From buying in bulk, to saving leftovers, storing food in your freezer can really save you money and time.
Brenda Thompson -- author of the blog "Meal Planning Magic" -- has a few simple rules for storing food in your freezer.
"Pretty much everything freezes; you just have to know how to prepare it and store it properly.
Her first tip, freeze items that may close to the expiration date, like yogurt or buttermilk.
"Sometimes when you need buttermilk you just need a little for a recipe. You have some leftover you can put some in an ice cube tray and pull out what you need it. After the ice cubes are frozen, pop them into a labeled zip top bag," said Brenda, "A lot of things I like to do is freeze into individual portions so we can pull them out for lunches and heat them up on the go, too."
She also put leftover pulled pork into a muffin pan, let it freeze, then put the frozen serving sizes into a freezer bag."
And, today Brenda made extra spaghetti sauce, so she can stockpile.
"The recipe I use makes a quadruple batch. At the end of the day, I can portion it out to what I need for dinner that night and the rest go to freezer safe containers and I label them and put them in the freezer for other nights," said Brenda.
She also uses the freezer for sweets.
"You can make your favorite cookie recipe and scoop it out into balls and put it on a cookie sheet and freeze those little balls and when they are frozen you can put them into a little zip top bag and when you are ready to have cookies or you need to bring a cookies somewhere, just bake them up and it's just like you made them fresh that day."
"I like to make a lot of quick breads and muffins ahead of time or sometimes I'll make a double batch anyway and it's especially nice to have those frozen in the freezer to pull them out on busy mornings," said Brenda.
And, Brenda says - don't feel like you need to go out and buy reusable containers to freeze your food in.
"You can line your own dishes with foil and then pop it out once it's frozen and its kind of like a giant ice cube and then wrap that and freeze it and label it - when you are ready to make it you just pop it back into it's original container that way you've got your containers to use."
You must let the food cool off completely before putting it in the freezer.
"Generally if you put something in the freezer too fast, like if you take it off the stove and you stick it in the freezer, it has a hard time adjusting and the crystals will form on the food. Occasionally those freezer crystals are freezer burn. If you've had it in there a long time, it just changes the texture."
The number one rule to freezing foods -- LABEL!
"Your UFO's in your freezer are like your unidentified frozen objects. No matter how great you think your memory is, you are just not going to know what it is," said Brenda, "If you can sort of identify it, then you may not know how old it is. To save money on labeling, I like to use these reusable labels."
"Anything that you label you want to label when it is at room temperature because if you try to label it when it's frozen, the marker won't work."
Brenda also organizes and logs everything.
"So when I'm doing my meal planning I know I already have this in the freezer I can pull that out for such and such night and that really helps with your meal planning, too," said Brenda. "I do kind of keep my freezer organized by grouping. So one side is prepared meals, maybe a casserole that I've made a double batch of. I have another side that's maybe bread items like muffins or pancakes that I've made extras of so that way I kind of know what area I'm looking for when I'm going in to pull something out."
And, she says, don't jam pack everything in there.
"If your freezer is too full then the air can't circulate so you want to have your freezer about 75 percent full so the air can circulate and things can stay frozen instead of being too compacted."
Brenda says she uses the "quick thaw" method to get her food ready once it comes out of the freezer. She recommends putting it in the sink with cold water.
"I'm going to put it in the sink and going to fill it up just so it covers the item, just leave it in there," said Brenda. "It depends on what the item is but for about a pound of meat it takes about 20 or 30 minutes."
For more information visit http://www.mealplanningmagic.com.