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I'm such a know-nothing when it comes to making and freezing things ahead of time. I really need to start doing this though to save time and to have healthy things on hand when I don't feel like cooking. My freezer is always bare and I'd like to stock it up with 'ready to go' meals. So I need to know the basics of how to do this. Here are my questions...

Can you freeze cooked foods or just pre-assembled casserole type dishes?

If it has to be uncooked do you have to thaw it out before cooking? How long does that usually take?

What are the foods that you CAN'T freeze? I'm unsure about: cooked lentils, mashed potatoes, fettucinni alfredo, rice, bean chili, mock meatloafs, stews, mac & cheese, okay just about everything... I told you I know nothing about this.
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I freeze quite a bit of stuff. Soups and stews are some of the easiest things to freeze. I cook enough for 2-3 and put the extra in freezer bags labeled with a Sharpie. To thaw, I put in in the frig over night. Right after dinner, I get stuff out of the freezer for the next night. I find it takes 10-20 hours for something to defrost, depending on what it is. It is frustrating to cook frozen food and don't like defrosting in the microwave, so I plan ahead a little. Then all you have to do it heat it up and you have dinner!

Always label and date your meals before you put them in the freezer and then eat them within about a month. If you leave them in the freezer much longer than that, they just aren't as nice.

Most of the foods you listed should freeze OK. Mashed potatoes sometimes get a funny texture (I don't usually freeze them) and I'm not sure about fettucinni alfredo. The other foods should all be fine. Some foods I like to freeze already cooked so that making dinner is super fast and easy, but other foods, like meat loaf, make more sense to me just to assemble and freeze raw because they are going to take so long to heat up anyway.
 

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I've haven't posted to this board before, but I was lurking and saw your questions. I love freezer cooking and have had great luck.

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Can you freeze cooked foods
Yes, but be aware that reheating them cooks them further. So, for example, if you like your roast medium well, you should cook it to medium before freezing.

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pre-assembled casserole type dishes?
Yes, but there are some things that are often in casseroles that don't freeze/thaw well--mayo, potatoes, instant rice--and you'll want to avoid these. Otherwise, I pre-assemble, freeze, thaw in the fridge, and cook as instructed. Sometimes, you have to add a little more cooking time, b/c the casserole is cold from the fridge, not room temp.

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If it has to be uncooked do you have to thaw it out before cooking? How long does that usually take?
In my fridge, 1-2 days. You'll get a feel for it quickly.

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What are the foods that you CAN'T freeze? I'm unsure about: cooked lentils, mashed potatoes, fettucinni alfredo, rice, bean chili, mock meatloafs, stews, mac & cheese
I would *think* that cooked lentils would freeze ok. The beans in my chili turn out fine.

Potatoes are an iffy subject. Many people find that they discolor and become liquidy when they thaw, but if you do a Google search for freezer mashed potatoes recipe, I'm sure you'll get several hits. I've had great luck cooking still-frozen twice-baked potatoes in the microwave, as they never actually "thaw."

My favorite freezer recipe is chicken alfredo. The key to freezing pasta is only cooking it halfway before freezing, as freezing, thawing, and reheating softens it up further. Same with regular (not instant!) rice.

Chilis and stews freeze great, as long as they don't have any no-no ingredients. (See casseroles above)

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I bought some cheese in bulk, would I be able to shred it, put it in a bag and freeze it?
If you do this, the cheese will freeze in one big mass. Instead, line a shallow baking sheet w/ wax paper and spread out the cheese. Then, when it's frozen, transfer it to the freezer bag. That way, you can remove enough frozen cheese as you need instead of chipping at a big mass of frozen cheese. This works for anything that freezes in big clumps in bags--meatballs, raspberries, chopped veggies, individual pieces of cookie dough, etc.

The best way to learn freezer cooking is trial and error. Have fun and don't be afraid to experiment. Good luck!
 
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