At the grocery store, most of us make a beeline to the produce, meat, and dairy departments. We sometimes forget there’s a wealth of foods in the freezer section that may be less expensive and even healthier!
Why Buy Frozen?
Frozen fruits and vegetables are harvested at the peak of ripeness and then quickly frozen to lock in nutrients. Fresh produce, on the other hand, tends to be harvested before reaching its nutritional peak. These items spend time in transport and then the store before finally reaching your home.
Multiple days of transportation and storage may affect a fresh food’s nutrient content (particularly vitamins A and C and folate). Frozen foods last longer than fresh, since they’re kept in the freezer and are not as susceptible to spoilage.
When shopping for frozen fruits and vegetables, buy a variety of colors to get an optimal amount of nutrients. Look for items that are pre-cut, saving you time when prepping recipes. Read labels and steer away from products that contain unnecessary sugar, salt, and sauces.
Fresh Now, Frozen Later
If an item’s on sale in the meat department, consider buying additional amounts for freezing. For future convenience, prep fresh cuts by rubbing with spices or using a marinade and then freezing flat in freezer bags.
Some packaged foods freeze well (guacamole, hummus, pesto, pasta sauce, tomato paste, tortillas). Avoid freezing fried items, raw potatoes, mayonnaise, and dairy products. (The exceptions are butter, shredded cheese, and casseroles containing dairy.)
Do not freeze raw vegetables unless they’ve been blanched first. Avoid freezing fruits and vegetables with high-water contents (such as lettuce, cantaloupe, watermelon, celery, cabbage, cucumbers, and radishes).
Be sure to freeze fresh items soon after purchase to lock in texture, taste, and nutrients. Foods that become freezer burnt are still safe to eat, but the texture and taste of the item may suffer. Reduce freezer burn by placing items in freezer-safe plastic bags and squeezing extra air out.
The following recipe uses some common frozen items (tortellini and carrots). There’s an option if you want to make the dish ahead of time, store it in the freezer, and defrost it for a quick-to-make meal.