There are several methods to freezer meal sized portions. I’ll call them:
Jell-o mold method,
Bag-in box method,
Small bags inside zip-lock freeer bag, and
Single freezer bag method.
The last is actually the most simple method. For the single freezer bag method you simply place one meal worth of meat or leftovers into a quart or gallon freezer bag. I typically use gallon freezer bags for raw meat, so i can cook enough to make leftovers or “planned-overs.” Then amazingly the leftovers fit into a quart size zipper bag. If you can use the food to squish out the air toward the zipper, it seems to get more air out. The food will last longer with less air in the freezer bag. Typically you can count on a freezer bag for 90 days, but with all the air out the food can last up to a year. Juicier foods like soup last longer than dry foods like breads.
I most often use the small bags inside zip-lock freezer bag method for freezing “ingredients.” For this I use those very inexpensive baggies that fold over the sandwich without the zipper. I usually put between 1/4 cup to 1 cup portion of foods into the small baggie and fold it over. I carefully position the small bags in one layer into the larger freezer bag. Stop adding small bags when the larger freezer zip-lock bag is full one-inch from the top, squeeze the air out and zip it twice to be sure it closed completely. I use the baggies in zip-lock freezer bags method for pizza toppings, spaghetti/pizza sauce in 1-cup portions, seasoned cooked ground meat in 1-cup portions, left over sliced or shredded chicken or roast, left over fajita meat, etc.
Jill Bond, the author of Mega Cooking recommends the bag-in-box method to freeze the meal-sized portions. She says she collects multiple boxes of the same sized small cardboard boxes: cereal boxes, pasta boxes, cracker, and tea boxes in a variety of shapes and sizes. She places the edges of the zipper baggie over the edges of the box (like placing a liner in a trash can), so that the box holds up the bag while it is filled. Next she squeezes the air out and zips the bag without taking it out of the box. Freeze the bag inside the box. Once the food is frozen it will have taken on the shape of the box, so that you can stack your frozen food like bricks. If freezer space is tight, this will be important. This is extremely effective for liquids like sauces and soups. BTW, if space is valuable, you’ll need to limit the amount of “ingredients” you freeze and freeze “whole meals” or “entrees” instead.
Finally, use the Jell-o mold method, when you freeze a casserole in a pan. It is very important that you LINE the casserole dish before you freeze it. I prefer to use plastic wrap or waxed paper to line the pan, then pour or layer the casserole ingredients in the pan. Then, I wrap the pan with tin foil and freeze it. When it is completely frozen I pull the pan out and warm the pan slightly so it will POP off the frozen casserole. Do this in the same way you get a Jell-o out of the Jell-o mold. In fact many meatloaf and casserole recipes will freeze and serve well in Jell-o molds or bundt cake pans. Now that you have the pan-shaped, frozen casserole out of the pan, you can peel the wax paper off the casserole very easily. Then re-wrap the whole casserole and put it into a freezer bag or use freezer paper. If you freeze a 13×9 pan you will need a 2 gallon zipper bag to hold it. This method works well for small freezers because you can stack the food into the freezer like books. Some people prefer to use tin foil to line the pan so that you can simply put the casserole back into the pan to cook it and use the tin foil to avoid messy clean up. Try both and see what you prefer. I scooped tin foil out of the cooked casserole pan and got the taste of tin foil on my fork enough times that I now prefer waxed paper.
If freezer space is not tight you can even freeze soups, chopped nuts, flour, cornmeal, seeds, oatmeal, shredded cheese, etc in canning jars or medium size canisters. Be sure to leave one-inch of air space for expansion of liquid ingredients.
Whatever method you use be sure you label and date the outer bag. I use the date that I froze the food. Having meals in your freezer now allows you to make CHOICES when it’s dinner time, instead of scrambling to find something to fix! We’ll write more on the benefits of having meals in the freezer next time.