Build a Healthy Lifestyle One Ingredient at a Time: Freezer Essentials

As a Registered Dietitian I am often asked what foods I always have in my pantry, refrigerator or freezer and why.  In this blog series we will dive into my kitchen and discuss all of the essentials, the nutritional value of each item and ideas for how to incorporate them into your lifestyle.

A well stocked freezer is an essential ingredient in the foundation of a healthy lifestyle so let’s take peek at what’s in my freezer right now.

Homemade Meals

Some recipes come with the claim that they take 30 minutes or less to prepare. In reality, if you aren’t training for the next season of Chopped, many home prepared meals can take a lot longer than 30 minutes and (lets be honest) cooking every night can feel like a part time job… So consider batch cooking as a way to stock your freezer with homemade meals to make weeknight dinners a breeze.

  1. Make a list of favorite meals – recipes that you have made before and feel confident preparing. Soups, chilis and stews with a short ingredients list are a good place to start.
  2. Choose one or two blocks of time during the week to grocery shop, chop and measure ingredients. I like to do it all at once. When I come home from the grocery store I leave the ingredients out on the counter and I chop the vegetables, whisk sauces/marinades and refrigerate in stacking containers until I need them.
  3. Batch cook those favorites! 

Each time you cook, double the recipe, freeze the leftovers in sturdy, leakproof containers and label (include a date and description so there are no mysteries). This method keeps my freezer stocked with grab-and-go lunch items like homemade chili and breakfast staples like baked oatmeal

My favorite supplies for stocking the freezer:

Check out this blog post for freezer organization tips.

FruiT

Frozen fruit is just as nutritious as fresh fruit and it’s budget-friendly because there is no waste. Remember the time you found a red substance in the refrigerator and you followed the trail of sticky carnage to the big clamshell box of raspberries (now covered in fuzzy mold) you purchased three days earlier? Okay so maybe that didn’t happen to you but it was a little traumatizing so I just keep a bulk bag of fruit in the freezer. 

Frozen fruit is packed with antioxidants and fiber. Adequate fiber intake is associated with an array of health benefits including a decreased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes and certain cancers. The Mayo Clinic recommends 21-38 grams of fiber daily based on age and gender. One cup of Wyman’s Triple Berry frozen fruit provides a whopping 7 grams of fiber!

Here are some of my favorite ways to use frozen fruit:

  • As the base for this yummy smoothie bowl
  • Thawed and stirred into oatmeal
  • Thawed and stirred into plain yogurt (Yummy dolloped on whole grain waffles!)
  • Slowly simmered with seasonings to make a sweet’n spicy sauce for chicken or pork
Vegetables

Many vegetables stay fresh for only a few days the refrigerator. Frozen vegetables, on the other hand, are easy on the wallet because they keep for at least three months. Most frozen vegetables (we’re not talking about French fries…) are an easy way to boost the nutritional value of meals and streamline meal prep because they are already washed, chopped and blanched! I love how easy it is to just dump them into a soup or stew during the last few minutes of cooking. 

Herbs & Spices

The freezer is the perfect spot to keep herbs and spices fresh. If you opened my freezer right now you would find: ginger root wrapped in aluminum foil, a bag of peeled garlic cloves  and a freezer storage bag of chilis in adobo sauce. I use a microplane to grate these frozen spices into whatever I’m making (so much easier than chopping).

Stay tuned for more pantry essentials! 

BE well

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