Looking for ways to use frozen food in your home? I am a huge fan of frozen food. I don’t mean prepared, microwavable pre-made meals, but instead fruits, vegetables, and other ingredients to help you make healthy plant-based meals.
Why is frozen food good for you? Fruits and vegetables are frozen soon after they are picked, so they may have more vitamins and minerals than fresh produce which comes from a further distance away. Then fruits and vegetables may sit in the store for days or weeks until they are sold. This exposure to air and light can lead to the loss of some nutrients. Learn more from this article on Eatright.org by Esther Ellis MS, RD: Frozen Foods: Convenient and Nutritious.
Healthy Frozen Foods to Buy
Super fresh local food is not as available year-round as I would like in my area. Unless I pick it myself from a local farm or successful backyard experiment, the nutrients will be higher in frozen food than in fresh food from the supermarket.
These may have been sitting in the store and/ or in transit for weeks from California, Mexico, Chile, New Zealand, etc. Frozen food is very convenient for a busy lifestyle. Between work and cooking for my family, it is hard to get to the store during the week. You can also stock up on frozen food when you find sales and save money on your groceries.
Here are some of the best frozen foods to keep in stock:
- Berries: these are great to top waffles, pancakes, or to add to hot cereal, smoothies, or muffins.
- Stir fry vegetable mix: includes broccoli, mushrooms, red peppers, water chestnuts, carrots, and baby ears of corn. This can make dinner sooo easy. We buy a brand without sauce to avoid unwanted sodium, sugar, and oil. I used it in this recipe for Thai Peanut Tempeh with Rice.
- Corn kernels: so easy to cook and we all enjoy them. Ways to use frozen corn: it is great in burritos, salsa, and as a side dish.
- Whole grains: Keep whole wheat bread, pita bread, and multigrain English muffins for making sandwiches for packed lunches.
- Veggie burgers and whole wheat buns: an easy lunch or dinner, or for packed lunches.
- Fresh vegetables: tomatoes, peppers, or zucchini from summer successful growing experiments or gifts from neighbors.
- Homemade vegetable broth: an easy way to add fresh flavors to soups and sauces – without the sodium and preservatives of store-bought broth.
- Cooked beans or lentils. Toss them into burritos, soup, pasta, salads, and more! They are rich in protein, fiber, contain potassium, iron, and many more nutrients.
- Leftovers! Chili, soup, bean burritos, casseroles, etc. This is a great way to store extra food when you make a big batch, then have a variety for easy main dishes in the future.
Check this chart for how long food lasts in the freezer.
Ways to Use Frozen Food When Cooking
I often hear people say it is too much trouble to cook. It takes too much time, groceries are expensive, and it is easier to just stop for fast food. I disagree. I think time spent cooking is time well spent for your physical and mental health. Keeping healthy foods in the freezer helps you put together dinner even after a hectic day.
Depending on the recipe, you may even be able to relax while food is cooking, like in a slow cooker, multi-cooker, oven, or rice cooker. Luanne Brown has some free simple cookbooks which are terrific if you are just learning how to cook. Bad Manners 101 also has a lot of cooking basics and interesting recipes.
Recipes That Freeze Well
Another great strategy with your freezer is to cook some extra portions of meals and freeze them for a later date. This is a big time saver because then you only have to chop, cook, and clean up once! Premade frozen meals are especially helpful for:
- Heating up a meal after a long work day/commute
- Vegetarian packed lunch ideas
- Expecting parents
- Family members who prefer different meals
- Sharing with elderly relatives
Here are some recipes I suggest making ahead in bulk and freezing:
- Slow Cooker Vegan Chili
- Arroz Colorido
- One Pan Pasta with Chickpeas and Tomatoes
- Stuffed Peppers with Butternut Squash and Quinoa
Label your meals with the recipe name and date: I tend to use a post-it note and tape it down. Rotate them and use them within a few months for freshness. Check your freezer temperature too: it should be at 0 degrees F.
Which ways to use frozen foods have you tried? Please let me know in the comments!