“Cook once, eat twice” is a great motto to live by. Even better is “cook once, eat thrice!” Ok, so I made that one up, but it’s still true. Ideally, I try to make 3 meals every time I cook dinner. We eat dinner the first night, leftovers for lunch a couple of days later, and then a third portion goes in the freezer for a future dinner. When you have food allergies, and have to make every scrap of food from scratch, it only makes sense to double (or triple) up whenever possible.
By now you’ve noticed that I have a lot in my freezer. All those cooked beans, marinated meat, flash-frozen gluten-free pancakes, plus leftovers can sure take up a bunch of room! Fortunately I have a gigantic freezer. Yup, be jealous. It was second-hand, aka pre-stained with food, and a bit dirty, but I’m good at overlooking that kind of thing. However, you can make the most of any size freezer by following a few simple rules of thumb.
Here’s how NOT to store stuff in your freezer. See all those round containers? They’re all different shapes and sizes, and most are angled so that they’re smaller at the bottom than at the top. Do you see how much wasted space there is? Oh, and every time you open the freezer, warm air rushes in, and the freezer has to work hard to cool it off again, so having that much airspace around your food is rather inefficient.
The most efficient way to freeze things is to keep them as square as possible. I use zippie bags a lot for this. I’ll freeze just about anything in a zippie bag, from pancakes to diced tomatoes!
Freeze it flat.
I put liquidy food in a zippie bag, lay it out flat in the freezer (I keep a clear spot on a shelf for this purpose) and let it freeze solid. Once frozen, it will hold that shape, making it easy to organize the baggies. This works for stuff like cooked beans and diced tomatoes. You can also freeze larger things like casseroles that don’t fit in baggies. Line a baking dish with plastic wrap, put your food in and freeze it solid. Because of the plastic wrap, you’ll be able to lift the food right out of the dish to wrap it up the rest of the way. When you’re ready to eat that meal, unwrap the food and put it right back in the same pan to cook it. This way, your pan isn’t stuck in the freezer, wasting space.
The best way I know of to organize frozen food looks much like an office filing system. My big freezer came with some handy baskets, but you could use a shoebox just as well. Those frozen-flat baggies and casseroles sit nicely on edge, and it’s easy to flip through the pile to find what you need.
That’s provided you labeled the baggies, of course. You are labeling your baggies, right? Because if you don’t, whatever it is you stuck in that baggie will never see the light of day again. Trust me, I’ve got a mystery baggie in the freezer right now, and every time I see it, I think “I’ll figure that out later.” And then I shut the freezer and completely forget about it again. It’s been in there a loooong time, getting more freezer-burnt and less recognizable by the day.
Maybe I’ll look at it tomorrow. Or not…