Freezer Cooking: Making My Life Easier

Some friends of mine have been asking about the freezer cooking I like to do, so this post is dedicated to that.  I'll also add in some tips about what I do to make my cooking life easier.  I'd like to note that I do not have a larger freezer.  Oh, how I wish I did!  We're currently trying to figure out how to afford a small chest freezer so that we can buy half a cow and I can do more cooking ahead.

One of my favorite things to do is to brown hamburger with onion and garlic and then freeze it in one pound portions.  To make my life even easier I use prechopped garlic (I buy a huge jar because I use it all the time) and I use chopped freeze dried onions (I got a huge can of them - they are good for 2 years after you open them!) and I just toss them in with the meat.  Now you can just brown up an extra pound when you are already doing it for something else, but usually I like to do a couple pounds while I'm making sandwiches and cutting up fruit for lunch.  I just start the beef and then come back and stir it from time to time.  I use very lean beef so I don't even bother draining it.  Other than burgers, meatballs, and meatloaf I pretty much always just use browned ground beef so it's a big time saver to already have it done. 
I use the beef in things like:
Tacos - just add in some cumin and chili powder, maybe some salsa and you're good to go
Sloppy Joe's
Cheesy Beef and Rice Casserole
Meat sauce for pasta
Stroganoff sandwiches - mix some sour cream with the hamburger, spread it on french bread, top with cheese and broil until brown
Hamburger gravy - like sausage gravy, only with hamburger

You also can just freeze batches of meatballs.  I like this recipe because it makes a double batch, although you may want to use more beef if you don't like to have very bready meatballs.  I usually add in garlic and parmesan.  I love meatball subs but Glenn doesn't like tomato sauce very much, so I usually heat up some for him in BBQ sauce instead and then he is a happy camper.  :)

When I make a turkey or buy a rotisserie chicken I like to make my own broth to freeze.  The easiest way I have found is the crock pot method.  I put the bones in the crock pot with some onion, garlic, carrots, and celery and cover it all with water.  Leave it overnight or about 18 hours on low, strain and freeze!
Oh, and another good thought.  Sometimes I like to make a turkey on a Saturday just for sandwiches.  I freeze the leftover turkey in useable portions and then have it ready for casseroles, soups, and sandwiches later.

I also like to make chicken strips.  I cut up chicken breasts into strips, bread them, and then lay them out on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper to freeze.  After they are frozen I pack them into freezer bags.  No need to thaw before you cook them, so that is a big help!  They take 20-25 minutes in the oven depending on how thick you cut them.

You can freeze muffins and breads easily as well as pancakes and waffles.  Instead of muffins lately I have been making these baked oatmeal cups which are GF and diabetic friendly.  They are so so good and very healthy!  Instead of doing toppings I just mix stuff in.  Our favorite combination lately is toasted walnut and blueberry.  Olivia and Glenn both pound them down.  One note, the recipe says it makes 18 but I always get 30-36!

Some people love to freeze pasta casseroles or enchiladas.  I personally am VERY particular about the texture of the noodles or tortillas so I don't do this at our house.  Instead, I love this cheesy beef and rice casserole that my friend Laura makes.  It truly is just as easy to make 2 as it is to make one.  I don't have tons of dishes so I like to line the dish with foil, assemble the casserole, then freeze it.  After it is frozen I pop it out of the dish and wrap it in another layer of foil.  When it comes time to use one I simply peel off the foil and then put it back in the dish overnight in the fridge to thaw.  That way I can still use my dishes and they take up less room in the freezer.
I've been thinking about adding in some green beans to Laura's recipe in the hopes that Olivia will eat them, but I haven't tried it yet.

I also like to just make extra of things like beef and vegetable soup and freeze them.  Ok, that's a lie.  I just tend to make a lot whenever I make any kind of soup and we never eat through the leftovers quickly enough so I just freeze them to use later so they won't go to waste.  :)  So yeah, this has been my foray so far into the world of freezer cooking.  I know there are other things but I can't think of them right now - perhaps a future post.  Hope some of you find it helpful!


Amanda Swett said…
Love reading about all your tips! Can't wait to get into our new house and start stock piling recipes for the winter! Our MOPS group has a freezer meal group. If there are 10 of us we each make 10 meals of 1 recipe and bring it to a get together then trade our meals with each other. That way we go home with 10 different meals but only made 1 type of meal. Lots of fun and easy!

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