25 Smart Freezer Tips from Savvy Home Cooks

Are you making the best use of your freezer?

Taste of Home‘s experienced home cooks know a thing or two about how to get the most from their freezers. Here are some of their clever freezer tips that will save you time, money and stress in the kitchen.

Make-Ahead Meal Prep

• My husband prepares Saturday breakfast, so I stir up pancake batter and freeze it in quart-size freezer bags. I thaw a bag in the refrigerator on Friday night. The next day, he simply clips a corner off the bag and pours the batter onto a hot skillet. This method simplifies cleanup, too. —Christi G., Tulsa, Oklahoma (Try this technique with our best pancake recipes.)

• To make several kinds of holiday cookies for a cookie tray at a party or to give as gifts, this tip will simplify your baking. A couple weekends before the holiday rush (sometimes as early as October) mix up all the cookie dough, then freeze it in large freezer bags. When you’re ready to bake, just put the dough in the refrigerator the night before to defrost. —Cindi P., Anchorage, Alaska

• When you have time, brown several pounds of ground beef. Spread on a cookie sheet and freeze. Transfer to airtight freezer containers, one pound per container. On busy days, pull out a container and add to any recipe that uses browned ground beef. —Kathy S., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Save some of that ground beef for one of these recipes.)

• To take fresh muffins to a gathering without last-minute fuss, make your batter ahead of time and freeze it in nonstick tins or paper muffin cups. Later, just bake as many as you need right from the freezer, adding about 10 additional minutes to the baking time. —Theresa P., Thompson, Manitoba

• Many of our favorite recipes call for dried beans, but it can take a long time to cook them. So I prepare an entire bag of beans at once. I soak them overnight, cook them in a large pot the next day, drain and cool them. Then I place cupfuls in an airtight container and keep them in the freezer to use whenever a recipe calls for them. —Joy B., Fairfield, Ohio

• I make a big batch of homemade mashed potatoes and freeze individual servings in muffin cups. Once they’re frozen, I pop them out and store them in an airtight freezer container. During the week, I pull out as many servings as I need and heat them in the microwave. They’re also good to use in place of flour to thicken soups and stews. —Gretchen B., Surprise, Arizona (Treat your family to our hands-down best mashed potato recipes.)

• When I have a bit of extra time, I chop a few stalks of celery or a few onions. After sauteing them in margarine, I spoon them into ice cube trays, freeze, then pop the frozen “veggie cubes” into a labeled airtight freezer container to store. They are an invaluable addition to soups or casseroles when I’m in a hurry. —Sally M., Neligh, Nebraska

• I always fry 2 pounds or more of bacon at a time, drain the slices well, then freeze them in freezer bags. The slices don’t stick together, so it’s easy to remove a few from the bag for a sandwich or to crumble small amounts for a recipe. —Shirley M., Goldsboro, North Carolina

• I like to make a big batch of soup, then freeze individual servings. I line bowls with plastic wrap, pour in soup and freeze. Once frozen, the soup can be popped out of the bowls and stored in large freezer bags. This also makes a nice gift for an ill friend or someone living alone. —Shirley P., Redmond, Washington

• Dipping ice cream at a party is always so messy and time-consuming. Therefore, before a party I place single dips of ice cream in paper cupcake liners and pop them back into the freezer until they’re ready to serve. —Pat B., Max, Nebraska

Ways to Eliminate Food Waste

• I keep the heels of bread in a heavy-duty resealable plastic bag in the freezer. When the bag is full, I use my food processor to turn the heels into bread crumbs. This way I don’t have to process a few heels at a time, and I always have a supply of soft bread crumbs available to use in recipes. —Debbie V., Blanchester, Ohio

• I save the cooking liquid used for boiling vegetables and store it in an airtight container in my freezer. It makes perfect veggie stock for a very tasty and nutritious batch of vegetable soup. —Barb S., Pandora, Ohio

• When I have time, I use half of a loaf of bread to make French toast. Once the toast cools, I wrap the slices in serving-size portions and keep them in the freezer. For breakfast in a flash, I can simply reheat the frozen slices in the toaster. —Lynn B., Bellmore, New York (Here are our most decadent French toast recipes you can cook up this weekend.)

• I love fresh ginger, but I hate throwing so much away when a recipe calls for a small amount. A friend told me how to save the leftover ginger and help it retain its fresh taste. She suggested peeling the whole gingerroot and freezing it. When a recipe calls for ginger, I pull it out of the freezer, grate the amount needed and return the unused portion. It works great. —Jennifer C., London, Ohio

• When we cook fresh broccoli, we prefer eating the tender florets rather than the thick stems. So I slice these stems into thin rounds, then place them in freezer bags. When I make vegetable soup, I simply pull some of them out to help the flavor. I also do this with the thick stems of cauliflower. This way, no part of the vegetable is wasted. —Persis M., Londonderry, New Hampshire

Frozen berries and vegetables in bags in freezer close upPhoto: Shutterstock/Africa Studio

Freezer Storage Tricks

• When unpacking groceries, I repackage any meat and poultry I’ve purchased for grilling into freezer bags, then add my favorite marinade to each bag before popping them into the freezer. Later, when I plan to barbecue, I just pull the bag out of the freezer. As the meat thaws in the fridge, the marinade flavors it beautifully and saves me last-minute fussing. In a pinch, any salad dressing that’s not creamy makes a tasty marinade. —Amy W., Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska

• I buy half a pound of garlic at a time and chop it up in my food processor. Then I put it all in a heavy-duty resealable bag and lay it flat in the freezer. Once it’s frozen, I can break it into small pieces and take out just the right amount of fresh-tasting garlic anytime I need it. This also works with onions and green peppers. —Agnes T., St. Paul, Minnesota (That garlic will come in handy when you make one of these recipes for the garlic lovers in your family.)

• To prevent fresh parsley from spoiling before I get a chance to use it all, I place washed chopped sprigs in an ice cube tray, then fill the tray with water. After the herb cubes are frozen, I store them in a freezer bag. This makes it easy to pull out as many as needed and drop them in soups and stews. —Sherri K., Grand Junction, Colorado

Just Plain Clever Freezer Tips

• Here’s a tip that’s handy when making soups or sauces that call for just a few tablespoons of tomato paste. When I purchase a large can of tomato paste, I line a baking sheet with waxed paper. I drop the paste by tablespoonfuls onto the paper and place the baking sheet in the freezer. When frozen, the tomato paste “drops” easily peel off the paper and can be stored in a resealable bag or freezer container. —Janine D., Baton Rouge, Louisiana  (Here’s more your waxed paper can do.)

• Before shredding soft cheeses like mozzarella, I put the cheese in the freezer for about 30 minutes. I’ve found this makes it easier to shred, and the cheese doesn’t stick to the grater. —Cheryl J., Beltsville, Maryland

• To keep marshmallows from turning hard in the pantry, store them in the freezer. When thawed, they’re like fresh. —Lyn C., Provo, Utah

• For a refreshing summer treat, push a Popsicle stick through the foil cover of a small fat-free yogurt. (Be sure to remove the plastic lid first if there is one.) Pop it in the freezer until it’s frozen, then remove the plastic container and enjoy your frosty fruit pop! Dianne M., Lakemoor, Illinois

• Whenever lemons and limes are on sale, I throw a bag of each in the freezer. Later, when I need fresh lemon or lime juice, I just defrost a single lemon or lime in the microwave. —Joan F., Turah, Montana

• I spray my freezer where the ice usually forms with nonstick cooking spray. When I defrost it, the ice pops right off. It makes the job so much easier and faster! —Charlotte C., Girard, Kansas

• Place fresh berries on a cookie sheet and put them in the freezer until frozen (about an hour and a half). Then place in freezer bags. The berries won’t stick together, so you can pour out any portion you desire. —Johnnie B., Birmingham, Alabama

Next up: 150 Easy Freezer Meals
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Dana Meredith
Dana is an editor and writer who shares her passion for travel, food and the beauty of American landscapes. When she's not wielding her red pen, she can be found tending her flower gardens, remodeling her house, creating one-of-a-kind jewelry or dancing to "Uptown Funk."