This month I am embarking on a plan to stock my freezer with healthy meals before the arrival of my first baby in early June, and I've been sharing the process as I go, from clearing out my messy freezer to bookmarking an array of lighter, healthier freezer-friendly recipes that I'd like to make.
This week I'm getting organized by making sure I have all the tools and supplies I need to freeze and label my meals, to make it easier to fit the maximum amount of food in my small freezer and stay on top of what I have stored away.
Glass or Plastic Containers?
Going into this project, I thought I would rely exclusively on glass containers. I already use wide-mouth mason jars for freezing soups and stocks, and I have a few Glasslock containers, which I love. I am wary of combining hot food and plastic — even if it is BPA-free — so I figured I would stay away from using any plastic at all.
But the reality is that my freezer is quite small. I don't have space for a chest freezer in my apartment. And commenter Goethe Girl made a compelling point in the comments of my first post:
Your freezer is as small as mine. I would recommend forgoing jars and other containers, as they take up too much space for what you have in mind. I now freeze in freezer bags, which I fill and then lay flat in the freezer. When frozen you can stack up a nice pile, side by side, somewhat like a bunch of LPs. That way you have a lot of food in the freezer.
The image of a bunch of frozen meals tucked neatly in my freezer "like a bunch of LPs" really appealed to me, especially since I was already concerned about how many square containers and jars I could conceivably pack into my freezer.
So I've decided to use a combination of glass and plastic containers. To avoid the hot-food-and-plastic issue that makes me leery, I'll be cooling the food overnight in the fridge before packing it into freezer bags, and taking it out of the bags before reheating.
The Freezer Equipment & Supplies List
These are the supplies and equipment I've gathered:
4 medium and 4 large square Glasslock containers: These freezer- and oven-safe containers will be good for freezing casserole-type items in portions for one or two people.
One dozen wide-mouth pint mason jars: I find that 16-ounce jars hold the perfect amount of soup for one. Depending on how much room I have in my freezer, I may not use the full dozen.
Gallon- and quart-size freezer bags: Rice, curries, stews and many other recipes can be frozen flat in bags, making the most of my limited freezer space. They are also good for storing snacks and one-handed meals like burritos.
Heavy-duty aluminum foil: I'll use this to individually wrap items like burritos and calzones, to keep them from getting freezer-burned and make them easier to grab for lunches on the go.
Half sheet pan: I'll place bagged items on a sheet pan to freeze, so they will be really flat and easy to store.
Sharpie & painter's tape: I'll be labeling everything I store with the name of the dish and date. Although painter's tape is more expensive, I find doesn't leave a residue on container lids the way masking tape does.
A running inventory of freezer meals: I'm kind of anal, so I'll probably make a spreadsheet as I cook and stock the freezer, then print out a hard copy to keep on the fridge for updating as we eat.
Next Week: Lay Out a Plan & Start Cooking!
I had intended to come up with a cooking plan this week, but life got in the way. Instead, I'll sit down this weekend and come up with a rough plan for fitting some extra cooking into my weeknights and weekends. And I'll start the fun part: cooking!
Are there any other tools and supplies you think I'll need for this project?
(Image credits: Anjali Prasertong; Faith Durand; Emily Ho)