There’s nothing like walking up to an apple tree, plucking off a perfectly ripe honey crisp and tasting the sweetness of nature. Or pulling up a fresh rainbow carrot, rinsing off the dirt and asking ‘What’s up doc?‘. Or plucking a few basil leaves right off the plant to top that fresh pasta dish.
These amazing moments of connecting to the earth through fresh fruits and vegetables keep us nourished and grounded.
But what about those time you don’t have access to fresh food, much less an apple tree or garden in your yard? This is where frozen food comes in.
If you’re buying fresh fruit and veggies at a typical grocery store, these items may not be as fresh as you think. Often picked weeks before ripeness to allow for travel and distribution time, these can be picked 3 days to several weeks before they fully developed their full range of vitamins and minerals. Plus, frozen food lasts longer, fresh is going to spoil quicker (see our tip below to save it before it goes bad!)
Frozen fruits and vegetables are generally picked at peak ripeness and then frozen with a few hours. Most studies have found the nutrient content of fresh and frozen produce to be quite similar. In general, freezing helps to regain all the nutrient content but the recommendation is to use within a year. So the biggest difference between fresh and frozen is going to be flavor (fresh will always win) and the way you will use the items.
Before we get too far it’s important to note that I don’t buy any ready-to-eat frozen meals. Today’s focus is specifically about single ingredients and saving left overs.
I use my freezer to help me with food prepping, food storage and in food preservation. Utilizing your freezer will give you a lot of flexibility and help save you money.
Want to peek in my freezer?
Frozen fruits are picked and frozen at their peak, which helps to retain their nutrients. It’s a great option for fruits out of season or the ones you don’t want to clean and chop (looking at you mango!) Smoothies, toppers for chia pudding, sweet dessert sauces and n’ice cream are all delicious ways to use frozen fruit. In general I keep a pretty good rotation of frozen fruits on hand, but I always have these:
- Pineapple chunks
- Banana slices
If you a plan to eat a veggie fresh or want it to be crisp, frozen isn’t the right choice because the water content expands and breaks the cell walls of the plant. Use frozen when texture isn’t important- think sauces, soups or slow cooking. Here’s what’s in my freezer and a few ideas on how I might use it:
- Peas – for stir fries, shepherds pie and hummus.
- Corn- corn holds its shape and texture better (both on the cob and off), so you can use in most places; try sautéing in a skillet versus boiling.
- Edamame- hummus, stir fries and anytime I need to add a handful of protein to a dish.
- Frozen greens- great for smoothies and an awesome way to get your greens in by adding a handful at the end of cooking any soup, stew or sauce.
Fish, Poultry, Meat
Fresh would be ideal if we all lived at the ocean and had a rancher in the neighborhood. Similar to the frozen fruit and veggies, many local farmers are now freezing their meat and poultry right after butchering them, making this a great option to buy from farmers markets and local CSA’s for the best in freshness and sustainability.
There are also a few great fish and seafood delivery companies that flash freeze right at the dock, and then ship to you. Sitka Salmon Shares is the company I use. Right now, I’m stocked up with:
- Salmon, halibut and cod (from Sitka Salmon)
- I don’t have any meat currently, but will often keep a pound or two of pasture-raised ground beef on hand.
This is where my ready-to-eat meals come into play. I make double batches of soups, stews and grains like rice, quinoa and barley so that I can save some for a day I don’t have time, or don’t feel like, cooking. Cook once, eat twice. If you travel often, these are a welcoming comfort meal when you return home to a barren fridge.
Cooked grains, like rice, quinoa and barley, save great and make for an easy addition to any meal. I keep them on hand to make homemade gluten & grain free crackers.
Fish is not going to freeze well. Meat that was slow roasted will save much better than something like a steak or burger. Right now, I’m out of meat, but often I like to keep a pound or two of pasture raised ground beef and turkey.
- 3 jars of homemade vegetable broth
- 1 jar Red Lentil Nut Butter Curry
- 1 bag of cooked, forbidden black rice
Leftovers are one of my favorite categories, because these items come in handy when you need a dab of this and dollop of that. And it’s a great way to save food that might otherwise go to waste. How many times have you opened a can of tomato paste only to use one 1/4 of it? Or thrown out unused coconut milk, broth or veggies and greens that have gone bad?
Fill ice cube trays with anything pourable while thicker ingredients can be spooned out and dolloped onto parchment paper. Freeze items and then pop into a labeled freezer bag. Anything milky likely will separate when thawed and may even end up with a bit of texture to them, not great for straight up drinking but wonderful in smoothies and cooked dishes.
Have fruit or veggies about to go bad? Chop them up, lay them in a single layer on a parchment-lined a sheet pan (choose one that fits in your freezer) and freeze them. For herbs, chop them up and put them in ice cube trays, then fill will water and freeze. Try my veggie concentrates for a great way to create a little nutrient bomb from greens and veggies that you can pop into any cooked dish.
Save any and all pieces, parts and ends of veggies that normally get thrown away – once the bag is full, make homemade broth. Here’s the individual ingredient in my freezer currently:
- Veggie concentrates
- Coconut milk cubes
- Wine cubes
- Dollops of tomato paste
- Herb cubes
- Veggie scraps
Frozen vs fresh? They both have their place. Feel empowered to know they are both good choices. The important part is literally eating fruits and vegetables, whether frozen or fresh, over processed foods.
Did we miss anything? Questions?
What great tips do you have for using frozen food?