Turning Leftovers into Freezer Meals

I’m still working on two or three dishes I cooked up during Husband’s last trip – when I am at home alone, half as much food gets eaten and twice as much gets cooked because I start thinking about all the things I have in the kitchen, and all the recipes people have sent me, and I just make things until the fridge is full. I have my pick of things to eat, but they inevitably become leftovers.

One tactic I’ve seen a lot of people do is freeze things almost immediately after making them, anticipating how they will not really want that food for multiple meals in the same week. I, however, begin with optimism that we will eat, for instance, chili for days on end. Husband is pretty good about it, as I’ve said before, I love the luxury of eating something different every day. So it appears that I need to practice freezer meal prep!

Pinterest has a few links about it, but I’m especially intrigued by meals that, when reheated, retain the same awesome flavors and textures they had when first made; any freezer meal recipes out there that don’t taste like freezer meals? I’d also love to get better at packaging up more freezer meals, i.e. “meal prep” ahead of time, but for now, I think I have to stick with just doing a better job of not letting leftovers get old and then get thrown out. I want to be able to cook a lot and experience variety, but I also really want to avoid trashing any real food.

There is nothing like spending all summer to try to grow just a few buckets of tomatoes to make you appreciate every grain of rice and lump of stew that you sadly throw out because it’s gotten too old in the fridge. Time to use my freezer to save food. 🙂

15 comments on “Turning Leftovers into Freezer Meals

  1. Kim Smyth says:

    Soups and stews freeze well, I don’t eat pasta anymore but I think it will if tomato based.


  2. The only thing that doesn’t seem to taste like it was in the freezer to me is empanadas. Or ravioli. Stuff like that. There is precious little that I put in the freezer after making it. I’ve definitely frozen ingredients or pâte brisée after making it, but none of which involve cooking. I’ve never even frozen chili after making it because it never lasts long enough.

    I’d be interested to see what people come up with because I’ve simply never tried freezing something after it was cooked.


  3. I agree with Kim that soups and stews (chili, vegetable, and other non-dairy soups) freeze well! I’ve also had good luck with pre-cooking sloppy joes and taco meat and freezing them. I usually make a double batch and freeze what we don’t need. Reheating on the stove vs microwave makes a big difference too.


  4. Ritika Sahni says:

    Being an Indian I cook all three meals fresh. at home. That is how it has always been in my culture. Though sometimes there are leftovers, and when the leftovers bundle up, I usually server them with cashew fried rice.


  5. Peppers don’t freeze well at all, they just get mushy. If I have red peppers that are getting old, I make a roasted red pepper sauce out of them that freezes fine.


  6. I freeze leftovers a lot. Stews and casseroles will generally freeze well. If possible, use a vacuumed bag or box, as it prevents freezer burn. It is important to wrap things well if you freeze them, and to label them so you eat them within the date range.

    We are now a 2 person household, and I generally make stews, & casseroles for four. Either we eat the leftover meal the next day, with fresh veg added, or I may plan to alternate it with a different freshly made meal, or with another leftover meal. So sometimes I have two leftovers in the fridge. We might have a stew, then something fresh like fish, then the other half of the stew. And often if the leftover amount is not enough for another meal for two, my husband has it as a packed lunch next day.

    I also use the Bokashi method of composting, so leftover pasta, rice, and cooked foods are not thrown away. They eventually end up in the garden.


  7. This is a book my mother gave me when I was a young women. I still rely on it! Excellent approach to leftovers: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Left-Over-Tomorrow-Penguin-handbook/dp/0140461655


  8. I think a large part of this is knowing how you eat, and you seem to. We’ll eat the same thing 3 times, after that — we won’t. Instead of cooking too much and having left overs, I try and cook ingredients.

    That is, if I buy a hunk of steak too big for one meal, I cook all of it, as plainly as I can, and season up the piece we’re eating NOW. The other I mark as “cooked steak” with the month/year and put it in the freezer. This means that if I want stew or chili or steak or beef au jus I have the basic stuff to make/mangle however I please. About the only thing I store premade are meatballs and those I season a certain way and we use them with pasta, in albondigas soup, etc. but they’re frozen raw, not cooked.

    I don’t meal plan any more. My meal planning starts each day with “What needs to be eaten — now?” and goes from there.

    When I was first married and did meal plan, because you’re *supposed* to, I found a cook book which had a plan for it: DOLDOL which is double, one, leftover, double . . . So you make a large pot of spaghetti sauce the first night, tacos the second, and lasagna the 3rd. Or, just more spaghetti, depending on how ambitous you are.

    Do you do the large piece of meat/stuff down to the small? I can make a roasted chicken last us for 4-5 meals: roast chicken, sliced chicken, chunked chicken, shredded chicken, chicken broth with ?. Works with large veggies too,

    I have a couple of cooking for “single workign girl” cookbooks which also use part of meal a for meal b. If you want titles of the books, I’ll look them up.


  9. During the holidays I cook up big pans of chili con carne and spaghetti bolognese from scratch and freeze them in plastic bags. They keep for months and mean when I have to stay late at work, there is a proper meal ready to heat up with no preservatives or additives to enjoy. It keeps me sane and I couldn’t imagine not doing it!


  10. Good on you! I actually freeze whatever I don’t think we can eat in the next 2 days. Curries and soups freeze amazingly well and actually taste better the day/week/month after anyway!

    When I can, I also actually cook with the intention of freezing a portion or two, so when I’m tired or we’ve been out all day, all I have to do is reheat and enjoy.

    I’m looking forward to reading about your cooking : )

    Also, thank you for finding my blog!


  11. Keng says:

    Great post. Leftovers were my lunch for many years when I still worked. My husband is a wonderful cook so I hardly ever have problems with eating leftovers again. Some foods freeze better than others. We don’t freeze foods that we do not like because they do not improve in a freezer. Cheers. 😃


  12. I usually cook big meal like risotto ,spaghetti bolognese etcetera on Sunday and freeze it that means i got good backup for my husband’s lunch at work:) in between week as variety


  13. We freeze heaps. It comes from being a country girl in the ’70s and never knowing if there will be anything fresh in the (only) shop in the village. My most useful is stock and reduced in price meat. I prefer to buy organic, but of course, that’s pricey, so whenever it’s reduced, I’ll joint up what I’ve bought, pack it, freeze it and then, make stock with the carcasses. Stews and anything you would reheat or cook for ages do well. As does fiddly prep; like a veg base of celery, carrot, onion, garlic etc.
    Last year we had a bumper crop of garlic, so I cooked about 30 heads in about 3lb of butter (really slow, just really about flavouring and softening) then pureed. Finally froze in halved mini water bottles. Perfect prepared garlic butter for whenever garlic is required. Made me ridiculously pleased!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s