Make your freezer your best friend.

My freezer is one of my very best friends. I know. Weird. But hear me out.

This weekend I grabbed from the freezer a roll of Gorgonzola-Herb Butter that I had made in advance and froze. Once it thawed, I sliced it and topped grilled steaks. I will confess to adding a pat to my mashed potatoes as well. It made for an amazing meal without a lot of fuss.

The next day, I grabbed a loaf of sourdough bread — also from the freezer — and we made an impromptu panini bar with the leftovers. May I say that that gorgonzola butter makes a fabulous sandwich filling?

I felt like a rock-star chef, but really, I hadn’t done anything that special. At least not this weekend.

That is the beauty of make-ahead and freeze meals. I don’t have to spend inordinate time in the kitchen — unless I want to. Batch cooking allows me to prep many meals at once and store them to use later. In this way, we have lovely, homemade food items at the ready.

Here are some of my favorite things to stash in the freezer:

• Vegetable-Beef Lasagne and Make-Ahead Garlic Bread
• Creamy Chicken Enchiladas and Seasoned Pinto Beans
• Inside Out Cheeseburgers
• Easy Stovetop Ratatouille
• Italian-Spiced Cheesewiches

These are not difficult things to create, but on busy school nights or on weekends when I’d rather be with my guests than cooking, pulling something from the freezer is a boon. It’s like I have a best friend waiting in the wings, ready to hand me a Platter of Awesomeness.

Get started in freezer cooking.

Chances are you’ve probably heard a fair amount about freezer cooking. It’s a practice that’s been around for several decades. Many have practiced or known someone who was really into “once-a-month cooking.”

While preparing 30 meals at a go is a great way to stock your freezer with homemade convenience items, there are lots of ways that you can make bulk cooking work for you. (I’m currently posting 31 Days of Freezer Cooking on Good Cheap Eats.)

Your freezer will become one of your best friends in no time.

1. Double dinner.

This is easy. Just make a double batch of dinner and freeze that second batch. Once you’ve done this for a few nights, you’ll be set with a stockpile of meals to rely on.

2. Freeze surplus foods.

If you come into a load of apples this season, make several batches of applesauce to freeze for later or prepare a few pies and freeze them prior to baking. The same can be said for many fruits and vegetables. Home freezing is a great way to make sure you don’t waste any of Nature’s bounty.

You can do this for little bits of leftovers, too. If you have some chicken and vegetables left from dinner, chop, cool and freeze. You can add those to soup or top pizza on another night without letting perfectly good food go to waste.

3. Have a mini-cooking session.

If you find a great sale on chicken, buy a ton — or at least enough for ten dinners — and come home and prep it for freezing. There’s an amazing amount of things you can make with chicken: taquitos, enchiladas, taco filling, marinated pieces, casseroles, stews, and soups. Make double or triple batches so that you maximize your time.

You can even freeze the cooked and chopped chicken and store it as a meal component. In this way, you don’t have to decide how to serve the chicken now, but it’s conveniently prepped for you toss on a salad, layer in a sandwich, or stir into a casserole later.

4. Buy my book.

I recently wrote a book that explains the ins and outs of freezer cooking. Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook is a compendium of batch cooking knowledge, including over 200 freezer-friendly recipes. Not only does it provide ten separate cooking plans, covering a range of proteins and meatless options, but it also teaches you how to make your own cooking plan so that you can prep exactly what you want. The book also explains how to make many meals in as little as two hours.

With a little know-how and a few hours in the kitchen, you can get ahead in the game called Life. You can have home-cooked meals ready to pull from the freezer and pop in the oven or reheat on the stovetop. You can enjoy downtime with friends and family and still nosh on great food.

5. Try this Gorgonzola-Herb Butter.

Compound butters are a great way to add instant flavor and sauciness to your favorite foods. As the butter melts, it flavors the hot food. This gorgonzola butter is fabulous on grilled steaks. But, it is equally tasty spread on a hot sandwich or stirred into mashed potatoes. Make several batches and wrap them in plastic wrap. Store in the freezer until ready to enjoy.

Gorgonzola-Herb Butter

1⁄2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1⁄4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola or other blue cheese
11⁄2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley or 1⁄2 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1⁄2 teaspoon dried thyme
1⁄8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, combine the butter, cheese, parsley, thyme, and black pepper. Mash together until well combined.

Spoon the butter mixture onto a small sheet of plastic wrap. Wrap the plastic wrap around the butter mixture, forming a small log about 1 inch in diameter. Wrap the butter log tightly and place it in a sandwich bag. Seal the bag.

Freezing instructions:
Store the Gorgonzola butter in the freezer.

To thaw and serve:
Thaw the compound butter in the refrigerator. Soften at room temperature. Top steaks with slices of butter.

Recipe © 2012 from Not Your Mother’s Make Ahead & Freeze Cookbook by Jessica Fisher and used by permission of The Harvard Common Press.

Got a question about freezer cooking? I’d love to answer it!

Jessica Fisher

Jessica Fisher loves early mornings, creamy coffee, and funky cheese. She is the author of Good Cheap Eats Dinner in 30 Minutes (or Less!), now available on Amazon or at your favorite indie bookstore.

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  1. I love freezer cooking (ok, well not the cooking part) but having my freezer stocked.) I preordered your book and it just came last week. I especially loved your tarragon Turkey Burgers with Blue Cheese and Chipotle Mayo. I don’t care for Chipotle so I sub in Green Chile and they are delicious! Thanks for all the new recipes, I can’t wait to try out more of them.

    • That sounds like a great substitution! I’m going to have to remember that one in the future. My husband doesn’t love chipotle as much as I do, but he might like other chiles.

  2. I am big on getting stuff in the freezer as well. I think it is because we had a huge chest freezer growing up, and it was always full of food 🙂 I like to cook beans in bulk and get them in the freezer as well as chicken/veggie stock, already made soups, and probably any other meal that we don’t immediately gobble up. It is so much easier when I can just grab something from the freezer on those days I don’t feel like cooking. Plus, it saves us money from getting take out because we don’t want to cook 🙂

  3. I love freezing components of a meal, chopped chicken, ham, or pork, cooked and seasoned hamburger. I also love freezing cookie dough in either a large chunk or in balls (depends how good it is frozen if it’s too tempting the dough never makes it to the oven). I am thinking of starting to pre-bake mini size pizza pies so the kids can make their own for lunches and dinners.

  4. Silly question – how is it best to cook the chicken before freezing it?

  5. I only have a very small freezer above my fridge so I don’t do a lot of cooking ahead, but someday I hope to have a freezer chest! I hope to get your book *someday* 🙂

    • I love my chest freezer, we keep it in the corner of our kitchen. Of course we don’t have a dining table, so we have plenty of space for the freezer. I use a plastic pan scraper (with gloves to keep my hands from freezing in the process) on it about once a quarter to keep from having to empty it and defrost it.

    • I went for years without a chest freezer. You can still do freezer cooking without one. You just need to be organized. 😉

  6. I took a few years off from freezer cooking, because I enjoy cooking and enjoyed doing it as part of the daily routine. As my priorities have shifted, though, I’ve started to become more intentional about stocking my freezer for days when I’d rather be doing anything else at 5 pm!

    ps I love your book, Jessica!

  7. Can’t wait to try the gorgonzola butter as soon as my baby is born 🙂 Sounds YUMMY!!

  8. This is my first time here – I love this post! We have three freezers (we might have a problem – lol) and it makes our lives SO much easier, especially with three boys. Our weekly shopping trip has become very minimal now that we are able to stockpile so many meals. I posted about Organizing our freezers in my 31 Day series this month. I cannot wait to try the gorgonzola butter! Yum!!
    Thanks for the great post!
    Claire 🙂

  9. I’d love to do more freezer cooking, but I live overseas, and my freezer is about the size of a shoebox. When we lived in the US, I had a deep freeze and LOVED it! It is one of the things I miss the most.

  10. I love this post. I have been getting better about freezing things ahead, but still think I can do more to make my family’s life calmer, easier and more organized. Thanks for the good ideas and encouragement.

  11. I have recently been contemplating how to make cooking easier in the evening. I can’t believe I totally spaced using the freezer! I love the suggestion to just double the batches. I bet if I did this every other night, I would have quite the stock pile in no time. I would like my freezer to be my friend, but I have to admit the crock pot is also a good buddy 🙂

  12. Thanks for your post! I was needing a bit of encouragement to re-stock my freezer. I will definitely be looking into your cookbook!

  13. Just last night, my husband said happily, “Ah, our freezer is finally looking under control.” To him, that meant we have enough space to push things around and find what we need. To me, that meant It’s Time to Make a Big Batch of Soup!

    One thing that helps me keep things under control it to make a list of what meals are in the freezer and what items I need to turn them into a complete meal. Example:
    Bean Soup – bread, salad
    Asian Turkey wraps – tortillas, green onion, cabbage
    This was a lifesaver after my younger son was born and I could just pick off the list for WEEKS!

  14. i usually double batch soups and beans and put half in the freezer for an easy meal. i also do a lot of summer fruit preservation that way. i rarely do whole meals, but lots of pre-prepped parts of meals – (ie. cream of chicken, bone broths, shredded chicken, homemade hamburger buns, etc). i would love to get better at using my freezer though.

    we bought ourselves our chest freezer as our christmas present to each other last year (got it on a black friday sale at sears) and have not regretted it one bit!

  15. I’ve been staring into my freezer like it’s a really hot man lately…drool. Not so many full meals, but meal starters (chicken stock, elk sausage) and snazzer-uppers (green chile, roasted tomatoes, peach bbq sauce).

  16. Will have to try freezer cooking. Ive been trying to eat healthier and make more things from scratch.

  17. Interested in your cookbook. Is it possible to see the table of contents or index to get a better idea of what its like? Thanks.

  18. It made for an amazing meal without a lot of fuss.

  19. serwtwax

  20. Lou Ann Jones says:

    My question about freezer cooking: I’ve placed left-over spaghetti sauce in the freezer before, using a freezer-made plastic container. When I’ve pulled it out to use it again, it sometimes has freezer “crystals” on the top, thus making it “watered down”. How do I prevent this?

    • A couple things could help you: make sure it’s cool before you put a lid on it. Condensation from steam could cause this extra liquid. Chill it completely in the refrigerator before freezing. If you find extra liquid, a reheat on the stove could cook it off a bit. Ice crystals can’t hurt you and often the integrity of the food can be regained in reheating.

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