Freezer Cooking: 10 Tips for Getting Started


Kathy is a busy mom of two teens who loves to cook tasty and simple food for her family and friends.

Freezer cooking can help you save time and money and eat healthier.

Freezer cooking can help you save time and money and eat healthier.

What Is Freezer Cooking?

The idea behind freezer cooking is simple. You prepare meals ahead of time and store them in your freezer to be eaten at a later date. People have been doing this for a long time, but there seems to have been a renewed interest in this concept in recent years. Many websites and books are devoted to the idea of "once a month cooking," and it's gained a lot of interest among people trying to reduce their grocery bill, eat healthier and reduce the amount of time they spend on meal preparation.

Having a freezer stocked with ready-to-cook meals that you've put together yourself can be a great time saver. It's also much healthier and cheaper than relying on frozen, heavily processed convenience foods. If you've been wanting to give freezer cooking a try but haven't yet taken the plunge, here are 10 tips to help get you started.

1. Make Room in Your Freezer

Before you get started with freezer cooking, you'll want to make sure that you have ample room in your freezer to store the meals you plan to prepare. Now is a great time to clean out and organize your freezer, whether you're planning to use a deep freezer in the garage or the normal freezer in your fridge.

2. Consider Your Family's Meal Preferences and Needs

Spend some time thinking about your family's lifestyle and what's currently working and not working with meal preparation in your household.

What are your biggest challenges? Do you find that you're struggling to put together a healthy meal most weeknights because there's not enough time between getting home from work and taking the kids to their sports and activities? Are you spending too much time and money picking up takeout meals for lunch or dinner? Do you enjoy coming home to meals made in your slow cooker, but are rarely organized enough to plan ahead for this? Freezer cooking can help with all of these challenges and more.

Make a list of your family's favourite foods and meals. Which ones could you make in large quantities and freeze? Think about what types of meals and foods would be most helpful to have available in your freezer. Baked goods for snacks or weekend brunch? Individual serving containers of soups or chili for lunches? Dinners that could be thrown in the slow cooker in the morning on hectic days? Full meals that someone else can heat up if you're away or working late?

Also, consider what cooking methods you are likely to use to heat up or cook the meals after they come out of the freezer. For instance, you may want to focus more on foods that can be cooked on the barbecue as you head into the summer months and rely more on comfort foods like stews and casseroles that will be cooked in the oven or slow cooker for the fall and winter.

3. Do Some Research

Now that you have a better idea of what types of meals you might want to stock up on, do some research. There are many websites, books and blogs devoted to this concept where you can find lots of tips and recipes suitable for the freezer. Search for the following topics:

  • Freezer Cooking
  • Freezer Meals
  • Bulk Cooking
  • Meal Planning
  • Once a Month Cooking (OAMC)

4. Consider a Warehouse Membership

If you don't already have one, consider purchasing a membership at Costco or a similar warehouse store. Because you will likely be preparing several meals at once and freezing them right away, you can save money by buying bulk quantities of meats, vegetables and other ingredients without having to worry about the food going to waste.

It helps to know your prices when shopping at the warehouse stores. For instance, the meat isn't always much cheaper than what you would find at your grocery store. However, you can take advantage of sales when they do occur and make a variety of meals around that type of meat for your freezer. I've also found Costco to be a great place to stock up on freezer bags and containers.

Stock up on bags, tupperware and other reusable and disposable containers for your freezer meals.

Stock up on bags, tupperware and other reusable and disposable containers for your freezer meals.

5. Stock Up on Containers

Ensure you have an adequate quantity of containers to use for your freezer meals. If you don't think you have enough currently, purchase additional supplies before getting started.

Options include:

  • large and small freezer bags: These are the best choice for many foods to make the most efficient use of space in your freezer.
  • glass casserole dishes or pans: With lids, these stackable containers are ideal for large-batch meals like shepherd's pie or lasagne
  • single-serving containers: Small containers made of either plastic or glass are great for storing lunch or dinner for one.

6. Choose a Few Simple Recipes to Start With

Some people prepare a whole month's worth of meals in one day, but I don't suggest attempting this right away. You will likely end up exhausted and give up on the idea altogether. Start small, and build up to longer sessions. I suggest starting with a few simple recipes for your first time.

You may want to begin with some recipes that you're already familiar with, such as your favourite recipe for lasagna, shepherd's pie or chili. Make large quantities of them to freeze in whatever size of container is most appropriate for one meal for your family. This is a great way to begin stocking your freezer, and you know it's food your family will enjoy.

Or, if you know a certain type of meat is on sale this week, you could plan to buy that and make several different recipes with it for the freezer. For instance, several weeks ago, Costco had large porkloins on for $5 off their regular price. I purchased three of them, at a cost of $8 to $10 each. I then cut each porkloin into several sections. Then I cut sliced some sections into boneless pork chops, cubed some for stew, sliced some for stir fries, and left others as is to cook as pork roasts or for pulled pork in the slow cooker. I mixed up a few different sauces and marinades, chopped some vegetables up and packaged everything up into large freezer bags. I ended up with meat prepped for a dozen meals for less than $30 and a couple of hours work. You can easily do something similar with other meat that might be on sale such as chicken, ground beef or flank steak.

Buying spices at a bulk food store is a great way to keep your freezer cooking costs down.

Buying spices at a bulk food store is a great way to keep your freezer cooking costs down.

7. Stock Up on Spices

Take an inventory of what spices you currently have. Look through the recipes you've gathered up that you would like to try to see if there's any spices you are missing.

I highly recommend purchasing the spices you need at a bulk food store to save money. You can purchase smaller quantities of spices you don't use very often, and this will help keep your costs down and help prevent the spices going to waste if they are stored in your cupboard for too long.

I keep a freezer inventory list inside my pantry cupboard to help with meal planning. This template is from the "Fix, Freeze, Feast" book.

I keep a freezer inventory list inside my pantry cupboard to help with meal planning. This template is from the "Fix, Freeze, Feast" book.

8. Develop a Tracking System

Once you start stockpiling your freezer, you'll want to be able to keep track of what's in there so you don't forget about it. Plan how you will keep track of your freezer inventory now.

A good tracking system will help with meal planning and future shopping trips, as well as ensure that your freezer meals are used up in an appropriate amount of time. It helps keeps you organized, prevents food wastage and will save you time and money.

There are various freezer inventory templates available online and in many of the freezer cooking books, or you can easily develop your own system.

Some people keep their freezer inventory list close to their freezer, but I've found it most helpful to keep mine in the kitchen, so I can refer to it for meal planning and when I'm making a shopping list. I keep mine taped to the inside of my pantry door so I never have to worry about losing it.

9. Plan Your Shopping Trip

If you've decided that you're going to try preparing many meals in one day, you'll want to plan out your shopping trip carefully.

So you're not too tired to cook when you get home from shopping, you may want to plan a couple of trips. You can shop for spices, dry goods, pantry items, and foods that keep well like garlic, onions and lemon juice earlier in the week and then you'll just have to pick up the fresh ingredients like the meats and vegetables on the big day.

Once you know what recipes you want to make, decide which store(s) you will need to go to. It's a good idea to check out the store flyers to see which meats are on special before you go.

10. Schedule a Meal Prep/Cooking Day

The last thing to do is pick a day for your first freezer cooking day. Many of the recipes you will likely be making may not actually be cooked prior to freezing, so it might be more appropriate to call it your meal preparation day.

Although not necessary, you may want to try to get someone to help you with cutting the vegetables and other tasks if you're making more than a couple of different recipes. If you have an older child, you may be able to recruit them to help you with some of the prep work. Or you could invite a friend over to keep you company, and share some of the prep work in exchange for a few meals for their freezer.

Try to pick a day where you won't be rushed or tired. The idea of freezer cooking is to make your life easier, and if you view it as something negative you likely won't stick with it for long.


Fin from Barstow on November 26, 2017:

yes a bit inspirational. i was hoping to find some recipes. Great ideas though for prep work.

Kathy Sima (author) from Ontario, Canada on September 21, 2012:

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! :-)

Linda Crist from Central Virginia on September 21, 2012:

Great tips! Great writing! Great photos!

Kathy Sima (author) from Ontario, Canada on September 07, 2012:

Thanks for the wonderful feedback, Shasta! I'm glad you enjoyed this hub and found some tips to help you with your freezer cooking. I completely agree that it doesn't take much more effort to prepare a few meals at once, and having those extra meals available later sure makes life easier!

Shasta Matova from USA on September 06, 2012:

Congratulations on a well-deserved Hub of the Day! This article is just chock-full of great advice for freezer cooking. I dabble with it from time to time and am surprised at the reservations some people have. Since there are only two of us, I really like freezer cooking a lot since it keeps me from having to cook every day. There is always a quick frozen dinner in the freezer and it is healthy and tailored to my personal tastes. I use square containers to save space in the freezer, and keep them all the same size to make things easy.

I find that making six servings of a dish doesn't take much more time than making two, and I can save the rest for later.

I really enjoyed all these tips, and will be incorporating more of them into my freezer cooking. Voted up and across.

Chantele Cross-Jones from Cardiff on May 15, 2012:

So useful! I am actually going to try this for the next 2 weeks as I am getting a new freezer next week and think it's a good chance to clear out and start again. Thanks for a great hub!

RCONNORIII on May 13, 2012:

Your really spending more time now to save time later-its still- TIME-Can you buy it fresh somewhere?

Melanie Chisnall from Cape Town, South Africa on May 12, 2012:

These tips are fantastic, and you make it sound so easy! Thanks for sharing :)

Golfgal from McKinney, Texas on May 12, 2012:

Great hub, Congrats to you. I agree with your comments about being a time saver. When making regular meals, make a little more and freeze some of it for later when you don't feel like cooking or get home late. Meals are always ready for the family when mom is not home. It is very liberating. My family loves rigatoni from the freezer.

Modern Lady from Chicago, IL on May 12, 2012:

I need this hub! I have so much trouble eating well because I just don't have time or energy to put into meal prep after work. These are great tips for planning ahead. I will give this a try soon!

Talullah from SW France on May 12, 2012:

This is such a great idea! I shall bookmark this hub because I know I'll coming back to it time and time again. Many thanks for sharing. I'd love to vote it up but I can't find the 'vote up' button. I'll keep looking for it, though!

RTalloni on May 12, 2012:

This is a great guide for getting stared with freezer cooking that should help people save money and time as well as help them eat healthier. Congrats on your Hub of the Day award for this super hub!

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 12, 2012:

Congrats on getting Hub of the Day for this awesome, useful article!

smlbizmatters on May 12, 2012:

I'm excited to start this on Sunday :)

Kathy Sima (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 12, 2012:

Thanks very much Wealthmadehealthy!

Thanks StephanieBCrosby. I can see how that could easily happen. I find I have the most success stocking my freezer when I plan a freezer cooking day ahead of time and put the meals into the freezer right away. I don't have as much success trying to freeze excess food when I cook larger batches than I would normally make, but I know this approach does work for some people.

Kathy Sima (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 12, 2012:

Thanks daisynicolas! We have those companies here too. It seems like a great idea to help busy people get meals ready for the freezer, although it tends to be quite a bit more expensive than doing it yourself. I guess a lot of people are prepared to pay extra money for the convenience of not having to do the shopping and chopping, etc. The end result is the same though - having healthy meals available in your freezer for busy days :)

Kathy Sima (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 12, 2012:

Hi mike202. Your suggestion about using a vacuum sealer is a good one. I don't have one, but I think it would definitely come in handy. I do tend to store most of my freezer meals in Ziploc freezer bags with as little air inside as possible, rather than other containers, to help make the most efficient use of freezer space. I'd love to hear others' thoughts on using a vacuum sealer with cooking for the freezer.

Thanks for the congratulations and feedback, brsmom68, Keeley Shea and urmilashukla23. I really appreciate it. So glad you found the article useful!

Stephanie Bradberry from New Jersey on May 12, 2012:

I love the idea of "once a month cooking." My husband and I often try to make certain things in bulk to freeze. But then we just end up eating most of it for lunches for the next few days or revamping it a little to be part of the next meal. So the excess food never really makes it to the freezer anymore. But the idea keeps coming up. Great details and outline of steps and tips.

Congratulations on your Hub of the Day!

Wealthmadehealthy from Somewhere in the Lone Star State on May 12, 2012:

Great read. In this day and age, you really need to try this. Also the reason I bought a large freezer a few years back. Sams Club is a great place to shop and buy quality meats as well. Have a blessed day!!!

Kathy Sima (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 12, 2012:

Arlene - I'm sorry to hear that you left your freezer open. How upsetting that must have been when you discovered that. I'm glad to hear that you found some helpful tips in here for restocking your freezer though. Thanks for stopping by!

TruckLicense - that's a hard question for me to answer. I have a lot of favourites! I think I need to write another hub to answer that question. Stay tuned!

Thanks Thelma. Desserts in the freezer are always handy for unexpected guests!

Kathy Sima (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 12, 2012:

Thanks rebeccamealey, alissaroberts, HawaiiHeart and pinto2011! I wish you all success in your efforts to do more freezer cooking. I hope it helps make life a little easier for you - and I believe that it will :)

Kathy Sima (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 12, 2012:

Thanks vespawoolf! Planning and tracking have been the keys to making this a success for me. I used to always forget what was in my deep freezer, and would end up having to throw out food that had been stored too long, or else I would end up with a huge quantity of chicken breasts or ground beef and not much else to work with. This method has made it much easier to cook a variety of meals regularly, while saving a lot of time and money in the process.

Thank you kikalina. I'm glad you found my tips helpful!

I agree lovesleftovers - we all seem to lead such busy and hectic lives. Since I started doing more of this type of meal planning and advance preparation, I've found life to be less hectic most days. I hope it will be helpful to others as well.

Urmila from Rancho Cucamonga,CA, USA on May 12, 2012:

Thanks for the useful tips and ideas. Voted up!

Congratulations on Hub of the day!

Kathy Sima (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 12, 2012:

Thanks mary615! I appreciate you stopping by again, and your kind words.

SueB - Those are excellent questions! There are a few tricks to successfully freezing food for future meals, and most books on the subject do include tips for how to do it, as well as what types of food do not freeze well and guidelines for the maximum time foods should be frozen before they are used up. I've been planning to write a follow-up hub to this one, with this type of information; it sounds like this might be helpful to you. I think any of the books I've linked to above would be excellent choices. I started with Fix, Freeze, Feast and it got me well on my way, but I think the rest are all great resources as well.

Keeley Shea from Norwich, CT on May 12, 2012:

WOW! What a great article! So many good ideas for helping with savings, time and healthy eating! I just wish I had a bigger freezer! Congrats on HOTD! Definitely deserved.

Kathy Sima (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 12, 2012:

@pstrauble48 - That is an excellent point. Having prepared meals in the freezer comes in very handy when family members or friends are ill, or after they have a baby. Home cooked meals are always appreciated in these circumstances. My dad was recently hospitalized for a week, and my mom and I spent a lot of time at the hospital with him. I was so glad I had just done a big batch of freezer cooking. The meals in the freezer came in handy for both my family and my mom, who didn't have the energy to cook for herself.

Thanks kelleyward! It really is an honour to have this hub selected as HOTD :)

Kathy Sima (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 12, 2012:

Wow, thanks for all of the great comments, everyone! I've been out all day and I am a bit overwhelmed by all of the comments that have piled up in my absence.

mike202 on May 12, 2012:

Great idea Daisynicolas, a once-a-month cooking/freezer club. How does that work? Do they provide the ingredients for you or help you make a shopping list for the month based on your meal choices? Does someone come to your home to help show you how to cook/prep a week/months worth of meals to freeze? Or do they have their own commercial prep kitchen with classes you sign up for? That'd be a great idea for a business, either in home or maybe it'd be possible to rent a restaurant kitchen during off hours, a couple mornings a week when you have enough customers.

daisynicolas from Alaska on May 12, 2012:

Here in Alaska, I have discovered that there some small biz that focus on these frozen meals. There is a set of meals that are assembled and packed by the attendees for freezing in their own homes and people actually pay for these set up. It's wonderful to be chosen as Hub of the Day. Lifts your spirit up! Good hubbing.

Diane Ziomek from Alberta, Canada on May 12, 2012:

Congratulations on Hub of the Day! This method would most definitely save time and money, not to mention allow for healthier meals. Voted up and useful.

mike202 on May 12, 2012:

Just a thought about the tip on containers... they can take a lot of room in the freezer, wouldn't a good vacuum sealer work better for most meals? They're always advertised to eliminate food waste by preventing freezer burn. Most meals could then be popped into boiling water to heat then open the package and serve. I've never done this but it seems like a great idea for individual servings for a single person. Anyone have a vacuum sealer and recommend it?

Thelma Alberts from Germany on May 12, 2012:

Congrats on the hub of the day! This article is very informative and useful. Freezer cooking is a good idea to save money and time. I used to freeze leftover from our day to day meals when my child was still small and I was working part time. I always cooked plenty and just freezed what was left for the time when I did not like to cook or no time at all. It was very handy especially when I had an unannounced guests. There was always cake to serve and etc.

Voted up and useful. Thanks for sharing.

Arlene V. Poma on May 12, 2012:

Excellent! I left my accidentally my freezer door open a couple of months ago, so your guide will help me restock my freezer. I will have to try freezing herbs and spices since I do buy them in bulk. Those little spice jars in the supermarket are a rip-off!

TruckLicense from America on May 12, 2012:

very cool what's the best thing to freeze?

Subhas from New Delhi, India on May 12, 2012:

I always run short of time for preparing food and your guide is surely going to help me miles in solving my problem. I am really going to incorporate your tips in my life from today onwards.

HawaiiHeart from Hawaii on May 12, 2012:

I always tell myself I need to do more freezer cooking but I always end up making just 1 or 2 dishes, when I'd like to do a whole month's worth.

Thanks for the great tips!

Alissa Roberts from Normandy, TN on May 12, 2012:

I really need to start doing this more. With two little boys and a hectic schedule, this would help me out so much. Thanks for sharing all the great tips to help me get started. Congratulations on your well deserved hub of the day!

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on May 12, 2012:

Wow! I was confused by your title, now I see. What a great Hub, congratulations! I have done "freezer cooking" by the week, I will have to give this by the month idea a try!

lovesleftovers from Texas on May 12, 2012:

Your article contains a great deal of excellent, thorough information! People live such busy, hectic lives. I'm sure your article will provide lots of ideas, tips and techniques that will make things a bit easier when it comes to mealtime. Thanks for sharing this great hub!

kikalina from Europe on May 12, 2012:

Great advice! thanks for sharing!

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on May 12, 2012:

This hub is very well organized and helpful. I've never had much success with freezer cooking but your information makes it seem doable. I think the key for me would be the tracking system. I lack organization when it comes to this method. Congratulations on a well-deserved Hub of the Day!

Mary Hyatt from Florida on May 12, 2012:

Hi I read and commented on this Hub before, but wanted to come back and say Congrats on HOTD. This Hub is well deserving of that award!

Sue B. on May 12, 2012:

I love the idea! My issue is I never seem to freeze things properly and I have trouble heating them back up without ruining them. Any suggestions? Do the books you recommended give some tips? If I bought one book on once a month cooking- which one should it be?

kelleyward on May 12, 2012:

Thanks for the wonderful tips! Congrats on winning HOTD! Take care, Kelley

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on May 12, 2012:

Freezing foods does provide us the opportunity to prep ahead and store. This is especially helpful when family members are ill and need meals prepared ahead for them. Another family member can prepare a week's meals for them, take it to their home, and pop them in the freezer.For those just getting started in this endeavor, you have provided the detail necessary to be successful with this type of endeavor. Thank you so much for sharing such a well done article.

Kathy Sima (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 02, 2012:

That works too! Sounds like you've got lots of meal options there to keep things interesting. Thanks for stopping by.

Sid Kemp from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) on May 01, 2012:

Thanks! One thing I've found useful for freezer cooking is to make sauces separate from the meals. I can have two or three separate sauces, then use whichever I like. So, as I heat the frozen chicken, one day I can have BBQ, another, classic Italian tomato, and another, pesto!

Kathy Sima (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 01, 2012:

Thanks for stopping by jaswinder64, nakmeister and randomcreative. I'm glad you found the tips useful.

nakmeister from Lancaster, UK on April 27, 2012:

A very useful hub, thanks!

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on April 27, 2012:

With just two people, I don't feel the need to do this right now, but with kids someday, I would definitely consider it! Thanks for all of the great tips.

jaswinder64 from Toronto, Canada. on April 27, 2012:

Good tips on freezer cooking. Voted up!

Kathy Sima (author) from Ontario, Canada on April 27, 2012:

Thanks for your comments everyone! It looks like there's a lot of people that like the idea of saving time and money on food with freezer cooking. It's been such a wonderful thing for me to discover. I highly recommend giving it a try.

lady rain from Australia on April 27, 2012:

I love your great ideas on freezer cooking. I am getting tired of doing all the preparations every day just to cook one meal. Well done!

Helena Ricketts from Indiana on April 26, 2012:

I do this on occasion when I make a casserole or a side dish like augratin potatoes. It saves a LOT of time and the need to eat out because you are too tired or don't feel like cooking.

Cristina Vanthul from Florida on April 26, 2012:

Excellent idea. I do this with soup in the winter but not with meats and other meals. Def a must try!

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on April 26, 2012:

Freezer cooking sounds like a great way to save time and money and we are all for that. Good job!

swellgal from Kentucky on April 26, 2012:

Excellent Hub. I love this idea. I have a huge chest freezer that I'd love to fill with meals. I may follow this concept!

Mary Hyatt from Florida on April 26, 2012:

This is a very informative Hub. I wish I had a larger freezer. I do cook Chilli ahead and put that in the freezer in serving size containers. I've done meat loaf and a few other dishes. I vote this UP, etc.

Related Articles