in the kitchen · recipes

5 Tips for Cooking and Freezing Foods

Roasted tomatoes ready to freeze
Fresh from the garden, roasted, and ready to freeze – tomato sauce!

Home cooked dinners in the freezer are like money in the bank – that’s what I always say! The only difference is food, unlike money, has a shelf life. Don’t leave it in the freezer too long otherwise you’ll end up with freezer burn.

Making more than one night’s worth of a great meal, to put away for the not too distant future, is a time saver and great on rushed nights. When I go to the freezer and find a dinner, it’s the same feeling as when you reach your hand in your pocket and you find five bucks. Score!

Freezing food is an excellent way to avoid food waste, too. If we can’t eat it before it goes bad – or if it was lost in the back of the refrigerator – it gets frozen for another time.

Freezer container of Mexican pulled pork
Mexican pulled pork can feed our family 5 dinners – mixed with pinto beans. It’s delish!

5 Tips for Cooking and Freezing Foods

  1. Cook: When making a meal, double the recipe and freeze one. Get into the habit of this and you will thank me. This method makes cooking meals ahead of time easy.
  2. Size: Freeze the food in size appropriate containers. If you’re single and live alone, freeze food in containers that work for you. If you’re feeding a family, freeze in containers that will provide enough for a dinner. Don’t forget to leave space at the top, too, for head-room. Liquids expand when freezing.
  3. Label: Use masking tape and label what you’re freezing. Don’t kid yourself and think you’ll be able to remember. I certainly can’t! Applesauce can look eerily similar to chicken stock when frozen.
  4. Convenience: Buying healthy convenience food is expensive and comes with lots of packaging. Brown rice, pinto beans, any beans, lentils – all of these work well when cooked and then frozen.
  5. Know: Not every food should be frozen – not because it’s bad – but when it thaws, it may not have a good texture. It all depends how you’re going to use the food once it’s thawed. Lettuce meant for a salad doesn’t work but spinach frozen works well when added to a soup. Mashed potatoes are fine to freeze but cubed potatoes in a soup are mush when thawed.
Go Gingham: Homemade pesto
Pesto is always a favorite to have in the freezer. We call it “green gold.”

Get some money in your “freezer bank” and put together some meals for future dining. You can have a night off in the kitchen and enjoy a home cooked meal. Just make sure you don’t leave your dinner in the freezer too long!

What’s your favorite meal to freeze? What do you cook ahead and freeze?

Go Gingham related links:

Why I cook with pork – several reasons – and one involves sweat
Mexican pulled pork recipe is here – make it in the slow-cooker!
Just say no to baby carrots!
11 reasons to meal plan every week – save money, save time and reduce food waste
How our freezer gets used – what I keep in our freezer and how I utilize the space
Grocery shopping soon? Plastic grocery bag alternatives

8 thoughts on “5 Tips for Cooking and Freezing Foods

  1. Hi Sara! Your jars of tomatoes are so pretty … unfortunately, I have developed reflux and have to limit my consumption (which I’m sulking about …).

    We freeze some meals, but mostly we freeze pre-cooked meats, then thaw them to add to a meal. When turkey and ham are on sale during the holidays, we often purchase a second one to cook and freeze.

    I always label my frozen foods … unfortunately, my hubby isn’t always compliant with this task! I’ve had some weird surprises through the years.


    1. Kris, that’s a great idea to add pre-cooked meats to a meal. Anytime dinner can get on the table fast – and it’s home cooked – the better!
      Well, yes about the labeling the foods…I gave a friend a jar of applesauce recently as a gift. I had to clarify the gift and say “It’s most likely applesauce but it could be chicken broth!” 🙂
      We all have to try to remember that labeling of freezer foods!!
      Thanks, Kris!


  2. I can’t resist leaving a comment. My mother always says that dinner in the freezer is “like money in bank” too. I thought that was her little original expression!

    Another reason, I was just getting ready to make a double batch of salmon zucchini cakes for both dinner and the freezer!

    I am also intrigued to try ground pork which you have introduced me too.

    Love reading your blog!!!


    1. Julie, your mother is brilliant! 😉
      Thank you and I’m so glad to hear about the salmon zucchini cakes. Yum! We just had salmon burgers last week and the secret ingredient was Parmesan cheese but I think the zucchini might be healthier.
      Yes, ground pork is a favorite.
      Thank you for your nice words and I’m glad you’re reading! Thanks for writing in…


  3. ‘Applesauce can look eerily similar chicken stock’ made me laugh. I’m so guilty of thinking I will remember what I put in the freezer. I recently pulled out a container containing a bright pink substance. My husband and I are still a bit confused and a bit creeped out. : ) Labeling definitely makes freezer food money in the bank, but my unmarked mystery items are sadly just wasteful.


    1. Rebecca, what was the bright pink substance? Did you thaw it and find out?
      I bought a roll of “freezer tape” and hung it from a shelf in the kitchen. It’s really just a narrow roll of masking tape so nothing special but there it hangs – ready for us to use it! That has really cut down on food containers not getting labeled. Look in the canning section of the grocery store.
      Thanks, Rebecca!


  4. I love cooking a big pot of something on the weekend and having leftovers for lunch during the week (lunch during the week is my main meal). So I usually eat my frozen leftovers within a week. We recently purchased one of those vacuum sealer machines. My husband uses it more than me and thank heavens. He is really terrible at sealing zip lock bags nor can he seal something in plastic wrap. He loves making fruit salad and has started vacuum sealing pieces of fruit that he doesn’t use for the fruit salad. And tonight he vacuum sealed a favorite candy from Spain that he is slowly eating.


    1. Meg, I love that your husband is getting into the freezing of fruit to use later. Very smart! Those food sealers seem like a good idea. I unfortunately have a very small kitchen and don’t think we could handle another machine! I’ve read those sealers really cut down on freezer burn. This morning’s fruit smoothie had freezer burn on the blueberries (they’re from last summer) but luckily in the smoothie, it can’t be tasted.
      Thanks, Meg!
      ps what’s the candy from Spain he likes?


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