Whether you have a large family or there are just two of you at home these days, making and baking food ahead to store in the freezer is so handy. And can get you out of a pinch for meals! There are many foods you can always have on hand by baking and cooking for the freezer.
This is one tip I didn’t learn from my mother I just sorta fell into it after I got married.
Growing up, we never had extra freezer space because we would have to store a whole cow or other animal at a time. Between the whole animal and the garden produce we froze, there wasn’t a whole lot of extra space for prepared foods.
Plus, it helped that all four of us kids enjoyed being in the kitchen. So mom could easily delegate supper or baking to any one of us.
I Discovered My Need for Cooking for the Freezer
After I got married, I wanted to bake and cook lots of delicious things for my husband.
Except, who can eat a whole batch of dinner rolls before they go bad? And who wants to make a big mess in their kitchen for just one pie?
I sure didn’t! As much as I enjoy being in the kitchen, I like to maximize my time.
So I discovered I could make a full batch of dinner rolls and put all but four in the freezer. Or I could make a whole batch of pie dough, roll them into crusts and freeze them in the pie plates to easily use one at a time!
After these realizations, my mind raced with ideas of how to most efficiently freeze homemade convenience foods.
Why Should You Be Cooking for the Freezer?
If you are a mom who works outside the home, cooking for the freezer can set you up for easy and healthy wins for supper.
Knowing that you have a game plan that won’t take long to execute when you get home sets you up to feed your family healthy, nourishing meals.
You also set your kids up to be able to better help you. It will be easier for your kids to prepare a meal for your family if you have already done the hard part. Or you have it halfway completed.
This can also let your kids know that they aren’t slaves. You cared enough about them to do what you could ahead of time to make their job of helping out easier.
When you are sick, the cooking for the freezer can be your insurance for easily feeding your family. Otherwise, hopefully they like fried egg sandwiches and toast!
Cooking for the Freezer:
Foods Ready to Eat
Bread – I haven’t had store bread in the house since we’ve been married. Even though I was fully willing to buy bread because, hey, it’s just the two of us, right? My husband requested I make his mom’s recipe of bread.
It is surely delicious! Because we only had a fridge freezer at the time, I cut the recipe in half which made three loaves. Now that we have a bigger freezer I make a full batch of six loaves at a time.[I love to give this as a quick, easy, practical gift, too! Not just at Christmas time, but anytime! It’s a perfect hostess gift.]
Bacon – The best and easiest way to fry bacon is in the oven. It may sound weird, but don’t knock it til you try it.
Rather than make a greasy mess every time I want bacon, I put a whole pack of bacon on a cookie sheet and bake it all at once.
What I don’t need right away, I let fully cool, put it in a baggie and throw it in the freezer. It is so handy to grab a piece or two for a salad or to throw a couple slices in the skillet to reheat.
Dinner Rolls – I like to keep dinner rolls on hand in addition to bread. They make any meal feel a little extra fancy with dinner rolls instead of a slice of bread.[These, too, make wonderful gifts!]
Read More: How to Make Homemade Bread
Grab my homemade bread recipe to make your dinner rolls!
Soup – Most soups freeze beautifully. Freeze soup in smaller containers so you can thaw it faster. If you are freezing it in bags, fill each bag, lay it flat on a cookie sheet and throw the pan of bags in the freezer. Once the bags have frozen they stack nicely and thaw quickly.
You can defrost the soup on the counter if you have planned ahead. Otherwise, get some broth or water boiling on the stove and pop the frozen soup in the pan with a lid. It will be supper in no time!
For a plastic-free option, fill quart jars 3/4 full with soup and freeze. Just be extra careful with the jars as they break easier at cold temperatures.
Muffins – I love to keep muffins in the freezer. Pumpkin chocolate chip is our favorite kind. But really any kind freezes well. They are great for an impromptu coffee break or unexpected company.
Right now I have apple cinnamon muffins in the freezer (made with fresh ground whole wheat).
Mashed Potatoes – If you are peeling, cutting and cooking potatoes for mashed potatoes, throw in a few more! With the leftover potatoes, just spoon them onto a paper lined cookie sheet in single serving sizes. Put the pan in the freezer over night. When the potatoes have frozen, throw them in a zipper bag in the freezer.
To reheat, just grab a blob of mashed potatoes and throw them in a pan with a bit of water or milk.
Biscuits – Biscuits are always in my freezer for a quick complement to breakfast. They are delicious just toasted with butter and jam.
Our favorite is Eggs Benedict. We prefer using biscuits over English muffins because biscuits are softer and easier to cut when toasted.
I also use my ready-to-go biscuits for biscuits and sausage gravy. It is one of my quickest breakfasts because all I have to do is make the gravy.
Cooking for the Freezer:
Foods Ready to Make
Pizza Dough – Saturday nights are our pizza night. Other than the occasional frozen pizza in a pinch I make our pizza from scratch. I use the dough recipe from my Betty Crocker’s Cookbook and usually do half fresh ground whole wheat and half white flour.
I make a full batch of dough and use half that night. The other half of the dough I flatten out a bit, wrap it in plastic wrap and throw it in the freezer. Flattening the dough helps it freeze and thaw quicker.
The day I need the frozen dough, I pull it out around noon and it is thawed by supper time. If you have the extra pan and freezer space, spread the extra dough on another pan and bake it through. Then you just have to bake the toppings when making your pizza!
Having the dough already made helps me choose homemade pizza over frozen when I come in from the barn.
Read More: How to Make Supper When You Work Late
Burger – Are you browning burger for supper tonight? Why not brown five pounds of burger? Then you have the pound you need for supper tonight and four to go in the freezer!
Freeze the browned burger in four portions so you know how much is about a pound for your next recipe.
When you come home late or forget to pull out raw burger to thaw, you can whip out the browned burger and make spaghetti, tacos, lasagne or just eat it on nachos!
Pies and Pie Crusts – Freezing pie crusts saves me so much mess! I love having fresh pie for a coffee break or lunch with a friend but don’t want the counter mess every time I want just one pie.
By making a whole batch of pie dough, I get four crusts. Because I have extra pie pans I can always keep pie dough ready to go in the freezer. If you don’t have extra pans, roll out the dough, lay it on wax paper and roll it up to freeze.
Check out my post for more details on freezing pie crusts: Flaky Pie Crust Recipe
Browned Sausage – Just like burger, brown some extra sausage for the freezer. I love having it handy for biscuits and gravy or for pizzas. I only need a whole package of sausage for the two recipes, so the frozen browned sausage comes in handy.
Browned sausage is also a great addition to breakfast skillets! Start off with a bed of delicious hash browns, layered with scrambled eggs and sausage topped off with some shredded cheese!
I also only need half a package of browned sausage for a pizza. It’s so easy to pull it out of the freezer already browned!
Read More: How to Make the Best Hash Browns
Broth – When I make broth, I don’t always use it immediately in soups. [Sarah from The Healthy Home Economist will walk you through how to make broth.] I like to pour it in ice cube trays and freeze it in smaller, ready to use portions. It also freezes nicely in baby food jars.
When I feel a cold coming on I can easily pop a couple cubes of broth in a pan and heat it up to sip on.
Or when I’m making my son’s baby food, I’ll throw a cube or two in the blender for added nutrients.
Let them completely cool on the counter top. Wrap them up and throw them in the freezer fully baked. Pull a pan out of the freezer several hours or the night before you want them.
Whip up some frosting or glaze while you warm them in the oven.
Just like fresh baked!
Chocolate Chip Cookies – Freezing already baked cookies works great. When you pull them out they taste like fresh baked. And frozen cookies are delicious to dunk in a hot cup of coffee.
I also like to freeze cookie dough. This way I can grab just a few balls of dough and have truly fresh baked cookies.
So don’t let dependence on convenience foods wreck your budget or your health. By spending a few extra hours in the kitchen on weekends or evenings you can set yourself up with your own healthy convenience foods.
Plan ahead, put in the time and enjoy the benefits of baking and cooking for the freezer!