A more lighthearted post today, following some open and honest posts from last month. I am sharing what foods I keep in my freezer that make my life easier. The freezer is your secret weapon. Having the RIGHT sorts of things in your freezer can make for easier meal prep, quicker on the fly dinners, less food waste, and dollars saved. Here are the 12 freezer staples I can't go without (in no particular order).
1. Chopped Spinach Box. Defrost and press out the excess liquid. Add to meatballs, burgers, or meatloaf for added moisture and an extra serving of leafy greens.
2. Ground meat of choice. I typically buy extra grass-fed ground beef when it is on sale and keep at least one one-pound package in the freezer. Don't forget to defrost in the fridge overnight.
3. Uncured meat (nitrate/nitrite free). Think bacon, chicken sausage, or hot dogs (or their veggie alternatives!). Don't forget to defrost in the fridge overnight.
4. Mixed berries. Great in oatmeal, atop yogurt, or used in smoothies (my favorite). Not always cheap - I purchase at Costco, Target, Aldi, or Trader Joe's for the best prices.
5. Brown bananas. I literally have taken roommates' bananas out of trash cans just to freeze them. Tip: Be sure to peel BEFORE sticking in the freezer. I like to cut into 3rds or 4ths and put in a gallon freezer bag. Great for smoothies or breakfast scrambles.
6. Spiralized carrots. These get their own category because they are that good. Totally worth the trip to your closest Trader Joe's. Cook and mix with pasta, or mix in greens, add olive oil and some cheese, or marinara sauce, or any sauce.
7. Broccoli or Vegetable blend. Steam in the bag varieties cost too much and aren't necessary. Get the cheap kind and steam in the microwave: Put veg in a microwave safe bowl, cover with a little bit of water and put a plate or plastic wrap over the bowl, microwave for ~3 minutes, drain. Great addition to pasta or grain of choice or added to egg bakes.
8. Seafood: Salmon, shrimp, etc. While fresh is delicious, frozen is so much easier and requires less planning. Defrost in the fridge overnight or run under cold water for rapid defrost. Then cook like fresh.
9. Meat or vegetarian patty of choice. Think frozen beef or turkey burgers or veggie patties. These cook from frozen protein sources are perfect for when you need a quick meal.
10. Rice or quinoa. This one will not save you money, but sometimes that just doesn't matter. Cooking from dry on the stove yields more and costs less, but also takes more time. When I don't have grains prepped and I am short on time I turn to frozen packets. Trader Joe's is my favorite place to buy these plain packages but other stores carry. It comes in a box with 3-4 approximately 2 serving packets that you microwave.
11. Breakfast potatoes. Tater tots and hash brown patties are my picks. When you wake up on the weekend and don't have potatoes on hand these bad boys can save the day. These also make for a fun carb to go with your egg bake during a weekday morning.
12. Heat and eat meal. YES - I am endorsing having an all-in-one frozen option in your freezer. When you are seriously pressed for time this will be cheaper than buying food out and likely healthier than the drive-thru. Some things I like include: mixed skillet dishes such as chicken fried rice (shout out to TJ's again), frozen pizza, and frozen burritos.
Fun fact: Frozen veg and fruit are as nutritious as fresh (sometimes more so) because they are frozen soon after harvest so they do not go through the long shipping process that fresh does. Produce loses nutritional value over time so buy local when possible and take advantage of your cheaper frozen options when appropriate.