Stock Your Freezer – Tips and Tricks

I realized that I mention in quite a few of my posts, “This freezes well.”  I have started to say this so often (especially where scones are concerned!) that you all must think I have a completely packed freezer all the time.  Not true, but I do keep a lot of things I consider to be freezer staples.  I thought I would share a glimpse into my freezer and the items I consider freezer necessities.

First, let me say, I am not a food scientist.  I am not here to tell you how long various items keep in the freezer.  Almost any food can be frozen, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will taste fabulous after being thawed.  I use this website from the USDA on freezing safety all the time as a guideline for how to freeze certain things and how long they will keep well (specifically meat, poultry, seafood, etc.)  It also has great information on thawing.  One important thing I have taken from this site is that if food has been thawed in the refrigerator, it is safe to refreeze without cooking.  You don’t know how many chicken breasts this little factoid has saved me!

Also, the point of this post is not freezing whole, already prepared meals.  While that certainly can be done and I have done it in the past, I personally prefer fresh cooked meals to things pulled from the freezer.  Instead I try to utilize my freezer as a resource with lots of ingredients and items I use frequently to make preparing all those freshly cooked meals a bit more convenient.

Since learning to bake so many breads, rolls, etc. at home, I have found that most baked goods, especially those with yeast, freeze extremely well.  As long as they are frozen while fresh, they taste practically as good as new when they are thawed and rewarmed in the oven.  For things like hamburger buns, pita, sliced bread and rolls I like to thaw in the microwave for a minute or two on the defrost setting and then warm in the oven.  Other things like pizza dough, puff pastry, tart/pie dough are best thawed in the refrigerator for a day.

  • Hamburger buns – After discovering this recipe for homemade hamburger buns, I no longer buy them from the store.  I like to make a double batch and keep them in the freezer for whenever a burger mood strikes.
  • Pita bread – I’ve taken to making double batches of pita bread.  We tend to eat through one batch quickly, so I keep the rest in the freezer.  You know, for gyros emergencies.
  • Sandwich bread – I have found that most homemade bread freezes very well.  I slice it before freezing so I can pull out just a slice or two at a time as needed.  My favorite is this whole wheat bread.
  • Pizza dough – I did a whole post about freezing my favorite pizza dough.  I can hardly live without this stuff in my freezer.  It can make for a very quick dinner of pizza or calzones using whatever toppings/fillings you have on hand.  I never even bother writing a date on these bags because we go through it so quickly.
  • Dinner rolls – I love having rolls in the freezer.  They can be quickly pulled out, defrosted and rewarmed in the oven for an additional side to help add bulk to any meal.  This is especially wonderful once fall rolls around and I’m eating soup all the time.  Soup and homemade rolls = yum.
  • Puff pastry dough – Once I learned how manageable it is to make my own puff pastry dough, and how much (much!) better it tastes than store-bought, I can’t go back.  I keep a block or two on hand all the time.
  • Tart and pie dough – Tart and pie doughs freeze well and can be used after thawing in the refrigerator.   Right now I have a batch of the basil garlic tart dough for the tomato mozzarella tart in my freezer.  I should go use it – yum!
  • Scones – I’ve mentioned it countless times, but scones are a freezer staple.  Mix the dough, shape it, and freeze without baking.  Then you can bake directly from the freezer by simply adding a few minutes to the baking time.  You can have fresh from the oven scones whenever you want with minimal effort.

I don’t typically buy a ton of frozen fruits and vegetables simply because I tend to prefer fresh, but here are the items that I usually keep around:

  • Pineapple chunks – I like to buy fresh pineapple, cut into chunks and freeze to keep on hand for snacking or smoothies (Andrew and I LOVE smoothies!)  Or of course, piña coladas.
  • Blackberries, strawberries, raspberries – To throw into smoothies or use in various fruit desserts and cake fillings.  I don’t use them that often because I prefer fresh berries, but it is nice to have them on hand.
  • Edemame – Boiled or steamed until tender and tossed with coarse salt, edemame is a wonderful snack or side dish.
  • Pea and carrot mix – I mainly keep this around for shrimp fried rice since it is one of my favorite dinners.
  • Cranberries – I hoard them every fall and keep them in the freezer.  Right now I have four bags – guess I should use them up since fall is just around the corner!
  • Banana – If your bananas are teetering between overripe and garbage, don’t feel like you have to make banana bread immediately.  You can freeze them!  I like to mash them up, measure the amount, and then freeze in a plastic bag.  I love having this on hand whenever a craving for banana muffins strikes.
  • Pumpkin – Similar to banana, you can also freeze pumpkin.  Once I’m in the pumpkin baking groove, I tend to have no trouble going through a can but if it is one of those monster-sized cans of puree, you can freeze it and reuse later.

We buy almost all of our meat and poultry from the local butcher shop.  I like to call ahead and place large orders so we can have enough to feed us for a few weeks.  For the items that I portion out and freeze individually like chicken breasts, I write the date and quantity on the bag so I know how much I have and how long it should keep.  The things we most often have on hand in this part of our freezer are:

  • Chicken breasts – The majority of our protein comes from chicken breasts, so I order a lot and portion them into individual bags with one or two pieces each.  This makes it easy to thaw the exact amount we will need for each meal.
  • Ground turkey – I use ground turkey in chili, creamy taco mac, and turkey meatloaf, as well as turkey burgers (the mixed and shaped patties of these burgers can be wrapped and frozen as well.)
  • Ground beef – Usually frozen in 1 lb. portions since that is what most recipes call for.
  • Pork tenderloin – There are so many wonderful recipes for pork tenderloin.  It is a great freezer staple to have on hand because it lends itself to simple preparation and easy entertaining.
  • Shrimp – Other than shrimp, I don’t tend to freeze much in the way of seafood because I prefer to buy it fresh and use it quickly.
  • Bacon – I never use more than a few pieces of bacon at a time, so we freeze the extra and use as needed.
  • Pizza sauce – Sort of a miscellaneous item that doesn’t exactly fit in one of the other categories, I tend to keep a batch of pizza sauce frozen for a last minute pizza for dinner, or for dipping pizza bites!

Since I bake so often, there aren’t tons of sweets that I keep in my freezer on a regular basis.  These are the two exceptions.

  • ICE CREAMNo freezer is complete without ice cream.  My current flavor is cookies and cream, but any kind will do.  I also keep leftover brownies and Reese cups frozen for mix-ins or for use in other desserts.
  • Chocolate chip cookie dough balls These are my favorite cookie of all, so keeping the dough balls in the freezer is an absolute necessity.  No matter what other sweets I do or don’t have around the house, having these in the freezer means I am always able to serve a guest a sweet treat fresh from the oven (Similar to the scones, I just bake these from frozen.)

And finally, the bowl of my ice cream maker lives in the bottom of my freezer because you never know when the need to make ice cream will strike.  But in this house, we do know that it strikes often.

So, there you go!  A little glimpse into my freezer.  I hope it was helpful.  The freezer can be a really wonderful kitchen tool if you use it to your advantage.

66 Responses

  1. Oh, how I wish I had a freezer with shelves so it wasn’t just a big jumble in there…

    Since I only cook for two and, sadly, rarely have guests, whenever I make something with more than a few portions (usually bread and desserts) it goes in the freezer. Oh, and chicken stock. Breads can also be thawed at room temperature overnight and they will come out EXACTLY as they are fresh (for instance, if you want a soft bun instead of one with more of a crust, which I find is the result when you defrost it in the oven – optimal in many cases, of course). I haven’t tried the microwave though so it might have the same results.

    I also found recently that really chewy cookies are actually delicious straight from the freezer.

    • Yeah, there are tons of ways to do the same thing. I prefer the microwave/oven option because I rarely know in advance that I’m going to need bread or rolls defrosted and it’s the best last minute option.

  2. I never would have thought of freezing scone dough! Thanks! They are so much better hot anf fresh out of the oven.

  3. perfect! i am expecting a baby in the next few weeks and am stocking the freezer both with pre-made meals and with “helpfuls” like these to make the cooking easier with a newborn around 🙂 thank you!

  4. Your freezer looks so neat and clean. My freezer is a complete disaster!!! How do you keep things from getting the “freezer” taste? That is my biggest problem with freezing. I always freeze things, but then they don’t seem to taste good after I thaw them, unless I use them within a week or so. I am totally inspired to clean out the freezer and take some tips from your post on what to stock up on!

    • I haven’t noticed any problem with a “freezer taste”. Everything tastes pretty much the same after thawing as long as I use it within a few months.

  5. I’m so glad to hear that someone else doesn’t love putting whole meals into the freezer. I really, really prefer freshly cooked meals almost all of the time!

  6. thanks for the helpful info. i didn’t know you could freeze pumpkin!

  7. We’re foster parents so we’ve had kids of various ages in the house, which greatly impacts what and how we cook. Have been using the Ball freezer jars to store servings of stew, chili, soup, etc during the winter with great success. Always cook a huge batch, freeze 3/4s of it. Same with bread, naan, or pizza dough. Frozen dough will thaw out on the counter in a couple of hours, so we freeze a couple of servings in zip locks. Cheers!

  8. Great post! I freeze so much for the hubs and I since it’s just the two of us. One of the best investments we’ve made is buying a food saver…we use it for almost everything! 🙂

    Freezing is not only convenient, it saves SO much money, as I’m sure you know. 🙂

  9. this is a great post, Annie! And, very helpful to me as I transition to a full time job — my husband and I have been looking for more ways to speed up the evening cooking process and having all the bread products in the freezer is a wonderful suggestion. thanks for the tips on how to do it!

  10. This is such an informative post. Thank you! I can completely relate to throwing out chicken breasts that have been thawed, and life gets in the way so we don’t end up using them in time. Good to know that I can pop them back in the freezer. This tip alone will save my husband and I loads of money!

    I am expecting a baby in November and am thinking of freezing meals ahead of time. Did you do that prior to Andrew’s arrival? If so, maybe that could be a topic for a future post. Getting ready for a baby, or something else, and freezing meals.

    • Claudia,
      I am definitely planning on doing a post like that in the future but unfortunately I doubt it will be before your baby arrives. I did freeze a lot of meals before Andrew was born but honestly, because I love cooking so much, I didn’t enjoy it that much because I wanted to cook! With all the food friends and family brought over plus what I had made, it lasted too long for me – I was ready to get back in the kitchen!

  11. You said in your post you order your chicken. Where do you order it from? I want to buy organic I just don’t know of a good place. Thanks!!

  12. With the exception of breads, rolls, etc. I’ve been doing the same with a lot of my foods and it’s made life so much easier – especially with cookie dough since I never need 24-36 cookies around my house! I’ve been wanting to try the hamburger bun recipe you post a lot because I hate that if we want burgers one week we pretty much have to plan a few other “bun-friendly” meals otherwise we waste since it’s just two of us. And honestly, store bought bread products just don’t freeze too well, IMO. Also, I love scones and my husband doesn’t – I love the idea of baking straight from the freezer!

    • Your husband doesn’t like scones?! Maybe he just hasn’t had a great one yet. I can’t imagine anyone turning down the CI blueberry scone, or any man turning down a bacon cheddar scone!

  13. Oh my gosh. You just answered many questions that I have always had about freezing things. This is going to help me out so much (and save me money) next year when I’m doing fellowship. Thanks, Annie! 🙂

  14. Super post, Annie!

  15. This was incredibly helpful, thank you!

  16. What a wonderful post! Thanks for sharing all of your secrets. I was planning on making scones this weekend, so I will definitely make a few batches of dough to freeze!

  17. Thanks for sharing. I didn’t know you could refreeze refrigerator thawed foods. That will save me from a lot of late night/last minute so it doesn’t go bad cooking. Don’t you just love Lock & Lock containers?!

  18. It’s like you read my mind! As a mom of two young kiddos, I need all the shortcuts I can take. And cookie dough frozen in balls? GENIUS!

  19. I wish I had a big fridge. The most annoying this about renting a place is the small fridges. My freezer barely fits anything in it. Sigh… Someday though!

  20. I didn’t see one of my favorite freezer hints. Store ground meat in a gallon size freezer bag and mash it out to the size of a dinner plate. It defrosts more quickly than a large lump.

    • To me that seems a waste of a plastic bag if the meat is already in freezer-safe packaging. I avoid using excess plastic as much as possible.

  21. Thank you for the tip about being able to refreeze something that has thawed in the refrigerator! This could come in very handy. And don’t forget about freezing beans. I rarely buy canned beans anymore. I buy dried beans and cook a whole bunch at a time and then freeze in appropriate portions. (Two cup amounts for my crew.) It is so much more cost effective to do it this way.

  22. Alton Brown did a “Good Eats” episode about using your freezer. For most things he advocated a double layer of plastic and a double layer of foil (both tightly wrapped). Personally I think that’s a bit much. I like using gallon size freezer bags. After squeezing out as much air as possible, I close the slide to the point where I can still stick a drinking straw down into the package, suck out the air, and lock it closed. Works well with a bit of pactice.

    • Agreed, I think double layering is a little much. It may be recommended but personally one layer has always been fine for me, and it upsets the hippie environmentalist in me less.

  23. Thanks, those are great tips! My freezer could use some organization. I will say, you would be the one person that I would recommend a Food Saver machine to. They are great and things will keep fresher for so much longer with the air zapped out of them. Plus, its a lot of fun to play with!.

    The other staple I keep in my freezer are fresh fruit purees. I use them for everything, especially drinks. And if I make too large of a pitcher of something (say Pamplemousse martinis) I freeze them for later. Who doesn’t love an instant slushy drink after a long day at work.

  24. Such great information. It looks like we have nearly the same style fridge/freezer. What do you put on that narrow shelf under your ice maker? It is so narrow I can’t figure out what can go there. Right now I have 2 frozen burritos (oh the horror – I know).

  25. I just love, love, love your blog! This article on freezing was very helpful and you linked to a lot of recipes that I am interested in and hadn’t seen before. A fellow “Annie” thanks you.

  26. great post and recipes..These are useful tips everyone can use!

  27. I LOVE THIS POST!!! I personally think the freezer is the most under utilized get a HEALTHY meal to the table quick tool. I have a regular side-by-side freezer full, another above the fridge freezer full and an entire chester freezer full. All are filled with meals/fruits/veggies from the garden/fresh fish we caught/shrimp/chicken/beef (we get ½ a beef at a time).

    Your pizza crust dough is a must in my freezer also THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. I did see you mention that you don’t cook meals and put them in your freezer, you prefer fresh meals over precooked frozen. One of the biggest uses of my freezer space is meals that I pre-assemble but don’t cook until the night we are going to eat them. It eliminates the prep time either in the morning for slow cooker recipe’s or rush to get home from work prep for baked recipe’s or grilled meats.

    Right now I have 10 meals assembled in my freezer. Grilled Jerk Chicken/Jerk Pork (raw chicken or pork add the marinade and freeze). Take out of the freezer into the fridge the morning I want to use. When I get home it is marinated/thawed and ready to grill. Pulled Pork and Chicken sandwiches…keep meat and everything raw but mixed together and freeze in a bag. Take out of the freezer when I go to bed and put it in the fridge, the next morning I dump the bag into the crock pot and come home to “fresh” sandwiches. I could go on and on about this subject. Just today instead of going out to lunch I pulled 2 stuffed peppers (from our garden) out of the freezer and took them to work for lunch. What did that save me about a $5-8 lunch bill, way less calories, no preservatives and super yummy because it is home made.

    I do feel that a vacuum sealer is crucial if you do a lot of freezing, it does preserve food a lot longer if you know you won’t eat it with a month or two.

  28. Such great tips! You have such a well organized freezer. I’m now motivated to do a clean out and start to organize my freezer! One thing I do keep on regularly in my freezer are homemade meatballs. It comes in so handy for sandwiches, the crockpot, entertaining, etc. The hardest part is rolling them out, but the work is well worth it when I can dump them in a crockpot with a jar of spaghetti sauce and walk away.

  29. Such a great post! Thank you! Recently I’ve made it my goal to make less trips to the grocery store/farmers market/butcher and get more organized in the kitchen. The freezer tips are so helpful!

  30. this is a great post, thanks! I definitely need to freeze more things, especially fruit. I just look at it as it’s going bad in the refrigerator and I know in the back of my mind that it’s not going to get used…why I don’t just throw it in the freezer is unknown to me. Thanks for the reminder!

  31. Thank you so much! This information is so helpful 🙂

  32. This is wonderful! We bought a freezer in the spring and it’s spent most of the summer being an ice cream and ice pop storage vessel. Thank you so much for the ideas and recipes!

  33. If you need a recommendation for the cranberries – David Lebovitz’s cranberry orange sorbet is AMAZING

  34. How funny! I was just about to do a post on my own blog about just this thing!

    I am yet to freeze scone dough – but think I’m going to give it a go.
    Great post!

  35. I like to freeze leftover coffee in ice cube trays, then pop them out into a Ziploc when frozen. Later, I take a few cubes and blend them up with skim milk, a little vanilla, and some kind of sweetener (agave, simple syrup, or a pack of Splenda) for a great summer pick-me-up! I can’t believe I never thought of mashing/measuring the bananas before freezing – I just throw the whole banana in there, peel and all, but I like your idea better. I love your recipes but love these logistical-type posts too!

  36. I love my freezer and just finished filling it with a mix of full-made meals, partially prepped meals, and meal components such as ground beef cooked with garlic and onions, mexican ground beef, cooked and shredded chicken, and a variety of beans and cheeses, and various veggies. I would love to try baked goods like you posted about.

  37. Wow, just stumbled on your blog, and I like! We seem to share some of the same ideas re: cooking, etc.! Nice blog!

  38. I love this post – now I’m curious about the inside of your refrigerator too 🙂

  39. Thank you so much for sharing your tips and tricks! It is really helpful and much appreciated!

  40. Wow! I’m sooo impressed.

  41. This is a great post! I’m always a little nervous about what to freeze for fear that it won’t taste as good when it is reheated. I had no idea that pizza dough could be frozen.

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while and I absolutely LOVE your recipes. I’ve made several different things and all of them have been wonderful!

  42. What a USEFUL post! I’m impressed with the organization in your freezer. I am always cleaning out and reorganizing but it seems to go downhill quickly.

  43. thanks for the tips! i never knew you could freeze pumpkin either. that’s great. i can’t wait til we can find it in the store again 🙂

  44. Great post! I was wondering – for freezing bacon, do you just put the rest of the pack in the freezer and then thaw in the fridge when you need more? If so, can you refreeze this again? Or do you freeze it so you can get at a slice or two at a time. I definitely have the problem with bacon where we NEVER use a whole package before it goes bad.

    • Kara, yes, I think I usually just wrap the package in foil and date it. Then I thaw in the refrigerator at least enough to separate the slices and then refreeze anything that I still want to keep.

  45. Luv the reminders, especially for various doughs… It is so easy to double up when inspiration hits, and then u are ready when the moment strikes! Fun post – lots of possibilities!

  46. Thanks for the great tips! I also like to freeze chipotle peppers in adobo. I tend to only need 1 or 2 from a can so I put the rest (with a tablespoon or so of the adobo) into snack size ziplocks, then all into a slightly larger ziplock to keep them together. Just take out a little baggie when you need one. They thaw amazingly quick. I also like to freeze the remnants of tomato paste in tablespoon amounts (flash freeze, then put into a ziplock). I take out one or two when I need it without having to waste a whole can. I found that adding a little tomato paste to taco-style ground beef really ups the flavor.

  47. Great post!! I usually just freeze leftover meals and raw meat/poultry. I will start freezing bacon since we don’t eat that much and it always ends in the trash. I made your cheese cream frosting but I didn’t use it all, wish I had frozen the remnant… it tastes good though but has been sitting for a week in the refrigerator so, maybe I should just throw it away 😦

    I was thinking about freezing heavy/sour cream in ice cube trays but it seems they won’t make a good dessert after thawed, right? How about cream cheese? I’d like to get a big pack of cream cheese, use what I need and then freeze the rest.

    I NEVER thought of freezing fruits. I mean, I’ve had bags of frozen fruits, but the kind that is sold that way. Never thought of freezing fresh fruit. I know I should eat more fruits but for now, my almost 2 yrs kid is the only one who eats fruit so most of it ends in the trash!

  48. I’m sorry, but what are “leftover brownies”? 😀

  49. Thanks for your post. Your freezer is so neat! I’ve been wanting to try baking a freezing my own hamburger buns. I think they would be healthier, tastier, and easier to pull out what we need rather than run to the store for buns. Plus I’m sure it will save money. I’ll have to give your recipe a try.

  50. I was so inspired that you froze scone dough and tried it. I ended up baking it for double the time and the center was still gooey. Do you have any recommendations?

    • Not sure what went wrong for you. Like I said, I bake straight from the freezer for usually only 2-3 minutes extra and they are always as good as fresh.

  51. ah! loved this post.

  52. Ok so if I were to make those honey yeast rolls, I first BAKE them, let them cool and then freeze them in a ziploc bag? How do I go about defrosting them? In the fridge? On the counter? Eek, help!

  53. Cleaned out my freezer today and bought a LOT of Gladware for Pumpkin to be at the ready in my freezer!! I’m guessing Butternut Squash can be frozen the same way Pumpkin is?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: