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Works For Me Wednesday: Containers For Freezing

I get a lot of questions about freezer containers. A. LOT. So here is a simple guide to choosing freezer containers when you are making freezer meals.

Gallon/Quart Zippered Freezer Bags

I use these most often for items that will be thawed in the refrigerator first, and then cooked. You DO NOT want to skimp on cheep freezer bags. I have passed by the ones at the dollar stores and deep discount stores because of the quality (I have gotten them and tried them). They just are not as thick and thus I don’t believe that they will maintain the freshness of your foods for as long. I am freezing food and I want it to be able to stay good for as long as possible.

When freezing items in freezer bags you may want to make sure that the contents are laying completely flat when you place them in the freezer. I have even used cake pans before to make sure that they freeze flat. Remember, whatever form they freeze in is how they will stay!

Leave 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch headspace (the space between the food and the zipper or top of container). Foods expand as they freeze and you don’t want the bag to burst or to leak.

I use zippered freezer bags most often for: sandwiches, quesadillas, muffins, vegetables, soups, items that will go in the crock pot to cook, and meats.

Disposable Plastic Containers

These are perfectly fine to use as well. I usually use less of these because they are a higher cost to purchase than the zippered freezer bags. However, they can be reused again and again which makes them a better environmental choice. And if you can happen to get enough use out of them they are less expensive than zippered bags.

I tend to use these containers for soups and items that are “difficult” for me to bag in zippered bags. I also use these containers if I think that it is an item that my husband (or in your case, children or self) might take to work or school and heat up. This makes it easier for them and for you because it doesn’t have to be repackaged.

If you can get your family members and your cooking partner to return these to you, they are a very good option. Again, if using these types of containers you will want to leave 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch headspace for food expansion.

I use disposable plastic containers most often for: soups, individual lunch items.

Throw-Away Foil Pans

I know this is not the most environmentally friendly method, but it is simple and easy on assembly and clean up. I also prefer these types of pans because they make it easy to take food to others in need. I don’t ever have to worry about getting my pans back.

I typically put 8×8 pans or Deep Dish 8×8 pans on my recipe lists. I usually can find both at either the Dollar Store or Xmas Tree Shops. I have also used the Deep Dish 7×11 pans when I can’t find Deep Dish 8×8 pans. I recently found these great round pans at the Dollar Store that come with cardboard lids. They make for a fantastic OAMM pans because I don’t have to worry about covering the pan with foil or stacking my pans on top of one another.

Some have indicated to me that they don’t like the cost of this method. I don’t understand that as I usually get three of them for $1. That seems pretty cheap to me considering that I am not using foil to line the pan or water (or my time) to clean the pans. However, I can find them cheap. If you do not live near one of these great discount stores you can consider ordering them in bulk. If you do once a month cooking (OAMC) often enough you will eventually use all of them up.

When you have completed the dish I always cover the foil pan with a double layer of aluminum foil. This helps seal in the meal and prevent leaks as well as prevent freezer burn. If I have baked a bread or made an item in a loaf pan I will cover it with foil and occasionally also put it in a zippered freezer bag. This isn’t necessary but will only help keep freezer burn away. I write the instructions on top or stick on one of the handy-dandy OAMM labels.

I use disposable foil pans for the following types of items: casseroles, dishes that I don’t want to have to thaw before placing in the oven, dishes that might end up going to a friend in need, breads.

Personal Bake Pans

There are many that use personal baking dishes. Some have enough to freeze all of their meals, others do not. I have heard of readers scouring garage sales and thrift stores to find pans that are the right size and reusable. You can freeze your dish in the dish that you are planning to use or you can line your pans with foil to freeze them. You just need to make sure that the pan you “formed” the meal to will be available when you are ready to cook your meal. If you are freezing food in glass baking pans just make sure that you slowly thaw out the dish and don’t place the frozen dish directly into the oven. You may end up with a shattered mess.

Additional Resources:

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45 Responses to “Works For Me Wednesday: Containers For Freezing”

  1. Deeanna says:

    Is there a website you could recommend for buying foil pans in bulk? The cheapest I have found around my area is 2 for $3. May not sound like much but it does add up.

  2. Jessica says:

    Great tips. I need to be better about making and freezing meals. I know it would save time in the long run, but it’s hard to find the time to make that many meals at once.

  3. Larissa says:

    Another tip is if you want to freeze a casserole that really needs more assembly before cooking. For example, I freeze RoTel chicken, but like to be able to put fresh chips down in the baking dish before cooking. You first line the pan with foil, then plastic wrap, then put in the casserole fixings that will be frozen. Top again with foil, but only seal it to the bottom layer of foil, not the pan. Once frozen, the foil wrapped casserole can be taken from the dish and put into a large zipper freezer bag or wrapped with an extra layer of foil. When ready to use, ALL of the foil and plastic wrap is easily removed so that the chunk of frozen casserole can be placed directly on top of the chips, or just straight into the pan for prettier serving.

  4. lisa says:

    This was a very helpful article.
    And it brought back the memory of major accomplishment clearing out, cleaning out, and defrosting my freezer last month! (It was sweet – my 9 yr old son took over after I cleared it all out.)
    There was such FREEDOM in throwing out “unmarked” “undated” fish(?) – at least that’s what I was TOLD it was – (I never looked) – in white butcher paper that someone gave me from a rich guy who liked their daughter down south! What date did he catch it? Did it stay refrigerated? Where did he catch it? Who was he anyway?
    I figured if I couldn’t answer any of those questions I shouldn’t feel guilty about throwing it out!
    I’m happy to say I am fully acquainted with all the food that’s in my freezer now. That’s the way it should be. :)

  5. lisa says:

    one more thing…
    I have a very old upright freezer, so the way I keep track of what’s in there is…(you might be a redneck if…) writing the date and item directly on the freezer door with my kids’ washable markers or a dry erase marker! ;)

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks for the tips, we don’t have Christmas Tree Shops down here in DFW, so we have had success with the Dollartree and foil pans.

    And I just have to share…last week I cleaned out my freezer before our OAMC and was very proud of myself. But I noticed I strange odor in our garage a few days after. And finally 5 days later I identified the source…Somehow a bag of burgers from May did not make it into my ice chests/back into the freezer and was hiding behind another cabinet I have…They had sweltered in Texas heat for 5 DAYS—YUCK! Thankfully hubs took care of it for me as I am in my first trimester and could not stomach the cleanup!

  7. Teresa says:

    I put most everything in freezer bags because they freeze flat and I have more room. Also I’ve been collecting Pyrex container with tops and freeze things in those also.
    I also wanted to brag because my college son is in an apartment and I am now the best cook in the world. I’ve sent with him a refrig. freezer full of food and his friends LOVE the food. Did I say how much they LOVE the food. All thanks to Once A Month Mom I’m a Hero.

    • tricia says:

      Yay! So glad you and your family are liking the menus. Thanks for the encouragement, it definitely helps when I am putting together new menus; sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming.

  8. Kathryn says:

    I tried the square foil pans for over a year before I decided on a different route. At 2 for $3 they were expensive throw aways, and were flimsy. I started picking up 9×9 metal baking pans at Ross or TJ Maxx, which I believe were about $3 each. I am able to cover them with plastic wrap/foil, and then slid them right into a gallon ziploc bag with no mess. I write the directions on the foil, and am able to reuse the ziploc bag and the pan many times. I don’t even wash the ziploc bag between uses, just dry it and store for the next time.

    (I took a ziploc bag in my purse and slid them in before I bought them to make sure that they fit.)

    • Damsel says:

      Kathryn, I LOVE this idea!! I’ve been using some of the foil pans, and feel like they are flimsy. I’m going to keep my eye out for these (and a ziploc bag in my purse!). I don’t do OAMM, but I do tend to double and freeze recipes once or maybe twice a week, and then pull out the frozen ones a few weeks later. I think these pans would work well for me because they’d always be in rotations.

  9. Jeannie says:

    are you keeping the tomato based casaroles in foil pans? do they end up tasing like metal? I’m not quite ready to buy into the whole OAMC theory but would like to set aside meals for when our baby arrives this winter. Planning on stealing some ideas.

  10. Vicki B. says:

    This is the article I have been missing in order to try OAMC! I could not figure out what container to freeze everything in. I just have one loaf pan, two casserole dish, etc. Thanks so much!!!!

  11. Katrina says:

    I just wanted to let you know that Winco carries the 8×8 foil pans 3 for .68! Makes for a good deal! They are the same brand as the ones you linked to on Amazon. Also at Wal-mart they are 3 for $1.25! I personally love throwing away my casserole dishes. I make up for it by recycling other things :)

  12. Melody says:

    I am new to freezer cooking, but I just have to share the pans that I found. They are made by Glad (Glad OvenWare). They are plastic, kind of like tupperware, but different and come with a plastic sealable lid. You can freeze in them and cook in the oven them. They can also go in the microwave and dishwasher. I bought them at smart & final – (2) 9 X 11 for $3.39 or (3) 8 x 8 for $3.39. They are reusable – reviews on Amazon said that they used them for years. Reasonable price even if you give a meal away, and great price to reuse. I love them!

  13. Holly says:

    I’m A gluten & dairy free vegetarian. I have found your site very helpful! I am the only one in my household who has dietary restrictions so making dishes that serve 8-10 just doesn’t work for me! I have been trying to figure out how to make and freeze dishes into single serve portions for myself. Reading through your tips and comments has helped me start planning my own version of OAMC. Thanks!

  14. Janet says:

    Thank you so much for the information on this site. :0) My Mom is suffering from the onset of Altzheimer’s we believe, and I’ve started trying to prepare her meals in advance by freezing them. This is silly, but you know the Dollar Store (tin like) Pans you are mentioning; what side of the lid goes face up? Do you place the shiny silver side up or down? Please help. Janet :0)

    • tricia says:

      So sorry to hear about your mother, but what a wonderful thing that you are doing for her! As for your question – LOL – you are probably asking this question for many others. :) The shiny part goes down, towards the food. To keep off moisture rather than absorbing it.

  15. susan says:

    I have a brother that has Asperger syndrome. My mom froze his dinners in the slotted 3 container type plastic plates for years. I have recently heard that heating plastic in the freezer can cause a chemical reaction in the plastic that causes cancer. He just got over lymphoma of the stomach. Is there anything new on the market that will allow you to freeze an entire dinner in and then thaw and microwave? He is a creature of habit, but I don’t feel the plastic containers are safe to freeze and microwave for meals.

  16. […] very first WFMW that I wrote was on freezer containers. And guess what, today I wanted to talk to you about a NEW freezer container that I have found. […]

  17. Sarah Sanchez says:

    On the disposable foil pans – I have been very successful finding the ones that have some holiday decorations on them for extremely cheap after that holiday! I’ve gotten some for as little as 10 cents!! When I find them, I stock up – who cares if they have jack-o-lanters or hearts or little santa clauses all over them :)

  18. Chris says:

    Aluminum foil pans: When my husband travels, the kids & I order Pizza Hut pasta on occasion. I always save those foil pans. When friends bring pies from the store, I save the pans. I’ve ended up with quite a few extra. I’ve only bought a few over the years. Yes, I do wash them. But use them for our own freezer issues as well as making things for friends in need. Then I don’t worry about getting the pan back. If you save any you get for free & then wash & re-use, the cost goes way down, even for those you do buy. Just starting to explore this site. Hope it helps with my “evil dinner hour”.

  19. Amber H says:


    I’m a college student who has very little time for myself, what with all of the activities I have going on, so I asked my mom about this site (she has been doing this for some time now) and took a look.

    Everything looks awesome; I’m a decent cook so could even modify the recipes to make it easy for me to cook for only one or two. The problem is that I am blind.

    I have no way of marking my containers, and thereofre, knowing what I will have to do to each meal as I take it out to make.

    I have considered Braille labels, but I am afraid they would just come off if the packages are shifted in the freezer.

    I could print a print label but still have the same problem, with the added difficulty of not being able to read it.

    I could organize them in a particular way, and either remember or write that down, but again, after several days, I will not know which is which, simply because I will begin to forget what I’ve eaten. (I do good to remember what I ate last night, much less what I ate a week ago!)

    Ultimately, I’m stumped. Does anyone have any suggestions?

    • leslie says:

      Amber, is it possible to use different types of containers for the different types of meals, for example, round plastic bowls for one item, square disposable gladware for another??

    • Isabelle says:

      Would it be possible to use fabric paint on a piece of masking tape to mark the container? The fabric paint (or similar product) would provide some relief for the Braille. You might only need to mark a number if you made a corresponding cross-referenced Braille master sheet with the number and menu item.

  20. Sarah Mulholland says:

    I purchase my pans in bulk from a giant-online.com Great price, free shipping and I love the cardboard type lids. I can write directly on the lids what it is and instructions with sharpie (so even hubby can pop it in). Also, I can stack them right away in the freezer. I also use freezer bags.
    Cooking up a storm as baby three is due in three weeks. We are really loving bulk cooking!!
    I believe it is the 4 lb. Oblong I get. Perfect for my family size.

  21. Marti Miles says:

    I just ordered some 32 0z. desposable containers to freeze some chicken brunswick stew I am making. The site is http://www.bgreentoday.com They are biodegradable and all their products are rated as green. You might want to look into them.

  22. Cherub Mamma says:

    I’ve been using the Gladware OvenWare pans for years. Some of mine are over 10 years old and work beautifully! They hold up better than foil and you’re not adding anything to the landfills. They come in both an 8×8 size and 9×13.

  23. KayT says:

    These are great tips. This may sound like a silly question but if I use the aluminum pans with the lid do I have to put a piece of wax paper, plastic wrap, or foil in between the meal the lid? I am new to this and I am worried about wasting food by improperly wrapping my meals.

    • Katie says:

      Hi KayT, it depends on how tight the lid is but I would wrap with foil and then put the lid on it if it works. It also depends on how long you are planning on storing it in the freezer. The longer you store it, the more airtight you will want it to be. Air is what causes freezer burn. :)

  24. […] container you use will vary based on the food you plan to store. This information comes from a post in our archives which details the best containers to use for different […]

  25. […] suggest using disposable containers for freezer cooking (hop over to our Get Started SeriesĀ or this post for more information on sizes). This works very well for gifting meals because the person who […]

  26. Pat says:

    I have a relative who is blind & caring for a disabled husband. She is unable to cook and they rely on TV dinners for their meals. I want to pre-cook meals that can be frozen and then reheated in a microwave oven. She cannot use the stove or oven. Where can I find containers that go from freezer to oven? Everything I see is either foil or glass. I would love to find the divided containers that separate the food because she is blind. Please…any suggestions and sources.

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