6 Sneaky Ways to Fill Your Freezer

>> Wednesday, September 17, 2014

When I wrote all about our vegetarian month of freezer meals last year, I focused on a single bulk cooking weekend as the means to an end. This year, I've taken a much different approach, and it's one that I think you guys might be into. Instead of overwhelming myself with meal after meal after meal to freeze, I've built up our stash slowly over the course of a month (or thereabouts).

Here are some sneaky ways to fill your freezer. I also plan to share some of the recipes I've made this time around, including a new and improved veggie burger, amazing squash-filled waffles, and more. Feel free to share your own tips + tricks in the comments below!

#1: Make Double

Whenever you cook this month, make a double, triple, or bigger batch. Slow cooker soups are excellent for this idea, since a full pot is often enough for at least two meals for two or three people. My favorite Freezer-Friendly Veggie Burgers are another great option, since you can make some for dinner tonight and still have a good stash for next month. Just eat whatever you want immediately and freeze the rest. Portion out into individual sizes whenever possible for the fastest re-heating.

#2: Utilize Leftovers

Make a huge dish of lasagna? Or too much of whatever else? If you didn't eat all your meal tonight, you're in luck. Rather than eating the leftovers for lunch tomorrow, freeze for future consumption and pack a PB+J instead. We often store leftovers in the fridge with good intentions to gobble them up, and they go to waste anyway. If you freeze straight away, there's no risk! Do this for two or three meals each week, and it adds up fast.

#3: Use It Up

If you have time on the weekend, dig deep into your refrigerator to find the ingredients that will soon go bad. Lay them out in front of you and figure out what you can make. Consider whatever you create a bonus meal -- and freeze it up! We often have half blocks of cheese, a couple cups of almond milk, half of an onion or pepper, a limp head of broccoli, super ripe bananas, etc. I most often use our tips to Eliminate Food Waste and some of the recipes on that page. Otherwise, I -- again -- use the slow cooker. Here are some tips for making awesome crockpot meals without recipes.

#4: Think Part vs. Whole

You don't need to make dinner from soup to nuts to take advantage of freezer cooking. Think about the different parts of a meal you can make easily the day of . . . and make the rest for freezing. Pasta cooks up simply with little cleaning required. So, make + freeze just the homemade tomato sauce or perfect pesto to accompany and thaw the night of.

#5: Freeze Ingredients

When we went blueberry picking, I used up a lot of them making jam + brie grilled cheese, muffins, and other goods. I still had a good number left that I rinsed, dried, and froze whole. We've been getting gazillions of tomatillos, so -- along with making tomatillo salsa -- I've washed them well, cut in half, and frozen on a baking sheet before stashing into a container. I also freeze cooked beans (here's how) that we end up using all month long.

#6: Plan Ahead

You can also just choose a list of solid vegetarian make-ahead meals and pick a couple days each week to crack away at them. No need for an intense bulk cooking experience. Just make an extra dinner here and there and watch them pile up. Before you know it, you'll be cooking and cleaning far less and enjoying the fruit of your efforts much more.

Here are some more tips + recipes:

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