Freezer staples with allow you to always make a healthy meal. Keeping some key ingredients in your freezer will facilitate making a quick, nutritious dinner or lunch. You’ll reduce food waste by only thawing what you need and save money if you buy extra items while they’re on sale or buy them in bulk from a warehouse store and freeze them. Here are 15 freezer staples to get you started.
1. Stir-Fry Blend
Always keep some frozen vegetables in your freezer. They’re perfect for making quick meals. Stir-fry blends generally contain some mix of frozen carrots, peppers, broccoli, onions, green beans, or mushrooms. In addition to making a stir-fry, you can use them to make a vegetable soup or heat them up to add to a grain bowl. Another advantage is that frozen vegetables are generally cheaper than buying fresh.
2. Cauliflower Rice
Cauliflower rice is a good substitute for brown rice if you are reducing your carbohydrate intake. It can be used in basically any meal that would call for regular rice. Make a healthy fried “rice” by adding veggies, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, and garlic. You can also eat it with a stir-fry, make cauliflower pizza crust, use is for the base of a “grain” bowl, or add it to homemade veggie burgers.
3. Peas and Shelled Edamame
Peas and edamame are legumes that make good plant-based sources of protein. I keep a bag of each in the freezer to add to grain bowls, eggs, or soups when I want to use a vegetarian protein. They are also high in fiber, which will help make your meal more filling.
If you have brown, overripe bananas, throw them in a Ziplock bag in the freezer. Be sure to peel them and cut them in halves or quarters before freezing. Frozen bananas are great in smoothies, blended in acai bowls, or used to make nice cream for a healthy sweet treat in the summer. You can also thaw frozen bananas to use in baking, such as banana bread or banana pancakes.
Berries are highly nutrient-dense and relatively low in sugar for fruit. I always have several bags of frozen strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries in my freezer. I use them every day in smoothies or to sweeten plain Greek yogurt.
6. Ezekiel Bread
Ezekiel bread is made from sprouted grains. You can find it in the freezer section at the store. This is my go-to bread and I always have at least one loaf in the freeze, although I store it in the fridge once I start using it. I like that it has no added sugar, 3g of fiber, and 4g of protein per slice. I use it almost every morning to make peanut butter toast with sliced banana or to make an egg sandwich.
7. Chicken Thighs or Breasts
Chicken is one of the most versatile protein sources that can easily be incorporated into almost any type of cuisine. Keep some chicken thighs or breasts in the freezer to always have the base for a weeknight dinner.
8. Grass-fed Ground Beef
Grass-fed beef can be expensive so I’ll l buy it when it’s on sale and then freeze it. If I buy a few pounds, I’ll divide it into ½ or 1 pound quantities before freezing it. When I’m ready to use it, I grab a pre-portioned amount and thaw it in the fridge overnight.
9. Veggie Burgers
Veggie burgers make good quick lunches. Pop one or more in the microwave or heat it up in a frying pan. Try to find a brand with minimal filler ingredients and more whole food ingredients, like beans, grains, or vegetables. You can also make a batch at home and freeze them.
Keep some fish, shrimp, or scallops in the freezer. Fresh seafood needs to be used right away, but frozen seafood can be thawed to make baked salmon or sauteed shrimp for dinner without needing to make a trip to the store. To defrost, thaw it in the fridge for several hours or run under cold water.
11. Homemade Freezer Meals
Sometimes you truly don’t have the time to cook and just need something that’s ready to go. That’s where freezer meals are valuable, however, many pre-made frozen meals in the grocery store are not the healthiest options due to excess sodium and sugar. To create a stash of healthier freezer meals, make extra servings of a dish while you meal prep and freeze them for later use.
12. Soups and Chilis
When you make soup or chili, make an extra batch to freeze. Taking that small effort to make a few extra servings can supply you with healthy meals later. On a night when you don’t have time to cook, you can heat up the extra soup that you froze.
13. Grated Cheese
I buy cheese in blocks since it’s cheaper than buying to pre-shredded or sliced. However, I usually can’t use up the whole block before it goes bad. To prevent food waste, I will grate the cheese I have leftover and freeze it. Frozen grated cheese works well mixed into scrambled eggs, pasta dishes, or really any dish that calls for melted cheese.
14. Whole Grains
Whole grains take a good 30 minutes or more to cook, which may not be feasible when you’re really in a hurry. Freeze leftover cooked quinoa, wild rice, or farro so that you have a whole grain ready to eat in minutes. Just heat it up in the microwave or on the stovetop.
15. Miscellaneous Ingredients
When you’re cooking and have that random leftover cup or two of vegetable stock, pasta sauce, or pumpkin puree, freeze it. This will save you from wasting food when you’re making something that doesn’t call for the entire can or carton of an ingredient. Portion the ingredients out in one or two cup servings in Ziplock bags before freezing it. You can use these smaller portions later for recipes that may only call for a cup of something.
Now your freezer is full of options to eat simple and nutritious meals at home, even if you’re pressed for time. Make it a habit to try to always have some freezer staples handy and you’re on your way to maintaining a healthy diet.