if you’re like me, during the past several weeks you’ve been focusing on keeping your pantry stocked with shelf-stable essentials. And while this is important, it’s just as necessary to make sure you stock your freezer as well.
Having a variety of ingredients and prep ahead meals stashed away in the freezer is sooooo helpful. And don’t we all want to make cooking at home easier?!
I am here to show you just how to stock your freezer to cook anything! It truly is easy and efficient to cook with freezer essentials and kitchen staple ingredients that you ALREADY have in your house.
Believe me when I say that a well-stocked freezer can help eliminate anxiety and stress when it comes to whipping up healthy and delicious food that your family will love.
Helpful Tips And Tricks
- Know your freezer storage space availability and what’s worth freezing versus keeping fresh or stored in the pantry.
- Don’t just fill your freezer with every freezer essential you can get. Make sure to leave room for meal prep meals and leftovers you’re freezing for later.
- Not EVERYTHING is meant to be frozen. Know what ingredients and meals freeze well and what doesn’t.
- Make sure to label and store things properly when freezing them. This helps keep you organized and ensures that you don’t waste any freezer essentials.
- Keep a Freezer Essentials inventory list and checklist to know what you have available to use (and which freezer it’s stored in if you have more than one)
- Make sure the freezer isn’t overstocked. It still needs to be able to circulate the cold air around.
- Stock sensibly, put similar things together so you know where to find them
Benefits Of Stocking Your Freezer
- Less Stress. Once you’ve stocked your freezer with the essentials, it’s less stressful when it comes to time to make a meal for the family. You’ll be more prepared for emergencies and times when you’ve got an unexpected crowded house.
- Meal Prep Made Easy. You can make and store meals ahead of time to grab and go for easier meals in the future.
- Budget-Friendly Leftovers. Have some tasty leftovers but don’t plan to eat them over the next couple of days? Store them properly in the right kind of container or bag and you’ll have meals ready to go in the future.
What Are Freezer Essentials?
Freezer Essentials are things you can stock up on and store in the freezer for when you need a meal, side dish or extra ingredients you might not have in the pantry. They’re your go to of extra stock items, where you can store leftovers, meal prep ideas and items you stocked up on when they went on sale.
Just like pantry essentials, freezer essentials are wonderful because they can be versatile and, in some cases, interchangeable. Have a recipe that calls for ground beef but don’t have any on hand?
Grab that package of ground chicken or ground turkey out of the freezer. Sure, the flavor will change slightly, but, it will STILL BE DELICIOUS.
Stocking your freezer up with freezer essentials can also be a lifesaver. Don’t have time to make dinner for the family after a long day? Grab those meals you prepped ahead. Grab that extra soup you made and froze. Don’t have the fresh veggies you need for that new recipe, then just grab that bag of frozen ones instead.
How To Meal Plan With Freezer Essentials
Meal Planning is something I LOOOOOVE doing. It’s such a time saver, a money saver, well, an overall life saver. Already having your meals planned out for the week (or month for some families) helps when making your grocery list.
It helps when someone asks what’s for dinner. And it helps ensure you have all the ingredients you need for each meal without having to make a last minute trip to the store.
When meal planning with freezer essentials, it’s important to have an inventory checklist and brainstorm some ideas of what you can use with those freezer essential ingredients. Get creative, be flexible and you’ll be amazed at the fun meals you can come up with.
I love meal prepping and planning ahead so much that we have two freezers. Yeap, folks, you read that right, we have TWO freezers and they’re full to the brim with leftovers, meal prepping and of course, freezer essentials we can use any time they’re needed.
Pro Tip ==> Don’t Fear Swapping Ingredients
As mentioned, you should take inventory of what you have in the freezer first and swap ingredients for things you already have or know will buy.
For example, meats can be interchangeable in some recipes. Veggies can be substituted for what you have on hand instead of adding new ones to your grocery list.
Tips for Stocking your Freezer
- Knowing your freezer space availability is CRUCIAL. Before you start stocking the freezer, know what kind of space you have available. While checking on this, take inventory of what freezer essentials you already have first. See what you can make with these ingredients as you meal plan BEFORE you make your list to go to the market.
- Buying freezer staple ingredients in bulk quantities can cost more upfront but end up MUCH cheaper in price per servings.
- It’s not always about buying what’s already frozen. Sometimes it’s more cost-effective to buy fresh ingredients and cut them up yourself and store them in more effective and appropriate measures.
- Think of what’s worth your freezer space versus pantry space – like broths and stocks. These are better stored in your pantry and it may even be better to get powdered versions like broth and stock cubes instead of the larger cartons or cans if you’re really worried about space.
- If freezer space is really tight, take things out of boxes – like those frozen waffles that are in a bag inside of a box. Eliminating the box frees up more space.
- If buying bulk meat to cut and portion out, you may need to wrap it separately before storing it in order to freeze it properly.
- Stock sensibly, put similar things together so you know where to find them. Organization is the key to stocking up your freezer.
Freezer Essentials Ingredient Checklist
These are almost the first thing people think of freezing and rightfully so.
- fresh grapes (make amazing snacks).
- fresh bananas (freeze well whole or peeled).
- frozen bagged fruit: strawberries, blackberries, cherries, blueberries, berry blends, pineapple chunks, mango chunks.
- fresh fruit that you chop and freeze yourself.
Chef’s Tip: These frozen bagged fruit options are great for smoothies, but don’t do as well in recipes when you need fresh fruit, as these tend to have more water retained and released when thawing them.
Use frozen fruit to make:
- frozen bagged vegetables: spinach, kale, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, edamame, cauliflower, peas, carrots, corn, onions, zucchini, etc.
- Remember, it can be smarter financially to buy fresh ingredients in bulk and cut them up and store them yourself. This also allows you to store them in individual recipe quantities needed for more efficiency.
Chef’s Tip: Keep in mind that bagged frozen vegetables are flash-frozen at the height of their freshness and most nutritious. Many people steer away from frozen veggies in fear of them losing their nutritional value. It’s a healthier choice to grab those frozen veggies for that recipe instead of those canned ones that have all those preservatives to help keep them shelf-stable.
Use frozen vegetables to make:
- Cow’s milk can be frozen. It takes up a lot of space and you need to make sure you leave a bit of room in the container for expansion. But, if your family goes through a LOT of cow’s milk, this can be a great freezer essential to store.
- Cheese. Shredded and grated cheeses freeze better than blocks of cheese. Stock up on when it’s on sale and make sure to freeze it by the sell by date.
- Many yogurt choices can be frozen and make for great kids snacks and treats.
Chef’s Tip: You can buy the bulk tubs of yogurt and freeze them in individual size servings. Have you ever used the yogurt tubes or popsicle tubes for homemade popsicles?
Use frozen dairy items to make:
Did you know you can freeze butter? Yeap! Freeze it before the sell-by date and use within four months of freezing. To ensure maximum fresh flavor, use your butter within 30 days of unthawing from the freezer.
- If freezer space is limited, skip the big meat and roasts, as I have plenty of vegan and vegetarian dishes you can whip up.
- Think smaller cuts of meat like chicken thighs, breasts or wings over the whole chicken if you’re wanting to freeze meat but short on space.
- If you find meat on super sale at the market in bulk, it’s a great time to stock up on it. I recommend portioning it out into smaller quantities to use in recipes and for ease of freezing and thawing in the future.
- Great idea to have steak, chicken, beef, bacon, and sausage on hand.
Use frozen meats to make:
Grains and Pasta
- You can easily freeze cooked grains like rice and quinoa to use in future meals. These are great bases for meal prep ideas too.
- The same thing goes for cooked pasta. Did you make too much pasta for dinner tonight? Freeze the excess for use in an upcoming recipe. Such a time saver!!!
- Bread. Freeze a loaf or two of bread. It thaws QUICKLY and tastes just as good as it does fresh. Frozen bread is great to use for breadcrumbs too.
Use frozen grains, pasta and breads to make:
Sauces and Soups
Many sauces are GREAT for freezing. Make a double or triple batch of something and store the extras in the freezer.
Try some of these sauce recipes :
Soups are WONDERFUL make-ahead meals to double or triple and store for later in the freezer.
Make some of these soups and freeze them:
Who doesn’t love already having a meal prepped and ready to go in the freezer? Just grab and go. Try some of these amaaaaazing freezer meal recipes:
- Obviously, if your family has a favorite frozen dessert, like ice cream or pies. When they’re on sale, they can be great to toss in the freezer for a quick dessert.
- Homemade Cookie Dough. Need I say more? Who doesn’t love having cookie dough already made and ready to bake?!?
Make these delicious desserts and then store in your freezer:
- Herbs can go bad quickly, especially if you toss them in the fridge and forget about them. Instead, blend them or dice them up, add a bit of olive oil in an ice cube tray with the herbs and freeze. Once frozen, pop them out of the tray and into a Ziplock bag. You’ll have individual serving sizes of herbs and oil ready to use for your next recipe.
Chef’s Tip: You can add the frozen cubes directly into soups, stews, or any recipe you are cooking. But if using them as a marinade, you will need to thaw the cubes first. You’ve gotta try my Caribbean Green Seasoning.
- Flour. Did you know you can use it straight from the freezer??? That’s a huge SECRET freezer essential you might not have thought of stocking in your freezer.
- Shrimp and Shellfish. Having frozen shrimp and various shellfish on hand is great when you’re in need for something to cook quickly. Toss them with some quick-cooking veggies, like carrots and peas and you’re set for a fast meal.
Use frozen shrimp to make:
Labeling, Packaging and Storing Properly
In order to stay organized and well stocked with our freezer essentials, it’s important to label, package and store all of our freezer staple ingredients and meals properly.
Items you need to label, package and store your freezer essentials:
- Meal prep jars, Ziploc bags, labeling pens, and freezer inventory sheet and ice cube trays to make saving smaller portion of things easier
- Glass Meal Prep Containers – Having 2 compartments is perfect for those build-it-yourself lunchbox ideas, or when you prefer to keep flavourful items separate. And single compartment containers are just the thing for making up meal prep bowls. These glass meal prep containers are freezable, microwavable, and dishwasher safe.
- Reusable sauce cups with lids – to keep your food from getting soggy, it is important to store salad dressings and salsa, etc. separate from the other food until mealtime. The 1-ounce size will be right inside the larger glass containers.
- Store food flat. To save valuable space, store your Instant Pot freezer meals in Ziplock bags instead of containers. Make sure to remove extra air before sealing, and lay the bags flat.
- Label your freezer meals. In addition to the meal name and date, I also like to jot down the directions for thawing and reheating. This will save you valuable time (and brain power) on those hectic days when you need to get dinner on the table fast.
- Let the food cool down, then transfer into these Ziploc freezer bags.
- Label the bags and then lay them flat in the freezer.
HOW TO THAW FREEZER MEALS
- Remove the meal from the freezer the night before needed and let it thaw in the fridge.
- For a faster thaw, you can place the meal into a microwave and thaw according to the microwave’s instructions.
HOW TO REHEAT FREEZER MEALS
- Transfer the thawed meal into a microwave-safe container and reheat in a microwave.
- Or transfer into a saucepan and reheat over low to medium heat.
How Long Can Food Be Kept Frozen?
While this varies with each food, know that in general most food should not be frozen LONGER than 9 months to a year. That’s one reason it is so important to package it properly like we just discussed and label it correctly- including the date.
Generally, here are some freezing time guidelines you can follow:
Foods Good Up to 3 months:
- Bread Dough
- Cookie Dough
- Prepared Soups
- Prepared Sauces
Foods Good Up to 4 months:
- Ice Cream
- Cow’s Milk
Foods Good Up to 6 months:
- Most meats (minus steak and poultry)
Foods Good Up to 8 -12 months:
- Open packs of fruit
Even More Freezer Essentials Recipes
- Easy Tater Tot Casserole.
- Yellow Squash Casserole.
- Southern Butterbeans.
- 10 Minute Blackened Salmon.
- Crockpot Breakfast Casserole.
Thank you for reading my How To Stock Your Freezer post. And please come visit again as I continue to slice, dice and dream up affordable Air Fryer recipes, Instant Pot Recipes, Southern Recipes and more. Thanks for supporting Recipes from a Pantry, food blog.