I declared that I am not cooking this week. But there is still a little work in turning giant ice cubes of soup into an edible meal. How I thaw and reheat my frozen food depends on how I froze it to begin with.
Some foods, I make and freeze in bulk. These are usually single-ingredient items such as chicken stock and beans. I freeze the chicken stock in plastic containers which I can thaw in the fridge on the day I need them. I do the beans in freezer bags and freeze them flat so they stack nicely and are easy to find.
For baked meals such as casseroles or enchiladas, I purposely originally cook them in a foil-lined metal pan. After cooking, I put in the fridge for a while to cool, then put the entire pan in the freezer. When it is completely frozen, I pull the foil (and food) out of the pan, wrap it in more foil, then put it in a gallon freezer bag. This is much easier than trying to freeze an actual pan, and they stack nicely as well.
When I want to eat one of these, I put it in the fridge the day before to thaw. Then I just put it in a pan and reheat it in my toaster oven. You could probably bake it from frozen, but that would take some serious time in the oven.
For large amounts of soup (no picture), I use a gallon freezer bag. The day I want to eat it, I thaw it in the fridge for a few hours so it will come out of the bag easier. Then I put it in the CrockPot or reheat it on the stove.
I like to freeze smaller amounts of leftovers for Brett to take for lunch. Many items like soup, I put in a plastic container. I recently made some burritos and then individually wrapped them in foil.
They’ll thaw slightly in his lunchbox and he can just throw them in the microwave at lunch.
There are awesome freezer-cooking gurus who have super-organized freezers with bins and labels and tracking sheets. That’s not me, but hopefully I’ll be able to develop a system better than, “Just throw it in there.” Recently, Brett wanted to take a burrito for lunch but couldn’t find them. So freezer organization is on my long-term to-do list. Or if anyone wants to come do it for me … I’ll trade you some frozen meals! :)
Thanks :) Maybe I should start doing this more often. My mom used to freeze meals before she’d leave for work-travel (usually gone for a week or something). I should do this before baby comes for sure!
Another key to successful freezing is to freeze things in standard usable quantities. Seems like a “Duh”, but it took me a few years to figure this out. Freeze leftover chopped up turkey or some browned ground beef in 1 or 2 cup freezer bags. Freeze main dishes in either single or family size quantities.
I’ve recently begun freezing more things using either ice cube trays or muffin cups. After a short stint in the freezer I pop out the cubes into freezer bags, and now have handy portions of pesto, chopped basil, and roasted diced hatch chili peppers. Muffins cups are similarly great for freezing kid sized main dish portions, bigger servings of pesto, leftover rice, chopped onions, etc. These small sized frozen portions thaw quickly either on the counter, or when added directly to a soup.
As an aside, it is important to freeze things in actual freezer containers or bags. These are generally thicker, and seal better. This prevents deterioration and dehydration of your foods in the freezer. Other containers work for a short stint in cold storage, but purchasing actual freezer containers will protect your investments!
Another “duh” is to label and date what you put into the freezer. I remember a story about someone getting what they thought was one thing out of Grandma Rose’s freezer, and it turned out to actually be a container of leftover chicken fat!!! Maybe someone else recalls the rest of the details.
I think Great Grandma Hastert would be so proud to see your freezer! :) I still owe you one of her aprons. Remind me next time I see you.