Esther from Jerusalem lines plastic containers with strong freezer bags before freezing soups, meatballs, gravy etc. When the food is frozen she just removes the bags from the containers and lines them up on a freezer shelf. This method takes up much less space and leaves you with storage containers to reuse. In addition, if you forget to defrost a food item in advance, you can just take the whole bag and place it into a pot with hot water to speed up the defrosting process without diluting the food.
Nechama, who admits to not being a generally organized person, says she tries to carefully label her Yom Tov food in the freezer as there is so much and it can be very annoying not to know what’s inside each container. Label the side that faces you when you open up your freezer.
She also makes the point that while home-baked challah is delicious when fresh, without the preservatives it definitely tastes less fresh by the third day. If you don’t have room in your freezer, bake some and buy others for the later meals.
Dina recommends using pans that are the exact size you need for storage. Also, don’t keep things in their pans if you can transfer them into more compact and easy-to-store containers. It may sometimes be worthwhile to split food being frozen into a number of smaller containers (especially if you’re not going to use it all at once, like large cakes, a big batch of meat etc.) so it’s easier to store and then you can just pull out what you need. Remember there’s much room when you stack upwards, so stacking a few small containers on top of each other will save precious space vs. putting one wide pan on bottom.
Janet of Manchester suggests freezing in different quantities. If your family is 6 people then freeze in a minimum of 6-portion sizes but also freezes some 2-portion sizes in case unexpected visitors arrive or you want to top up some leftovers. Items like meatballs and goulash lend themselves easily to this.
Don’t store your food in various shaped and sized attractive containers as it’s a waste of valuable space. The larger low-sided disposable aluminum containers are excellent space savers as you can stack several of them and they can also be put straight into the oven or on a hot plate to heat up.
Keeping Warm and Reheating
This depends on your method of cooking. If you don’t turn lower fires on Yom Tov (depending on your psak) then you may want to keep one low-fire burner on. Also, depending on your oven, you may be able to put it on a timer so that it goes on to heat up/ keep hot food warm both at lunch time and in the evening.
Tova Y. of Jerusalem takes her big pot of boiling chicken soup, removes the lid and covers it with foil, then puts a pan of chicken or meat on top and covers it with foil as well. “Then I pile on a bunch of towels and everything stays piping hot.”
Dina recommends adding some “cooking” to the reheating. For example, when reheating meat, pour some barbeque sauce over for it to simmer in, or pour some sauce from the chicken over the rice if that works in your family. That way, your food doesn’t taste like it’s been reheated; it tastes freshly cooked.
Using an electric water urn frees up space, but remember to top it up constantly with small amounts of cold water during Yom Tov, especially overnight so that you will have boiling water ready for Shabbos.