Cook Now Eat Later: 28 Items You Didn’t Know You Could Freeze

By on February 11, 2013
stocked freezer

Wintertime always tends to put me into a bit of a squirrel mode. IE: I like to stash and bury things now that will save me time and money later.  Over the years I have come up with some interesting items that you may never have thought could be frozen for use at a later date.

1. Cheese

You can freeze blocks of cheese without it becoming crumbly if you let it thaw completely before putting it in the fridge. If you prefer to shred your cheese first, add a tablespoon or so of cornstarch or flour to the bag and shake it to prevent clumping when it thaws.

2. Homemade Pancakes, Waffles, French Toast

Why waste money?  Leggo the Eggo’s forever and make up a few batches over the weekend for quick “defrost and go” breakfasts during the week. Freeze on a cookie sheet, and then toss them in a freezer bag. Reheat in the microwave, toaster, or toaster oven.

3. Fruit

When freezing fruit, it’s best to first slice the fruit and spread out on freezer or parchment paper on a cookie sheet, then freeze it and place in bags. Individual frozen pieces let you pull out just how much you need without having to thaw the whole fruit

4. Rice

Cook a big batch of rice, spread it on a cookie sheet on parchment paper and freeze. When the rice is frozen, just put in a freezer bag or containers and you have instant rice. Use in casseroles, soups or  my favorite, fried rice.

5. Pies

Make apple pies in the fall to enjoy all year. Bake them and freeze them in freezer bags wrapped in freezer paper then when you have a hankering for pie, take out of the freezer, remove wrapping, and place in oven for about 2 hours at 200 degrees.

6. Corn

Put the whole ear of corn, husk, silk and all into the freezer.

When you want to eat it, put it in the microwave just the way you put it in the freezer and cook for 5 minutes on high for two ears or 4 minutes for one ear.

The silk insulates and protects the corn while it cooks. Tastes like it was fresh picked!

7. Pasta

Whenever you make pasta, go ahead and cook the whole package. Freeze any leftovers for later to add to soups and casseroles.

Or freeze individual size portions in smaller freezer bag.  Squeeze out the air and get the bag as flat as possible. Thaw it by soaking the bag in hot water for a few minutes!

8. Flour and Other Grains

Freezing flour and other types of grain that come into the house for at least three days discourages any uninvited “guests” from hatching.

If you decide to store it in the freezer, make sure to double wrap the it to avoid condensation and to keep it from picking up other freezer smells.

9. Pesto

Make or buy your favorite pesto and freeze it in ice cube trays. Once frozen, pop the cubes into freezer bags and enjoy whenever you need.

10. Mashed Potatoes

Using an ice cream scoop, put even portions of mashed potatoes onto parchment-lined cookie sheet. Freeze until hard then transfer into a freezer bag. These stay good for about two months

11. Cookie Dough

Make a big batch of your favorite cookie dough, lay them out just like you would if you were boing to bake them and then put them in the freezer. When they are frozen solid put them in freezer bags.

This lets you make as many or as few cookies as you want instead of having to cook…and eat a whole batch of them.  This works great for me when I am on a diet, so I don’t feel guilty about eating a whole box of cookies. Just be sure to add 1 to 2 minutes to the cook time.

12. Soups and Chili

Cool leftover soup completely and transfer to a freezer-friendly container, leaving plenty of space for expansion. The night before eating, move the container to the fridge to thaw safely and then reheat it on the stove or in the microwave.

13. Broth and Stock

Keep a gallon bag in the freezer and add any leftover veggie pieces, including onion peels, celery stalks, potato peels, etc.  When the bag fills up you can use it to make vegetable stock.

Keep another bag for pan drippings or sauces that are left after cooking chicken. This can be used to flavor soups.

14. Potato Chips, Crackers and Pretzels

Find a good sale on all your salty snacks? Then it’s time to stock up on chips, crackers and pretzels and throw them in the freezer.

15. Milk

Ever notice that plastic milk jugs have those indentations on the side? They are there to allow milk to expand while freezing!

To use frozen milk, let thaw, and then SHAKE WELL before opening, to make sure any solids are remixed.

16. Juice

Like milk, the only concern about freezing juice is leaving room for expansion. A good rule of thumb is to leave 8 ounces of space for every half gallon of juice.

17. Bread, Baked Goods

When your favorite bread is on sale, stock up and freeze it. Or when you’re in a baking mood, make extras of your favorite baked goods and freeze them for later.

18. Buttercream Frosting

Freeze leftover frosting then when you need to frost something or just need a sugar fix! let it thaw in the fridge, then whip it up and it works just like fresh frosting.

19. Tomato Paste

Most recipes using tomato paste only call for one tablespoon out of the whole can, which always seems like a waste to me.  Take what you need from the can, then put the rest in a little freezer bag, flatten it out in the freezer, and when you need a tablespoon, just break off a piece and throw it into your mix.

20. Diced vegetables

Dice onions, chili’s, or bell peppers, then freeze flat in gallon freezer bags. As they are freezing,  use a non serrated butter knife  or fork to press “score lines” into the bags so you can break off as much or as little as you wish for recipes.

21. Homemade and Store-Bought Dough

You can freeze just about any type of dough. Shape the dough into a ball and wrapp in saran wrap then freeze
You can also freeze canned biscuits, crescent rolls, pizza dough, etc. right in the tube. Stock up when they are on sale!

22. Eggs

Sounds gross but it really works.  Crack the eggs in a freezer bag, and freeze. Or crack eggs into an ice cube tray for cakes and cookies. Thaw out in refrigerator and use as you normally would.

23. Shredded Chicken

Cook a big batch and shred or when you get a rotisserie from the grocery store, shred the leftovers and put it in a bag. (Be sure and use THIS TRICK to shred it!) Great timesaver when making enchiladas!

24. Lemon/Lime Juice and Zest

Squeeze lemons and limes into ice cube trays, then pop them out after they have frozen and store in freezer bags. Now you have “fresh” lemon and lime juice whenever you need it. AND, you never have to kick yourself for letting another bag of lemons from Costco go to waste! (Been there, done that.)

Don’t forget to ZEST the lemons/limes first and keep that in the freezer as well!

25. Herbs

Freeze fresh herbs in ice-cube trays with a little water or leftover stock to use for soups, stews, and casseroles later in the year.

26. Marinated Meat

Place meat in a freezer bag, pour in marinade and freeze. When you defrost it, it will be fully marinated and ready to cook.

27. Casseroles

When you are cooking a casserole, go ahead and make two of them. FREEZE one for when unexpected company drops by or to use as a no hassle meal during a busy work week where you may not have the time.

28. Hamburger

Pre-cook ground hamburger and portion it out for meals. When you need hamburger for shepherd’s pie, sloppy joes, tacos, or whatever just pull it out of the freezer, add the seasoning, and microwave. Three minutes, or 1 minute and 30 seconds if it’s going to be baked and doesn’t need to be thawed all the way. For crock pot meals, like chili, just throw it in frozen.

Can you think of anything that I missed? Or do you have any secret recipes that you would like to add in for a simple, quick, and delicious fresh out the freezer dinner for those of us on the run?

Let me know in the comments below



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48 Comments

  1. marthafearsme

    I have been freezing cheese for years, grates fine afterwards. I also freezelemons whole, grate zest frozen and thaw for juice. Great tips, thanks.

  2. Karen

    If bananas get overripe … don’t throw then out. Put them in the freezer. The skins do turn black but the fruit is fine. Use from frozen in smoothies ir thaw to use in your favorite bread or cake recipe.

    • Belinda

      My grandkids love my frozen bananas. I put a piece of wax paper on a paper plate and slice the bananas 1/4″ thick onto the plate. When frozen they taste just like banana ice cream. I’ve saved a lot of overripe bananas this way. You have to eat them while frozen or they get mushy. Never really had much trouble with leftovers, though. :)

      • Mrhycannon

        I also do cantalopes.. They get mushy too.. I freeze in small bowls.. When grandkids come over I give them a bowl from freezer and a spoon.. They love it.!

    • BeckyBT

      My friend Alyson recommended this and I love it: Frozen bananas, take off the peel and individually freeze them; serve frozen and drip chocolate syrup over them for a Real Treat

  3. Great article on all types of goodies to freeze. =D

    There was a time when I was a “freezaholic.” I packed so much food in my freezer you’d have thought the sides would bow out. I learned the hard way what happens when you discover your freezer died when you open the door (days later). I lost a LOT of food to spoilage and what little didn’t spoil was either canned/cooked/given away or fed to the livestock.

    I still love my freezer for some foods, but don’t depend on it for bulk storage. I process can and dehydrate a lot of what we store. If the power goes out or this freezer dies, I am not loosing hundreds of dollars of food. Always have a back up plan!

    • Berenice

      I learned that lesson too and lost a good deal of meat. Nothing could be salvaged. I only use the freezer for short tern storage now. I’m starting up a small garden again this year and will do more canning and drying of foods. Don’t need to do much for only one person luckily.

  4. Allen

    Hi,
    I live in interior Alaska and have found that you can freeze almost anything as far as food for later use is concerned. You mentioned 1 that we do a lot which is milk. Yogurt, cream cheese almost any dairy product or non dairy creamers etc all freeze well. You mentioned Bananas, which we do for smoothies, banana bread etc. Tomatoes as well for cooking. Orange and other juices freeze OK. As you said, if liquid, thaw out and shake well or the milk may be lumpy.
    Al

  5. Liz

    What was the trick for shredding chicken?

    • I baggie and freeze leftover pasta, microwave in the bag till thawed and steaming hot, Tastes freshly cooked.

    • Babycog

      Any cooked chicken or turkey can be shredded with a fork, or by hand, and frozen in bags for later use in enchiladas, soups, etc.

  6. Ken

    Freezers are great for all of these things, but more as a convenience in daily life versus preparedness storage. I believe Anita’s experience is all too common, and would be good to heed. Virtually all of these foods have other means of storage which are not susceptible to power failure.

    One preparedness use not mentioned was vacuum sealing your garden seeds and storing them in the freezer.

  7. Cindy

    I travel a lot and work some funky hours, I learned a long time ago to make my own “frozen dinners”. As mentioned, soups, any kind freeze well, as do casseroles and any gravy or tomato based meal or sauces
    Make an extra Shepards Pie and freeze it
    Stuffed pasta shells
    I make my own baked beans and vacuum seal them in small packages
    Freeze stuffed peppers
    Thanks Giving dinners (mashed potatoes, turkey and gravy)
    Bake 8 large potatoes and turn them into twice baked, then I’ll make mini meat loaf and will freeze a meat loaf and twice baked potato together in a vacuum seal bag.
    Living in New England, sword fish season means lowest prices are in August and September, so I stock up for several portions for the next several months, also vacuum sealed.

    The trick is to label it, or your dinner plans will suddenly change when you thought you were having Chicken Ala King and it’s Turkey Rice Soup!

    Vacuum seal bags can be written on, for reusable containers, I use wide painters tape and write on that, it stays on through the freezing and comes right off.

    Having fast meals around is great when we’re working late, or need something to take to work for lunch. If I’m on a trip, I know my kitchen challenged spouse has food he can heat and eat, we know what is in it and he’s less likely to eat cheese burgers or visit The Colonel!

  8. Berenice

    I always make apple or peach pie to freeze using tin pie pans then invert one pie tin over the filled pie and use freezer tape to seal the two tins together. That way you can use them over and over again, fill the pies high and not have the tops get crushed. And they stack up well in the freezer. You can write what kind of pie it is on the freezer tape.

    • Tamara Thompson

      Bernice, I put the pie pans on top too. I didnt have enough to make many pies so bought some at goodwill to go on top. They dont have to be perfect on top. Now I can make a lot and it doesnt cost me a lot :)

  9. Chuck

    My wife and I like half brown rice which takes longer to cook, so she always makes a rice cooker full of rice and breezes it in balls the size of two golf balls. Onigiri is the Japanese name for rice balls and that is soul food for Japanese as they make onigiri for many purposes. The rice balls make a single serving of rice, so if she feels like rice and I don’t or vice versa, we have single servings frozen and in the freezer at all times. Brown rice is more nutritious than white rice. You can develop beri beri if you eat too much white rice to the exclusion of other vegetables. You won’t if you eat brown rice. Brown rice doesn’t keep as long as white rice however. I suspect if you vacuum packed and froze uncooked brown rice it would keep until you took it out of the freezer. This was a great article.

  10. I also would like to know the trick for shredding chicken.

  11. after eating grits place left over grits in plastic long glass , place in freezer and when ready to use remove from freezer slice into 1/2 slices, and fry in pan to a golden brown then serve with butter and syrup.

  12. DELORES

    I MAKE RAW HAMBURGER BALLS FREEZE ON A COOKIE SHEET,VACUUM SEAL AND I CAN TAKE OUT AS MANY AS I NEED,THAT WAY THEY DON’T STICK TOGETHER, PUT THE REST BACK IN THE FREEZER.

  13. Lori

    Excellent article and comments–thanks to you all!
    We also freeze grapes, approx 1/2 cup in sandwich bags–makes excellent snack for work or to send in school lunches. Chocolate and candy also freeze fairly well, as does butter sticks. We always section off large packages of meat (bought on sale)into meal-sized portions–quart or gallon size baggies work very well. Thanks for the reminder to always write the date on the packages. Thanks for the great information!
    You guys make wonderful neighbors:)

  14. Pam

    Butter can also be frozen.

  15. Sharon

    I buy in bulk walnuts, almonds, pecans when fresh and on sale. Put them in the freezer and they keep for a very long time without getting stale or going rancid. I just take out what I need and put the rest back in the freezer.
    I have frozen yeast for baking bread in the freezer to extend the life. I measure what I need and let it set on the counter to thaw for about 30 minutes before trying to use,
    I am using an older refrigerator/freezer to store my more fragile food storage such as butter, sour cream, cheese, I believe it will extend the life of these items (#10 cans of food storage that says it has a 5-15 year shelf life instead of 30 years that the other foods have, hoping to extend these to closer to 20 or 30 yrs also)
    Whatever fresh vegetables are on sale for the week get blanched and put into freezer bags for soups or later quick cooking at a far better price than buying commercial frozen vegetables.

  16. Good primer on freezing foods you would never think to preserve. Don’t forget to give thoughts on how to keep frozen, or dehydrate if you loose power for extended periods and don’t have a generator.

  17. How do I freeze my Chile peppers. Seeds in or out.????

  18. BrianYYC

    We have a chest freezer and found that various foods would get lost at the bottom of the freezer. In addition, it was a real chore finding what you wanted for dinner with all that digging. Solution: Stackable, collapsible baskets. We have 4 of them…beef, chicken, pork and miscellaneous for lamb, fish, etc. Large items stay out of the baskets. Way easier to search for what you want or need and it’s easy to tell what you’re running out of.

    …and get a FoodSaver Vacuum bagger so you can buy large cuts of meats at Costco like whole rib-eyes and pork loin, cut them into steaks, chops and roasts, then suck ‘em down! Label and date the bags. Meats can last over a year with no freezer damage whatsoever.

  19. AL

    I dice up green peppers and spread on cookie sheet. After frozen brake up and store in large freezer bag or vacuum bag. I have been freezing cheese for years I buy in 5#bags shredded and spread on cookie sheet and do the same as the green peppers. I like to use 1qt containers you can get from places that sell to restaurants and you can re use over and over. I have also washed out my freezer bags and re-used then several times. I like to buy chicken legs with thigh and backs attached cheaper that way. Cut the backs at the thighbone and store for later stock making and also freeze that.

  20. Sharp Cheddar and Cheddar Cheese always crumble after I freeze them, I
    cannot just slice it after it thaws completely. Any suggestions? As of now I just do not freeze it unless It’s cooked in a dish or I shred or grate it before I freeze it. Thanks!

    • Karen R

      It’s something about the way cheddar is made compared to other cheeses. Swiss sometimes has the same problem. If you know you are going to eat it sliced on crackers or like that, just put it in the fridge but if you are going to use it to cook with, crumbled cheddar works just as good as shredded, and even melts a bit smoother. Also you could learn to wax your cheese, which keeps it very well without refrigeration.

  21. One of my favorites is zucchini (stressed or puréed) for zucchini bread. I take the extras from my garden and purée them in my vitamix, and put them into freezer bags. Get all the air out and stack them flat to freeze.

    Another one I like is leftover cantaloupes, watermelon and honeydew, put them in a freezer bag with a little juice or sugar water (get the air out and freeze them. They make a great fruit cocktail in the winter.

  22. Vegetables such as carrots, beets, squash, beet greens, and Swiss chard all freeze nicely when cut to size. Blanch first, then put in vacuumed bags for best results. Peas are another cinch, either pods or shelled peas. String beans are another obvious success.

  23. Babycog

    My grandmother always froze tomatoes. Blanch and remove the skins, then place on cookie sheet and freeze whole. Once frozen, put in storage bag – like big, bright red marbles!
    She also would cut up tomatoes and freeze in ice cube trays. Once frozen, put the cubes in a freezer bag. Then for soups, stews. etc., you can take out as many cubes as you need and drop them into your pot.

  24. Momma Bear

    I freeze unopened cans of coffee & spices. Then when I need I have it. I also freeze baking powder, baking soda, eggs, yeast etc…I keep an extra of almost everything in the freezer. When it comes out of freezer a new batch goes in. Just always vacuum & date. Remember most importantly FIRST IN FIRST OUT.

  25. LM Gilbert

    Any herb can be chopped, put in ice cube trays, fill with water & freeze, then pop them out & put in freezer containers. No need to defrost for dishes being cooked.

  26. Earl

    Yes, you left out diced or sliced onions and bell peppers. I freeze sliced and diced onions and bell peppers that I’ve halved and cleaned by the bag full along with almost everything else. I also freeze heads of cabbage. When I want cabbage rolls it really easy to work with after it’s thawed.

  27. Sounds fine until the electricity goes out, then what????

  28. GH

    I turn used bread sacks inside out and dry them out then use them to double wrap all breads products that I freeze as they WILL take on the “freezer smell”, then remove them immediately after taking them from the freezer and discarding. If you leave them on while defrosting the product, the smell will linger- use your nose.
    Loved this article-

  29. Albert Warford

    Great information and about half I didn’t know. Thanks.

  30. I have been told that if you freeze fish you should add water to the freezer bag .This will ensure that the fish will last longer and will not get freezer burn.

  31. Gail

    You can also freeze fresh tomatoes (skin on) for cooking with later. Put them on a cookie sheet till frozen then vacuum bag or zip lock bag them. When you take them out to add to your sauce just a little warm water will make the skin come off and you can dice while they are still firm.

  32. Gail

    You can freeze fresh tomatos (skin on) by putting on a cookie sheet till frozen then vacuum or zip lock bagging them. To use take out how many you need and run a little warm water on them and the skin comes right off, then you can dice them while they are still firm.

  33. Patriot Maiden

    I loved the article on “Cook Now Eat Later”. However, I saw several suggestions on using the microwave to thaw items. The microwave will kill the beneficial enzymes in the food. While the vitamins are important the enzymes are equally so. Refrain from ever using the micro wave when possible. Patr

  34. Beverly

    I made a WordPerfect document out of the freezer list. Many thanks, it will save me time and prevent waste.

  35. Dennis Kramer

    Hello, my wife has been freezing bacon for years. She opens a package cuts the bacon in half and spreads out on cookie sheets. When frozen, she bags up in zip lock freezer bags. This keeps fresh frozen and when you want a BLT you easily shake out 4-6 halves wrap in a paper towel and (depending on the thickness)…nuke ‘em 2-4 minutes. We like the thick kind and nuke them for three minutes. Drop them from the grease soaked nuking paper towel to a dry one and throw the nuking towel away and start slicing the tomato’s.

  36. louise cohoon

    Another thing I freeze which people I bet arent aware you can do , is eggs. I buy in large on sale. Bring them home and some I seperate whites for pies and yellow for noodles. Some put yellow and whites together for breakfast ot what ever. I olace all these in big cottage cheese cartons label and freeze. They freeze very well.

  37. MJ

    Addition to the freezer tips:

    RE freezing a prepared casserole: When the casserole is prepared & frozen in its dish, remove it from the casserole dish (like removing jello from a mold), wrap it appropriately for freezer; when ready to thaw & prepare it, place the frozen casserole back into the casserole dish in which it was frozen, and it’s ready for thawing and the appropriate cooking method.

  38. Mrhycannon

    I already freeze moet of that stuff.. I have heard that eggs should be mixed and salted first.. Haven’t tried it yet but I do freeze egg whites with no preparation.. When thawed they are just like fresh.. Cream Cheese gets grainy..

  39. Catherine

    About ground beef. You don’t need to cook before freezing if you like it better cooked fresh. I freeze ground beef and turkey in a whole lump and then defrost in microwave until just enough of the lump is defrosted. I then put the remainder that is still frozen back in the freezer until I need more.

  40. Joan Menter

    If you freeze the eggs w/out lightly beating them first, the yolks congeal into a lump that never liquifies when thawed and makes ugly, nasty fried eggs, unless you use a blender and scramble ‘em. Easier to beat ‘em a little and then use them thawed as you would for scrambles or baking/cooking or omlettes.I put 2 each in the little snack bags. Using ice cube trays ONLY works if you oil them first or you can’t get ‘em out. BTDT.(been there, doin’ that)
    Good article, my family has farmed for generations and passed most of this on to us, the rest we figured out on our tight-wad own.

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