The freezer aisle is full of convenience foods that are less than healthy, but if you look past the frozen pizza and ice cream, you’ll find staple ingredients that can help make weeknight dinners fast and nutritious. These freezer aisle all-stars are inexpensive, help cut back on your prep time, last longer than their fresh counterparts, and usually free of sodium and other additives. Here are my five favorite items to keep stocked in my freezer at all times.
1. Greens – Dark green vegetables are great for our health, but they can be expensive and time consuming to prepare. Because frozen greens are already washed, stemmed, and chopped, they’re ready to toss into any recipe for a healthful boost. Try adding a handful of frozen spinach, collards, or mustard greens to your next pasta, soup, or casserole. Easy Dinner Idea: Italian Wonderpot
2. Peas and Beans – Beans are rich in fiber and minerals, but canned beans can be laden with salt. Frozen field peas, black eyed peas, lima beans, and edamame cook up quickly and are salt-free. Try tossing the beans onto a fresh salad, adding to a soup or stew, or making a quick side dish by sautéing with onions, herbs, and spices. Easy Salad Idea: 3 Bean Salad
3. Frozen Fruit – Fresh fruit spoils fast and, unless you’re buying at the peak of harvest, is often extremely expensive. Frozen strawberries, blueberries, and peaches are excellent to keep on hand for smoothies, to top your oatmeal, or to whip up a quick cobbler or crisp. Frozen berries also make an easy sweet and healthful snack. Just pop the ice cold berries into your mouth for a natural frozen treat! Easy Breakfast Idea: Blueberry Banana Baked Oatmeal
4. Pasta – Pasta in the freezer aisle? You bet! Ravioli, tortellini, and pierogies can all be found in the freezer aisle. These frozen filled pastas boil quickly and make a fast meal when combined with a simple tomato sauce, added to a quick soup, or tossed with vegetables and dressing for a quick pasta salad. Easy Dinner Idea: Spinach Tortellini Soup
5. Seafood – Fresh seafood is one of the most expensive items at the grocery store, but the freezer saves the day again (and I’m not talking about fish sticks). Salmon, tilapia, shrimp, and other varieties are all flash-frozen to preserve freshness and keep supplies steady during the off season. Individually vacuum-packed filets thaw quickly and stay super-fresh in your freezer for months. Easy Dinner Idea: Baked Tilapia with Tomatoes
For the past five years, Beth has been dishing out healthy, inexpensive recipes and teaching kitchen basics through her popular blog, Budget Bytes and the corresponding cookbook, Budget Bytes – Over 100 Easy Delicious Recipes to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half. She loves getting creative in the kitchen and hopes to show others just how fun and rewarding cooking can be.