Whenever I go look for ideas for stocking our freezer I get overwhelmed. I see a gazillion pins for “25 freezer meals in 2 hours!” and I just think “I want two. Two great recipes for my freezer that are easy to make, to reheat and delicious - oh and that my family will eat.” And with that, I wanted to say - don’t let stocking the freezer be overwhelming or overcomplicated. Here’s the strategies I use in real life to make the most of our freezer and make feeding my family easier!
Cook once, eat twice. This is first for a reason. It’s the one I use most often. I do this two different ways:
Standard recipe makes too much. There are certain recipes that one recipe makes more than we will eat before it goes funky if I keep it fresh. Scratch-made biscuits (sometimes they are worth the effort), cookies, pancakes/waffles and many casseroles fall into this category. I make the full recipe and divide into two smaller containers and stick half in the freezer immediately. DONE. With pancakes/waffles, freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet, then put in a resealable bag and label. Thaw/Reheat in the microwave or toaster, just like you would the store-bought frozen option!
The other way is to cook double. Pasta dishes and recipes that use ground or shredded meat are AWESOME for this. Lasagna, baked rigatoni, baked penne with ham and kale are all fantastic. It takes as much effort to cook a single batch as it does to just double all of the ingredients and freeze one! Another favorite is Sloppy joes (recipe) - and variations thereof, like Sloppy Guiseppes. The reason these are so great is because you can keep EVERYTHING to make the full meal in the freezer and you just have to reheat - even the buns and sides (sweet potato fries!)
Batch the basics! This means you make a big ol’ batch of something that is basic, but can be reworked a bunch of ways into delicious meals. Some of our favorites - meatballs, ground beef, shredded chicken thighs and sauces (marinara, tikka masala). This turkey meatball recipe makes enough for three family dinners and sneaks in carrots AND spinach! Reheat them through in your favorite sauce - sweet and sour, bbq (mixed with grape jelly, of COURSE), or marinara. They are just so good.
Freeze what you aren’t eating. Get good at recognizing when something isn’t going to get eaten and get it in the freezer. There are three categories where this works for us:
Sausage of all kinds - Sometimes I buy pre-cooked turkey sausage patties to make mini-quiches for myself. I only use four at a time, so the other four immediately go in the freezer. They are so easy to pop right into a pan (while frozen!) and reheat and brown for breakfast sandwiches. This also happens with brats and Italian sausages, we buy a pack of 6-8 and only eat 4, so the rest go in the freezer and get chopped and added to something later.
Specialty bread -I will buy a big loaf of italian bread and we eat half. I immediately wrap the other half in plastic wrap and foil and pop it in the freezer. It thaws easily and is ready for another meal! Challah bread, ciabatta, and focaccia all freeze really well too!
Fruit - Mango on sale? Organic strawberries? Blueberries are in season, dirt cheap and actually TASTE like blueberries? Easy peasy. Wash (in mango’s case, cube), and spread on a silicon mat on a baking sheet in a single layer and freeze. If you have a deep freeze, stick it in there (colder temp = faster freezing = smaller ice crystals = better frozen product...science!) Once frozen, put in a resealable bag and label. Berries and mango are best for freezing; citrus and apples/pears, not so much. Frozen berries and mango are awesome in baked goods or smoothies!
Don’t let the crazy pins discourage you from stocking your freezer. It’s really a life-saver to know you always have SOMETHING to eat and it doesn’t have to be so complicated!