good look at what’s in my freezer. I’ve probably forgotten a few items, but those are the major foods that I almost always have on hand.
What about you? Are you a freezer addict like me, or is stocking the freezer a foreign concept to you? Maybe somewhere in between? If you love your freezer as much as I do, what are some of your favorite things to freeze? Share in the comments below!
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