Most of my married life I have not had a massive freezer, and now that I do, I am horrible at stocking it. Over Christmas things got so busy that menu planning and making dinner were the last things on my mind, and I was really wishing my freezer was stocked a little better. So, one of my new years resolutions became stocking my freezer. But, the thought of a massive cooking day just to get my freezer stocked seemed far to much like work, so I came up with a new plan, that I would actually be able to stick to. Make a large batch of one item each week, that I’m already making, that freezes well and will make our lives easier in the long run. One item a week builds up to 4 items a month and once things start stockpiling, you will have a plethora of things to choose from when crunch time hits.
For me this doesn’t necessarily mean dinner items, I like to do breakfast, snacks, and lunches too. I already freeze most of our dessert items as we don’t eat them all in one sitting and we like to spread them out over time, so that’s not really something I add to my planning.
Today, I have stockpiled a bunch of Kitchen Simplicity recipes that are great for making in bulk to freeze, with instructions on the best way to freeze these items. On Friday, I’ll be sharing a brand new recipe that is perfect for the freezer – you cook once and end up with four quick meals. As I discover more items to make ahead and freeze I will be sharing them in the new Freezer-Friendly section.
So, let’s add one of these items each week to our menu plans, make a little extra, and start stocking our freezers!
1) Homemade Italian Sausage. This is something that my freezer is hardly ever without. Whenever we run out I make another batch. I love having it on hand for skillet lasagna, southwestern breakfast skillets, zuppa toscana, throw together pasta’s, and pizza toppings. To freeze: divide into 1/2-1 pound amounts (I prefer 1/2 pound), wrap in plastic wrap, place in a large resealable bag, label and freeze.
2) BLT Chicken Burgers. Whenever I’m making burgers I like to make a few extra for the freezer, if possible. It makes for less work the next time and I love having them on hand for impromptu burger nights. The weather will be warming up soon and that means grilling every night for dinner is in the near future. Swoon! For a vegetarian burger try these Parmesan, Kale & White Bean Burgers. To freeze: layer the burgers between layers of wax paper so they don’t stick together.
3) Quick & Flavourful Chicken Stock. This is my favourite homemade chicken stock to date. I love that it’s so easy to make even if you’re feeling under the weather. Even better is freezing extras for another day. To freeze: I like to freeze them in 4 cup portions just like the cartons from the store, since I generally save this for soup. But if you’ll be using it for cooking freeze it in 1 cup portions so none goes to waste.
4) My Favourite Chili. A pot of chili has to be one of the easiest recipes to double. Dump everything in the pot, let it bubble away and then divide the leftovers to be reheated another day. To Freeze: separate into individual amounts to pack in lunches, or freeze in large amounts for family dinners. I like to run the bottom of the container under hot water until the soup begins to thaw and loosen, then I pop it into a pot and cover it with a lid. I usually add a splash of water to get things steamy and avoid any sticking.
5) Thin Crust Pizza Dough and Sauce. We have pizza night every week and I love making larger batches of dough and dividing it for the freezer. That way the next week we just have to take out the dough to thaw before rolling and topping. I also like to make sauce to freeze so that it doesn’t need to be made every week. To Freeze: Divide the prepared dough (just before rolling) into the amounts desired for one pizza each. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag. When ready to use thaw in the fridge overnight or take out and leave on the counter several hours before making. With BBQ season approaching it’s a great idea to make these individual size BBQ Pizza Dough in bulk too. To Freeze: Grill on one side, allow to cool and then wrap in plastic wrap. When ready to use: pull out of the freezer, place desired toppings onto the grilled side and grill until dough is cooked through and toppings are melted.
6) Baking Mix or Healthified Baking Mix. Mixing up a batch of this baking mix and storing it in the freezer means that you’ve got quick dinner, breakfast and sides ready to be made at a moments notice. Try it in Quick and Cheesy Chicken Pot Pie, Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes, or Jalapeño-Cheddar Drop Biscuits.
7) Sweet & Sour Chicken Balls. As you well know, deep-frying and me are not friends. Which is why when I deep fry I make it count! I originally posted this recipe as a freezer friendly dish so that you only have to deep fry once but you can enjoy the deliciousness without deep frying at a later date. All you have to do is pop them in the oven to crisp and warm up, reheat the sauce, toss and eat! Of course, deep fried goods should be enjoyed in moderation, but why not make the most of it if you’re going through all that work!
8) Skillet Lasagna. I have doubled this recipe before to serve to a crowd and broiled it in a 9×13 pan to finish it off. So, that got me thinking, why not double it and divide it between two 8×8 pans, freeze one and bake the other. I haven’t tried this myself yet but this is what I plan to do.. To freeze: Double recipe. After noodles are cooked through and half of cheese has been stirred in, divide between two 8×8 (broiler proof) pans. Top with remaining cheeses, broil one, allow the other to cool, then cover and freeze. To bake: allow to thaw in fridge over night then bake until warmed through, broiling at the end to crisp the cheese. Or, bake from frozen (although this will take a lot longer to bake).
9) Homemade Wonton Wrappers. Homemade wonton wrappers are so easy to make and they freeze beautifully. Having them on hand means you don’t have to run to the grocery store if a wonton urge strikes. We love these to shortcut Pork Potstickers. To freeze: coat with cornstarch to avoid sticking, place in a freezer bag and freeze.
1) Cherry Almond Streusel Muffins or Honey Oat Banana Berry Muffins or The Best Blueberry Muffins or Double Chocolate Raspberry Muffins or Orange Poppy Seed Muffins. There’s nothing quite as grab and go in the morning as a muffin. Whether you’re rushing out the door in the morning or just wanting something sweet to enjoy with your morning coffee, having muffins stashed away in the freezer can be a lifesaver. I also love packing them along as a snack for Max when he goes to school. All of these recipes freeze beautifully, meaning you never have to get sick of the same old muffin!
2) Apple Oat Scones. These scones are a beautiful thing to find tucked away in the freezer. They’re whole wheat and processed sugar free and perfect with a cup of tea for a morning or afternoon snack. To freeze: simply pop them into a freezer bag once baked and cooled. You can also freeze them before baking on a parchment lined baking pan. Once frozen, place in a freezer bag. When ready to bake, remove as many as you need and bake according to directions adding a few minutes to the baking time. Other scone recipes to try: Cranberry Orange Scones and Blueberry Streusel Scones.
3) Crispy Baked Hash Browns. Revolutionary, crispy, homemade hash browns that are baked in the oven. They take a little effort to make but once they’re stored away in the freezer they will only take minutes to prepare on another day. To freeze: Once cooled, transfer the baking sheet to the freezer until hash browns are frozen, and then transfer to a freezer bag. When ready to eat, simply pop them in a hot pan with a bit of oil until hot.
4) Chai Spiced Banana Bread or Pumpkin Oat Bread or Whole Wheat Molasses Zucchini Bread with Chocolate Chips & Walnuts or Mocha Chip Banana Bread. Bake multiple batches of quick bread and store in the freezer whole or pre-sliced. To freeze: If freezing whole, allow to cool completely, wrap in plastic wrap and then store in a freezer bag. If freezing slices, place slices on a parchment lined baking sheet, allow to freeze and then transfer slices to a freezer bag.
5) Pear & Walnut Sour Cream Coffee Cake or Rhubarb Crunch Coffee Cake or Blueberry Cheesecake Coffee Cake. Sometimes you just need to start your day with a little sweetness, or you want to invite a friend over for coffee but don’t have time to make a treat. I haven’t met a person yet who doesn’t love coffee cake, and each of these recipe are winners in their own right. To freeze: either wrap individual slices in plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag to freeze, or place slices on a parchment lined baking sheet, freeze and then transfer (not wrapped) into a freezer bag.
6) Quick Waffles. If you like to pop waffles in the toaster for breakfast, you can skip the freezer isle frozen waffles and make your own. These waffles are so quick and easy to make, whipping up an extra large batch will be worth it. To freeze: layer between pieces of wax paper, or place on a parchment lined baking sheet, freeze individually and transfer to a freezer bag. Simply pop in the toaster to thaw and heat.
7) Chicken & Sage Sausage Patties. Making homemade breakfast patties is so simple you may never buy store-bought again. They are great to have on hand for overnight guests or an impromptu brunch. To freeze: layer patties between pieces of wax paper, or freeze individually on a parchment lined baking sheet then transfer to a freezer bag. Thaw in the fridge overnight before cooking.
1) Breads. Breads are a great thing to keep on hand to round out a meal or to make sandwich. Our favourites are Garlic Naan, Honey-Wheat Sandwich Bread, Perfect Burger Buns, and Homemade Pita Pockets. To freeze: These recipes can simply be placed into a freezer bag once cooled to freeze. If you would like to freeze the sandwich bread sliced, make sure that it is completely cooled so that no condensation occurs, as it will stick the slices together. If desired, you can freeze the slices individually on a parchment lined baking sheet.
2) Sun-dried Tomato Tapenade. This tapenade is a great thing to have on hand for last minute appetizers (simply spread on toasted baguette slices), but it also lends great flavour to sandwiches or pizza. To freeze: package into small tupperware in desired amounts and freeze.
3) Croutons. If you’ve got bread hanging around that needs using up why not make some parmesan garlic croutons? To freeze: allow to cool completely so no condensation forms, package into bags or tupperware and freeze. Thaw, uncovered, to make sure they stay crisp. If needed pop in the oven for a couple minutes or pan fry to crisp up.
4) Cheesy Green Chile Rice Bake. Double this recipe, bake one now and save the other for later. To freeze: allow to cool completely, cover with a layer of plastic wrap and then foil. Freeze. To bake: thaw overnight in the fridge, remove the plastic wrap and foil, pop it in the oven and add a few minutes to the baking time. If baking from frozen you will need to add a considerable amount to the baking time.
1) No-Bake Granola Bars. These no-bake granola bars are so easy to make. You know what’s even easier? Making a double batch so you can just pull some out of the freezer when you need. Packages granola bars have the benefit of being instant, and placing these granola bars in the freezer means they’re instant too! To freeze: wrap individual bars in wax or parchment paper, or place bars between pieces of wax paper and store in a tupperware.
2) Blueberry Vanilla Bean Applesauce. This is a great snack to pack along in a lunch box. It will help keep your lunch cold while it thaws. You may omit the vanilla bean for a more budget friendly applesauce, or switch out the blueberries with another favourite berry. To freeze: package into individual sized tupperware containers or place in jars and freeze.
3) Homemade Graham Crackers. These cracker-like cookies are a great treat to pack in the lunch box. To freeze: Make a double batch, allow to cool completely, transfer to a freezer bag and freeze.
4) Homemade Wheat Thins. These are still one of our favourite homemade crackers. I haven’t had a chance to freeze these yet, but next time I plan on doubling the batch and doing just that!
5) Almond Eatmore Bars. These are one of my favourite things to find in the freezer. They taste just like a candy bar but are full of good-for-you ingredients. To freeze: place on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze, transfer to a freezer bag once frozen.
1) Homemade Pizza Pops. Treat yourself one evening (or on a weekend for lunch!) to some homemade pizza pops, make an extra large batch and freeze the rest for easy lunches. Trust me, these are so much better then the kind you get from the freezer section of the grocery store, not only in nutrition but flavour too! To freeze: place on a parchment lined baking sheet (completely cooled) and freeze, transfer to a freezer bag once frozen. Reheat in the microwave or oven.
2) Slow Cooker French Onion Soup or Chicken Tortilla Soup. Make a batch (or double batch) of soup for supper and freeze the remainder in individual portions for quick lunches, or in one large tupperware for a family meal. For the french onion soup: broil the baguette slices once ready to eat, or ahead of time to pack in your lunch. for the tortilla soup: pack along tortilla chips to crunch fresh into the soup.
3) Baked Chicken Taquitos. I heart these chicken taquitos. Once frozen, if they are thawed in the microwave they are a bit on the soggy side, I don’t mind this as I just pile on the sauces and pretend they’re enchiladas. But, if this bothers you, allow them to thaw and then pop them in a toaster oven, or under the broiler to crisp back up. To freeze: place on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze, transfer to a freezer bag once frozen.
4) Spicy Bean Burritos. I have great memories of my dad going shopping and bringing back hoards of frozen burritos. This was always one of our favourite meals, topped melted cheese, salsa, sour cream and salad toppings. I treat these the same way. When destined for the freezer I leave out the fresh produce and pack them along to top later. To freeze: fill burritos with bean filling and cheese, but not produce, wrapped individually in plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag. When ready to eat, unwrap, heat in the microwave and top with desired toppings.
Extra tip: I like to label my freezer bags with baking, meat (I only reuse these if there is another layer between that bag and the meat), bread, etc. and store them in the freezer once their empty. That way I can store like items in those bags at a later date, and we have less waste!