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Do yourself a favor and stock up with some simple freezer essentials. It helps with meal prep in a pinch, can save some money, and can save you a trip to the grocery store. It can also stop you from having to pick up takeout on the way home from work!
Beware, freezer stocking can go two different ways! Frozen fruits, veggies, and grains are the healthy things, but it’s easy to end up with more and more processed goodies in there. Don’t get me wrong, they have a place. Sometimes your brain is fried after a long day at work, you get home and there is no way you’re going to spend 45 minutes cooking from scratch. Or you had planned to make something, but someone already ate a key ingredient. Whoops! You need a quick fix, and a premade freezer meal is it.
Here are some of the bare bones essentials you need to support your home cooking habit. Having these simple freezer essentials on hand will help you plan and cook healthy meals.
Simple Freezer Essentials
Why freeze fruits? Why not??? Fruits are frozen at their peak ripeness right off the bush or tree and taste amazing. It’s a great way to have those super healthy berries around all year without the hefty price tag.
Ideas: blueberries, strawberries, mango, cherries, raspberries, peel and freeze ripe bananas, homemade applesauce
Use in these recipes: smoothies, fruit sauces for pancakes or desserts, yogurt topping, overnight oats, sorbet
Why freeze vegetables? Vegetables are a key ingredient to every meal. The frozen type can be kept on hand for months at a time without going bad. Plus, no washing and no cutting saves oodles of time in a crunch.
Ideas: stir-fry mix, green beans, broccoli, peas, spinach, sweet peppers, artichokes, whatever your family likes most
Use in these recipes: stir-fry, add to grain and bean salads, add-ins for risotto or macaroni & cheese, serve simply as a side dish, use in smoothies
Cooked Whole Grains
Why freeze whole grains? Whole grains are a nutrition powerhouse, but sometimes have long cooking times. When cooked and frozen ahead of time, they are ready in minutes for a weeknight meal.
Ideas: farro, brown rice, quinoa, wheat berries, corn. Store in an airtight freezer bags in 1-2 cup portions.
Use in these recipes: grain salads, grain bowls, salads in a jar, add to soups, simple side dishes
Beans and Legumes
Why freeze beans and legumes? Beans and legumes cost less and taste better than their canned counterparts. They are extremely versatile and highly nutritious to boot. You can cook a pound of beans and freeze them in 1-2 cup portions. Plus, when they’re frozen, they actually take less time to use than opening a and draining a can of beans 🙂
Ideas: edamame, black beans, pinto beans, red kidney beans, great northern beans
Use in these recipes: soups, casseroles, sautés, veggie burgers, tacos, enchiladas, burritos, pasta dishes, bean salads, salads in a jar, pureed dips
Ground Meat, Pork or Poultry
Why freeze meat, pork or poultry? Ground animal proteins defrost fast in the microwave when you need them in a pinch.
Use in these recipes: tacos, pasta sauce, chili, soup, casseroles, burgers
Homemade Tomato Sauce
Why freeze tomato sauce? Tomato sauce is a staple so many homes. It is easy enough to simmer a large batch once, and then freeze it. There is a huge cost savings over store-bought sauce and I think the taste is much better. This recipe from Lucinda Scala Quinn is my go-to simple sauce recipe.
Use in these recipes: pasta, lasagna, Italian style sautés, stews, beans, over grains
Why freeze stocks, especially homemade ones? Stocks add so much flavor when they’re used in place of water in recipe. Think about cooking rice. You can cook it in water with a little seasoning, or use stock and the flavor is much richer. Homemade stocks typically have a lot less salt or no salt at all. You can control the flavor and seasoning. Stocks are inexpensive to make and store wonderfully.
Ideas: vegetable or chicken stock stored in 1-2 cup portions
Use in these recipes: soups, stews, risottos, roasts, sauces
Why freeze breads? Breads are always great to have on hand in the freezer. For a quick breakfast, defrost and toast, then top with peanut butter and banana slices.
Ideas: Whole wheat sliced bread, pita bread, English muffins, bagels, dinner rolls
Why freeze soups? Soup is a meal on its own, just add a quick salad w/vinaigrette, and some whole grain bread or cornbread. You don’t need many, just a couple of different kinds will serve you well.
Ideas: Chicken noodle soup, chili, lentil soup, minestrone, butternut squash soup
Why freeze flavor boosters? Flavor boosters easily add a burst of flavor to so many dishes.
Ideas: frozen pesto, tomato paste, and sofrito frozen in ice cube size portions, fresh herbs frozen in water in ice cube trays
Use in these recipes: soups, pastas, sautés, beans, grains, or vegetables.
So I ask you, “What’s in your Freezer?” Is it time to take stock and add some more simple essentials? To get started, pick a category and get a few items from it stashed away. Easy ones are fruits and vegetables that you simply pick up from the frozen section of the grocery store. Then as you can make a little time for some batch cooking, start rounding out your simple freezer essentials. Before long, you’ll have lots of options to choose from when you’re in need of a quick dinner!