Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Freezer meal tips

I've mentioned in the past that we don't generally do many freezer meals, since we think most foods taste best when prepared, baked, and served fresh! :)

However, there are a handful of things that, while not quite like fresh, are still pretty tasty after being frozen. :) And since I've been nesting lately (I prefer to call it "disaster readiness prep"!) I've been brainstorming meal ideas for the freezer. :)

Several people suggested making a double batch of whatever we're having for dinner, and freezing half. I've been able to do this several times during the past couple weeks, and it's worked great!

I have two glass 8x8-inch dishes that work great for a single meal size. I couldn't bring myself to purchase the cheap foil pans (especially bad for tomato-based meals!) so I've been using the "mold technique":

1. Line the glass dish with wax paper and plastic wrap. (You could also use foil, like Amy does, although I prefer to avoid foil since it can stick and tears easily.)

2. Layer the casserole inside.

3. Cover with more plastic wrap and/or a lid, and freeze until solid.

4. After frozen, remove casserole from dish and wrappings, and seal.

I use the Food Saver to seal the frozen meal, since those bags are heavy and seriously prevent frostbite. If I'm going to the effort to freeze meals, I want them to taste as good as possible! ;)

You could also use heavy plastic freezer bags and remove most of the air with a straw, but I find that nothing compares to the heavy Food Saver bags and they just don't let air back in like freezer Ziplocks do. :) We have the FoodSaver Vac 750 model which has had lots of use in the 8+ years since we bought it, and it still works great!

Another advantage of using square or rectangular dishes of the same size is that the casseroles stack very tightly in the freezer.

My current freezer situation: Frozen casseroles, beef (cooked) and chicken (cooked), homemade cream of chicken soups (in bags at left), fish (raw and smoked), and vegetables. :)

Later this week I'll share my menu plans and which meals I decided to freeze, already completely made. :)

But for now -- does anyone have other great freezer tips to share? What are your favorite frozen homemade meals -- ones that taste just like fresh? :)

To Participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays:

Post a kitchen tip in your blog. Link to this post, and then leave your link here, so we know where to find YOU! :) No giveaways or non-tip posts, please!

In order to keep the kitchen tips more easily accessible, posts not adhering to these guidelines will be removed. We need to be able to easily find/see what your kitchen/cooking tip is. :) Thanks for your participation! :)

Leave your tip links in a comment. I'll manually add them to this post!

1. Stretching maple syrup (Mary Ann)
2. Freezer inventory (Amy)
3. Liver and meatballs (Carey)
4. Cooking potatoes (Erika)
5. Reviving frozen cookies
6. Freezer meal tips (Rachel)
7. Pre-cooked frozen veggies (Alea)
8. Easy cappuccino tip (Kolfinna)
9. Healthier baking tips (Rachel)
10. Holiday/big meal prep tips (Lora)

Comments

My kitchen tip is ways to stretch maple syrup.
http://mrsmaryannshouse.blogspot.com/2009/12/stretching-maple-syrup.html

Thanks for hosting!

Mary Ann

I seriously need to invest in the food saver system... perhaps with some Christmas money?!

I just finished a full-freezer inventory; a must for cleaning out and using all my food! http://amysfinerthings.com/freezer-inventory

http://careycontrary.wordpress.com/2009/12/29/how-to-get-kids-to-eat-liver/

This post is about making meatballs, how to sneak liver in them, and freezing them individually so they can be tossed into a freezer bag for later.

Thanks,
Carey

http://ahomegrownfamily.blogspot.com/2009/12/easy-potatoes.html

Hello Tammy here is my tip at least I hope it is a tip you can use.

Erika @ Homegrown Family

http://thecozycountryhome.blogspot.com/2009/12/what-to-do-with-those-frozen-cookies.html

I think your Chicken and Broccoli casserole with cream of chicken soup and cheese is great frozen. I usually cook and then freeze half in a 8x8. Then just thaw and reheat in the oven.

Here's my tip about freezing meal components:
http://trialanderrorhomeec.blogspot.com/2009/12/ktt-components.html

Rachel
from Trial and Error

I love your tips! My kitchen tip is to precook and then freeze vegetables to be used in soups: http://premeditatedleftovers.blogspot.com/2009/12/vegetable-garden-minestrone-soup.html

Alea @ Premeditated Leftovers

I have had a Food Saver for over 10 years and I don't know how I got along without it. In fact, I have two of them and use them about everyday. We buy in bulk and then break the items down into serving sizes.
What I like the best in Food Saver bags is leftover turkey. I simply take all of the meat off of the bones and put them in bags that are serving size. The turkey will have that just baked taste after opening and you can have that special turkey meal that tastes fresh anytime.

The longer I have had the Food Saver, the more I realize how much I appreciate it! My favorite use is for packaging cooked meats, like ground beef or cubed chicken (or turkey!). The food takes up a LOT less space when it's been vacuum sealed (like maybe about half!), and I have never had any of the meat get freezer burn even when stored for more than a year at times. :)

A quick easy cappuccino fix using extra packets of hot cocoa (when you have too many cause they have been on sale 10 boxes for $10.00 and you can't resist the temptation to buy them.)
http://kolfinnaskorner.blogspot.com/2009/12/kitchen-tip-tuesday_29.html

Some easy way to bake healthier!
www.rachelscraftcorner.wordpress.com
Rachel

Always love reading your blog...especially the recipes! One of the freezer tips that really helped us when we had our 2nd baby was making triple batches of our favorite muffins or breads. I would make up a huge batch of zucchini bread batter, bake one loaf and then put the other two batters into quart size ziplock bags w/the baking times written on the outside. So nice for freezing since it doesn't take up much room to store a flat bag versus a loaf of bread or muffins and you always have something to bake up in a moments notice and everyone will think you slaved away! I also do the same thing with cookie dough...really helps on those busy days! Good luck!! ~Diana

My favorite thing to do is to prepare the food, but not bake it. Then, when I pull it out of the freezer and bake it, it's like having freshly baked food without all the work!

Davonne

I do this with pies, especially apple. Pre-bake the crust, then assemble & freeze the pie. Later, defrost & bake.

I posted a roundup of my favorite kitchen tips of the past year (with a lot of links):

http://amoderngal.com/2009/12/29/favorite-kitchen-tips/

Tammy I loved the freezer meal ideas. I need to implement this once again. In my kitchen tip post I'm sharing about an idea I came up with to make preparing holiday meals and other big meals go more easily. Hope you find it useful as well.

http://homemaking.keethfamily.com/?p=104

Lora
http://lora.keethfamily.com
http://keethfamily.com

Hi Tammy...

I too have and use a food saver......it makes life wonderful, doesn't it.

Here is what I do to make my already cooked food taste even better.

When I cook my dinners, I immeadiately put the second meal servings into the sealer bags and seal them off. Then I put the bags into a cooler that is filled with ice water. The sealed food cool very quickly and quits 'cooking'...just like when you blanch veggies and fruit before canning.

While the bags are cooling, we eat our 'normal' dinner, and after dinner is over, the second batch is ready to go into the freezer. When you reheat the food, the texture is much better and the food tastes much fresher.

thanks so much for the tip for freezing casseroles - I have a food saver and LOVE it, but it's never occurred to me to utilize it in this way - thanks for the great freezing tip!

I often work late and when I get home want to make a quick meal so have found that frying several pounds of hamburger with chopped onions, celery and green peppers (optional) come in very handy. I usually will fry up five or ten pounds at a time and freeze them in 3/4 to 1 # amounts.
A few minutes in the microwave to thaw out and then into the pan with whatever I plan to make puts a meal on the table in about 15 minutes to a half hour.

Ooh, your freezer looks so neatly organized. Now, I'm motivated to get mine that way!

I made freezer meals (meatballs, I don't remember what else) before my daughter was born, but she was two weeks overdue, and I had made and frozen a couple of rounds of meals, which we had then thawed and eaten, by the time she was born. Now I'm more likely to have elements of meals in the freezer--homemade pesto, homemade condensed soup, veggies chopped up for specific recipes.

Wow, freezing meals in the dish seems like a great idea, because then all you'd have to do is put it back in that pan to bake! I'll have to keep that in mind if I every get around to make-ahead meals ;)

Silly question: You are layering the uncooked casserole and freezing that, right? How do you later reheat it? Do you defrost first in the fridge or just pop the mold into the same size baking dish and bake longer (how much longer?). Thanks!

When we have leftovers, I put them in an appropriate sized refrigerator container. I have become a fan of the new Rubbermaid sets regularly sold at Costco, Target et al. . If we do not use the leftovers the next day I move the container to the freezer section of my refrigerator. The day after that, I pop it out of the container (usually a few seconds of warm water will loosen), slip it into a FoodSaver bag with date and contents noted, vacuum seal and put into the regular freezer.

I use leftover roast chicken and turkey and make Pot Pies. I make the pastry recipe that makes 3 double crusts and from that I get 6 Pot Pies. I make and cook the filling but eave the crust unbaked, put it in foil pans then freeze them. After they're frozen I vacuum seal them and they keep very well.
Put them in a 450 oven ( not preheated) for 15 minutes frozen, then turn down to 350 fr about 45 minutes depending on how big your pies are.
Great fast and easy meal and very good use of leftover turkey and chicken.

Use the freezer kind of course.. put your food into the bag and submerge it in cool water, Keep the opening above the water line. The water will force all the air out of the ziploc bag and you can seal it then. Of course, a food saver would be better but if you don't have one this technique works!!!

I have had a food processor for years, previously it was too complicated to use. We are now gluten free so Pizza crusts are my challenge... any way my husband (patient and kind) got the directions out and I looked again (paying better attention) 2 tricks for mine, handle to the front and the top at 2 . It has saved me so much time. a head of cauliflower from start to finish 5 minutes and that includes rinsing it for the dishwasher.

Can you tell what Food Saver Model you have? What do you hate about it now? Would you still buy it?

I had one previously and need to replace but have found different models are better than others and don't want to buy the wrong one.

Thanks for the help.

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