9 Freezer Shortcuts to Make Life Easier

Becky Rosenthal, author of Fast to the Table Freezer Cookbook: Freezer-Friendly Recipes and Frozen Food Shortcuts, joins the Clever Cookstr to share nine quick tips for using your freezer to your advantage.

Kara Rota
4-minute read

Using your freezer to help plan meals is a great way to cook smarter, save money, and maximize your efforts in the kitchen. Here are some of Becky Rosenthal's reminders for making the most of your freezer.

1) You don't only have to freeze entire casseroles. Becky uses her freezer to preserve parts of meals to later use in dinnertime shortcuts, allowing you to whip up a fresh meal quickly on a busy weeknight. 

2) Freeze cooked meat. Defrosting and cooking raw meat requires more planning ahead, while you can actually defrost cooked meat much closer to dinnertime. 

SEE ALSO: Nutrition Diva's How Long Frozen Food Lasts

3) Packing and labeling is key. A freezer full of foil-wrapped mystery packages won't do you much good! 

4) Wrap food until it's air tight. Plastic wrap covered in foil does the trick for a one-dish meal, while freezer-safe zip-top bags with the air squeezed out work well to stack flat in your freezer, saving plenty of freezer room for ice cream. Rigid plastic containers and even jars work well also.

Just make sure you leave enough headspace in the top of the jar, as liquids expand when frozen.

5) Clean out your freezer first. Starting with a clean and organized freezer is the best way to ensure that you'll have room to store well-organized foods. 

CHECK OUT: Domestic CEO's How to Clean and Organize Your Freezer

6) Team up with a few friends. Get together (safely!) to make foods in batches and organize them for freezing—it's a fun activity, and everyone leaves with meals or ingredients they can freeze and use later on. 

7) Freeze items with multiple uses in ice cube trays or muffins tins. Big batches of sauces like tomato sauce or peanut sauce, which can be used for dipping or stir-frys, are worth stocking up on!

Stocks are also great to freeze in various amounts for when you're making soups, sauces, and grains. 

8) Avoid cream-based or potato-based soups and sauces. They tend not to freeze as well. Noodles can also tend to get mushy when frozen and defrosted, so in soup, you may want to add them before serving after defrosting the soup. 

9) Freeze snacks as well as meals. Berries dipped in yogurt freeze well, and frozen grapes and peaches are delicious.

And just for fun, here's a bonus recipe:

Mozzarella-Stuffed Meatballs

Makes 24 meatballs; serves 6 for dinner or 10 to 12 as an appetizer
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¹⁄8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 12 small balls mozzarella cheese (about 4 ounces), cut in half (see note)
  • 4 tablespoons neutral oil (grapeseed or canola)
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and get out a plastic cutting board.
2. Place all the ingredients, except the mozzarella cheese and oil, in a medium-size bowl. Use your hands to gently combine but do not overmix (overmixing makes the meat tough).
3. On the plastic cutting board, press the meat mixture into an 8 x 10-inch rectangle 1/2 inch thick. Use the back of a spoon to make 24 indentions in the meat in 4 x 6 rows. Place a mozzarella ball half into each indentation. Use a sharp knife to cut the meat rectangle into 24 squares. Roll up each square around its mozzarella.
4. About halfway through rolling, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and preheat the oven to 400°F. Once all meatballs are rolled, carefully place in the hot oil. Brown for 2 to 3 minutes, then flip and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes on the second side. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and finish cooking in the oven for 8 minutes.
TO FREEZE: Use the Lay Out and Freeze Method
For this method, you simply lay out the food (say, fruit or gnocchi) in a single layer, not overlapping, on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place the baking sheet on a level shelf in the freezer and let freeze overnight, or until frozen solid (the time depends on the weight and density of the food). Once the food item is frozen, you can transfer it to a freezer-safe resealable plastic bag to store in the freezer. Make sure your bag is labeled with the food item and date. I like to portion out foods into smaller quantities that make sense for my family. For example, I might divide frozen gnocchi into 2-cup portions and place them in quart-size bags. If you’re freezing fruit, you might want to divide the fruit into smaller, separate packs for smoothies, so that you don’t need to take all the fruit out of the freezer every time you make a smoothie.
TO REHEAT FROM FROZEN: Heat in sauces on the stovetop or in a preheated 350°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until hot in the middle. Or you can microwave the meatballs for 3 to 4 minutes on high in a single layer with a little water at the bottom of a microwave-safe plate, or in a slow cooker with sauce. Serve with tomato sauce as an appetizer or with spaghetti and tomato sauce for a full meal.
For best quality, the meatballs will last up to 4 months in the freezer.
NOTE: Alternatively, you may use ½-inch cuts of mozzarella cheese sticks if fresh mozzarella balls are unavailable where you live.

About the Author

Kara Rota

Kara Rota headed children’s programming at Chicago’s Green City Market and studied food politics at Sarah Lawrence College. Kara has been a featured speaker at numerous venues including Food Book Fair, the Roger Smith Food Conference, and the Brooklyn Food Conference. She has written about food for Irish America Magazine, West Side Rag, Recipe Relay, and Food + Tech Connect, and is the former Director of Editorial & Partnerships at Cookstr.com.